Christopher Nolan Films: Ranked

Gather around, ye film lovers. Enter, you who love art, who claim to be a critic, who respect the Oscars, who follow the crowd to the Box-Office, and all fanboys who reside. For the topic todays is he who we all respect and appreciate, Christopher Nolan. I cannot lie, he is my favorite director of the 21st century, if not all time!

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Today, I am joined by my friend and colleague (whose expertise far exceeds my own), Nate Sala. We were both writers for Christian Entertainment Reviews blog, and we both share a mutual love for the young director’s masterpieces. So we have taken on the completely subjective and near impossible job of ranking the beloved film-maker’s pictures. We combined our thoughts and opinions, and had fun writing about the results that we ended up with. As a heads up, since Nolan’s “The Following” is both a smaller picture, and is without a Clearplay filter, it will not be added to our list of rankings. So, without further ado, and for your entertainment, we ask that you enter our rankings of the great Christopher Nolan and his impeccable films.

  1. “Insomnia” (Viewed with Clearplay)

In the world of Christopher Nolan, last place is far from an insult. In fact, this intense and psychological thriller brings to the plate what you would expect in a “Nolan” film. It has the well-developed plot, the suspense, a top notch cast, and a host of twists to make your head spin. Granted, when comparing to other Nolan flicks, this one seems smaller in comparison, and the shockers are far less mind-blowing. Yet, Nolan does a terrific job of making you feel the dread and madness that Al Pacino’s character goes through with his conscience and his agonizing case of insomnia. Also, the cinematography shows early signs of Nolan’s work in the Dark Knight films (which is pretty cool). All this is still a top notch film thanks to a thought provoking moral tale, as well as terrific performances from Pacino and the late Robin Williams (who was quite creepy). – Andrew

  1. Interstellar

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While not the most expensive movie Nolan has made, “Interstellar” is, in a sense, the biggest. Consider the plot: Climate change has caused a worldwide dustbowl. Resources are scarce and what’s left of the food will soon disappear. Ex-NASA-genius-turned-farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) dons a spacesuit and jumps through a wormhole in order to save his family and the entire world. This is Nolan’s epic space odyssey and his treatment of planets, galaxies, and wormholes are definitely a sight to see (in IMAX)! The problem with the film is that the push-and-pull between sci-fi epic and family drama doesn’t properly find a balance and, consequently, the family drama suffers. Also, the twist ending makes absolutely no sense, either from a time travel perspective or a romance angle. There are some wonderful and touching moments with Cooper and the family dynamic but the film’s problems ultimately bring it down to 7th place. – Nate

  1. Batman Begins

The first in Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy has a lot going for it. The realism underlying the subject matter is visceral and gritty. As a matter of fact, the film’s realism gives it a gravitas that the other Batman iterations lack (e.g. Schumacher’s “Batman & Robin” or even Burton’s “Batman Forever”). The thing that Nolan truly excels at (when he’s on his game) is concepts and characters. In this film, the sloppy and slow development of the Batman character out of the tortured psyche of a young orphan is brilliant. The problems with the film, if there are any, lie in casting (Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes?) and that awful growl-speech Christian Bale utilizes as Batman. Half the time, in the theater, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. The other half I was wincing at how silly it was. Like the Godfather, “Batman Begins” is outshined by its sequel “The Dark Knight” and, thus, rests in 6th place. – Nate

  1. “The Dark Knight Rises”

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In the case of TDKR; after first observance, it was by far my favorite! Granted, after the mist settled, I too succumbed to a bit of the negativity surround this affair. It did not, however, include the incident of Bruce Wayne getting from the desert to Gotham rather quickly. Seriously, he is a well-known billionaire, why is it such a stretch of the imagination that he can’t pull a few strings to get to the big city? Anyways, the film has its pacing and narrative problems. With that aside, we can see that Tom Hardy is an astounding villain amidst the passing of Ledger, Anne Hathaway really surprised as Catwoman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was truly inspired as the Robin fill-in. And above all, the conclusion of everyone’s favorite vigilante was a true masterpiece. Yes, he didn’t wear the mask much in the film. But the development seen in the series leading to his conflicting decision to pay the ultimate price for his city is truly the definition of an epic. – Andrew

