Christopher Nolan’s Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

christopher nolan movies ranked from worst to best

Christopher Nolan’s latest movie Tenet is getting international release dates and until we wait we decided to refresh our memory and take a look at his best movies. So in today’s article, we’re bringing you a list of Christopher Nolan’s movies ranked from worst to best.

For many people, he’s a genius filmmaker and one of the best directors of all time which is evident by really high marks for almost each of his movies. And for some, he’s pretentious and way over-rated. Yes, Nolan might be pretentious and not the subtlest guy in the industry. His movies are plagued with overly-expository writing as he often explains a little too much which results in some unnatural dialogues and characters that exist simply for the purpose of explaining it all, which is most evident in Inception and Interstellar. Some are also having problems with his cold, cerebral approach to filmmaking calling his movies emotionless. And all these criticisms may be valid but still, Christopher Nolan is one of the most interesting and original directors that emerged in the last 20 years. He is one of those rare directors whose movies are both critically acclaimed and big box office hits and can do almost any project he wants to do. And in my book, he hasn’t done a bad movie yet. 

Born on July 30, 1970, in London, acclaimed  British-American director and writer Christopher Nolan showed his love for filmmaking pretty early in life as he started making short movies with his father’s Super-8 camera when he was only 7 years old. He studied English literature at University College London where he learned some useful techniques he would later use while making his debut, Following in 1998. Made for only $6.000, Following gained Nolan enough credibility to finance his next project, indie hit Memento which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. He followed this masterpiece with psychological thriller Insomnia, one of the rare examples of successful remakes before hitting it big with Batman Begins in 2005. After successfully reviving the caped crusader, Nolan directed two even more successful sequels, The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and continued bringing his original ideas to the big screen. Nolan found great critical and commercial success with movies like The Prestige (2006), Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014), and Dunkirk (2017). While he never won an Oscar, Nolan has received many awards and honors.


Christopher Nolan Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

Starting in 1998 with Following, Christopher Nolan has directed 10 movies so far with his 11th movie coming out this year. His movies are ambitious and often thought-provoking exploring the themes of morality, time, memory, and personal identity.

So without further ado, we’re bringing you all Christopher Nolan movies ranked from worst to best.

10. Following (1998)

Cast: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell, John Nolan

Christopher Nolan made his feature debut with this solid low-budget neo-noir thriller about a young writer who starts following strangers in London to find inspiration for his novel but is soon drawn into a criminal underworld when a stranger notices he is being followed.

Written, directed, and edited by Christopher Nolan, this 69 minutes long black and white movie received mostly positive reviews and won several awards during its festival run. While it isn’t especially impressive, it was made for only $6.000 and showed signs of a promising filmmaker.


 

9. Dunkirk (2017)

Cast: Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh

This story about the evacuation of 400.000 trapped allied soldiers that run away from Germans and waited for the rescue on the beaches of Dunkirk received excellent reviews with some critics calling it the best war movie ever. In my book, Dunkirk was a huge disappointment and continued Nolan’s downward trend started with The Dark Knight Returns.

Nolan focused on the evacuation of the soldiers and hell they went through without much backstory. He wanted to make Dunkirk as realistic as possible and used real planes, ships, and statists instead of relying on CGI. But unfortunately, he did not succeed and Dunkirk felt unconvincing. Watching Dunkirk you didn’t get a feeling that this was such a massive and dangerous operation but more like a small scale operation in which a couple of fishermen tried to save 1000 people. One more big problem I had with Dunkirk is that the story is told in a non-linear fashion which actually didn’t contribute to anything. Some pathetic lines and Branagh’s tearful eyes didn’t help either.

But still, even as one of the worst Nolan’s films, it is a well-made war movie, with good performances, solid direction, and score from Hans Zimmer.


 

8. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

After successfully reviving caped crusader with Batman Begins (2005) and then making one of the best superhero movies of all time with The Dark Knight (2008), Nolan followed it with this disappointing end to Dark Knight trilogy. Plagued by mediocre script, plot holes, and poor fight scenes, TDKR was still a huge box office hit and received positive reviews from critics and audience.

Written by Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer, TDKR picks up eight years after the events in TDK when a new threat emerges from terrorist Bane (Hardy) forcing Bruce Wayne from retirement to save Gotham City from nuclear destruction.

Hardy’s Bane wasn’t as good or interesting as Ledger’s Joker and was just ok as the main villain and more funny than menacing with his voice. And I doubt filmmakers were aiming for funny. Same goes for Hattaway’s Catwoman – while she wasn’t bad at all her performance was a far cry from Michelle Pfeiffer’s in Burton’s Batman Returns. Also for a Batman movie, it had too little Batman in it. At times it didn’t felt like a Batman movie at all. Almost like Nolan was ashamed he was making another superhero movie. But still, despite all these flaws, TDKR a pretty good film and better than most other superhero movies out there.


