All of Christopher Nolan’s movies, ranked


Batman stands in a cloud of ash and rubble in a poster for The Dark Knight.
Warner Bros. Footage

Christopher Nolan is about to go nuclear this week. The filmmaker’s long-awaited twelfth movie, Oppenheimer, hits theaters reverse Barbie this Friday — making it one-half of the weirdest theatrical double-feature since, hilariously sufficient, Nolan’s The Dark Knight opened reverse Mamma Mia in 2008. (Oh, how occasions have and haven’t modified.) Whereas Oppenheimer continues Nolan’s career-long fascination with science, the movie additionally guarantees to be the longest and most grownup manufacturing that he’s ever constructed.

The film’s R-rating, $100 million price range, and 3-hour runtime have made it Nolan’s greatest gamble up to now. But when any filmmaker can draw audiences in for such a film, it’s Nolan, a director whose cinematic visions have repeatedly confirmed to be each in style and worthwhile. Whether or not or not Oppenheimer joins his lengthy line of blockbuster successes stays to be seen.

In honor of the movie’s launch, listed below are Nolan’s first 11 films, ranked from worst to greatest.

11. Following (1998)

The Young Man holds a phone in Following.
Momentum Footage

Regardless of how gifted or influential they’re, a filmmaker’s first film often finally ends up being their worst. There are some exceptions to that rule (Ari Aster’s Hereditary, Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket), however Nolan’s Following isn’t certainly one of them. Made with next-to-no cash and shot fully on 16mm movie inventory, Following is as rough-and-ready because it will get, however it lacks lots of its writer-director’s defining traits — particularly, his unparalleled eye for spectacle and motion.

That doesn’t imply Following is an entirely unsuccessful effort. Quite the opposite, it’s a superbly positive debut function, one which explores Nolan’s recurring themes of id and deception. Its twist ending even foreshadows lots of the narrative methods Nolan has since tried to tug to various levels of success through the years. On one other director’s filmography, Following would possibly rank greater, however it’s simply too slight to carry a extra prestigious spot in Nolan’s legacy.

10. Insomnia (2002)

Robin Williams and Al Pacino sit next to each other in Insomnia.
Warner Bros. Footage

The one remake Nolan has ever made, 2002’s Insomnia is a simple, gorgeously atmospheric psychological thriller. Primarily based on a Norwegian movie of the identical title, the film matches completely at dwelling in Nolan’s filmography, regardless of not being an unique concept or written by him. As is the case with lots of his movies, the craft on show all through Insomnia is unimpeachable, and as a pit cease between two of his career-defining films, it represents an fascinating entry for Nolan into the studio filmmaking world that he has but to go away behind.

The issue is that Insomnia isn’t as extraordinary or distinct as lots of the movies which have adopted it. Finally, it’s a slice of acquainted crime fiction that’s elevated by its lead performances from Al Pacino and Robin Williams, in addition to Nolan’s eager visible eye. It’s, in different phrases, a positive method to spend an evening, however it gained’t essentially hold you awake eager about it for hours after it’s over.

9. The Darkish Knight Rises (2012)

Bane and Batman stare each other down in The Dark Knight Rises.
Warner Bros. Footage

As a follow-up to essentially the most acclaimed superhero movie of all time, The Dark Knight Rises marks an simple step down. Coming 4 years after The Darkish Knight, this 2012 effort is a chunk of comedian e-book leisure that doesn’t experience the road between pulpy superhero storytelling and gritty realism almost in addition to its two predecessors. Whereas it’s overflowing with concepts, The Darkish Knight Rises doesn’t carry all of them collectively significantly effectively, both. The movie marks one of many uncommon occasions in his profession when Nolan’s ambition, frankly, exceeds his grasp.

That doesn’t, nevertheless, imply there aren’t moments of real greatness scattered all through The Darkish Knight Rises. Tom Hardy’s efficiency as Bane is the sort of swing-for-the-fences gambit that works much better than it ought to, and Anne Hathaway’s slinky, scene-chewing flip as Selina Kyle/Catwoman makes her a worthy and entertaining counter to Christian Bale’s always-brooding Bruce Wayne. After which there’s Michael Caine, whose heartbroken, determined efficiency as Alfred, Batman’s butler and everlasting confidant, makes The Darkish Knight Rises certainly one of Nolan’s extra emotionally affecting movies — flaws and all.

