Christopher Nolan has made films that question the audience and doesn’t let them go once they are synced in. He crafts his films like they are his own infant children, works hard with them and desires absolute perfection from them. From making a short film that made you scratch your head and question your sanity to taking you on an interstellar journey, he has come a long way. He might not be a legend yet but he has all the potential to become one in the years to come. As Nolan turns a year old we went through his amazing directorial filmography and tried ranking all his films from the weakest to his best:
10. The Dark Knight Rises 
Batman is not just a name it has become a symbol. From movie geeks, to comic book nerds to intensive-hard-boiled-heroic- rendition-loving people, every single person was looking forward to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. While it did not live up to its hype it most masterfully gave us a conclusion that we deserved, the conclusion to a trilogy that re-invented Batman. Christopher Nolan did not give us a Batman we wanted but a Batman we needed. A dark, brooding, grow up version of the knight who savors mankind.
In my opinion, a great superhero movie has an anxiety that involves one character and his alter-ego and also the weight of the alter-ego. For example, consider Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man which did it right. The general superhero films get over it quite quickly and get right down to the action. What impressed me most in Nolan’s last installment is how long it took Bruce Wayne to get back in the saddle as Batman. The downside here was the scarcity of jet-black humor that we saw in the previous film. But the again all Batman nemesis’s are version of himself and I can very proudly say that Nolan was able to bring out a version of Batman in Bane, simultaneously managing to give him a completeness.
9. Insomnia 
The third feature film of Christopher Nolan is the remake of Swedish film of same name. Insomnia is a crime procedural, in which mystery is revealed halfway. Here, atmosphere is more mystical than plot. The movie takes place in Alaska, where due to seasonal shift, sun never sets, and yet darkness continues to mount.
Two detectives from LAPD are sent to Alaskan town to solve a murder mystery. Detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino), while chasing potential suspect in foggy weather, accidentally shoots his own partner. His moral dilemma and guilt condemns him into deadening trench of insomnia. Robin Williams delivers one of the finest performances of his career in this movie. Hillary Swank also leaves the mark with her strong performance. Though least mind-bending in his entire filmography, Insomnia is Nolan’s most refined movie till date.
When Dust settles in and corn is the only thing left to eat, what if you had one last hope for redemption, survival and love? Christopher Nolan’s latest film was a space adventure, a philosophical jargon, a metaphysical cell, a twisted timely fight for life and everything that follows. Interstellar is possibly the only Nolan film that has varied opinions from Fans and critics simultaneously.
The film was not only gorgeous to look at, it also has a Hans Zimmer score that almost uplifted all the scenes that may sound and feel dull otherwise. The thing where Interstellar went wrong after a very strong start is when people start to explain things for the niche audiences. Even with the flaws in hands, Nolan makes you pick up random scattered bits and asks you to piece them back together. It’s strange how he manages to tell you a tale that is both adventurous and exciting but its also unafraid to deal with melancholy, sacrifice and death in a way so many big movies won’t do.
7. Batman Begins 
When the talented independent filmmaker went full studio, Batman Begins happened. It was the first film of the infamous Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy. Batman Begins was a path breaking film; it became the film that resurrected the genre and made filmmakers believe in the potential of superhero films as Drama. Nolan made a film that was dark, had multi layered characters and a nonlinear narrative, which made it a compelling watch unlike most superhero films of the past. Never before a Batman feature film tried to explore so curiously the psyche of Bruce Wayne, but Nolan was interested in that.
Like most of his films, where the protagonist is emotionally damaged, Christopher Nolan convincingly portrayed a supposedly larger than life superhero as vulnerable human as he could afford to. He convincingly maintained the balance between an emotional damaged Bruce Wayne who had a lonely/friendless childhood and adolescence and an alter ego who the city of Gotham can count on. Batman Begins works wonderfully as an action drama and also as a superhero film because of this balance. This is one reason, why many film fans consider Batman Begins as the best batman film of the franchise, regardless of the fact that they find ‘The Dark Knight’ to be a better film.
6. Dunkirk 
When you watch Dunkirk, almost spontaneously, your mind draws parallels to so many moments from all of Nolan’s previous work. Yet, at times, one doesn’t feel like one is watching a Nolan film at all. All the grand distractions and narrative puzzles that brought him to fame are gone; what remains is his incisive insight into human behavior and emotion, and a steely idealism — for cinematic form, for the 70mm format, and for his Nation.
Dunkirk is about time and hope running out, and Nolan never lets you forget that. Every now and then, one is tricked into hoping but immediately has that hope pulled out from under. So, when hope finally does arrive, you least expect it. The film gives a fascinating insight into the crippling and decaying effect fear can have on the human mind and yet it also maintains that our love for each other, albeit not always, can still shine through and hold us together.
With every war, as in life, there are myths, and so is the case with this film. It is even self-referential to that effect. A young boy who dies accidentally even before their civilian ship reaches Dunkirk is later immortalized in the newspapers as a hero. A man who is welcoming the soldiers back at the home port with refreshments says “well-done” to each and every one of them. Tommy says “but we only survived”, “that’s enough”, says the man. Later Style’s character complains how that man could not even bear look them in the eye; turns out he was blind. The soldiers are terrified of the National shame and anger they are going back to, but instead, they receive a hero’s welcome.
