If you’ve viewed Christopher Nolan’s IMDb page over 50 times, like me, then you’d know that Dunkirk is his tenth feature-length film. This means no one has been able to make a proper Top Ten list. Many of you will think I’m crazy for pre-writing a top ten list in anticipation for a new release (I started this thing last month). To them I say, “Since I’m not making any money off of this, I might as well have fun.” Anyways, today I am going to rank each respective film from one of the-hands down-best directors of the millennium.
- There will not be a synopsis for most of these films.
- There will be no spoilers in this list.
- This list is determined by: 80% overall quality and 20% my opinion.
- Please watch every one of Nolan’s films so he never stops making movies.
No more delays, let’s begin.
#10 – The Dark Knight Rises (Grade – C)
Let’s start out this fanboyish countdown by saying that I really don’t like this movie! Bear in mind, Mr. Nolan is incapable of producing anything resembling garbage, and the effort is clearly on screen. The action sequences are well-choreographed, the scope of the movie is huge, and the music added so much emotion to every scene. That said, the performances are awkward, it has more plotholes than The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and the social commentary was akin to a pretentious high schooler’s first social studies essay. Some believe The Dark Knight was never meant to be a trilogy, and when you compare The Dark Night to its sequel, you can see the difference in quality. Still, the action is jaw-droppingly cool, so it’s not a complete waste of time.
#9 – Following (Grade – B)
One year after releasing his short film Doodlebug (which is worth checking out), Nolan wrote, directed, produced, shot, and edited his first film, Following; about a writer who follows random strangers around to gain inspiration (until one of his targets, a criminal, shows the man his operation). While many have said there’s nothing special about this movie (considering what the director would go on to make much better stuff), but Nolan unlocked his inner Robert Rodriguez by doing most of the work himself. Might I say, the end result is very pleasing. The black and white film allows for some interesting camerawork, and the pacing, while slow, builds to one stellar ending. This low-budget gem has made it into the Criterion Collection for a reason, and is a must-see for fans of the genre.
#8 – The Prestige (Grade – B+)
In late 2014, a very young, and even more naive, Erick was about to do his weekly routine of ironing clothes while watching a movie. Obviously, my attention would be more concentrated on the scalding-hot piece of metal near my fingers, so I’d typically watch something that didn’t demand much attention. As it turned out, The Prestige was a bad choice. After the first 2 minutes, I knew this movie was going to require the audience’s complete cooperation. Figuring the black slacks could wait, I sat down and restarted the film. Two mind-bending hours later, and my understanding of cinema as a whole was changed. At that moment, Christopher Nolan became one of my favorite filmmakers. Now that I’m older, and have studied the art form for a while, I can properly appreciate the work. This movie does so many things right, like casting David Bowie as Nikola Tesla, treating the audience (and the subject matter) with maturity and intelligence, having Michael Caine say the word “prestige,” there’s a lot to be found with this movie. It’s an excellent period piece drama/thriller that will require a few trips to the Internet in order to fully understand what the heck that ending was.
#7 – Dunkirk (Grade-A-)
I just saw this war film a few hours ago; and I will have the full review out on Sunday. For now, it is a fine example of passionate filmmaking and attention-to-detail. Nolan uses a very traditional approach to this one, and it pays off for the most part. The performances felt real, the narrative is respectful (if not a bit sanitized), and the suspenseful scenes are rattling.
#6 – Batman Begins (Grade-A-)
In preparation for this list, I watched a butt-ton of videos on Christopher Nolan. One video in particular puts my writing skills to shame, and ironically, it was an essay about Batman Begins. Strange. Well, better to try and fail than regret not taking the chance. Batman Begins is a masterpiece of storytelling, and revived the superhero genre by treating its source material in a mature fashion. This movie features some of the best exposition any screenwriter could ever ask for, and it all balances out with moments of action, complex characters, fine performances, and an engrossing tone. It’s one of the three pre-2010 superhero flicks that started the superhero craze, and it shouldn’t be missed.
#5 – Insomnia (Grade-A-)
Did you know that this is the only Nolan-directed movie that he didn’t write? Did you also know it’s a hallmark of subtly, suspense, cinematography, and acting? Insomnia is one of those purposefully quiet productions that-while major critical hits-typically bomb at the box office (like Take Shelter or Donnie Darko). In keeping with that genre, Insomnia is a feast for cinephiles. The plot is simple, two detectives are sent to Alaska to search for the man who killed a 16-year-old girl. What unravels is Nolan at his most ruthless (by the way, this film’s rated R). First off, my gosh, the acting is fantastic. This has to be one of Al Pacino’s most sympathetic roles of his career. He struggles to find this killer while also dealing with his own personal issues, Hilary Swank is supportive, but also very intelligent, and Robin Williams…this is one of his most authentic performances. There is little to no humor in his character, but what he brings to the table is one of the most impressive breakaway performances in history. His dialogue is limited, but every second of it is incredible. Forgive me if this all sounds rather vague, I am nowhere near the level of intelligence that this movie is on, so it’s difficult to explain how well it’s made. Despite this, it is one heck of a film for anyone looking for underrated classics.
