List Of Christopher Nolan Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

By Layana Reghunath

It is fascinating to see Christopher Nolan’s rise as an established filmmaker. He is a rare gem who can achieve whatever he wants, a rare quality. Even though he has only 11 projects to his credit, he is still one of Hollywood’s most desired directors. His continuous box office success and high critical acclaim make him a low-risk candidate for all significant filmmaking studios. Producers are ready to invest any amount of money in their projects without any second thoughts. Even though he is now a well-known name in Hollywood, things were not rosy for him initially. He didn’t have big-budget movies lined up, as he started with small-scale films. It took some time for the audience to understand his talent, but he never compromised on the quality of his filmmaking. All his movies were rich in ambitious narrative structure, serious and high-quality storylines and intense character focus. If you analyse all his works closely, you can see the extent of his professionalism. Each of his works competes with each other in terms of perfection, making us challenging to rank from worst to best. But still, we have come up with a list of Christopher Nolan movies ranking from work to best according to the audience’s approval. So, let’s begin.

11. The Dark Knight Rises

The last movie on the list of Christopher Nolan movies is The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan’s famous Dark Knight trilogy ended with the movie The Dark Knight Rises. Even though it is part of a successful series, it is one of his worst works with a substantial margin. When compared to other directors’ films, it is pretty good. But when you compare it with Christopher Nolan’s other works, its level drops. The movie’s beginning is compelling enough as Nolan and co-writer Jonathan Nolan’s presence brings out a different shade of Batman. It was also soothing to our eyes to see Christian Bale’s character Bruce Wayne getting into fighting mode once again, and Anne Hathway also did an excellent job as the Catwoman. But as soon as Bane’s master plan gets introduced, the film begins to fall apart. They have failed miserably in explaining the logic behind some scenes, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt recognising Bruce Wayne as Batman from his eyes and the entire city going under lockdown because some unknown maniac has said that he has a bomb under his custody. 

Of course, this is supposed to be a comic adventure, and there is no need to bring logic. But if the markers had made the movie’s second half as attractive as they propagated, we would have brushed off this illogical part from our brains. But it seems their second-half logic backfired as the audience could not understand how a madman could hold an entire city under his clutches for five straight months. We are yet to figure out why Bane did all these misdeeds, with a mask covering most of his charisma. The film was different from Nolan’s usual filmmaking and seemed to be made only to please the audience and was not fitting in many places. However, if we look at its technological part, the film is dynamic and offers a visual extravaganza to our eyes. But in terms of storyline, this film is one of the most disappointing works of Christopher Nolan. 

10. Insomnia

As mentioned earlier, Christopher Nolan had to take many baby steps to reach the well-acclaimed position that he is in now. However, with each movie, he proved his increasing capabilities and prominence. If Following was his first step in the Hollywood industry, Memento made him a noted personality. But the film Insomnia verified that he could work inside the studio system. Insomnia is a good film but fails to impact people’s hearts significantly. But he was as passionate about making this film as the rest of his movies, and it was made even before his breakthrough film Momento. But it is a very plain movie, and there isn’t much storyline. 

In this movie, Al Pacino plays a dirty cop who lives in the guilt of killing his partner. Robin Williams plays the negative role of the hidden killer, and Hillary Swank is a newbie cop who idolises Pacino. The film takes us deep inside Pacino’s mind, which is not terrible, of course, but it is not engaging also. Williams steals the show with his stellar performance as the killer, and Nolan utilises him to his full potential. It was in this movie his aerial helicopter shots were born. 

Insomnia is a simple movie told on a bigger canvas. Nevertheless, it uplifted Nolan’s confidence to make a big-budget movie and helped win the producers’ trust. It was a milestone in Nolan’s film career, but it did not have the power to get its audience back to rewatch it. 

9. Tenet

Tenet is a confusing film which will leave you frustrated in the end. Every Nolan movie is filled with lots of brilliant ideas, but this movie just seems to be out of place. Its concept of time inversion is not at all understandable by the typical audience and is just the opposite of Inception, where the entire concept is explained through actions. You can only understand this film if you a genius or you know this concept earlier. Nolan also failed miserably in mixing the sound in this film, and when the audience cannot understand the storyline, the misplaced sounds frustrate them. But the end makes you rethink your concept about this film because everything falls into its place at the end. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this film also has many fan followers. 

