Christopher Nolan has made a name for himself creating unique and mind-bending films for audiences. With directing only 11 films in 24 years, Nolan has cemented himself as one of the greats and many of his films are regarded in the top 100 best films of all time. So, how exactly do Christopher Nolan’s films rank against each other? In this blog post, we rank the 11 best Christopher Nolan movies. This list will be updated as more of his films are released.
Fans of Christopher Nolan are familiar with his cerebral storytelling. It is actually something that fans have come to anticipate from Nolan’s films. However, Tenet may be the most confusing film Nolan has ever made. The film is about a secret agent who embarks on a dangerous, time-bending mission to prevent the start of World War III. The seemingly simple premise turns out to be extremely complex by Nolan incorporating a complicated time travel technology. Also, the soundtrack overpowered the dialogue in many scenes where you could barely hear the dialogue. Tenet may be better on the second or third watch, but the lackluster initial experience makes it the worst of the Christopher Nolan movies.
Following isn’t as grandiose or high-budget as Nolan’s other filmography, but it is an impressive directorial debut. The film with a $6,000 budget went on to receive favorable reviews by critics and has been recognized as the best no-budget movie of all time. Following is about a young writer who follows strangers for material and meets a thief who takes him under his wing. The Neo-noir is unique and gives us a glimpse into the signature style that will define Nolan films in the future.
Insomnia is Christopher Nolan’s first and only film that he’s directed without also writing the script. The film is a remake of the 1997 Norwegian film with the same name. Insomnia is about two Los Angeles homicide detectives who are dispatched to a northern town where the sun doesn’t set to investigate the methodical murder of a local teen. Robin Williams plays an antagonist in the film which was one of the first times he deviated from his typical comedic roles. Insomnia is a mysterious psychological drama that seems run of the mill but manages to surprise you by the end.
The Dark Knight Trilogy may be the most critically praised superhero film franchise of all time. The films managed to surpass the typical expectations for the superhero genre and maintained a grounded approach to the comic book story of Batman. The Dark Knight Rises is about the rise of Batman eight years after the Joker’s reign of anarchy. Forced from his exile, Batman has to work with Catwoman to save Gotham City from the brutal guerrilla terrorist Bane. The Dark Knight Rises is a satisfying end to Batman’s story and a solid film overall.
Christopher Nolan tends to explore big ideas. Ideas some would say are too large for a 2-hour film. It was only a matter of time before Nolan took his ideas into space. Interstellar was originally meant to be directed by Steven Spielberg who then enlisted Jonathan Nolan to write the screenplay. After Spielberg had to pass on the project Jonathan brought his brother onto the project. The sci-fi is about a team of explorers who travel through a wormhole in space in an attempt to ensure humanity’s survival. Interstellar is a thought-provoking science fiction that requires close attention to the narrative in order to understand it fully.
Nolan could be credited for reviving the live-action Batman and inspiring the DC cinematic universe. With the release of Batman Begins in 2005, Nolan introduced a superhero universe that could be taken seriously and grounded in reality. Batman Begins is about Bruce Wayne who starts to fight against the corruption in the crime-ridden Gotham City as a fearful vigilante. The first entry to The Dark Knight trilogy is a strong introduction to the iconic characters, the world, and Nolan’s interpretation of the well-known superhero.
Nolan expanded his horizons by creating a historical war film about the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. Dunkirk is not a typical war film. For one, there isn’t a single German or antagonistic military soldier present in the film. The story is also not told linearly. Dunkirk is about allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Commonwealth and Empire, and France who are surrounded by the German Army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II. The sound design in Dunkirk is on a whole other level. Hans Zimmer works to create an immersive experience that has you on the edge of your seat for its entire runtime.
Memento is one of Nolan’s earlier films from 2000 that revolutionized how stories are told cinematically. Unlike most films, Memento is a thriller that tells the story backward, from end to beginning. Memento is about a man with short-term memory loss who attempts to track down his wife’s murderer. The film is one of the most original stories ever created and is a confounding mind game that manages to be a puzzle worth assembling.
The Prestige is a fascinating tale of revenge, rivalry, and sacrifice. Pitting powerhouse actors Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale against each other, The Prestige is about two stage magicians in 1890s London who engage in a battle to create the ultimate illusion while sacrificing everything they have to outwit each other. The Prestige is one of Nolan’s lesser films when it comes to mind-bending storylines however Nolan still pulls off a twist that will leave you reeling.
Inception is one of the most renowned and well-known movies in the history of the film industry. Christopher Nolan had been working on the idea since 2001 and in 2010 it came to reality as the Oscar-nominated feature film. The story of Inception was originally intended as a horror about dream thieves, but it was later changed into a heist thriller to raise the emotional stakes. Inception is about a thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology and is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O., but his tragic past may doom the project and his team to disaster. The film has an original premise unlike anything you have ever seen and is executed in a spectacular way.
When people think of Christopher Nolan movies, they either think of Inception or The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight is the second installment in the trilogy and introduces Batman’s archnemesis, the Joker. Instead of making The Joker a mob boss or a supervillain, as previous film adaptations had done, Nolan made him into a terrorist, which gave the film an eerie relevance in light of the events of September 11th. The Dark Knight follows Batman who must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice when the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham. The Dark Knight is a riveting experience beyond any superhero film that explores what it means to be a hero and the thin line between order and chaos.
Before Christopher Nolan was making feature films with million-dollar budgets in Hollywood, he was an aspiring filmmaker like many today. One of his first films was a short film titled DoodleBug. The film is nearly 3 minutes long and yet it gives us a glimpse into the complex storytelling that has made up Nolan’s reputation as a filmmaker.
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