On Location: Oppenheimer

This image featured in Sky Bird blog "On Location: Oppenheimer" shows Manhattan project, development of nuclear weapons, history of science

Christopher Nolan’s latest cinematic masterpiece, Oppenheimer (2023), has taken the world by storm. Sky Bird helps travel agents with customers who are curious about these filming locations for their next vacation!

The film centers around the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), the renowned physicist who led the Manhattan Project. He played a crucial role in the development of the world’s first nuclear weapon. Since its release, the movie has captivated audiences worldwide with its stunning visuals and historically significant filmng locations. 

Table of Contents

Where Was Oppenheimer Filmed?

Oppenheimer’s key filming include Los Alamos, the Trinity testing site, and educational institutions where the scientist conducted research.

Taking on the herculean task of faithfully replicating the historical timeframe of the actual events was production designer Ruth De Jong. Producer Charles Roven also shed light on Nolan’s vision, emphasizing the director’s commitment to originality.

Roven stated: “Chris wants everything to feel authentic, whether shooting in the actual places where the people in the Manhattan Project lived or building things from scratch.

Los Alamos, New Mexico

This image featured in Sky Bird blog "On Location: Oppenheimer" shows the Los Alamos Project Main Gate sign on historic building - Los Alamos, New Mexico

Oppenheimer was almost filmed at the actual Los Alamos site, where parts of the Manhattan Project facilities are still standing, but there were too many modern structures nearby.

Nolan is very strict about maintaining the authenticity of his sets, which made removing them using digital technology very difficult and expensive, as well as changing the authenticity of the set. However, a handful of the scenes were shot here, giving Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt the opportunity to perform in the house where their characters had resided.

The team used a variety of locations for the Manhattan Project, such as the Fuller Lodge, which acted as the dining room of the Los Alamos Ranch School, in addition to the Oppenheimer’s home. Additionally, they recorded in the United Church and Lamy Train Station, all of which were once used by residents of Los Alamos, as well as the Women’s Dormitory, which provided housing for female citizens or non-military workers who worked on the Manhattan Project.

Abiquiú, New Mexico

Featured in On Location: Oppenheimer by Sky Bird Travel & Tours, this image shows the ghost ranch in new mexico.

In Oppenheimer, the majority of interior scenes were filmed on the actual site of Los Alamos. On the other hand, the exterior shots depicting the historical site were constructed and filmed at Ghost Ranch. It is a vast 21,000-acre retreat located in Northern New Mexico.

These filming locations allowed them to strike a balance between originality and capturing the essence of Oppenheimer’s story.

The crew opted to bring to life a detailed reconstruction because, as mentioned earlier, the real site had become overly modernized. This reconstruction transformed into a tangible 3D model during the pre-production phase.

However, it grew to an impractical size and prompted a realization that building a full-scale reproduction would be wildly expensive.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

This image featured in Sky Bird blog "On Location: Oppenheimer" shows the white sands museum in santa fe, new mexico, usa

Nolan and the Oppenheimer team were granted permission to shoot some scenes at some military sites. These include the historic Trinity Test site, White Sands Proving Ground. However, because of the site’s active status, the military used it for around 8 hours daily and filming was impossible.

Nolan decided to construct his own replica of the Trinity testing site in Santa Fe. This was done to maintain the originality of the events.

The recreated set featured a 100-foot steel tower and a bunker. This mirrored the location where Oppenheimer himself had witnessed the explosion of the first atomic bomb.

Princeton, New Jersey

This image featured in Sky Bird blog "On Location: Oppenheimer"

The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), located close to Princeton University in New Jersey, served as another important Oppenheimer filming location. The actual J. Robert Oppenheimer and his spouse, Katherine Oppenheimer, once resided here. After World War II, Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein both worked here for a while.

For Nolan’s masterwork, this fascinating historical location served as a film set. Although Oppenheimer’s former office had been renovated for the movie, the production was allowed to use Einstein’s former office in its place.

Oppenheimer and Kitty lived in the director’s home while they attended IAS. Nolan also took interior and outdoor shots there, along with the pond and surrounding lands.

Book Your Movie Tours With Sky Bird!

These locations presented a rare opportunity for viewers to witness significant milestones in science firsthand. Whether it’s exploring the halls of the Institute for Advanced Study or the recreated Trinity testing site, these filming locations offer an even deeper appreciation for the incredible story. 

Contact Sky Bird for assistance booking flight tickets, hotel rooms, customized tours, and transportation to New Mexico and beyond!

Scroll to Top