8. Tenet (2020)

John David Washington drives Elizabeth Debicki on a boat in Tenet.
Warner Bros. Footage

Tenet is, like The Darkish Knight Rises, a bit too formidable for its personal good. A sci-fi thriller in the identical vein as a number of different entries on this record, it’s a movie that by no means totally will get a deal with on its time-inverting concepts or, a minimum of, by no means manages to speak all of them that effectively. For all of the missteps and clichés that drag down its script and characters, although, Tenet is among the weirdest and most weirdly pleasant blockbusters of the previous few years.

It’s the closest Nolan has ever come to embracing his potential as a “simply sit again and vibe” director, which suggests there are lengthy stretches of Tenet that simply transfer. It’s value testing solely for its opening opera home heist, in addition to its two airport infiltrations and its last-minute Casablanca homage. Beneath all of its convoluted layers, there’s a relentless sense of enjoyable reverberating all through Tenet, one which makes you wonder if the movie itself is the delirious results of Nolan daring to chop free a bit.

7. Memento (2000)

Guy Pearce holds up a polaroid in Memento.
Newmarket Movies

The movie that put Nolan on the map, Memento is a mind-bending neo-noir that also works simply in addition to it did in 2000. Aesthetically, it’s a smaller and leaner movie than a lot of the films Nolan has made, however it’s additionally amongst his most narratively formidable. For a writer-director whose greatest twists and concepts haven’t at all times translated as effectively to the large display screen as he’s needed them to, it’s genuinely spectacular how effectively Nolan pulls off Memento’s Awiss-watch type construction and twisty story.

Anchored by Man Pearce’s rugged lead efficiency, Memento is a brainy and endlessly watchable thriller, one which reminds you what its director is able to reaching even when he’s pressured to work in a smaller area than he’s sometimes recognized to function in. It will not be the perfect film that Nolan has ever made, however it’s a daring and endearing thriller, and arguably the second-most essential movie of his profession.

6. Inception (2010)

Marion Cotillard and Leonardo DiCaprio sit on a beach together in Inception.
Warner Bros. Footage

Nolan had one probability to really capitalize on the success of 2008’s The Darkish Knight. Happily, with Inception, he not solely cemented his place as one of the revered and in style auteurs of his era, but additionally established himself as a filmmaker able to crafting unique, high-cost blockbusters that really flip a revenue. It additionally marked the primary time in his profession that Nolan actually started to dabble within the science fiction style, which has since turn into a mainstay for the filmmaker.

Inception’s effectiveness as a pure sci-fi thriller is open to debate, however there’s no denying the originality of Nolan’s tackle the style, nor are there many quibbles available with how he makes use of a standard heist film construction to incorporate the entire movie’s many high-tech concepts and innovations. For all these causes and extra, whereas Inception isn’t fairly seen because the game-changing blockbuster it as soon as was, the movie’s immersive qualities mixed with Nolan’s tactile visible type make it straightforward to forgive its many, exposition-centric flaws.

5. Interstellar (2014)

Matthew McConaughey grips Anne Hathaway's shoulders in Interstellar.
Paramount Footage

Interstellar is, in some ways, an even bigger and higher follow-up to Inception. Not solely does it share that movie’s degree of narrative complexity, however it tells its story on a good larger scale than its 2010 predecessor. Behind the scenes, the movie additionally marked the primary time Nolan labored with Nope cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema. In Interstellar, in addition to all of the movies they’ve made, Hoytema elevates and deepens Nolan’s visible type, imbuing it with a wealthy, colourful vibrancy that matches the grandiosity of its story.

Like lots of Nolan’s films, Interstellar isn’t completely profitable. Not all of its third-act swings totally join, however between Matthew McConaughey’s operatic departure from Earth, his heartbreaking confrontation with the time he’s misplaced, and his determined, second-act docking try, Interstellar options a minimum of three of the best sequences Nolan has ever crafted. As corny as its supply could often be, the movie’s concepts in regards to the timelessness of affection are worthwhile and pack a real punch — eternally discrediting the accusations of emotional coldness which have usually been lobbed Nolan’s means.

