With immense anticipation, ‘Oppenheimer’—the Christopher Nolan biopic about the “father of the atomic bomb” starring Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, a leader in the infamous Manhattan Project during WWII.

Nevertheless, the movie dives deeper than just Oppenheimer’s iconic discovery. It also inspects his ties with the Communist Party and later investigates his reliability amid the 1950s Red Scare hysteria.

Related: 10 Best Matt Damon Movies, Ranked by Viewers

He’s joined by Emily Blunt as his wife Kitty, Matt Damon as Lt. General Leslie Groves, and Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss—will be premiering on July 21st.

In light of the upcoming summer blockbuster event, if you’re just like us and eagerly counting down the days for its release, then why not use this time to get familiar with some “nuke shows” that center around a similar subject?

1 ‘Chernobyl’ (2019)

Chernobyl (2019)

IMDb: 9.4/10

The HBO limited series ‘Chernobyl’ is an unrivaled vivid retelling of the horrific events surrounding the meltdown at the Ukraine nuclear power plant, which was caused by a flawed reactor design combined with human error.

At first glance, it seems almost impossible to believe that something so catastrophic could happen due to a combination of human error and political negligence; yet this is precisely what happened at the ill-fated Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26th, 1986.

A cast of critically acclaimed actors, such as Jared Harris (Valery Legasov), Stellan Skarsgård (Boris Shcherbina), and Emily Watson (Ulana Khomyuk) brings this true story to life. Not only did it receive 10 well-deserved Primetime Emmys but its portrayal of human despair during one of history’s worst catastrophes will leave you feeling both gutted and terrified.

2 ‘Race for the Bomb’ (1987)

Race for the Bomb (1987)

IMDb: 8.1/10

In this documentary-style film, viewers are taken back to the 1940s when scientists raced to develop an atomic bomb before Germany could do it first. The movie follows those involved in this top-secret mission as they struggle with ethical dilemmas and face personal tragedy in order to get ahead.

Debuting as a three-part miniseries in 1987, ‘Race for the Bomb’ is likely one of the few programs that parallel many of the same elements and protagonists we’ll witness when ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres in July. Tom Rack and Maury Chaykin star in this gripping saga telling the epic history of the Manhattan Project.

From its inception, when scientists discovered they could create an atomic bomb, to the production of thermonuclear devices that gave rise to a nuclear arms race between two superpowers – this movie takes you through it all. Dr. Robert Oppenheimer (Tom Rack) and Lieutenant General Leslie Groves (Maury Chaykin) represent America’s resolve against tyranny on either side of the globe.

3 ‘The Heavy Water War’ (2015)

The Heavy Water War (2015)

IMDb: 7.9/10

Based on real-life events, “The Saboteurs” is a critically acclaimed Norwegian series centered around the Nazis’ attempt to construct an atomic bomb during World War II. Starring Espen Kloman Hoiner as Leif Tronstad – a scientist who knows of Adolf Hitler’s plan and frantically attempts to alert allied forces – and Anna Friel as Captain Julia Schmit. This thrilling saga follows the Norwegians in their fight against Nazi Germany and its goal of nuclear supremacy.

The story begins with German troops invading Norway as part of Operation Weserübung on 9 April 1940. The Germans quickly gain control over the country, but they are unaware that Allied forces have been working secretly to disrupt their plans by sabotaging chemical plants producing heavy water – essential for making an atomic bomb.

In order to protect this valuable resource, Norwegian resistance fighters launch daring raids on factories and dams throughout the region while members of Leif Tronstad’s Special Operations Executive prepare for sabotage operations against Norsk Hydro’s Vemork plant near Rjukan in Telemark county. 

4 ‘Manhattan’ (2014-2015)

Manhattan (2014-2015)

IMDb: 7.7/10

‘The Manhattan Project’ – the acclaimed story of the atomic bomb invention. Set during the early 1940s, the event was adapted into the show ‘Manhattan’ and aired on WGN America to similar acclaim from viewers.

Through its exploration of science versus morality, ‘Manhattan’ paints a vivid picture of 1940s America while also providing audiences with entertaining characters they can relate to or root for throughout each episode – whether it be Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey) struggling against bureaucracy or Liza Winter (Olivia Williams) battling sexism in her work environment. Rachel Brosnahan stars as the wife of the renowned scientist Charlie Isaacs.

Despite not being an entirely historically accurate portrayal, it still featured many authentic figures who were part of this groundbreaking endeavor. Its two seasons may have been short-lived but left a lasting impact.

5 ‘Day One’ (1989)

Day One (1989)

IMDb: 7.4/10

On the 6th of August 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima by the United States – a devastating event that marked a new era in warfare – eventually kickstarting the Cold War between former allies.