5. Inception 
A puzzled Ariadne (Ellen Page) questions, “Wait a minute, whose subconscious are we going into, exactly?” This line, quite precisely, empathizes with how the audiences felt while watching Inception for the first time. Apparently, Christopher Nolan started sketching the idea for a short story based on ‘dreams’ during the making of Memento. He spent around 10 years tweaking it frequently, rewriting and developing it, which in the process got transcended into a colossal piece of perplexing art that still calls for discussions after 5 years of its release.
In one of the scenes, Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) tests Ariadne by asking her to create a maze that cannot be solved in under one minute. It is exactly what Nolan does with his audience in the entire film. He creates a cosmic labyrinth that blurs the line between dreams and reality that pushes the boundaries of human imagination and ascends the bar of innovation to a new zenith. The plot of Inception cannot be told in a simplified manner. Though the plot is really one giant hallucination, it’s an experience that doesn’t blow your mind so much, rather challenge it.
Inception is like a resilient parasite that will take hold of your brain and stay there perpetually like the spinning top in the end of the film. Inception is, in reality, a heist film – only unlike other heist films where thieves break into a vault to steal, Cobb here, along with his specialized agents put an idea into the subconscious mind of the multimillionaire Cillian Murphy. But Inception is also a haunting romantic drama in disguise of a heist action thriller where Cobb has visions of his late wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), desperately wanting to stay with her in their dreams. If “Inception” is a metaphysical puzzle, it’s also a metaphorical one: It’s hard not to draw connections between Cobb’s dream-weaving and Nolan’s film making — an activity devoted to constructing a semblance of reality, intended to seduce us, mess with our heads and leave a lasting impression.
4.The Dark Knight 
“Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn. “
Alfred explains Bruce Wayne why it is difficult to reason with Joker. And this is one of the reasons why the Joker has become one of the most iconic characters in the history of cinema and the most loved character in recent times. The whimsical Joker has no motif like other villains, no revenge drama, no lust for money, father figure to none. He is just an “agent of chaos”, the worst nightmare. A sly psychopath who not only loves playing with the minds of other characters of the film, but the audiences too.
The Joker emphatically exclaims, “Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just… *DO* things.”; which apparently, is utter bullshit. Joker is a master planner. He had planned ahead getting himself caught, blowing up the cell and blowing up the hospital. Joker is in every sense the perfect nemesis that Batman deserves. And why not, Joker knows Batman is just as much a freak as he is himself. With such powerful and textured characters, fluidity in its writing and multi-layered script, Christopher Nolan turns comic pulp into dark human poetry. This is not a superhero film, this is a crime drama that is set in the real world, taking references from 9/11, deals with real life problems and romanticises philosophies like Order and Chaos, the cosmic connection between good and evil, about justice being served in a widely corrupt system.
3. Following 
Nolan’s debut was an intelligent neo-noir mystery which delivers much more than what people may have anticipated from a first time director making a film with an unknown cast. Made on a micro budget of 6000 US dollars, with a bunch of actors who you can assume as Nolan’s friends but they can act, they sure can. Following was the first of his many films where he used the non-linear narrative.
The film’s protagonist “The Young Man” [Jeremy Theobald] is a writer who shadows people to find some material or inspiration to write or maybe it was an excuse to fill the gap in his lonely life. In one of his pursuits he gets caught by one of his targets and realizes that this target [Alex haw] also follows people, only he is a burglar unlike the Young Man. It is only 69 minutes long and the screenplay is so swift that it demands the audience to completely indulge in the film. It is Nolan’s least popular feature film but at the same time, it is one of his best works. Christopher Nolan shot, written and directed following. A No-Budget film can be everything a big budget star studded film can be. This is a perfect example of such a movie.
2. The Prestige 
“Are you watching closely?” questions a character in what is possibly Nolan’s most under-appreciated work. The film, not only questions the audience constantly it asks for and manages to have your complete attention. What makes people take up showmanship? Is it the money? Is it the fame? Or possibly the rivalry that makes you push your boundaries?
The Prestige follows two magicians and their instincts of being the best. Told through a series of flashbacks, The Prestige is so minutely detailed that everything seems like a mystery to the ones who are not watching it closely. Everyone is drawn towards happy films but The Prestige is not Happy at all. It insists you to take its characters seriously even when they are throwing curses and magic tricks your way. The characters are so compelling and intriguing that even with two megastars sharing the screen, all you see are two people raging in the heat of overpowering the other.
1. Memento 
Memento is narrated in reverse chronological order. The movie abruptly shifts between black and white and color sequences, making it even more challenging for viewers to comprehend. The movie follows Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator, who first lost his wife in a brutal rape, then his memories. Despite his inability to create new memories, he is set on a quest, to avenge the culprit. He constantly reminds himself of vengeance, by snapping Polaroid pictures of places and persons, inscribing tattoos on his entire body. Memento is structured as a complex puzzle. The non-linear narrative of movie has now become the trademark of Christopher Nolan. ‘Memento Mori’- a short story written by his brother Jonathan Nolan serves as genesis for this movie.
Aren’t memories the true ghosts of our lives? Our very reason to be alive is tied up in our memories. Memento is a story of a guy haunted by his fractured memories. Without his memories, he then feels his nothingness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his emptiness.
Tell us your favourite Christopher Nolan films and how do you rank his films in the comments below.