Like him or not, you have to admit he's done some great work. Christopher Nolan has become one of the most successful and popular filmmakers of our days thanks to his original, thought-provoking and suspenseful movies. His upcoming war drama, Dunkirk, is going to be his tenth feature film. The acclaimed British director created another nine movies between 1998 and 2014, all of them brilliant in their own ways. Naturally, some are better than others. Although such a process is bound to be affected by subjectivity, I tried to be as objective as possible, taking several aspects into account, including: screenplay, direction, technical achievements, reception and influence. So, without further ado, these are the nine feature films directed by #ChristopherNolan ranked from worst to best.
Following marked Christopher Nolan's debut. It is by no means a bad film, but rather the weakest of his filmography. Filmed with a budget of a mere $6000, the movie follows a young writer who starts following random people hoping to get some inspiration for a new book. His strange hobby leads to unpredictable consequences as he meets and pairs with a thief who might not be what he seems.
Nolan's budget was so limited that he filmed with a handheld camera in friends and family's houses, including only the first or second take of each scene. The result was an intriguing mystery thriller narrated in a non-linear timeline, something Nolan would master later with Memento and The Prestige.
8. Batman Begins
The first installment of The Dark Knight trilogy proved that comicbook movies can have a darker and more realistic tone than people thought. Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman, the story follows Bruce Wayne as he goes into a process of self-discovery and struggles to overcome his fears, eventually becoming the Batman.
The acting is great, the pace is perfect and the screenplay set itself apart from any other superhero film made to date — a great start for a great trilogy. Nolan's vision to reinvent the franchise was met with huge success, finally creating a name for himself (and the best was yet to come).
7. The Dark Knight Rises
Four years after The Dark Knight — having directed Inception in the meantime — Christopher Nolan finally returned to finish the trilogy. Originally reluctant to direct a third installment, Nolan managed to find a story that would serve as a fitting end to the franchise. Reuniting all the main characters from the previous films while introducing Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Dark Knight Rises is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight.
Bruce Wayne becomes the Batman again when a terrorist named Bane threatens Gotham City. Soon, Batman realizes that the enemy is much more dangerous than he seems, and that Batman has to overcome himself in order to emerge victorious and save his city. Though the plot is undeniably engaging, it lacks the grandeur of The Dark Knight. Nevertheless, the movie is technically impressive and was a big success in the box office — a fitting end to the trilogy indeed!
Christopher Nolan's first big-budget film proved his worth and established him as an aspiring director. A remake of a Norwegian film, Insomnia is a suspenseful psychological thriller starring Al Pacino and the late Robin Williams. Set in an Alaskan village during summer, a detective tries to catch a psychopathic killer while his haunting past and the non-setting sun prevent his sleep.
Acknowledging the challenges of remaking an already good film, Nolan managed to create a dark and breathtaking thriller without disrespecting the original in any way. Although this movie usually slips under fans' radars, compared to other Nolan pictures, it deserves your attention for sure.
Christopher Nolan's latest work is probably his most ambitious (and this says a lot). Having previously directed Inception, Nolan returned to the sci-fi genre, taking it to the next level with this dystopian space epic. The movie, which is Nolan's longest picture, follows a handful of people who carry humanity's last hope in a world where famine has put a halt to all scientific development.
As the protagonists set up on a perilous voyage to find an inhabitable planet, the audiences are confronted with themes of existentialism, extra-terrestrial life, survival and love. Interstellar is visually stunning and is clearly very well-researched. Despite its engaging story though, the ending seemed a bit disappointing. Apart from that, the movie is flawless. I'm not going to spoil anything in this article; I can only say that if the third act was as good as the first two, Interstellar would easily secure a spot in the Top 3 of this list. You can read my full review here.
4. The Prestige
The Prestige is by far Christopher Nolan's most underrated movie. Adapted from Christopher Priest's novel of the same name, this compelling mystery thriller revolves around two magicians who lose themselves trying to surpass each other. The movie features frequent collaborators Christian Bale and Michael Caine, as well as Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson and the late David Bowie.
Once again, Christopher Nolan opted for a non-linear storyline, demanding the full attention of his audience as twists unfold one after the other. The acting is top-notch (particularly Jackman) and the cinematography is flawless. Even the novel's author was reportedly impressed by Nolan's work. Overall, this a great movie that will have you thinking about how far you're willing to go to achieve what you want.
Christopher Nolan's second feature film was an adaptation of a short story written by his brother Jonathan about a man who is unable to make new memories. As Nolan himself stated, this was the biggest leap of his career, as he had to jump from an amateur film with a tiny budget to a production of millions that involved hundreds of people.
Memento was critically acclaimed, with critics praising its clever story and innovative, non-linear screenplay (which earned Nolan his first Oscar nomination). The story follows Leonard (Guy Pearce) as he searches for his wife's murderer while suffering from a peculiar memory condition. As the events unfold in reverse order, one can easily lose track of the plot since you have to revise everything you think after each scene plays out. By the time the ending credits roll, you may feel absolutely lost. However, Christopher Nolan insists that there is a consistent story that makes perfect sense, so go see it again!
2. The Dark Knight
What can I say about The Dark Knight that hasn't been said already? The movie revitalized the superhero genre in an unprecedented way. Following the events of Batman Begins, the city of Gotham forges an alliance with Batman to help fight organized crime. However, they are confronted with the most dangerous criminal mastermind they have ever faced: the Joker.
Featuring an ensemble for the ages, The Dark Knight set itself apart from the usual superhero flicks with its dark and realistic tone, captivating characters and technical perfection. It's no surprise that every superhero released after 2008 was compared to The Dark Knight. One of the strongest points of the movie was the cast's performances, with the late Heath Ledger receiving overwhelming praise posthumously. Many people consider his performance superior to Jack Nicholson's in Batman, and this says a lot. Christopher Nolan had triumphed once again. The movie, which appeared in many lists of the greatest movies of the decade and the 21st century, still gathers praise today, and will continue doing so for a long time.
2010's Inception is Christopher Nolan's magnum opus. After spending several years working on it, Nolan delivered a mind-blowing sci-fi thriller with such an impressively original screenplay that it left the audiences enthralled. The story revolves around a man with a troubled past who is able to use a device to invade other people's dreams. Along with his team, he must plant an idea into someone's mind while struggling to maintain his sense of reality.
Despite its unconventional and often confusing story, Inception was a success both critically and commercially, eventually becoming the first (and only to date) among Christopher Nolan's movies to be nominated for the Academy's Best Picture award. Nolan proved that audiences can still appreciate intellectual blockbusters. His ideas about dreams, existence and the ambiguity of reality are conveyed in the most fascinating way (more about this here). The acting was top-notch throughout, while the technical aspects were as close to perfection as possible. Inception is probably Nolan's most influential work and will be watched and analyzed for many years to come — an outstanding achievement by an outstanding director.
Which Christopher Nolan film do you like best?