Christopher Nolan – From Worst to Best

Nolan on set of Inception with his stars Leonardo Di Caprio and Ellen Page

Nolan on set of Inception with his stars Leonardo Di Caprio and Ellen Page

List compiled by Eddie on 14/07/2017

It’s hard to imagine modern cinema without him, so it’s an amazing feat that within a mere 18 years in the industry, British filmmaker Christopher Nolan has made such an indelible mark on the movie making industry.

Whether it’s with his more low-key yet no less intricate smaller scale tales or his rewriting of the superhero/blockbuster event pictures, in the space of 9 features films (his 10th, Dunkirk is mere days away!) Nolan has established himself as a director of unique talents, with his construction of stories, his way with a set piece and his often underestimated ability to draw out stand out performances from his leads – his drawn career best turns out of Guy Pearce, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger and Matthew McConaughey.

It’s fair to say that in his years as a feature film director, Nolan has yet to make a “bad” (as the below list attests to) movie and while the Academy and other industry awards continue to ignore his skill and individual feats, its highly likely that for years to come Nolan’s movies will continue to be loved and adored by movie loving audiences the world over, as they appreciate the standout products he delivers.

Happy reading and happy watching.

Nolan's low budget debut, Following

Nolan’s low budget debut, Following

9. Following (1998)

Nolan’s low budget ($6000 to be exact) black and white debut may be a DIY effort but it also harbors many of the skills the filmmaker would go onto exhibit in his larger scale efforts. An intriguing and twist laden tale of young writer/turned stalker Bill, Following is worth the time for fans of Nolan and those who seek famed directors early works.

Written by Jonathan Nolan? – No.

8. Insomnia (2002)

While it never reaches the grand heights it sometimes threatens to, Insomnia certainly draws out a great double bill of Al Pacino and Robin Williams acting turns and the two industry veterans no doubt relished working with the then still up and coming director. The unique surrounds and setting of Alaska and its strange all day light are a real highlight also.

Written by Jonathan Nolan? – No.

7. Batman Begins (2005)

Acting as if Batman and Robin never even happened, Nolan, seemingly out of nowhere, not only bought back Batman to our big screens in a stunning fashion but re-wrote the superhero movie rulebook with this gritty and drenched in realism take of the Capped Crusader. Inspired casting of Christian Bale and a large number of practical stunts set in place the beginnings of an incredible trilogy.

Written by Jonathan Nolan? – No.

6. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Living up the standard that The Dark Knight laid down before it, it was never going to be an easy job for The Dark Knight Rises to conclude the Nolan Batman trilogy in a fashion that would please everyone but with a star studded cast (of which Tom Hardy’s Bane is the standout), some amazing set pieces (a stadium collapse is particularly unforgettable) and a fitting final stanza, Dark Knight Rises is a blockbuster extravaganza of the highest order.

Written by Jonathan Nolan? – Yes.

In Memento, Guy Pearce delivered a career best turn

In Memento, Guy Pearce delivered a career best turn

5. Memento (2000)

For his second feature film Nolan went far and beyond what is to be expected from a young budding filmmaker with this impeccably constructed narrative that deals with events in reverse. Australia’s own Guy Pearce delivered what was then and still likely is his best ever turn as confused Leonard and Memento is well deserving of its high regard in the minds of movie goers and a quintessential piece to the reason why Nolan can be seen as one of the modern eras greatest ever storytellers.

Written by Jonathan Nolan? – Yes (a short story).

4. Inception (2010)

Working with the greatest canvas he’d  yet been given, Inception saw Nolan explore the worlds of our dreams to mind blowing effect. With numerous spectacles of flipping cities, snow-capped explosive heists and spinning hotel rooms, Inception is a high-concept blockbuster that works and one of recent year’s most talked about narratives, with its many open for interpretation possibilities.

Written by Jonathan Nolan? – No.

3. The Prestige (2006)

Who would’ve thought that the personnel warring between two magicians would’ve been so special? but thanks to Nolan and his script writer brother Jonathan, The Prestige quickly became one of the most beloved thrillers of all time. Made in between the then two biggest hits of Nolan’s career in the form of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, The Prestige may’ve been missed by some upon initial release but has steadily been discovered by more and more fans as the years draw on.

Written by Jonathan Nolan? – Yes.

2. Interstellar (2014)

Much has been spoken about Interstellar on this blog over the last 12 or so months but any chance that may arise to support this grand and adventure laden Sci-Fi must be taken. Misunderstood by some who took everything far too seriously and found faults in the most mundane of things, Interstellar is original filmmaking at its most grand and visually spectacular and there’s a beating heart that lays at the centre of all the spectacle that many such films could only hope to achieve. An epic tale that features terrific performances, production values and one of the all-time great movie scores thanks to Hans Zimmer, Interstellar is a classic for the ages.

Written by Jonathan Nolan? – Yes.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

If Batman Begins rewrote the superhero rulebook then The Dark Knight took that rulebook, blew it up, then created a whole different beast entirely. A once in a lifetime type of event that was only heightened by the tragic passing of its star making performer Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight has brilliance in all areas and it’s to this day one of the most exciting and perfectly constructed blockbusters that’s ever been made. Filmmakers may’ve tried and are still trying to emulate what Nolan created with this tale but its unlikely anyone will ever get close too what was achieved with this, the greatest superhero movie ever made.

Written by Jonathan Nolan? – Yes.

The Dark Knight was an explosive and iconic superhero tale

The Dark Knight was an explosive and iconic superhero tale

How does this list compare to your favourite Nolan films? Is there something to high on the list or to low? Let us know in the comments below!

Interstellar - poster

For other J and E director lists see below

Steven Spielberg

Dario Argento

Terrence Malick

Ridley Scott

The Coen Brothers

Martin Scorsese

John Carpenter

Michael Mann

Robert Zemeckis

Clint Eastwood

Tim Burton

47 responses to “Christopher Nolan – From Worst to Best

  1. I’d have Inception up with the Dark Knight as well but I’d also have Batman Begins up there as well, possibly even ahead of those two.

  2. Nice work, personally I find the lighter atmosphere of Inception has me coming back to it more, but it’s pretty hard to deny the brilliance of The Dark Knight.

  3. I have a love-hate relationship with Nolan. I love Memento, Inception and The Prestige but I am probably the only person who doesn’t love his take on Batman.

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  5. I appreciate the acknowledgement of Jonathan Nolan’s contributions to his brother’s films! And the way you did it made me laugh! Great list.

  6. I’m personally just reviewing all of Nolan’s films every Monday since Dunkirk’s release and I find your ranking pretty interesting. I will probably rank them myself when I have wrapped up all the reviews but to do that, I need to find a copy of The Following!

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