There is no doubt that Christopher Nolan is one of the most exciting directors working in Hollywood at present and has a prodigious fan following around the globe due to which his movies garner huge attention much before even their release. I’m myself a huge fan of the auteur and his movie The Prestige was instrumental in pulling my attention towards Hollywood films when I was in my mid-teens. Nolan’s trademark is his unique way of presenting stories which not only have mind boggling elements associated with them but also explore human emotions with deep insight. While his writing still exhibits a lot of flaws, his excellence in direction camouflages them effectively and the viewer doesn’t even have any idea about a thing going wrong due to which most of Nolan’s fans find his movies to be super-perfect and infallible. Nevertheless, he is a human being and there is nothing wrong about him going wrong. Till now, Nolan hasn’t made a bad film and we hope he never does. Here, we have tried to rank all of his feature films made till 2017 but that doesn’t mean the ones at the end are bad; they are just less better than the others.
PS: As mentioned, the list includes only his feature films and doesn’t contain any short-films or documentaries.
10. Following (1998)
His debut as a feature-filmmaker was a black and white neo-noir crime drama where an aspiring writer who follows random people in order to get his literary ideas is pulled into the world of burglary and voyeurism. Giving a casual glance to the movie can tell the viewer that the work looks quite amateurish but you can’t expect anything better than that in a tight budget of $6000. Considering the budget contraints, you can definitely overlook the technical and performance flaws and when you do that, you make yourself focus on its storyline which is extremely compelling and well thought of. Had it been made with a bigger budget, Following could have been one of the best crime-dramas of our times. It’s definitely largely different from the typical Nolan movies but it’s still a great watch.
9. Insomnia (2002)
Insomnia, just like Following, isn’t a movie that someone associates with Nolan immediately when his name is mentioned or comes to his/her mind but in my opinion it’s one of the most underappreciated movies I have ever seen. Insomnia is about a police officer who is blackmailed by a murderer he is seeking for after the latter sees him murder one of his comrades by mistake. Again, it isn’t like the typical Nolan movies and moves with a slower pace but the brilliance can be witnessed in its direction, writing as well as the performances of Al Pacino and Robin Williams. Insomnia explores how weak any man, no matter how mighty, can get when he is dealing with guilt and is overcome by fear. A brilliant movie subdued by the director’s fame and subsequent more brilliant flicks, Insomnia is a must watch for every cinegoer.
8. The Dark Knight (2008)
People may kill me for this but I’m extremely sorry to state that The Dark Knight is highly overrated. This doesn’t imply that I hated it or it’s a bad movie; it’s awesome to be honest and I loved it. I saw this film a day after I saw Batman Begins and didn’t quite feel the enthrallment after it ended as I had with its predecessor. Reasons for the same are quite many but it’s not worth discussing them here. The Dark Knight has its own charm and marvelousness owing to its characterisation of The Joker (played wonderfully by Heath Ledger) and exposing Batman’s weakness to the audience profoundly. The Dark Knight is considered by many as the greatest superhero film of all times (I fervently do not share this view) and is definitely a treat to any kind of audience, not just those who love superhero films.
7. Batman Begins (2005)
This is the movie which not only proved Nolan’s talent as a versatile director but also changed the way the world viewed superhero films. Bringing darkness into the movie’s tone, Nolan not just only enhanced the cinematic experience of the film but also helped his actors ensure that they poured in their best in a movie that was supposed to be watched as a breezy entertainer. Nolan not just only did away with the humour but also showcased the protagonist as flawed which was quite an experiment for superhero flicks. The problem however ensued that all movies of DCU (this doesn’t include The Dark Knight Trilogy as it belonged to Warner Bros) purged humour and made their movies darker which destroyed them critically. Nevertheless, Batman Begins paved a newer path for superhero films and is not just one of the best state-of-the-arts of this century but is also the greatest origins movie of all times.
6. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
While Batman Begins was the perfect beginning for a Batman film, this film served the perfect ending. A lot of people have bashed it for being inferior to The Dark Knight (again a view that I seldom endorse) and have cited many a reasons to prove that it’s overrated. I have gone through a lot of them and have found them unsatisfying with many of them seemed to have been stated forcefully to nether it in comparison to its predecessor. One complain people had was Bane being a weak villain which I think is a result of the experience one had watching Heath Ledger play The Joker, otherwise I didn’t find Bane to be any less terrifying or less challenging to Batman. While Joker pushed Batman’s psychological weaknesses, Bane did the same to his physical limitations and neither is less formidable than the other (it’s like comparing apples and oranges). The only problem was probably the characterisation of Talia-Al-Ghul, otherwise The Dark Knight Rises seemed perfectly fitting as a thrilling finale to one of the most revered trilogies of all times and is definitely one of the greatest superhero movies of all times.