 

7. Interstellar (2014)

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Wes Bentley, Matt Damon, Timothée Chalamet, Ellen Burstyn, Mackenzie Foy

Christopher Nolan followed The Dark Knight trilogy with this ambitious and original sci-fi epic about a group of astronauts who travel through a wormhole in space in an attempt to find a new home for mankind. Written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, with the consultations of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, Interstellar was obviously inspired by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Shot by Hoyte van Hoytema without green screens, Interstellar is one of the best looking movies in the last couple of years and filled with some stunning visuals. This ambitious, thought-provoking,  and at times impressive movie features a really interesting story, very good performances from actors, and a nice score from Hans Zimmer while tackling some powerful themes. Unfortunately, it is bogged down by some bad dialogues, too-much exposition, and disappointing and unconvincing finale. Still, it is one more original and interesting movie from Mr. Nolan better than most movies coming out of Hollywood. Interstellar was nominated for five Academy Awards but won only for Visual Effects.

And a little bit of trivia for you. Remember that cornfield chase scene? Nolan and his crew actually grew about five hundred acres of real corn for Interstellar.


 

6. Insomnia (2002)

Cast: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan

In this remake of the Norwegian movie of the same name from 1997, two Los Angeles homicide detectives (Pacino, Donovan) are dispatched to the small fishing town where the sun never sets, Nightmute (Alaska), to investigate a murder of a local teenage girl. While it may seem like one more typical serial killer movie, the twist in this one is that Pacino’s character shoots his partner accidentally while chasing a killer (Williams) in the first half of the movie. Pacino’s character starts receiving these blackmailing calls by the serial killer who witnessed him killing his partner. Pacino’s detective Dormer is a flawed protagonist suffering from insomnia and under the investigation by internal affairs who must play a game of cat and mouse with the killer and both him and Williams are great in their roles.

Christopher Nolan directed this movie two years after hitting it big with his indie hit Memento. While this psychological thriller is less original, memorable, ambitious, or epic than most of his movies making it feel a little plain, it is still a tense, smart, interesting, and very well-acted and shot movie and not flawed like some of his latest outings.


 

 

5. Batman Begins (2005)

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer

After proving that he can work inside the Hollywood system with Insomnia, Nolan was given the chance to revive the Batman franchise. After two terrible Batman movies in the 1990s (Batman Forever, Batman & Robin) that killed the franchise and put it on hold for eight years, this wasn’t an easy task. Opting for a completely different approach, Nolan succeeded and brought us this gritty, dark, serious, and more realistic take on the caped crusader. It was a risky and brave move from Mr. Nolan that paid off.

Batman Begins is an origin story starting with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents and following him on his journey to becoming Batman and fighting villains threatening to destroy Gotham City. Bale was an excellent choice for the main role and is probably the best Batman of all time. The same goes for Michael Caine in the role of Alfred. Actually all of the actors did a very good job and even Katie fucking Holmes is tolerable.

Although this one had the weakest villains, it was probably the best Batman movie in the whole trilogy. Thrilling, smart, well-shot, and written, Batman Begins was almost groundbreaking in its approach and spawned many imitators.


 

4. The Prestige (2006)

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, David Bowie, Andy Serkis

Made between two Batman movies (Batman Begins and TDK), The Prestige pitches Batman against Wolverine it this story about two competing magicians (Jackman and Bale) in London at the end of the 19th century who engage in a battle to create the ultimate illusion. This thriller written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan was based on the novel of the same name from 1995 by Christopher Priest. It received positive reviews and while not being a huge hit it was still a moderate success on box office. It also received two Academy Award nominations – for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography.

It may be less known than Nolan’s biggest hits but The Prestige is one of his best a smart and very well written, acted, and shot movie full of twists. This tale about ambition, obsession, and sacrifice is one of the best movies of its decade.


 

3. Inception (2010)

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Tom Berenger

Christopher Nolan followed his acclaimed blockbuster The Dark Knight with this original, smart, complex, and mind-bending sci-fi action thriller about a group of thieves, led by Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) who steal people’s secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology. If you watched Inception then you know it’s pretty hard to describe what the movie is about in just one or two sentences.

Nolan had the idea for Inception back in 2002 after completing Insomnia and pitched it to Warner Bros as a horror film about “dream stealers” but soon revisited the script and change it to a heist movie. He also decided that he would need a huge budget to bring all his ideas to life and as he didn’t have experience with large-scale films, made Batman Begins, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight before proceeding with Inception. Nolan finished the script after a couple of years and  Warner Bros gave him $160 million for this original sci-fi movie. It was a gamble for Warner Bros that paid off – Inception received critical praise and was a huge box office hit. It was also nominated for 8 Academy Awards, winning for Best Cinematography (Wally Pfister), Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects.

While Inception has some problems like uneven action sequences, too much exposition, small plot holes, and just a serviceable love story, and the whole idea about dreams inside dreams can be viewed as a cheap gimmick used as an excuse to throw anything you can think of in a single film, this is still a remarkable movie. Filmed by Nolan’s frequent collaborator Wally Pfister, Inception features a great score by Hans Zimmer and performances from the talented cast, a great script, and direction from Mr. Nolan, and is filled with some unique and stunning visuals. And there are a couple of really outstanding and memorable sequences like that hallway fight.

