Oppenheimer teaser trailer has a running countdown, but to what?

Oppenheimer teaser countdown
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Whenever Christopher Nolan has a new movie, many of his fans have an internal clock counting down to when they can see it. Well, the director’s next movie, Oppenheimer, has a literal one. The first Oppenheimer teaser trailer predominantly features a clock counting down, but to what?

The teaser trailer for Oppenheimer features minimal footage from the movie (a few obscured shots of Cillian Murphy's J. Robert Oppenheimer), some fiery imagery and voiceovers from what sounds like Emily Blunt and Robert Downey Jr., the latter of who described Oppenheimer as "the man who moved the earth." The other noticeable feature of the teaser is the clock that appears, ticking away.

As of publication, the countdown on the trailer reads 11 months, 17 days, 22 hours and 7 minutes. The cool thing is that the countdown is running in real time. Anyone who saw Nope in theaters during its opening weekend likely saw this same teaser with the countdown and saw a different amount of days left (something like 22-24, depending on what day you saw it). 

On YouTube, the trailer continues to be streaming live, with the trailer in a continuous loop. Check it right now and the number is surely different again.

So, what exactly is the countdown signifying? The most logical guess would be Oppenheimer’s release date on July 21, 2023. However, the math doesn’t check out. Eleven months and 17 days and 20-plus hours from the day the teaser was released, July 28, would work out a few days ahead of Oppenheimer’s roll out to audiences. Instead, the numbers seem to point to, as the trailer puts it, the day the "world changes forever."

On July 16, 1945, at 5:30 am Mountain Time, the first test of the atomic bomb that J. Robert Oppenheimer helped create, code named "Trinity," took place at a test site in the New Mexico desert. The clock for the Oppenheimer movie (also available on its website) appears to be counting down to the anniversary of this date.

It’s unclear if there is going to be anything more when the clock hits zero or it is just a cool nod to history, but as Nolan likes to make time and the manipulation of it a focus in many of his movies, this is very on brand.

Oppenheimer focuses on J. Robert Oppenheimer, played by Cillian Murphy, including his work on and legacy as the "father of the atomic bomb." Murphy is joined in the movie by Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh, Josh Peck, Jack Quaid and a host of others. In addition to directing, Christopher Nolan wrote the script based on Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer releases exclusively in movie theaters on July 21, 2023.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.