Christopher Nolan Ranked
Inception. The Dark Knight trilogy. Interstellar. Whether or not you know his name, Christopher Nolan is one of the most influential directors of the 21st century. His impeccable track record knows no bounds of genre or theme as his films have ranged from psychological thrillers to mind-bending sci-fi, not to mention competing magicians and the gritty realism of WWII. And, somewhere in the middle, he found the time to reinvent the superhero genre in a fashion not seen since Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel Watchmen. So, with the upcoming release of Nolan’s new film Tenet, I thought it fitting to express my anticipation by ranking my top five Christopher Nolan films.
5. Memento (2000)
Memento is one of a few on this list that was written by Christopher Nolan’s brother, Jonathan Nolan. In fact, it was adapted from Jonathan’s short story Memento Mori, Latin for ‘remember death’. On the surface, it’s just Guy Pierce trying to hunt down his wife’s killer, until you realise that he suffers from a memory condition that results in him waking up every morning as if it were the day directly after the murder, each day having to re-gather the information that he has accumulated during his manhunt. How does he store the information? By tattooing on his body, of course. I guess they didn’t have the ‘Notes’ app in 2000. Still, were post-it notes not good enough? Anyway, Memento is a great film, but it gets a little too complicated for its own good. Every 10 minutes you’ll think ‘ah, I’ve cracked it now. I get the concept” only to shake your head five minutes later and say “nope, I’m lost again.”
4. The Prestige (2006)
Now here’s one that doesn’t get enough love. Before he started messing around in dreams, Christopher Nolan had Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale running around 1800s London as rival magicians sabotaging each other in a race to create the ultimate illusion. Sounds whacky, right? Well, it is. In the best way. I think that this is the film where you can really see Nolan start to refine his style – like Memento, The Prestige contains the non-linear storytelling that we’ve come to expect from Nolan, with overlapping narratives and ambiguous timelines that lead to a wealth of twists and turns. The payoffs in this one is far more satisfying than in Memento too and are supported by some great performances (bar Scarlett Johansson’s questionable British accent).
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
What is there to say about the Dark Knight. Undoubtedly the best of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the Dark Knight saw the rebirth of the gritty superhero genre – unlike previous directors’ attempts at filming Batman, Bruce Wayne isn’t prancing around in spandex with his nipples showing (see George Clooney’s Batman and Robin if you don’t know what I’m talking about). Instead, Christian Bale is cool, conflicted, and combative as hell as he attempts to take down the most memorable and revered super-villain ever: Heath Ledger’s Joker. What else is there to say about this film – even at 2 hours 32 minutes, it’s gripping to the very end, packed with plot and awesome moments. It may not be the deepest in terms of story, but it’s just so undeniably sick.
2. Inception (2010)
Inception has almost transcended its limits as a film at this point. So much so that the word “inception” basically now has a new definition: “something within something”. It was hailed as being so confusing that audience members were leaving the cinema scratching their heads as to what they’d just seen, though I’d wager that anyone who’s actually seen the film can attest that these reports were pretty exaggerated. That said, the film is incredibly complex, with intricacies that reach beyond its story and demand a lot from Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page etc. It’s massively stood the test of time too – it was a cinematic phenomenon when it was released, and still now I notice something new each time I watch it.
1. Interstellar (2014)
Undoubtedly the most divisive film in this list, Interstellar is not just my favourite Christopher Nolan film but also ties with a couple of others for my favourite film of all time. It’s a sci-fi epic, a love story, a coming of age film, and a masterpiece of CGI, all in one fantastic package. Some may say it’s cheesy or that it overreaches itself, but to me, it’s a mature marvel of storytelling and spectacle. The story starts small and grows to a place that had my jaw wide open by the end – the acting is captivating and emotional, and the scale of the setting is enough to boggle the mind at times. Plus, all of the science behind the film is accurate to current understandings in physics, with numerous papers being published as a result of the research that went into the film’s VFX. I’ll always love it; it’s an incredibly powerful drama set on a literally intergalactic scale that somehow manages to be distinctly human.