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Day One (1989)

Not Rated | | Drama, History | TV Movie 5 March 1989
The use of the atomic bomb to end WWII was one of the most controversial events in human history. This Emmy-winning 1989 miniseries brings the conflicts to life in wrenching performances by a stellar cast.


Joseph Sargent


Peter Wyden (book), David W. Rintels (teleplay)
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Brian Dennehy ... Gen. Leslie Groves
David Strathairn ... J. Robert Oppenheimer
Michael Tucker ... Leo Szilard
Hume Cronyn ... James F. Byrnes
Richard Dysart ... President Harry S. Truman
Hal Holbrook ... Gen. George Marshall
Barnard Hughes ... Secretary of War Henry Stimson
John McMartin ... Dr. Arthur Compton
David Ogden Stiers ... President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Anne Twomey Anne Twomey ... Kitty Oppenheimer
Lawrence Dane
Ron Frazier Ron Frazier ... Colonel Pash
Olek Krupa ... Edward Teller
Bernie McInerney Bernie McInerney
John Pielmeier John Pielmeier ... Seth


The complicated relationship between physicist Leo Szilard, scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves. Assigned to oversee the project, Groves chooses Oppenheimer to build the historic bomb. However, when World War II inspires the government to use the weapon, Szilard reconsiders his opinions about atomic warfare. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


At the time this film was made, Michael Tucker and Richard Dysart were well-known for their roles in L.A. Law (1986). See more »


Near the first of the film, where General Groves is observing some of the chemistry and physics put on the blackboard by Dr. Vincent (played by Fritz Buchinger), an error is shown with Vincent making several entries, two to be culminating: ten to the 23rd power, only supposedly Vincent makes an error and shows in the second equation put up in rapid succession, "10 to the 24th." This was done seemingly by the filmmakers so General Groves could then point out that he had been following the mathematics and as a show of his prowess, he announces that he did not see "How in the second equation the formula shows ten to the 24th." This then permits his speech about having ten years of postgraduate education which he believes is equivalent to two PhD's. The mathematical equation Dr. Vincent is citing is the factor of Avogadro's Law relating to the mass of a gas which is 6.023 X 10 to the 23rd. This is a factor taught in Chemistry 101. See more »


[reacting to the Trinity test]
J. Robert Oppenheimer: You know the Bhagavad-Gita? "I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds."
Kenneth Bainbridge: Yeah. Now we're all sons of bitches.
See more »

User Reviews

The world is headed for trouble.
15 October 2010 | by SteveSkafteSee all my reviews

"Day One" feels like a portrait of the longest pre-meditated murder in the history of mankind. There are the killers, the unwitting accomplices, and the witnesses. It's all so well-documented, so perfectly arranged. This is the coldest kind of tale imaginable. Given the opportunity to put a distance of emotion and miles between the countless innocent dead and some perceived military victory, a country at large was deceived into believing that some great good or justice was being served.

In spite of how you or I might see the results of the design, construction and eventual detonation of the first nuclear devices, this film doesn't take sides. Brian Dennehy and David Strathairn (two of my favorite actors) create incredibly believable characters. Michael Tucker, who looks very much like Leo Szilard, is excellent as well. I enjoyed Joseph Sargent's directorial work, a sort of off-hand realist quality he brings to nearly all his films. It serves the story well. "Day One" is a good film, just not the most engaging or tightly woven one. Your interest should depend directly on your familiarity with the subject matter.

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USA | Canada



Release Date:

5 March 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A nap See more »

Filming Locations:

Montréal, Québec, Canada

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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