5. Interstellar (2014)
Interstellar is a movie way ahead of its time and consists of elements that are just scientific fantasies and are yet to be proven. It’s constant usage of Einsteinian theories in not just its plot but also its dialogues left most of the viewers in complete bewilderment as to what was happening. But that wasn’t what Nolan wanted to show and the real heart of the film lies in its last 50 minutes (of its 2hr 50min duration) where the story opens up as father-daughter love drama. While some people have rightly pointed this to be a flaw in the narrative, one cannot deny that the whole beauty of the film lies in these moments which were embellished by its wonderful visual effects, cinematography and heart-warming score. The space related drama and the father-daughter relation drama were like the spice and salt of the food we eat; while the spices give the food its flavor, the salt gives it the real taste. Not today, not tomorrow, but soon and definitely a day would come when people will understand this movie and consider it to be a masterpiece.
4. The Prestige (2006)
The movie that sowed the seed of my freakiness for movies (though many must be regretting that after seeing The Dark Knight’s position in the list) was definitely one of Nolan’s most ambitious movies and is also one of his most loved ones. Set as a revenge drama between two extremely talented magicians, The Prestige still leaves its audience in awe with not just its visual majesty but its riveting plot also. This movie has all round brilliance in almost all departments of filmmaking and Nolan’s direction empowered the performances of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine profoundly with Jackman and Bale, each, giving one of their best performances of their careers. The Prestige is a shining example of Nolan’s mastery in providing good twists to his plotlines (which can be seen in quite many movies of his) and the challenge it provides to the viewer’s conscience enhances his liking for the movie instead of being repulsive. My sincere suggestion to you is that if you want to introduce anyone to Hollywood movies, then this flick is the perfect one.
3. Memento (2000)
Memento is a product of Nolan’s immense fondness for non-linear narratives which he has also done quite effectively in Following and Dunkirk. Dealing with a man suffering from Short Term Memory Loss who seeks revenge on the man who had raped and murdered his wife, the film runs in two timelines; one starts with the beginning of the story and proceeds forward (shown in black and white) while the other starts with the end of the story and moves in a reverse chronology (shown in colour) with both the timelines finally merging into one. On simply reading the above, one might have doubts regarding the cinematic experience of Memento but only those who have seen do understand how wonderful it is in each and every step and especially in its climax which isn’t actually the end of the story! This film was not just lauded by critics and audiences but also by many medical experts who praised its accurate depiction of the disease. Responsible for bringing Nolan to international attention, Memento is the kind of movie whose resplendence can only be understood upon viewing it and not by reading articles on it.
2. Inception (2010)
The movie that Nolan took almost a decade to write and plan is one of the most mind boggling movies to have ever been made. The film was a risky affair and there were many chances of it being bombed owing to its confusing storyline. Gladly, Inception not only championed the US and UK markets but also grossed excellently worldwide including India. Inception is the kind of movie which makes the audience ponder how the fuck could they even think of something like this and its perplexing storyline has become its USP with it being a measure of the quality of future mind challenging flicks. It isn’t so that Nolan doesn’t untwine the plot of its confounding style but his presentation of the same is so tactful that the person watching the movie will still wonder as to what happened even though he has been fed with the solution of the problem already. Consistently featuring among the top films of the century of many renowned critics, Inception is that kind of a movie which one should never afford to miss if he/she claims to be a fan of cinema.
1. Dunkirk (2017)
It wasn’t just the most awaited Hollywood release of 2017, but also the most anticipated one in Nolan’s career. Dunkirk deals with the famous Dunkirk Evacuation of the Second World War and Nolan progresses the movie in his favourite fashion: the non-linear narrative. Many people had problems with various aspects of Dunkirk including its poor character development and I do not expostulate any of them for even I believe they are right in their perspectives. However, that doesn’t undermine Dunkirk’s excellence in all aspects from technicalities to performances albeit having the most minimal amount of dialogues in any war movie as well as any Nolan flick. Dunkirk wasn’t another Apocalypse Now or Saving Private Ryan as many had expected it to be but Nolan’s direction supported by wonderful cinematography and musical score, helped the movie in being a marvelous spectacle and a super-engrossing watch. Nolan took some conscious decisions as to extruding the politics as well as the view of the German side in the war and this innovation earned him his brownie points The aerial dogfights in the film were the best of such fights in the entire history of cinema thanks to Nolan’s insistence of using practical effects over CGI which ameliorated the cinematic experience hugely. Dunkirk not only plays with audience’s emotions but also teases their tension time and again as the three different timelines in the movie merge to form a scintillating culmination. I won’t be amused if Nolan carried away an Oscar for this flick next year and I hope he does!