4. Batman Begins (2005)

Dr. Crane stares at Batman in fear in Batman Begins.
Warner Bros. Footage

Nolan’s first foray into the world of comedian e-book storytelling resulted in certainly one of his greatest and most entertaining movies. A reboot of the Batman franchise, 2005’s Batman Begins gave Nolan his first probability to work on a large blockbuster scale. The end result was an unambiguous success, a movie that brings the character of Bruce Wayne and the crime-ridden world of Gotham Metropolis to life with such specificity and vitality that it efficiently sheds itself of the staleness of its in any other case acquainted superhero origin story.

Its legacy could have been a bit overshadowed by the acclaim of its sequel (we’ll get to that quickly), however one want solely watch Batman Begins once more to be reminded of simply how efficient it’s. The movie instantly pulls you in, and the experience it takes you on is thrilling and well-realized sufficient to make you overlook, if just for a second, the superhero fatigue so many people really feel proper now. Practically 20 years after its launch, it might nonetheless be essentially the most purely enjoyable film Nolan has ever made.

3. The Status (2006)

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman look at each other in The Prestige.
Buena Vista Footage Distribution

Over the course of his profession, Nolan hasn’t been afraid to embrace his love of narrative trickery. Nevertheless, not one of the many twisty movies he’s made through the years work fairly in addition to The Status. A seemingly easy story a couple of rivalry between two formidable magicians (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman), Nolan’s 2006 follow-up to the straightforwardly crowd-pleasing Batman Begins is a surprisingly acidic, mean-spirited noir thriller.

Like Memento, it’s a movie that each deepens and grows extra tragic each time you rewatch it. Regardless of its interval setting and extremely particular story, it additionally appears like one of the private films Nolan has ever made. Maybe that’s as a result of it, like Interstellar, is certainly one of his solely movies that explores each the prices and rewards of in search of greatness. Within the case of The Status, such ambition results in not solely nice loss, however outright dying.

2. The Darkish Knight (2008)

The Joker stands on the street in The Dark Knight.
Warner Bros. Footage

Except for the following movie on this record, there’s no film that higher exemplifies Nolan’s abilities as a showman and cinematic orchestrator than The Darkish Knight. From the second it begins to the second it ends, The Darkish Knight maintains a relentless sense of rising stress. That’s due, in no small half, to Lee Smith’s enhancing, which imbues it with a driving, propulsive tempo that makes it straightforward to disregard its many logic jumps and plot holes.

The movie, like all nice Hitchcockian thriller, rides excessive purely by itself angle and craftsmanship. It’s, consequently, the right dwelling for Heath Ledger’s astonishing, Oscar-winning efficiency as The Joker, which is itself a bundle of psychotic, thorny vitality that The Darkish Knight not solely embraces, however mirrors and adopts. There aren’t many trendy crime thrillers that transfer or work in addition to this movie, which pulses with Nolan’s personal fervent want to, as soon as and for all, show his personal value. To say he did so could be a colossal understatement.

1. Dunkirk (2017)

Kenneth Branagh and James D'Arcy stand on a pier together in Dunkirk.
Warner Bros. Footage

For some time, it was unclear whether or not Nolan would ever once more be capable of obtain the identical visceral cinematic highs he did in The Darkish Knight. Then Dunkirk was launched in 2017. The leanest, meanest blockbuster that Nolan has ever made, Dunkirk tells its iconic story of unlikely wartime victory the one means its maker is aware of how. That’s to say: With an unrelenting tempo and singular eye for large-scale display screen motion. It’s essentially the most edge-of-your-seat, partaking warfare film since Saving Personal Ryan.

What makes Dunkirk so particular and enduring, although, is the place its exhibits of power and explosive devastation in the end lead. Its third act is essentially the most quietly elegant and swish part of filmmaking that Nolan has ever made, and in addition essentially the most emotionally cathartic. By resisting his personal tendency to overexplain and overstuff, the filmmaker achieves a poetic grace that’s breathtakingly sudden and startingly emotional.

As a director, Nolan has lengthy been fascinated by how simply the strains between victory and defeat can blur. However in no different movie has he managed to make the mere act of survival appear so lovely and so obligatory.

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