The Manhattan Project on Film, Then & Now

Why and how have we been retelling the Manhattan Project story for more than 75 years?
pass mark-up

This film series, curated by Los Alamos historian Aimee Slaughter, explores how the Manhattan Project has been captured on film, by many people, and in many places: in historic footage, in documentaries, in Hollywood blockbusters, and more. Whose stories have (or haven’t) been told on the big screen? People have been making and watching films about the Project for more than 75 years—why is the Manhattan Project story one that we keep retelling?

Together, the films in the series illuminate many different aspects of the Manhattan Project and its meanings. Our imaginings of what the Project was and what it meant to us changed over time. These films span the 1940s to the 2010s and illustrate some of the ways our understandings of the Manhattan Project have changed, and continue to change.

Whenever possible, guest emcees will be engaged to introduce the films and facilitate discussion afterward. Each film will be placed into context and you will be given a groundwork for considering how the film connects to the past and the present.

Aimee Slaughter works as a public historian, with strong interest in how communities engage with uncomfortable histories and in the history of radioactivity. She has training in history and in physics and earned her Ph.D. in the history of science, technology, and medicine from the University of Minnesota in 2013. She has shared and co-created stories from the history of Los Alamos with visitors and with locals for the past decade.

Series Passes:

The New Mexico Real Estate Group’s generous sponsorship allows the series ticket sales to be of great benefit. By purchasing a series pass for $70, you gain admission to all films. Moreover, the entire amount from the sale of series passes goes directly to the organization from which the pass was purchased. You have the option to obtain passes from a variety of organizations that are benefiting from the sponsorship provided by the New Mexico Real Estate Group.

Los Alamos Historical Society
Visit the Los Alamos History Museum just north of Fuller Lodge (Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.). One complimentary guided walking tour ticket will be included with the purchase of your series pass from the Los Alamos Historical Society, a value of $25.

J Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee
contact JJ Mortensen at

Friends of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park 
contact Dave Miko at 505-709-8229

Bradbury Science Museum Association 
Visit the Gadget gift shop at the Bradbury Science Museum (Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.)

Series passes for admission to all films are $70.
100% of the proceeds from series pass sales stay with the organization that the pass is purchased from.

The Films:

The Day After Trinity (1981, 89 minutes)Sat July 1 (6pm)
Award-winning documentary from Jon Else featuring interviews with Manhattan Project scientists and Trinity Test witnesses. The main focus of the film is the Project’s complex scientific director, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and his thoughts about his history-making work. A short screening of Hugh and Marge Bradner’s footage from wartime Los Alamos will precede the feature.

Message From Hiroshima (2015, 53 minutes) and Tree Project Film (2013, 29 minutes) Thu July 6 (6pm) 
Narrated by George Takei, Message From Hiroshima skillfully uses historic footage, paintings, family photos, computer-generated recreations, and interviews to bring the audience into Hiroshima before the atomic bombing and to a better understanding of the bombing’s devastation. In Tree Project Film, artist and filmmaker Hiroshi Sunairi introduces the calm resilience of Hiroshima’s hibaku trees—those that survived the atomic bombing—through the perspective of arboriculturist Chikara Horiguchi, who tends to them.

The Beginning or the End (1947, 112 minutes) Sat July 8 (6 pm)
Less than two years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, MGM released this dramatized version of the events of the Manhattan Project, with a script shaped by the Truman White House and paid consultant Gen. Leslie Groves. Starring Brian Donlevy as Groves and Hume Cronyn as J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Doctor Atomic (2008, 166 minutes with intermission) Sun July 9 (3 pm)
Metropolitan Opera production – John Adams’s mesmerizing score, in the powerful production of Penny Woolcock, tells the story of one of the pivotal moments in human history—the creation of the atomic bomb. Conducted by Alan Gilbert in his Met debut, this gripping opera presents the human face of the scientists, military men, and others who were involved in the project, as they wrestled with the implications of their work.

The Catcher Was a Spy (2018, 98 minutes, R) Thu July 13 (6 pm) 
This stranger-than-fiction espionage thriller from director Ben Lewin (The Sessions) brings to life the incredible true story of Moe Berg (Paul Rudd), the professional baseball player who became a World War II spy. A Jewish, Princeton-educated, multilingual catcher for the Boston Red Sox, the enigmatic Berg was enlisted by the US government to go behind enemy lines as part of the Manhattan Project’s Alsos mission. Berg’s mission: to assess the Nazi atomic bomb program and if necessary assassinate its lead scientist, Werner Heisenberg. A short screening of historic newsreel footage from the Alsos mission will precede the feature.


Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965, 89 minutes) Sat July 15 (6 pm)
The first joint US-Japanese kaiju movie production, produced by Toho and Henry Saperstein and directed by Ishirō Honda (Godzilla). A former Manhattan Project physician (Nick Adams) now works in Hiroshima and with his Japanese colleagues (Kumi Mizuno and Tadao Takashima) must contend with the consequences after Frankenstein’s monstrous immortal heart is revitalized by the radiation of the atomic bomb.

Fat Man and Little Boy (1989, 127 minutes, PG-13) Sun July 16 (3 pm) Director Roland Joffé (The Killing Fields) dramatizes the Manhattan Project with a focus on the relationship between scientific director J. Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz) and military director (Paul Newman). The film also features Laura Dern as a nurse and John Cusack as fictional physicist Michael Merriman (a composite character loosely based on Louis Slotin).

Double Feature from NM Filmmaker Larry Sheffield Sun July 20 (6 pm)

Alamogordo, Center of the World, Trinity 1945 (2020, 28 min) The film discusses how Alamogordo was chosen as the site for atomic bomb testing at what became the Trinity Site on what is now White Sands Missile Range.

Oppenheimer After Trinity (2023, 60 min) By getting in the mind of Dr. J Robert Oppenheimer we take the audience on a journey that took place before, during, and after the testing of the world’s first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945. Events quickly unfolded that caused a course of action that is still debated today. Using the written and spoken words of Dr. Oppenheimer, we understand the weight of the world that was on his shoulders at that moment in time.