Christopher Nolan is one of my favourite ever directors. It bemuses my twin sister because she knows that I’m mostly into strange films that aren’t popular with the masses. She sees Christopher Nolan films as conventional, Hollywood, boring, action-packed blockbusters. Hollywood and action-packed they may be, but conventional and boring they are not. Christopher Nolan manages to bring the intimacy of an arthouse film to epic scopes. He creates characters that you can care about and feel totally involved with, which often makes for intense and compulsive viewing. With several of Christopher Nolan’s films in my top 10 of all time, I’ve decided to give ‘em all a rank.
It’s funny because all of my top favourite directors have all done a debut feature length film in black and white on a monstrously small budget (Eraserhead by David Lynch and Pi by Darren Aronofosky being the other two). Christopher Nolan’s debut took over a year to shoot because everyone involved had full-time jobs and could only afford to shoot 15 minutes or so at a time on weekends. The result is a tightly plotted and snappy film which certainly shows great promise. It is a little forgettable compared to his other films, but the twist is good and there are worse ways to spend 70 minutes.
Best line: “You take it away… to show them what they had.”
My rating: 7/10
The only film Christopher hasn’t totally written himself. He did do a whole re-write but didn’t credit himself because he’s not up his arse. It’s a fairly standard serial-killer thriller but the acting and directing make it above average. Al Pacino is fantastic as the cop with a dodgy moral compass, but it’s the sinister late Robin Williams who steals the show as the psycho toying with Al. There are lots of little nods to Twin Peaks (which I love) and it’s full of brilliant sequences such as the log chase and climatic finale. This is the definition of a solid thriller which uses conventions to its advantage. It’s the film which got Christopher the Batman Begins gig.
Best line: A good cop can’t sleep because he’s missing a piece of the puzzle. And a bad cop can’t sleep because his conscience won’t let him.”
My rating: 8/10
7. Batman Begins
It took me ages to sit and watch Batman Begins. It was the first Christopher Nolan film I watched and I was reluctant because I’m not into superhero films at all. However, by the time Batman Begins finished I was left hungry for me. It’s a brilliantly dark film for adults. Thankfully, Chris himself isn’t a giant comic book fan like his bro, so he manages to bring it to a level so that everyone can enjoy. In fact, his entire trilogy feels more like epic crime sagas than superhero films. Batman Begins is by far the worst of the three, but that’s only because the other two are up to an insanely high standard. You can see Christopher finding his footing with shooting action, a lot of the action scenes are wobbly and poorly shot, but it’s the characters he brings to the focus and it’s all the better for it. That tumbler chase is frigging brilliant though!
Best line: “It’s not who I am underneath… but what I do that defines me.”
My rating: 9/10
It takes a seriously amazingly director for me to put a film like Memento in sixth place. For any other director, a film like Memento would be their magnum opus. Some do believe that it is Christopher Nolan’s best film, but I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion and I just prefer the other film’s he’s done. That’s not to say that Memento isn’t a masterpiece because it is! The first time I saw it I was blown away by just how clever and intricate it all was. It keeps you glued to the screen and trying to work out the giant puzzle in your head. I don’t think it’s as watchable as the others on the list, as part of the fun is working out where the hell it’s going. If the shocking twist ending doesn’t have your jaw dropping, then you’ve not been watching close enough.
Best line: “Remember Sammy Jenkins”
My rating: 10/10
5. The Prestige
Talking of watching closely, are you watching closely? The haunting final words of the magical masterpiece that is The Prestige. For me, this is the film where Chris finds his distinctive style which we see today. Right from the opening Michael Caine monologue you know you’re watching a Nolan film. It’s a gripping and ingenious yarn about two warring magicians. It quickly becomes about obsession and the desire to be the best as Angier tragically takes his bows below the stage. I love how our sympathies shift between the two magicians. At first we’re cheering Hugh Jackman on, but by the end we begin to loathe him. The final double twist will once again have your jaw on the floor. Try not to watch too many Chris Nolan films in one day because you’ll have no jaw left!
Best line: “Abracadabra”
My rating: 10/10
4. The Dark Knight
After shooting The Prestige, Chris had a sudden thought. Why not shoot a mega-budget blockbuster like a smaller budget film? The result is an intimacy and intensity which is lost in most Hollywood blockbusters. Take the scene where the Joker crashes the party for example, the camera is handheld and follows the Joker around almost in one entire shot. Put that together with Heath’s legendary performance and you’ve got one hell of power. The Dark Knight took the world by storm, breaking all kinds of records and basically creating this superhero movie boom we see today. No other comic book film holds a candle to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy though. This film is pretty much perfection and I can’t praise it enough. It’s deliciously dark and gripping to an almost dizzying level. It’s also very unpredictable and doesn’t stick to the standard superhero tropes. With so many incredible scenes to choose from, I’d probably choose the heart-pounding tunnel chase as my favourite.
Best line: “Come on hit me… HIT ME!”
My rating: 10/10
3. The Dark Knight Rises
It’s a controversial decision to put Rises over its predecessor, but I stick by it. I’ll never forget when I stumbled out of the theater with my bladder fit for bursting, convinced that I’d just seen one of the very best films ever! You can read my whole lengthy defence on The Dark Knight Rises elsewhere so I won’t go too much into it. It’s a sweeping epic with incredible set-pieces which builds to a shatteringly intense and emotional climax. Bane is a brilliant villain and Tom Hardy brings a monstrous presence to the role. The action sequences are amongst the best ever committed to film and the film also has a massive heart and soul to create a truly involving spectacle.
Best line: “That’s a lovely, lovely voice.”
My rating: 10/10
Once we enter the dream world heist in Inception the film becomes a non-stop thrill ride. It’s the ultimate intelligent blockbuster. It has the complexities of Memento with the spectacular set-pieces of The Dark Knight. It took Chris years to write and Warner Brothers gave him the budget to make it after the insane success of The Dark Knight and it was another deal which paid off massively. Inception is a mind-bending experience and full of incredible special effects. Where else can you watch a fist fight in a spinning hallway? Inception also has a massive heart as it’s all about a man trying to get back to his kids. There are many emotional moments, but the montage of Cobb and Mal growing old in Limbo is the one that touches me the most. The very end scene set to Hans Zimmer’s Time is simply mesmerising.
Best line: “What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea.”
My rating: 10/10
Some see Interstellar as misfire from Christopher Nolan. An exciting space odyssey until the clumsy final act which swaps hard science for fantasy. Whilst, I can see where some folk are coming from, I disagree entirely. Interstellar is a complete and utter masterpiece of sight and sound. It has an absolutely massive spectacle and scope, yet at its heart it’s a supremely touching drama about a man longing to be with his daughter again. I never cry in films (well, maybe once or twice) but there are three separate moments in Interstellar where I almost shed tears. It’s such a powerful, intense and dizzying film which touches my heart. It also has possibly my favourite ever score from any film ever! Hans Zimmer is at the top of his game here, blasting an organ through our ear holes. It’s full of so many amazing scenes: Leaving Murph, wave planet, messages from home, docking, the entire final 40 minutes etc. I simply adore it and think it’s the best film Christopher Nolan has done thus far.
Best line: “Because my Dad promised me.”
My rating: 10/10
So then agree or disagree? Let me know your fave Chrissy Nolan films in the comments 😛