For the last month and a half, I’ve gone through the filmography of my favorite director: Christopher Nolan. So since I’ve watched and thought about all of these movies in that time span, I thought it would only be fitting to rank them.
I’m going to have two different lists: I’m going to rank them in order of best to worst and then in order of my favorite to my least favorite. Because those are two separate categories.
Just as a disclaimer, this isn’t based off Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb scores, or anything like that. It’s all based on my opinion. And these rankings were extremely tough. At different points, I had about four different movies at number one. And the fact is, almost all of these are great movies that would be anywhere between an 8.5/10 and a 10/10. Also, seven or eight of these nine are on my top 25 favorite movies of all-time list, which made it even more difficult for me to rank them.
Here is what I ended up with. (Mild spoilers throughout)
Best Christopher Nolan movies
9. The Dark Knight Rises – This is easily Nolan’s weakest work. Like I said in my original post, it isn’t a bad movie, but the story is frustrating at times and there are a few glaring plot holes.
8. Insomnia – Because of how straightforward the plot is, this can seem like a typical crime movie to a casual viewer. But it’s still visually interesting, suspenseful, and has great leading performances.
7. Batman Begins – By showing audiences what was possible with a superhero movie, this started a trend in Hollywood to try to make darker and grittier superhero movies. But it’s one of only a few that was actually able to pull it off.
6. Interstellar – This is where I began to have trouble ranking. Interstellar is a great film. But what holds it back compared to other Nolan movies is its length and subject matter. Everything that works, works perfectly – the cinematography, the acting, the emotion, the music – but the scientific terminology and the confusing part of Cooper being stuck in the fifth dimension is what keeps it from being in the running for the top spot.
5. The Prestige – When you’re watching The Prestige, your eyes will be glued to the screen the entire time, trying to notice all the small details. It’s a gripping film with twists and turns throughout. But the end leaves the viewer just a bit dissatisfied. You find out that it’s more of a science fiction story than pure fiction and you feel like you were being tricked by the filmmakers the whole time.
4. Inception – Something has to be said for this movie being what cemented Nolan as a popular mainstream director. Sure, it’s a little confusing at some points and during some segments, a lot of the dialogue has to be exposition, but it’s still a great film. From blowing people’s minds, to becoming a pop culture reference that everyone knows, it’s just all around great (and it should have won Best Picture over The King’s Speech in 2011)
3. Memento – These top three are almost interchangeable for me. Memento is so good because it’s able to keep the viewer wondering as well as just about any movie I’ve ever seen. A lot of times, the viewer is learning things that the main characters don’t know. But here, we know everything that Leonard knows and no more. Out of all of Nolan’s movies, this is possibly the one where you have to pay attention to every second more than any of the others. Or else you’ll get lost in its beautiful complexity.
2. The Dark Knight – When there is a consensus that a movie is the best in its genre, it speaks volumes. The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero film ever made for a few different reasons. It functions as an airtight crime drama with a superhero as its main character. But it also has a great villain who exposes the hero’s weaknesses and helps the audience learn more about the hero. This movie has great entertainment, story, music, acting, cinematography, and everything in between.
1. Dunkirk – This film takes the top spot because of how breathtaking it is the entire way through. And the breathtaking quality comes from a few different sources. Sometimes it comes from the visuals and other times it comes from the characters having to stay so silent that they can’t breathe, so the audience feels like they have to do the same. Up until about the point where there are five minutes remaining, you feel tense and nervous for the main characters. This film is as much an experience as it is just watching a story unfold. And when you come out of the experience, you feel like you were right in the thick of things the whole time. For that reason, it takes the top spot!
Now, “favorite” and “best” are two different things. What makes the following list different from the above list is my personal preferences. I found it to be surprisingly different from the Best list.
My Favorite Christopher Nolan Movies
9. Insomnia – I definitely enjoy this movie, but compared to the rest of them, it loses me based on the comparative lack of substance.
8. The Dark Knight Rises – Once upon a time, this was my favorite Nolan movie on account of it being “awesome.” But unfortunately, the awesome moments aren’t as great anymore when I think about the plot holes.
7. Batman Begins – I like this movie a lot, but I don’t quite love it. It’s immensely quotable, though, which puts it at number seven.
6. Dunkirk – I think this could move up on my list after I’ve seen it a few more times. But for now, it’s too heavy of an experience to want to watch over and over, like I do with the movies that are higher on this list.
5. Memento – I love watching Memento. After I saw it for the first time, I was so mind blown that I went back and watched it again the next day. And I notice new things every time I see it.
4. The Prestige – There’s something about watching Wolverine and Batman go at it with magic tricks that just tickles my fancy. Every time I sit and watch this, I am having an amazing time and I want to tell everyone how great it is.
3. Interstellar – Even with the confusing science talk, I love watching this movie. The visuals have me sitting wide-eyed every time. And there’s just something about wanting to experience the heartbreak of Cooper leaving Murph that I can’t explain, but that I just love to see portrayed.
2. The Dark Knight – This is an amazing ride that I want to take over and over. I love the Joker and the craziness that he brings along with the action and the quotable lines.
1. Inception – I’ve said for a few years now that this is my favorite movie of all time (if you don’t count The Lord of the Rings trilogy). I love immersing myself into this world and noticing something new every time, even though I’ve seen it more times than I can count. I don’t see a way that this will ever be overtaken as my favorite.