#4 – Memento (Grade-A)
“Okay, so what am I doing? Oh, I’m chasing this guy. No, he’s chasing me.” There are so many brilliant moments in this brilliant movie. Memento catapulted Nolan into critical acclaim much similar to M. Night Shyamalan with The Sixth Sense. Meaning they both did something narratively that audiences had either never experienced, or weren’t expecting. In the case of Memento, the story is told backwards. This movie was unbelievably risky, as it easily could have alienated viewers, but pushing the boundaries of storytelling is one of Nolan’s best skills, and this psychological thriller is a fine example. As far as second features go, this one feels like it was made by an archaic master rather than a newcomer because the quality of the filmmaking is top-notch. Not only is Wally Pfister’s camerawork oozing with atmosphere, the constantly uncertain tone keeps you on the edge of your seat as the story unravels. Speaking of amazing things, Leonard Shelby is one of the coolest protagonists in film history. Guy Pearce is at his best in this film, his character design is like something out of a comic book, and his motivations make him a very sympathetic hero. It’s one of the most original movies you’ll ever watch, and the mere idea of remaking it is asinine.
#3 – The Dark Knight (Grade-A)
Oh, stop crying just because the second best superhero movie of all time is #3. If it were not for the last 10 minutes (the Joker should have died, and Batman didn’t have to take the fall for everything), it would be higher Also, don’t be upset because Unbreakable is better than The Dark Knight. We all know why this movie’s awesome. Heath Ledger is the best Joker of all time, it was nominated for more Oscars than any other movie about grown men in goofy costumes, the practical effects drop jaws, and the script is packed with more smart commentary than a season of early Simpsons. On a filmmaking scale, you could study ever frame for 5 minutes and get enough out of it to write a film report. The Dark Knight proved that superhero movies could be dark, better than their predecessor, and make bank (over $1 billion to be precise) all at the same time.
#2 – Interstellar (Grade-A)
Ever noticed that this guy has a talent for titles? Even though I’ve given this movie its own-somewhat crappy-review and talked extensively about it in the Study Scores list, I could go on forever with this one because it makes me so happy! Oh, there are problems, but this movie requires faith from the audience to stick with it for the 3-hour runtime. Those who do are greatly rewarded. Many people think this was the point where Nolan ignored common sense and just wrote whatever complex nonsense came into his mind. Whew! That was difficult to type in and of itself. Forgive me audience (and any future employers who may see this), but these complaints are pure balderdash! The amount of research I put into this movie rivals that of college essay finals! One of the factoids I came across explained that Nolan did his dang research about space, black holes, and other sciency things I can’t pronounce before writing a movie where Ron Woodroof saves humanity. Guy’s, he knows what he’s doing. Even if (which is a pretty big “if”) the story doesn’t grab you, the visuals definitely will. Interstellar features some of the most impressive CGI and sets of our time. It also features one of Hans Zimmer’s best scores. I won’t deny, there is a bit of filler, but what’s excellent (like the action scenes) is truly magnificent. When people talk about spiritual successors in film, Interstellar is the true sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
#1 – Inception (Grade-A+)
“I try to be all about story.” – The greatest storyteller in Hollywood today
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this movie (nothing of any consequence that is). Every single thing about it works so well! The effects (both practical and CGI) are convincing, the action sequences are creative and exciting, the actors have charisma, the ideas are interesting, the plot is original, the emotional element is strong, the music is intense, and it should have won Best Original Screenplay!!!! Pardon me… I just can’t stand the Academy some times. For someone to tell me they didn’t enjoy this monument, leaves me in a state of bewilderment. Sure, everyone loves The Dark Knight, but Inception is the perfect summer blockbuster. Action sequences that actually entertain, characters that you like, and a script that doesn’t treat you like a statistic. I’m greatly inspired by this movie if you couldn’t tell. It’s actually my favorite movie of all time, and for good reason. Nolan knows where the movie starts and ends, and once the story (which he was apparently working on since Memento in ten years earlier) is perfected, the rest runs like clockwork. You could watch this movie countless times and learn something new each time.
Ahhh, now that was fun! Whether or not you like Nolan’s approach to filmmaking, you cannot deny that he has consistently delivered high-quality stuff. The guy simply hasn’t made a bad movie, and I don’t think he ever will. Now that being said, I’m going to go to bed, have an awesome dream inspired by Inception, and watch a lot of movies tomorrow! Goodnight and thank you for your time.