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BATMAN FANS AROUND the world are currently rejoicing. For while Christopher Nolan has helmed hit after box office hit and garnered a large, mostly young and mostly male fanbase, he has long been an Oscars pariah. With zero wins from five nominations before this year’s ceremony, Nolan’s films have been critically acclaimed, but have often been considered too lowbrow and lacking the artistic touch that warrants genuine Oscars consideration. That was, until this year.

Nolan won his first and second Oscars at the 96th Academy Awards, taking home the award for Best Director, and even the top gong for Best Picture—vindicating film bros everywhere. Nolan has worked tirelessly for these honours, with a decorated filmmaking career spanning almost three decades, and he’s earned every morsel of praise he’s currently receiving. We’re going to throw more praise onto the heap by ranking ten of his greatest films.

Compared to his directorial counterparts, Nolan has not been the most prolific of filmmakers. In the 26 years since his debut film in 1998, Nolan has only helmed 12 feature length films, meaning only two of his films miss the cut on this list. Those two are Nolan’s first film, Following, and his third, Insomnia. Both make for entertaining viewing and epitomise Nolan’s signature cerebral, mind-bending style, but such is the strength of his filmography that they couldn’t crack this list.

Anyway, without any further interruptions, let’s get into Christopher Nolan’s best films.

What are Christopher Nolan’s best movies?

10. The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan

Where to watch: Stan, Binge

The final instalment in Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises is commonly considered the weakest of the bunch, but it remains an enticing watch. Set eight years after the events of the previous film, The Dark Knight Rises follows Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, who has retired his cape and cowl. Gotham City is now enjoying a period of relative peace, but a new threat emerges in the form of Bane (Tom Hardy). Bruce is forced to don the Batman mantle once again, but he finds himself physically and mentally challenged like never before.

While the conclusion to Nolan’s Batman trilogy leans more heavily on the traditional comic book superhero storytelling format—perhaps inspired by the then burgeoning popularity of Marvel movies—the trilogy itself is credited for darker superhero films with brooding heroes and morally ambiguous villains to the mainstream.

9. Tenet

Christopher Nolan

Where to watch: Binge

A polarising film—largely because of how difficult to comprehend it can be if you’re not paying attention—Tenet is an espionage thriller of the most mind-bending variety. It follows the journey of an unnamed protagonist who becomes entangled in the world of international espionage, where he discovers a mysterious organisation with the ability to manipulate time. As the protagonist delves deeper into the secrets of this organisation, he must navigate a complex web of time inversion, where events unfold in reverse, posing existential threats to the rest of the world. Nolan loves a non-linear format, and has never been afraid to leave audiences stumped. He got most of it off his chest here though, in his most recent film before Oppenheimer.

8. Batman Begins

Christopher Nolan

Where to watch: Stan, Binge

Batman Begins introduces Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy with a deep dive into the caped crusader’s evolution from a traumatised orphan to Gotham’s legendary vigilante. Although it’s largely appreciated for laying the groundwork for The Dark Knight, Batman Begins has its own legs to stand on. It was also Nolan’s first collaboration with Cillian Murphy—who just won Best Actor, in case you hadn’t heard. The pair have since become a dynamic duo, with multiple blockbuster collaborations under their belts.

7. Memento

Christopher Nolan

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Another mind-bender, Memento is a neo-noir thriller that follows Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man suffering from short-term memory loss as he seeks vengeance for his wife’s murder. Due to his condition, Leonard can’t create new memories and relies on polaroid photographs, tattoos, and notes to piece together clues about his wife’s death and the identity of the killer. The narrative unfolds in reverse chronological order, making for a disorienting viewing experience, mirroring Leonard’s fragmented perception of reality.

Memento introduced Nolan’s innovative storytelling techniques to wider audiences, landing him his first Oscar nomination—and first snub, depending on how you look at it—back in 2002.

6. The Prestige

Christopher Nolan

Where to watch: Netflix, Binge

The Prestige is a gripping tale of rivalry and obsession set in the world of 19th-century stage magic—unorthodox, we know. The film follows two magicians, played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, whose friendly competition transforms into a bitter feud after a tragic accident. As the pair continually attempt to outdo each other with increasingly elaborate tricks, their obsession begins to consume them, leading to devastating consequences. No major awards nominations for this one, but it has become a cult classic and hidden gem amongst Nolan’s catalogue.

5. Inception

Christopher Nolan

Where to watch: Binge

Inception is when Nolan completely gave up on grounded narratives and embraced the oft-confusing nature of his films. The film is set in the phantasmic world of corporate espionage, where a team of thieves, led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Elliot Page and Joseph Gordon Levitt, enter the subconscious minds of their targets to steal valuable information. Inception nabbed Nolan his second and third Oscar nominations, for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay (again, he won neither). It was his most commercially successful non-Batman film until Oppenheimer blew it out of the water, and is also yet another Nolan/Murphy collab.

4. Interstellar

Where to watch: Buy or rent on Amazon Prime and Apple TV+

We might cop some flak for having this film so low—fourth is hardly low, but Interstellar is considered by many to be Nolan’s best work. Set in a near-future Earth where a global crop blight threatens humanity’s survival, the story follows a former NASA pilot played by Matthew McConaughey as he embarks on a mission through a newly discovered wormhole in search of a new habitable planet for humanity. Look, we understand if you think this is Nolan’s best film, but the guy has so many hits, and only one can come out on top.

3. The Dark Knight

Where to watch: Stan, Binge

A revelation of a film, The Dark Knight left an indelible mark on the film industry. The 2010s became the decade of the superhero flick largely because of the popularity of The Dark Knight. The second film in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the film follows its titular character as he faces his greatest adversary yet: the Joker, portrayed with magnificent tact by Heath Ledger. The film remains one of the greatest superhero films ever put to screen and will forever be remembered for Ledger’s iconic performance, which did earn him a posthumous Oscar, but nothing for Nolan.

2. Dunkirk

Where to watch: Binge

Yes, this is a fairly high spot for a film that wasn’t universally loved by critics, but we’re big fans of Dunkirk. A gripping war film, Dunkirk recounts the harrowing evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk during World War II, with a narrative that unfolds from land, sea, and air. A tense watch, Dunkirk will have you on the edge of your seat for its entire runtime. Cillian Murphy also returns for another Nolan collab, albeit in a smaller role. Nolan grabbed another Best Picture nomination here, and his first nomination for Best Director. He was successful in capturing neither.

1. Oppenheimer

Cillian Murphy Best Movies

Where to watch: Binge (From March 22nd)

Surprise, surprise. The film that finally gave Nolan his Oscars tops the list. Although winning the Oscar for Best Director is no easy feat, it often depends on the strength of the category in any given year. As a result, many directors don’t win Best Director for what would be considered their greatest films—Martin Scorsese has only won the award once, for The Departed, despite his extensive catalogue. With Nolan though, that isn’t the case, Oppenheimer the director’s greatest work to date, and he was rightfully rewarded for helming it.

On the possibility that you’re in need of a refresher—which is exceedingly unlikely—Oppenheimer is a biopic about the brilliant yet morally complex physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Cillian Murphy contributes again, playing the complicated, multifaceted titular figure. The film showcases Oppenheimer’s role in creating the atomic bomb, and later, his inability to cope with the consequences. For now, it is what we will call Nolan’s master work, but we wouldn’t rule out a future Nolan film surpassing it.


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