Where was Oppenheimer filmed? All filming locations

Daisy Phillipson
A still from Oppenheimer and one of its filming locationsUniversal Pictures

Christopher Nolan’s new movie chronicles the father of the atomic bomb’s destructive creation – but where exactly was Oppenheimer filmed? Here’s all of filming locations you need to know.

Oppenheimer stars Cillian Murphy as the infamous physicist who headed the Manhattan Project, leading to the world’s first nuke. 

Universal Pictures writes: “Oppenheimer is an IMAX-shot epic thriller that thrusts audiences into the pulse-pounding paradox of the enigmatic man who must risk destroying the world in order to save it.” You can read our review of the movie here

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With the film’s settings being a major part of history, you might be wondering where Oppenheimer was actually shot. As such, we’ve broken down all of its main filming locations – let’s get into it. 

Oppenheimer filming locations

Much of Oppenheimer is set in New Mexico, including Los Alamos and the Trinity test site, as well as various educational facilities where the physicist conducted his research. Building the world of the movie was no mean feat, with Nope, Us, and Manchester by the Sea production designer Ruth De Jong being trusted with the job.

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Speaking about Nolan’s vision, producer Charles Roven said: “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.

“He also likes films to feel hand-made, not made in a studio or generated with computer generated imagery. You feel that throughout the movie, particularly in the area of practical effects, whether it’s putting snow on the ground, or creating ripples in a pond, which is a recurring motif in the movie, or how he approached the first atomic bomb explosion.” 

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Below, you’ll find a list of the different locations seen in the movie. 

Los Alamos, New Mexico

Ariel image of Los Alamos, New MexicoCreative Commons

Although Nolan considered shooting Oppenheimer at the real Los Alamos, where some of the structures built for the Manhattan Project are still in place, it had too many modern buildings including a Starbucks. This would have made it too difficult and costly to cut these out using digital technology – and, as we all know, Nolan’s a fan of creating real set pieces

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That being said, some of the interiors were filmed at the real Los Alamos, allowing Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt to perform in the home where their characters had lived. Alongside the Oppenheimers’ house, the crew utilized numerous Manhattan Project locations, including the Fuller Lodge, which served as the dining hall for the Los Alamos Ranch School. 

They also filmed at the Women’s Dormitory, which housed female civilians or non-military staff who were working for the Manhattan Project, as well as the United Church and Lamy Train Station, both of which were used by Los Alamos residents. 

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Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

Image of Ghost Ranch, New MexicoCreative Commons

While many of the interiors were filmed at Los Alamos, the exteriors for the site were built and shot at Ghost Ranch, a 21,000-acre retreat in Northern New Mexico. As discussed, the real Los Alamos had become too modernized, so the team decided to draw up an elaborate recreation of it, which was then made into a physical 3D model at the pre-production facility. 

As per the production report: “The model grew so large that it had to be stored in the production office backyard. It began to shrink as the producers began to realize that building a full-scale replica of Los Alamos with exteriors and interiors would become cost prohibitive.” And this is when the team decided to shoot the interiors at Los Alamos and the exteriors at Ghost Ranch. 

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Santa Fe, New Mexico 

Tweet about Oppenheimer in Santa FeTwitter/@rdjpicsvault

Nolan and the Oppenheimer team were granted permission to film at White Sands Proving Ground, the New Mexico military base where the Trinity test was conducted. But since it is active, it wouldn’t have been possible, given the military use it for six to eight hours a day. 

Similarly to the Los Alamos exteriors, Nolan decided to create his own version of the Trinity test site, which was built and shot in Santa Fe. The main features included a 100-foot steel tower and the bunker where Oppenheimer watched the detonation of the world’s first atomic bomb. 

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Institute for Advanced Study, New Jersey

Image of Institute of Advanced Study, New JerseyCreative Commons

Another key Oppenheimer filming location was the Institute for Advanced Study near Princeton University in New Jersey. The real J. Robert Oppenheimer and his wife, Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer, lived in the director’s house on the grounds of the IAS, where the former served as director from 1947 until 1966.

This is also the site where both Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein worked concurrently after World War II. This fascinating historical facility transformed into a film set for Nolan’s masterpiece. 

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Although Oppenheimer’s old office had been remodeled and looked too modern for the film, the crew were able to use Einstein’s former office instead, which they were given permission to redress. Nolan also shot interiors and exteriors of the director’s house, which Oppenheimer and Kitty lived in during their time at IAS, as well as the surrounding grounds and pond. 

University of California, Berkeley, California

Tweet about Oppenheimer filming locationsTwitter/@FilmOppenheimer

Earlier on in his career, Oppenheimer worked as a professor in the physics department of the University of California, Berkeley, and Nolan’s team were able to shoot on-site, taking the education institute back to the 1940s. 

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As per a press release from UC Berkeley’s physics department: “Filming for Christopher Nolan’s star-studded Oppenheimer took over the heart of campus… The set, which included old cars and costumes, was constructed over two days in an area near Sather Tower, Wheeler Hall and Physics North (formerly LeConte Hall), a 1924 building designed by John Galen Howard.”

While at UC Berkeley, Oppenheimer made significant contributions to quantum mechanics and cosmic ray research. He also built a vibrant community of physicists, laying the groundwork for Berkeley’s future reputation as a world-leading center for theoretical physics.

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UCLA, California

Tweet about Oppenheimer filming locationsTwitter/@FilmOppenheimer

Last but definitely not least, the Oppenheimer team shot numerous scenes in the City of Angels, including at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel and the University of California, Los Angeles. 

The college told its members: “UCLA students on campus in February 2022 may remember that Kerckhoff Patio was closed off to the public due to filming in Kerckhoff Hall. Once Oppenheimer comes out in theaters, be on the lookout for familiar Kerckhoff Hall rooms serving as the backdrop of this historical drama.”

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Oppenheimer is in cinemas now, and you can find more coverage below:

Oppenheimer review | Ending explained | Epic runtime revealed | R-rating explained | Best way to watch Oppenheimer | Christopher Nolan on sex scenes | Cast and characters | Filming locations | True story explained | Is Oppenheimer streaming? | Nolan ranked by Rotten Tomato scores | Is it based on a book? | Age-gap controversy explained Robert Pattinson’s influence | How Oppenheimer died | Christopher Nolan explains strange script | Did Japan ban Oppenheimer? | Review roundup | Does Oppenheimer have a post-credits scene? | Box office | Was Jean Tatlock murdered? | What happened to Kitty? | Why did Lewis Strauss hate Oppenheimer? | Did Oppenheimer win a Nobel Prize?

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About The Author

Daisy is a Senior TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's a lover of all things macabre, whether that be horror, crime, psychological thrillers or all of the above. After graduating with a Masters in Magazine Journalism, she's gone on to write for Digital Spy, LADbible and Little White Lies. You can contact her on daisy.phillipson@dexerto.com