  1. “Memento” (Viewed with Clearplay)

I wonder, did Nolan understand the degree of importance this film would ultimately be for the pop culture he created for himself? Who truly knows? What we know is this; the masterpiece that we know as Memento is the single reason Nolan is so vital to the 21st century film industry. All I can do is echo all the praise that has been already said regarding it. The very idea that Nolan would actually put you through a man’s short term memory loss by playing the film in reverse in order to live his lack of memory is truly remarkable. My favorite scene is where Guy Pierce’s character is running and the reason why is unknown to you and him both. But he sees a man running close to him; his only assumption is that he is chasing the man. When the man shoots at him, however, “So, he’s chasing me.” Brilliant! – Andrew

  1. “The Prestige”

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As someone who prides himself in successfully guessing the endings of films before they happen, I must say the ending of “The Prestige” blew my mind into a million little mind-shards. I was not prepared for what I saw! And that’s part of its charm, that, much like a magic trick, you expect one thing and get another. Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are rival magicians in spooky, Victorian London whose hatred towards each other only outshines their desire to best the other’s magic. When Alfred appears to transport from one place to another, Robert goes to great and horrifying lengths to best him yet again. All the elements of the film, including brilliant performances by Jackman and Bale, come together in near flawless fashion. There is so much to love about this movie; probably my favorites, believe it or not, are the costumes and set designs. I have never wanted to live in Victorian England more than in watching this film! Definitely one of Nolan’s best. – Nate

  1. Inception

After watching what Nolan was capable of in “The Prestige”, it is not surprising that he concocted a mind-bender of such grandiose proportions. Watching “Inception” is like getting spun on a merry-go-round and then trying to walk again. You’re lost, disoriented, and unsure if your next step is secure. Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) must put together a team to enter into the mind of Robert Fischer Jr. (via his dreams) and cause him to have an idea that will bring about the end of his father’s company. But things don’t always go as planned and, once Cobb and his team are inside the mind of Fischer (Cillian Murphy) everything begins to unravel (in more ways than one). This movie needs to be seen to be believed. One of the best aspects of the story is the deep angst Cobb feels for his past, particularly his dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard). Our sympathies for Cobb allow Nolan to brilliantly weave the deepest, darkest web of dreams within a dream, something Cobb must face if he ever wants to move on. This is a Nolan classic well-deserving of 2nd place! – Nate

  1. “The Dark Knight”

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What does it take to bring a good man down? That is almost the most minimal description of The Dark Knight that I could muster up. The film is so widely accepted as an instant classis thanks to Heath Ledger’s masterful Performance ( I should throw in Gary Oldman’s as well, for it is oh-so underrated), the intellectual crime-setting storytelling, the gritty and multilayered screenplay, as well as the flat out awesome action. What I feel is the biggest reason I have come to think so highly of this film (which took me years to do, in all honesty) is the tragic story of sacrifice from the Batman. When he is so close to having trust in the new district attorney he has worked with, he is close to having crime at an all-time low in Gotham, and ultimately able to slowly depart from his responsibilities. He is brought back in by the psychotic schemes of the notorious Joker, whose passionate drive is to create this “city of no rules.” His menacing plans and actions are almost omnipresent in this crime epic. But in the end, it is the Batman who must try his best to fight turning into a menace himself, and ultimately take the sacrifice for the city and for justice. It is for all these many reasons, that not only does the Dark Knight take the top of our list, but also makes it one of the greatest films of all time! – Andrew

When the dust settles, when the credits roll, we all have our favorite. We had a lot of fun presenting our favorites when it comes to the great director’s achievements. But what are yours? Did we get close to your rankings or are we far gone? Let us know in the comments sections! I want to thank Nate and his wonderful participation in the list today! I will have a brief bio at the bottom of the page where you can check out his other fantastic work. Go check him out!


N.P. Sala received his B.Sc. in Religion in 2013 and is currently pursuing his M.Ed. in Secondary English at University of Nevada Las Vegas. He is the creator of the Christian Apologetics blog A Clear Lens and writes movie reviews for Let There Be MoviesFollow him on Twitter at @N8Sala.


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