This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movies being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Now that opening weekend for the epic experience known as ‘Barbenheimer‘ has come and gone, with each film delivering big time at the box office and with critics, it’s time to examine which individual contributions made them such smash hits. Fantastic efforts across each movie from both A-listers and lesser known actors alike continue to leave audiences wowed. To that end, we have decided to rank the top ten Barbie and Oppenheimer best performances.
Normally, two highly anticipated movies both opening during the same weekend wouldn’t be such a big deal, especially when they’re so fundamentally different. Perhaps it’s the drastically contrasting color schemes and tones of the films that helped build the hype to this extent. Or, it could simply be the fact that they each boast such loaded casts full of showstoppers. Either way, a number of moviegoers are making it their goal to see both movies, even as a double feature. Whose performances stood out the most throughout ‘Barbenheimer’ weekend? Let’s dive in and discuss!
*Warning: Spoilers ahead for both Barbie and Oppenheimer*
10. Kingsley Ben-Adir – Tall Ken, ‘Barbie‘
How many moviegoers did a double take to ensure that Barbieland hadn’t been infiltrated by Skrulls? Tall Ken (Kingsley Ben-Adir), as he is credited in open caption showings of Barbie, is a pleasant surprise in the film. Like the rest of the Kens, Ben-Adir starts off just hanging out by the beach with his pals. It’s when toxic masculinity overtakes Barbieland when Tall Ken really shines. His back and forth with President Barbie (Issa Rae) about the latter never having seen The Godfather is absolutely hysterical. These little quips are his bread and butter.
9. Jason Clarke – Roger Robb, ‘Oppenheimer‘
Roger Robb (Jason Clarke) is one of many despicable figures commanding the screen during Oppenheimer‘s epic 3-hour runtime. The fact that Clarke is this far down the list is a testament to the other Barbie and Oppenheimer best performances. Some of the film’s most tense moments come during the security hearing, when Robb cross-examines a number of witnesses. Clarke does not get top billing like his A-List co-stars, but he commands the room just as much as his peers do during his considerable amount of screen time.
8. Matt Damon – Lt. Gen. Leslie Groves, ‘Oppenheimer‘
Of course the Mustachioed Massachusetts mainstay makes our list! While Oppenheimer is far from a laugh factory, Lt. Groves (Matt Damon) generates a couple of chuckles to briefly lighten the mood in three hours of non-stop tension. Groves’ ability to match wits with other scientists despite not being from a scientific background is very impressive. And yeah, the facial hair doesn’t hurt, either. Damon rocks that mustache in a way only Tom Selleck could rival.
7. Josh Hartnett – Ernest Lawrence, ‘Oppenheimer‘
The resurgence of early 2000s star Josh Hartnett is one of the most pleasant surprises of ‘Barbenheimer’ weekend. He and Cillian Murphy share a number of scenes together during Oppenheimer, with the more reserved Hartnett playing very well beside Murphy’s leading man. In a movie littered with outstanding performances, Hartnett carries his weight and then some. It would not be surprising to see him secure an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor when all is said and done.
6. Ryan Gosling – Ken, ‘Barbie‘
Considering the insane amount of hype built up regarding his performance, Ryan Gosling delivers one of the most iconic performances of his already storied career as Ken. Channeling his inner child, Gosling sings and dances his way into the hearts of audiences worldwide. He adds a number of hilarious one-liners that he’s become known for over the years, as well. But it is the insecurity and vulnerability that leaves a lasting impression. He will undoubtedly be in the mix for Best Supporting Actor at the 2024 Academy Awards.
5. Margot Robbie – Stereotypical Barbie, ‘Barbie‘
Much like Ryan Gosling’s Ken, there is a great deal of anticipation for Margot Robbie‘s portrayal of the iconic Mattel Barbie doll. Referred to as ‘Stereotypical Barbie’ throughout the film, Robbie explores a wide range of emotions in an exceptional performance. She transforms from the happy, carefree caricature seen in the film’s promotional materials to an anxious and stressed puddle by the end of the second act. In many ways, Robbie epitomizes ‘Barbenheimer’ through her portrayal of this character; in just under two hours, she sings, dances, laughs, cries, falls down and gets back up again. It should surprise no one to see Robbie secure a top five spot on our Barbie and Oppenheimer best performances list.
4. Emily Blunt – Kitty Oppenheimer, ‘Oppenheimer‘
In what is a significantly male-driven production, Emily Blunt stands out with her portrayal of Kitty Oppenheimer, particularly in the film’s final act. The interrogation between Kitty and Roger Robb is exceptional, with the former actually turning the tables on the latter at one point. Blunt’s showing during ‘Barbenheimer’ weekend could make her the current front runner for Best Supporting Actress at the 2024 Academy Awards. Her seamless transitions from dejected housewife to defiant defender of her spouse are legendary.
3. America Ferrera – Gloria, ‘Barbie‘
Perhaps the only surprise bigger than Josh Hartnett’s palpable presence during ‘Barbenheimer’ weekend is that of America Ferrera in Barbie. Initially appearing as an ordinary Mattel employee, Ferrera’s character Gloria becomes a focal point of the story about halfway through the film. It’s her memories of playing with the ‘Stereotypical Barbie’ doll that cause Robbie’s character to become self-aware. In the final act, Ferrera delivers a monologue that captures the essence of the film’s message and perfectly sums up the daunting challenges women face in our society today.
2. Robert Downey Jr. – Lewis Strauss, ‘Oppenheimer‘
Moviegoers have missed the incredible presence that Robert Downey Jr. brings to blockbuster films over the past four years. As such, there was a great deal of anticipation for his return to the big screen during ‘Barbenheimer’ weekend. The great RDJ gives viewers everything they were looking for and more in his absolutely jaw dropping portrayal of Lewis Strauss. His mannerisms, tone, and facial expressions are all trademark Downey. He’s somehow able to dominate the screen without raising his voice or calling attention to himself in noticeable ways. In a movie where it’s possible to be most invested in J. Robert Oppenheimer’s fate, Strauss’s story is equally intriguing.
1. Cillian Murphy – J. Robert Oppenheimer, ‘Oppenheimer‘
While there is certainly room for debate when it comes to spots one through nine, it’s unlikely that anyone will argue this list’s top occupant. Cillian Murphy is the undisputed star of ‘Barbenheimer,’ as his eerily calm demeanor while portraying the titular J. Robert Oppenheimer proves to be truly captivating. Make no mistake, Murphy plays a vile human being, but one cannot help but be glued to the edge of their seat watching his every move. Like Downey, his understated line delivery has a way of drawing you in and retaining your attention. The Oscar for Best Actor appears to be Murphy’s to lose at this point.
‘Barbenheimer’ is more than just the Barbie and Oppenheimer best performances
It is ultimately the work of these incredible actors, writers and directors that makes ‘Barbenheimer’ weekend the smashing success that it is. A creative adaptation of such famous IP in Barbie and an epic historical biopic in Oppenheimer has become an unwitting pair because of the promise of true greatness.
The iconic directors and actors will get the majority of the credit for this, and deservedly so, but it’s of vital importance not to forget the hard work that goes into writing, re-writing and finalizing the scripts of the films we’ve all come to know and love.
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