Anyone who is reading this in real time (7/21/2023) is aware that this is the biggest weekend at the movies since before the pandemic, with two of the most anticipated movies of the year — Greta Gerwig‘s Barbie and Christopher Nolan‘s Oppenheimer biopic — opened today. Thanks in part to Tom Cruise, it’s become a thing to see both movies in one day for the full #Barbenheimer experience. Barbie and Oppenheimer, while very different, have a few things in common, too. Both have eye-popping visual styles but also rely heavily on their soundtracks to add to the emotional heavy lifting.
Barbie is at least partially a musical, with original songs co-written by hitmakers Mark Ronson and Andrew Watt and various big-name collaborators. Those include Lizzo‘s “Pink,” which opens the film and is basically musical narration, commenting on the scenes (it’s used a few times with changing lyrics), and Ryan Gosling‘s very funny “I’m Just Ken.” There’s also Billie Eilish‘s “What Was I Made For” that soundtracks Barbie’s most poignant moment, as well as original songs by PinkPantheress, Tame Impala, Haim, Dua Lipa (who has a small role in the film), and choice needle drops like Indigo Girls‘ “Closer I Am to Fine” (you’ve heard it in the trailer), Cyndi Lauper‘s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and more. Also for indie rock fans, look out for a mansplainy joke about Pavement‘s Stephen Malkmus!
Oppenheimer, on the other hand, is powered by the bold, string-heavy score from Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther, The Mandalorian) who first worked with Nolan on 2020’s Tenet. Nolan told Göransson he envisioned violin as the lead instrument, which ended up being played by the composer’s wife, Serena McKinney. “Essentially, what I think Chris was interested in was how you can take this violin, which is a fretless instrument, and you can have the most romantic, intimate personal sound in one second, and then within a split second, you can change the tone of the vibrato to make it neurotic and horrific,” Göransson told Below the Line. “So you go in between those feelings within a really short amount of time, just based on the performance was what was enticing about that.” The Oppenheimer score is at turns beautiful and very intense, like the film itself.
You can listen to both the Barbie and Oppenheimer scores below.
Which one will you go see first?