A comprehensive list ranking of all 12 Christopher Nolan movies, including Interstellar, Inception, Tenet and Oppenheimer
With the release of Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan has now directed 12 movies. The lauded craftsman has been in the public eye for years, to a point where it’s sometimes odd revisiting the pictures before his string of films in the late 2000s that shot him to widespread notoriety. Nolan has taken on Batman, time travel, World War II, and many other significant mainstream film topics. For most directors, successfully portraying just one of these would be enough to finance an entire career.
Yet Christopher Nolan constantly challenges himself, a quality that I admire despite not always feeling like he hits the mark. I’ve been vocal about my criticisms for a few of his more popular movies, from the way he struggles to balance storytelling and structure in Memento, to his inaudible and incoherent depictions of outer space and time relativity in Interstellar. There are instances where Christopher Nolan’s interests just don’t align with mine.
But for each of those films, however, is a movie where he seems way more interested in tone and momentum. These are when his movies work best for me, when Christopher Nolan tosses out his own conceptual interests for the sake of big blockbuster filmmaking. At the end of the day, there are so few filmmakers capable of and allowed to shoot movies on the scale of his. It may be a bit hypocritical to label a few of his earlier films as incoherent when I never cease to praise the laughably self-parodying spectacle of Tenet, but that movie knowingly throws out the idea that Nolan will convince the audience of his own theory by the third act – it just goes.
And for these reasons, I hope the list that I present today makes sense. My ranking emphasizes the spectacle and scale of Nolan joints. I always look forward to revisiting his new movies at home because of the little intricacies buried within each of them – the aspect ratio, color grading and design, and whether or not he’ll ever learn how to mix a movie properly. As with all directors, there’s successful and there’s unsuccessful. Only for Christopher Nolan, the highs are very, very high – heights that very few filmmakers ever get to.
Here’s how I’m thinking I’d rank the Christopher Nolan movies after Oppenheimer:
12. Following (1998)
11. Insomnia (2002)
10. Batman Begins (2005)
9. Interstellar (2014)
8. Memento (2000)
7. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
6. Tenet (2020)
5. Inception (2010)
4. The Prestige (2006)
3. Dunkirk (2017)
Dunkirk may just be Christopher Nolan’s most improbable and precise movie. A technical revelation that feels like the stretched out third act of a war epic. Over five years later, nothing has aged poorly in this cinematic achievement. Dunkirk review
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
1. Oppenheimer (2023)
Oppenheimer is undoubtedly the best movie of 2023. Christopher Nolan puts any doubt to rest that he wouldn’t be capable of capturing a story of this magnitude. Cillian Murphy gives an iconic performance that intensifies each moment rolling along this breakneck biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer review
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