8. Following

The entry of Christopher Nolan into the entertainment was commendable through his film Following. The 1998 film was a passion project for Nolan which took almost one year to complete as his cast and crew were all engaged in other day jobs. But when the film was released, the Hollywood industry christened Nolan into the role of director. Following is not the work of a director who is learning filmmaking. It is, in fact, the work of a born filmmaker. It is the story of a young writer who follows strangers on the streets of London only to the realisation that a stranger is following him. In this movie, Nolan showcased his cinematographic talents in striking black-and-white photography. Even though the story is told in fractions which becomes a hallmark in all other Nolan movies, its climax is satisfying enough. Nolan has poured his heart into this film, making it different from the usual tried and tested format. It is indeed a low-rated film compared to Nolan’s other accomplished works. Still, if you consider it as his debut feature, you will agree that it was a commendable one that gave the signal of what you can expect from this talented director in the future. 

7. Interstellar

Interstellar is a general sci-fi that has failed to bring the usual Nolan effect. After completing the Dark Knight trilogy, Christopher Nolan expanded his horizon with a new genre. Even though it is a sci-fi movie, Nolan tried to give it an emotional touch by displaying father-daughter bonding. The film is a visual treat for our eyes which is the combined effort of Nolan himself, the cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, and production designer Nathan Crowley. Actor Matthew McConaughey has done complete justice to the script, and the film has some heartwarming music in it which is the work of composer Hans Zimmer. 

The problem arrives when Nolan tries to bring some twist to the storyline and suddenly gives birth to the character Dr Mann, played by Matt Damon. His entry was a stumble for the film from which it was impossible for it to recover. The film loses all its charm with this unexpected twist which was not needed in it in the first place. Nolan successfully brought the emotional quotient in the movie by showing the internal struggle faced by Coop to meet his family and carry on with his mission. But this emotional engagement was washed away with the sudden arrival of Dr Mann.

Moreover, in the entire film, it is shown the desire of Coop to reunite with his daughter. But when that moment finally arrives, he spends five minutes with her and heads out for his next mission. I mean, seriously, can a father, who was longing to meet his daughter for quite a long time, do that? 

But if we set all these drawbacks apart, the film warms our hearts with its unique visual effects. It takes us to space and offers a visual treat like never before. The movie’s cast has given their best to it, and can be seen in the results. Even though, story-wise, it is not a great movie; it is indeed a must-watch for its cinematography and out-of-the-world concept. 

6. Batman Begins

It is pretty surprising that the film didn’t do well at the time of its release, given that Batman has a superhero image among kids and adults. Even though the film managed to gain success, it failed to become a phenomenon at the time of its release. But this movie inspired many others to reinvent their superheroes in a new avatar. In the film Batman Begins, Nolan takes off the supernatural powers of Batman and makes him face the harsh reality of the outside world. It opened up a new area seldom discussed among writers and could become a large-scale drama. 

Nolan succeeded in kicking off one of the most memorable trilogies in the history of world cinema with this movie. Christian Bale was nowhere to be seen because of the Batman suit, but it didn’t matter much because of the engaging script by Nolan and David S Goyer. Bale did complete justice to the character and also had the support of other co-stars. All of them gave power-packed performances making the film grounded, gritty and funny at the same time. Batman Begins brought out a new version of Christopher Nolan, which gave him the confidence to experiment more in big-budget movies. 

5. Memento

Anyone who had watched Momento in 2000 couldn’t stop talking about it. That was the impact the film created on the minds of its audience. If Following gave Christopher Nolan an entry into the entertainment world, it was Momento that made him a noted personality in cinema. It is rare to find a unique piece in the film world, but that is what Momento is all about. It is refreshing, starting from its first frame itself, and Nolan’s storytelling in the backward structure is commendable. The thing that makes Momento exceptionally good is, of course, its story and character-building. It takes you to the inside mind of Guy Pearce’s Leonard, who does not have short-term memory. The mental disability of Leonard often brings you to the edges and gives you that extra dose of tension. 

It is fantastic to see how a newbie director is so confident in his second movie, while some filmmakers need a couple of movies to master the art. Nolan was exemplary in every frame of Momento, and you can see his commanding power and brilliance in the film. Its mysterious tale will keep your head spinning throughout, and you will be blown away by the climax. The only drawback of this film is that it needed more emotional quotient in some parts. But that happens in almost all Nolan films which you can downplay by valuing the other others. However, through Momento, Nolan signalled the world about what they could expect from him, and the rest is history. Memento is indeed one of the finest works of Christopher Nolan to date. 

4. The Prestige

The Prestige is the film which saw the full potential of Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker. He has poured his overall philosophy into this film, glimpses you can see in his every other movie. Maybe because of that, it is still counted among the best films of Nolan. 

