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Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama, History  |  20 October 1989 (USA)
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Reviews: 46 user | 21 critic

This film reenacts the Manhattan Project, the secret wartime project in New Mexico where the first atomic bombs were designed and built.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Kathleen Robinson
Ron Frazier ...
Peer de Silva
Capt. Richard Schoenfield, MD
Ron Vawter ...
Jamie Latrobe
Michael Brockman ...
William 'Deke' Parsons
Del Close ...
Dr. Kenneth Whiteside
Robert Tuckson
Franz Goethe (as Alan Corduner)
Seth Neddermeyer (as Joseph D'Angerio)
Jon DeVries ...
Johnny Mount (as Jon De Vries)


In real life, Robert Oppenheimer was the scientific head of the Manhattan Project, the secret wartime project in New Mexico where the first atomic bombs were designed and built. General Leslie Groves was in overall command of it. This film reenacts the project with an emphasis on their relationship. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The story of the extraordinary people who changed our world.


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

20 October 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Schattenmacher  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$3,563,162 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


"Demon Core", according to website Wikipedia, "...was a 6.2-kilogram (14 lb), 3.5-inch-diameter (89 mm) subcritical mass of plutonium which went briefly super-critical in two separate accidents at the Los Alamos laboratory in 1945 and 1946. Each incident resulted in the acute radiation poisoning and subsequent death of a scientist. After these incidents the spherical plutonium pit was referred to as the 'demon core'. The demon core was used in the first atomic bomb test to be conducted after World War II, five weeks after the second fatal accident. It performed normally and with the same explosive yield as the next core used in this set of two tests". See more »


The telegram to Oppenheimer states that Dr. Jean Tatlock committed suicide 5 January 1945. She actually committed suicide a year earlier, in January 1944. See more »


Gen. Leslie R. Groves: I want three stories. The first, if we succeed. The second, if we fail. The third, if we disintegrate.
See more »


Referenced in The Simpsons: Fat Man and Little Boy (2004) See more »


The Sorcerer's Apprentice
By Paul Dukas
Performed by The Vienna Symphony
Edouard Van Remoortel, Conductor
Courtesy of The Moss Music Group
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

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User Reviews

The Best Engineering flick in decades, great history and melodrama, too
22 June 2002 | by (Somewhere in Soho) – See all my reviews

It's rare for a movie to both encompass the process of problem solving and a fantastically far-reaching moral quandary AND be a fairly accurate historical movie, but Fat Man and Little Boy pulls off this trick.

It's the story of the Manhattan Project -- the World War II effort to build the atom bomb, told as the conflict between the two men who made it happen, Gen. Leslie Groves and Robert Oppenheimer.

The historical figures are a great study in opposites: military vs. civilian, practical vs. idealistic, emotional vs. scientific, brute force vs. consensus-based problem solving, immediacy vs. long-term vision. A fictional character, played by John Cusack, is added as a sort of synthesis of the two historical figures, to show the humanity that oddly escapes the real people (and of course the obligatory love interest, played by Laura Dern). One looking for a straight documentary might criticize the lapses into melodrama (and occasional looseness with the facts, but that's Hollywood for ya), but the purpose of fiction is to synthesize and galvanize events into more universal truths, so I think this can be forgiven.

One of the great visuals in the movie is when Oppenheimer witnesses the first atomic explosion: it's done entirely through his reaction, and considering the awesome visuals inherent in an atomic explosion, it's a brave and entirely effective way of describing in a single moment the ambivalent effect on humans of unleashing such power (the sort of thing lost in the typical Hollywood shoot 'em up version of history.) The use of music is particularly excellent in the last third of the movie.

Fairly accessible and highly recommended as both a historical movie and drama of the highest order.

25 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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