Tackling the themes of loss, guilt, and grief among others, Inception is a movie that throws a lot to the audience but it is easy to follow, even in the second half where we follow a couple of parallel events, because it is masterfully executed with clarity and precision by Mr. Nolan. One of the best movies of the last 10 years.

And did you know that Nolan based the roles of a team in Inception on the roles used in filmmaking? Cobb is the Director, Ariadne is the Production Designer, Arthur is the Producer, Eames is the Actor, Saito is the Studio, and Fischer is the Audience.


 

2. The Dark Knight (2008)

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cillian Murphy, Eric Roberts

After successfully reintroducing Batman to the audience with Batman Begins, expectations for a sequel were pretty high. But in most cases, sequels are not as good as the originals and like many others, I was worried about Heath Ledger in the role of Joker. Thankfully, Nolan knocked it out of the park and with The Dark Knight made probably the greatest superhero movie of all time. TDK received overwhelmingly positive reviews, made a ton of money (it was the highest-grossing film of the year), set the record for a highest-grossing opening in the United States ($158 million) and received eight Academy Award nominations but won only two – for Best Sound Editing and for Best Supporting Actor (Ledger).

Following the events in Batman Begins, Batman together with lieutenant James Gordon (Oldman) and district attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart) take on organized crime in Gotham City, but their plans are spoiled when a new threat emerges in an anarchistic criminal the Joker (Ledger), who starts wreaking havoc and chaos on Gotham City to undermine Batman’s influence.

With TDK Nolan accomplished that rare feat making a sequel that is as good or better than original joining the list of movies like Terminator 2, Godfather Part 2, Aliens, and Mad Max: The Road Warrior. This smart, dark, and engaging action movie had it all – great script and direction, thrilling action sequences, well-written characters, atmosphere, interesting story, great performances, and a powerful score by Hans Zimmer.

But maybe the best part of the movie was Heath Ledger who gave us one of the best villains of all time in Joker. He was so unforgettable and convincing in the role and stole each scene he appeared in. Ledger was so in the character that even some of his colleagues were mesmerized or frightened by him. In fact, the first time Michael Caine saw Heath Ledger in character, he was so frightened that he forgot to say his lines during the scene where Joker crashes the party.

With this ground-breaking comic book movie, Nolan not only made the best superhero movie of all time but also one of the best movies of 21st century.


 

1. Memento (2000)

Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior, Stephen Tobolowsky

Christopher Nolan made a couple of excellent and praiseworthy movies but the best film he made was pretty early in his career. He followed his feature debut with this masterpiece and caught everyone by surprise. Memento is an original and unique movie that felt like a breath of fresh air when it premiered back in 2000. It tells a story about Leonard (Pearce), a man with short-term memory loss who wants to find a man who killed his wife. Leonard was injured during an attack and as a result, he has anterograde amnesia which prevents him from creating new memories. So he’s using tattoos and Polaroid photographs for new information he can’t remember.

This was the film that introduced me to Christopher Nolan. I remember I was blown away with this movie back in 2000. that I rewatched it 3 times in two days and recommended it to every friend I met. One of the best and most unique things about Memento was its nonlinear narrative structure – one storyline (in color) is told in reverse order placing us in the main character’s shoes while another storyline in black-and-white is shown chronologically. Nolan handles it masterfully without confusing the audience connecting two storylines at the end of the movie.

It’s an intelligent, engaging, and thought-provoking mystery thriller with an excellent performance from Guy Pearce (probably his best performance in career) that tackles the themes of identity, memory, and time. One of the best movies of the last 20 years.


 

Christopher Nolan Box Office: All Movies Ranked From Highest To Lowest Grossing

As I already said, Christopher Nolan is one of those rare people working in Hollywood which movies are both beloved by professional critics and audience. So let’s take a look at how Nolan’s movies performed at the box office.

What Is Christopher Nolan’s Highest Grossing Movie?

Christopher Nolan’s most successful movie on US box office was The Dark Knight which grossed $533,720,947 but the highest-grossing Christopher Nolan’s movie worldwide is its sequel The Dark Knight Rises with $1,082,228,107 beating TDK’s $1,000,248,770.

All Christopher Nolan’s Movies Ranked By How Much They Grossed

Title Worldwide box office United States Box Office Year
The Dark Knight Rises $1,082,228,107 $448,139,099 2012
The Dark Knight $1,000,248,770 $533,720,947 2008
Inception $832,551,961 $292,576,195 2010
Interstellar $654,467,759 $188,017,894 2014
Dunkirk $527,010,831 $190,068,280 2017
Batman Begins $359,142,722 $205,343,774 2005
Insomnia $125,304,276 $67,263,182 2002
The Prestige $104,407,366 $53,089,891 2006
Memento $39,723,096 $25,544,867 2000
Following $240,495 $48,482 1998

 

Summary

Love him or hate him but Christopher Nolan is one of the most successful and interesting directors working in Hollywood today. He’s one of those rare directors whose movies are both commercially successful while receiving positive reviews from critics often ending on various best-of lists.

What is your opinion about Mr. Nolan? Do you agree with our list? What are the best Christopher Nolan’s movies in your opinion?

 

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