Nolan entered the blockbuster category through the movie Batman Begins. It took some time for the audience and the critics to realise that Nolan had created a new kind of superhero movie which was never heard of before. Then, he gave them another shock with The Prestige, which again stood out from the crowd with its unique concept. The film is inspired by Christopher Priest’s novel of the same name, which tells the story of magicians competing with each other in early 1900s London. The storyline is somewhat familiar, but how he expressed emotions like obsession, sacrifice, and ambition is commendable. You can see all these emotions in almost all his films. 

The Prestige has a fantastic cast, but Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale outshine them with their brilliant performances as the magicians. This film was shown on multiple levels, and Bale and Jackman brought out the best in them and left the audience in splits with their outstanding acting skills. The movie is equipped with twists and turns throughout, but if we look at the theme of the movie, it perfectly blends into the film. You will get the entire concept of the film in the first opening scene, where Michael Caine explains the three keys behind a good magic trick: The Pledge, The Turn and The Prestige. After that, it surprises the audience in every frame and makes them glued to their chairs because of its emotional quotient. Unfortunately, the film was downplayed because of other prestigious projects by Christopher Nolan. But it is a must-watch movie you must not miss at any cost. It is one of the most successful movies of Nolan in which you can feel his every essence. 

3. Inception

Inception was one of the ambitious projects of Christopher Nolan, and it is incredible to see how he pulled it off with such grace. It is a sci-fi thriller that takes you into your inner mind’s architecture—watching Nolan unfolding this multi-layered ensemble most simply and clearly before you is mindblowing. No one can beat Inception in terms of pure entertainment. Nolan has given a visual treat to the audience through this out-of-the-world movie. You can compare it to films like Matrix for better clarity. 

Leonardo DiCaprio has done an excellent job in this movie and has given an emotional shade to the character Cobb. Nolan cleverly executed every frame of this movie with cinematographer Wally Pfister. Inception resulted from the great team working to make this dream a reality. The film grossed $ 800 million at the box office. This fact itself speaks volumes. Inception is a mass entertainment that has uplifted the standard of Christopher Nolan as director. 

2. Dunkirk

Dunkirk was a dream come actual movie for Christopher Nolan as he spent his entire career making it. It was an experimental movie which was unique in its way and was based on World War II. He broke the conventional method of storytelling and took audiences into the cinema, and told the story through their eyes. By the time of Dunkirk, audiences were prepared for what to expect from a Nolan movie as they had earlier witnessed his other films like Inception and Interstellar. He used three mediums: air, water and land to tell his story on different timelines. With their previous experience with the movie Inception, the audience quickly connected to their thoughts of Nolan. As a result, they were able to understand the movie in better way. 

It is an experimental project of Nolan, but it won the viewers’ hearts. With the proper dialogue delivery and complex backstories, audiences could relate to the film instantly. The actors’ strong performances helped the audience place themselves in their shoes and identify their genuine emotions. Dunkirk is a notable film that works well in every aspect, from the storyline to the cinematography; it fills the hearts of the audience in the true sense. The theme of the story is simple. It conveys to us that heroism exists in letting go and also displays the struggle of a couple of men for survival. Undoubtedly, it is one of the best movies by Christopher Nolan. 

1. The Dark Knight

People often need clarification when asked to choose the best Nolan movie. Their opinion mostly ranges between Dunkirk and The Dark Knight. But primarily, the 2008 masterpiece ranks most with its superhero genre. Of course, Batman Begins was one of a kind of superhero film which kickstarted the series. But The Dark Knight gave the trilogy the much-required fame and acclamation. This movie took the trilogy to a new level and broke all chartbuster records with its intellectual, visceral and emotional quotient. 

The Dark Knight is a crime drama born at the hands of scriptwriters Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. At a time when directors were stuffing too many superheroes in their films, Nolan stood with only two main characters- Batman and the anti-hero Joker. The two-timing of Heath Ledger as Joker was jaw-dropping for the audiences. The film would not be such a grand success without his brilliant performance. How he transforms the hilarious joker into a terrifying one is indeed commendable. His untimely death has made a big hole in world cinema which no one can replace. Only this movie was enough to understand his true potential. Sadly, today, he is not among us. Still, Ledger will always stay alive in our hearts through the legendary joker, who turned the impossible into possible, i.e. it was the first time we saw audiences falling for a villain instead of the hero. That was the level of Heath Ledger’s acting skills. 

The movie is a bit long, but we don’t because of the phenomenon it offers. It is a complete package filled with action, drama, emotion, dynamic and thrill. So far, Dark Knight has been the best work of Christopher Nolan. But if we look back at this guy’s track record, we won’t be surprised if we come up with another masterpiece which will leave us amazed from start to end. He is a man full of ambition with zero fear, making us root for him even more. 

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