The 1989 Emmy-winning TV movie ‘Day One’ offers a glimpse into the heart-wrenching events leading up to the creation and use of the atomic bomb during World War II.

The show follows the pivotal lives of physicist Leo Szilard (Michael Tucker), scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer (David Strathairn), and General Leslie Groves (Brian Dennehy) as they are all assigned roles in building or overseeing the bomb itself; a task that leads to difficult decisions about its usage. 

6 ‘Copenhagen’ (2002)

Copenhagen (2002)

IMDb: 7.2/10

The 2002 BBC television adaptation of Michael Frayn‘s acclaimed stage play ‘Copenhagen’ delves into the mysterious events that took place between physicists Niels Bohr (Stephen Rea) and Werner Heisenberg (Daniel Craig) in 1941.

At this time, the ambitious young Heisenberg was leading a struggling German nuclear energy program while the respected Bohr had contacts with Allied agents and still held considerable sway in the field. When Heisenberg requested a meeting with Bohr, it sparked an array of questions regarding his motives and potential goals; echoing the often ambiguous nature of quantum physics. 

The show offers its own interpretation as to why Heisenberg sought out Bohr – did he wish for the elder physicist’s blessing on his nuclear research? It also explores why Heisenberg was so focused on developing a nuclear reactor, instead of the calculations necessary to construct a bomb with Uranium-235.

7 ‘World War II: When Lions Roared’ (1994)

World War II: When Lions Roared (1994)

IMDb: 6.6/10

In 1994, this highly acclaimed (winning a Primetime Emmy) television mini-series on NBC explored one of history’s most fragile alliances – the WW2 allies.

‘World War II: When Lions Roared’ is an immersive dramatization that follows Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin as they met to decide the fate of the world during World War II. With compelling performances by Michael Caine as Stalin, Bob Hoskins as Churchill, and John Lithgow as FDR, this mini-series illustrates how these three men formed an unlikely union amidst growing tensions in order to shape post-War politics. 

The story highlights not only their dramatic rivalry but also their camaraderie and competition throughout significant events such as the Tehran Conference and the opening of the Western Front. The series effectively combines live-action footage, still photography, and a captivating score to evoke the precariousness of this period in history. 

8 ‘Fat Man and Little Boy’ (1989)

Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)

IMDb: 6.5/10

The 1989 Paramount movie ‘Fat Man and Little Boy’, is a drama about the Manhattan Project, which produced the first atomic bombs. Directed by Roland Joffé and starring Paul Newman as General Leslie Groves and Dwight Schultz as Oppenheimer, this biographical film offers an in-depth look into the science behind these weapons of mass destruction.

The movie follows General Groves tasked with leading a team of scientists charged with designing an atomic bomb that will be used against Japan during World War II. He is met with opposition from many different sides: scientists who oppose building such a powerful weapon; politicians who want to use it but are worried about its power; religious figures who question its morality; and even his own family members who don’t understand why he’s doing it. Despite the obstacles, Groves and his team manage to create a weapon with enough destruction power that would ultimately end the war.

9 ‘Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb’ (1980)

Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb (1980)

IMDb: 6.3/10

The 1980 NBC TV movie, ‘Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb’, tells an emotional story of the fateful day when man first unleashed the power of atomic weapons upon an unsuspecting world. Through a combination of facts and evidence along with personal stories and anecdotes, it paints a vivid picture of one of history’s most pivotal moments. 

At its heart is the tale of two men – Col Paul Tibbets (Patrick Duffy) in command of his B-29 bomber Enola Gay and Captain Robert Lewis (Gregory Harrison) his co-pilot – whose mission was to drop Little Boy on Hiroshima. Through their experiences, we are given insight into both sides of this momentous event – from those who had no choice but to carry out their orders to those who were victims of the devastation. 

10 ‘The Catcher Was a Spy’ (2018)

The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)

IMDb: 6.2/10

The US government had a herculean task in front of them: prevent the Nazis from developing an atomic bomb. Who would they enlist to go behind enemy lines and assassinate their chief nuclear scientist? Enter Moe Berg – a Jewish, Princeton-educated professional baseball player with multilingual skills. Director Ben Lewin brings this stranger-than-fiction espionage thriller to life in ‘The Catcher Was a Spy,’ starring Paul Rudd as the enigmatic hero. 

Beyond its exciting action and suspenseful moments, this film provides viewers with more than just a spy movie – it paints an inspiring portrait of how one person can make all the difference during difficult times. Follow Berg’s journey as he attempts to complete his risky mission before time runs out.

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Jimmy P

Senior Editor, BuddyTV