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Christopher Nolan's Movies Ranked

Award season is happening in the world of cinema, and one of the major contenders is Oppenheimer, directed by Christopher Nolan. This year could be Nolan’s best chance of winning Best Director at the Oscars. Oppenheimer already won at the Golden Globes, including Best Director. It's crazy that Nolan is only starting to win Golden Globes and possibly his first Oscar. As a big Nolan fan. Here are all 12 of his movies, including Oppenheimer, ranked. The bottom ones were easy to pick, but going into the top seven was hard to pick since Nolan has made so many incredible movies. Here’s my current ranking:

12. Following (1998)

Nolan’s first movie is easily seen as one of his more forgetful movies to casual movie watchers. It’s only an hour and ten minutes, didn’t star any big names, and was shot in black and white in the late 90s. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying it. It gave me the feeling of a classic noir film set in the late 90s. It comes across as predictable in comparison to Nolan’s later work but remains a solid film to go back and rewatch now and then.

11. Tenet (2020)

One of the first movies to come out in theaters during the COVID shutdown, Tenet is Nolan’s take on an action thriller where a former agent, played by John David Washington, gets recruited into an organization called Tenet, and their missions involve time travel. Tenet is one of Nolan’s weaker movies, with a story that can be sloppy and confusing sometimes. Having said that, it’s still a good action movie that tries something different. Washington, as well as Robert Pattinson, give solid performances, and I’m glad that this was the first movie I saw in theaters after the theaters were closed due to COVID.

10. Dunkirk (2017)

Nolan takes on directing a war thriller taking place during the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II, Dunkirk is the next movie on this list. The movie tells different perspectives from land, air, and sea and has great practical effects. At the same time, it also felt like it could have been more. This movie is one of Nolan's shortest movies at an hour and forty-six minutes, and with all these different perspectives, it could have been longer. Despite that, it’s a great addition to Nolan’s filmography and has terrific cinematography.

9. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The last movie in The Dark Knight Trilogy is also the weakest in the series. The movie is a little longer than it needs to be, with less Batman action than the previous two movies, and a couple of plotholes such as Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham which is mostly isolated after being in Bane’s prison on the other side of the world. Despite that, it’s a great character study of Bruce Wayne, all the actors give great performances, Tom Hardy as Bane is a solid villain, especially compared to most comic book villains today, and Nolan delivers a powerful ending.

8. Insomnia (2002)

Nolan’s third movie is easily seen as one of his more forgettable movies along with Following. Still, this is a movie I love the more times I rewatch it. Two Los Angeles detectives go to Alaska to solve the mystery of a murdered teenage girl, but things get complicated when one of the detectives, who is already under investigation for a previous case, accidentally kills the other detective and the murderer they were hunting down witnesses it. It takes what starts out as a typical detective murder mystery story and adds a big, unique twist to it. Al Pacino and Robin Williams deliver incredible performances as well.

7. Interstellar (2014)

Nolan's science-fiction movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, where a farmer named Joseph Cooper, played by McConaughey, goes on a mission for NASA to find a habitable planet for mankind to go on with famine on Earth pushing them to act. The movie not only has great visuals and cinematography but also a great, emotional story of risking everything to save the people you love. We see Cooper deal with being away from his family and witnessing them as adults, missing out on seeing them grow up. The message of love saving humanity pulls through. Interstellar is one of the few movies on this list that brings tears to my eyes.

6. Batman Begins (2005)

The first Batman movie directed by Nolan, Batman Begins gives a refreshing, great take on Batman after the abysmal Batman & Robin from 1997. Christian Bale gives his best performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman in this movie, and the rest of the cast, from Michael Caine and Gary Oldman to Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, and Cillian Murphy, are great. Han Zimmer’s first score for Nolan is iconic. The great action and emotional tone make this an incredible movie that has aged well nearly twenty years later. Batman Begins also remains the best superhero origin movie to this day.

5. The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige holds a special place in my heart because it was the first non-Batman Nolan film I watched back in middle school. Nolan's tale of two rival magicians, played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, never gets old. The movie has great performances and plot twists that never get old no matter how many times you rewatch the movie, and shows that Nolan is not afraid to challenge his audience.

4. Oppenheimer (2023)

Nolan’s recent movie is dominating the award season so far and is one of his best movies. Cillian Murphy finally stars in the main role as J. Robert Oppenheimer, who created the atomic bomb and hopefully gets nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars. Robert Downey Jr shines as Lewis Strauss and is also in award talks with Nolan and Murphy. The movie has other stars like Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, and Emily Blunt. Oppenheimer is Nolan’s longest movie at three hours but there is never a dull moment. Even after the bomb is created, there is still stuff to cover, including Oppenheimer’s ties to certain political groups.

3. Memento (2000)

Nolan’s second movie remains one of his best movies. Guy Pearce stars as Leonard Shelby, a man who suffers from anterograde amnesia while solving the case of who killed his wife. Memento’s story is told uniquely, with the beginning of the movie opening with Shelby shooting a man and the next scenes showing how it led to that moment. Backward storytelling, with some scenes in black and white, could be hard and confusing to follow, but Nolan does it so well. Only Quentin Tarantino has managed to pull something similar off perfectly with Pulp Fiction. Overall, Memento is a movie that deserves to be talked about and studied more.

2. Inception (2010)

My second favorite Nolan movie, as well as the movie I believe to be his second-best film, is Inception. Inception is one of those movies I rewatch daily and never get tired of. The first time I watched it, I liked it but was confused by its plot. I rewatched it more and fell in love with this movie. Thieves who usually steal ideas from people's subconscious are now tasked with implementing an idea. The cast, from Leonardo DiCaprio to Cillian Murphy, do well, the action and visuals are some of the best I have seen in the last fifteen years, and Han Zimmer delivers one of his best film scores. The ending has been a major topic of discussion in the last fifteen years, but regardless of whether it was a dream or real, it always puts a smile on my face.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight remains my favorite Nolan movie. The sequel to Batman Begins delivers great action, a terrific story, and a great villain in Heath Ledger’s Joker. Ledger passed away before the movie came out but won and deserved his Oscar. Aaron Eckhart is underrated as Harvey Dent in this movie. We see Bruce Wayne try to decide if he should still be Batman to stop the Joker or move on and let Harvey Dent be the symbol Gotham needs. The message of “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain” has aged well nearly sixteen years later. Han Zimmer delivers another great score. Out of all of Nolan’s movies, The Dark Knight is the movie I've rewatched the most times out of any of Nolan's movies and is one of my all-time favorite movies.

What is your favorite or least favorite Christopher Nolan movie? Let us know in the comments below.

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