The time has come: Barbenheimer, the cinematic double-feature event of the summer, is here. Greta Gerwig’s sparkly fantasy comedy-drama Barbie premiering alongside Christopher Nolan’s gravely serious biopic Oppenheimer, about the man responsible for the atomic bomb, has made for one of the strangest (and most exciting) movie weekends in recent memory.
While audiences have no doubt already settled on which film they plan on watching first, it’s worth noting that technically, this is not the first time something like this has happened. Nearly every major release by Christopher Nolan has opened alongside a film that is at once its polar opposite and its perfect counterpart. From extravagant musical dramas and fantasy adventures to anachronistic biopics and fun and feisty comedies, there’s a Barbenheimer for all seasons.
We’ve pulled together a list of the oddest and most delightful movies to pair alongside a rewatch of Nolan’s best films.
Moulin Rouge! and Memento
Box office weekend: May 24, 2001*
Before Barbenheimer, there was Memento Rouge. While Nolan’s nonlinear neo-noir thriller may have been eclipsed by the bombastic maximalism of Baz Luhrmann’s musical romance drama at the box office, the two films nonetheless live on in the memories of filmgoers as exemplary breakthrough works by two of the most iconic directors working today. If you’re looking for a mind-twisting, high-flying double-feature rife with psychological menace and an abundance of confetti, there’s no better way to experience either director than to experience them paired together. —Toussaint Egan
*Both movies had limited releases in the spring before wider releases in the summer, around the same time. While it’s not technically same weekend, we are counting it because we make the rules.
Mamma Mia! and The Dark Knight
Box office weekend: July 18, 2008
The granddaddy of chaotic same-week Nolan double features, tweets about The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia! are what sparked this idea in the first place. The Dark Knight far outperformed Mamma Mia! at the box office, but both earned sequels and live strong in the memories of their respective faithful fandoms. And hey, they’re both about strained relationships with father figures… kind of. —Pete Volk
The Dark Knight is streaming on Max, or available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play. Mamma Mia! is streaming on Peacock, or available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
Marie Antoinette and The Prestige
Box office weekend: Oct. 20, 2006
The Prestige’s main competition at the box office was Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (The Prestige won out), but for a true Barbenheimer experience, we go a little lower on the box office charts for Sofia Coppola’s excellent Marie Antoinette. This Barbenheimer truly has it all: an unconventional biopic, heightened aesthetics, and pure magic. —PV
The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Inception
Box office weekend: July 15, 2010
Inception had a far more favorable opening box office ($836.8 million compared to $215.3 million) and overall enjoys a far more glowing critical legacy than Nic Cage’s Disney movie The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. If you enjoyed reality-warping weirdness led by A-listers juxtaposed with kid-friendly fantasy schlockiness, one could certainly do worse than watching these two movies back to back. —TE
Inception is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play. The Sorcerer's Apprentice is streaming on Disney Plus, or available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
Girls Trip and Dunkirk
Box office weekend: July 21, 2017
Another excellent example of Nolan Barbenheimering pairs one of his best movies with one of the best raunchy comedies in recent years. Both feature groups of people tested on a challenging journey. Only one features Queen Latifah making out with a lamp. It is up to you to figure out which. —PV
Dunkirk is streaming on Netflix and Max, or available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play. Girls Trip is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.