All 12 Christopher Nolan movies ranked from best to worst
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Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros
With Christopher Nolan's latest film Oppenheimer tearing its way through cinemas across the world, we thought we'd see how it fared against his beloved back catalogue of films.
Below is our official ranking of Nolan's entire filmography, based on scores by UNILAD staff - and while our least favourite may not come as a huge surprise to people, the top spot may prove a little more contentious to some...
See what you think below:
UNILAD SCORE: 64.5%
This is undoubtedly one of Nolan’s most divisive films, as the sci-fi action-thriller requires a fair amount of brain power to get through – a challenge some viewers embrace, while others are left swearing at the screen in frustration.
Starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh, Tenet follows a former CIA agent as he sets out to protect the world at the outbreak of WWIII by manipulating the flow of time.
“Don’t try to understand it – feel it,” the film tells us – which, incidentally, is also the line Nolan has used himself to defend his films. Sadly, though, it seems many of the UNILAD team aren’t feeling this one either.
UNILAD SCORE: 66.1%
Heavy not just with the sheer weight of its big-name ensemble cast – we're talking Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy – but also its gritty wartime setting, Nolan’s 2017 offering follows the Dunkirk evacuation of more than 380,000 troops during WWII.
While some critics felt it was the director’s finest work to date, thanks in no small part to its ambitious sets and stunning action sequences, our team reckon he’s simply had some better tricks up his sleeves.
UNILAD SCORE: 68%
This 1998 neo-noir crime thriller marked Nolan’s debut as a filmmaker, setting the tone of his brooding, psychological style that has only evolved in the decades that have followed. And yet it remains one of his least-known titles, arguably because it has been overshadowed by the big budgets, A-list talent and general fanfare associated with his later work.
But don’t underestimate the chilling power of this London-set film about a young man drawn into a criminal underworld, as it’s well worth a watch – even if only to see how Nolan worked with simpler tools under his belt.
Batman Begins (2005)
UNILAD SCORE: 75.9%
The first in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Batman Begins will always be excitedly remembered as the beginning of a new, darker era of superhero films, as our Caped Crusader’s back story was given Nolan’s now-signature psychological touch to delve into how he became the troubled icon we now know well.
Sure, it was followed by two much bigger beasts, but the powerful reboot started off with an undeniably sturdy bang.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
UNILAD SCORE: 82%
The trilogy ended with 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, introducing Tom Hardy as stocky villain Bane as he arrived in Gotham to end its eight-year stretch of peace – in turn forcing Batman back out of his cave.
The movie serves as a firm farewell to the franchise, but never quite surpasses its predecessor, not least because most of us spent half the film trying to work out what on Earth Bane’s saying from behind that mask.
UNILAD SCORE: 82.2%
With an all-star cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger and Michael Caine, Inception truly is a reflection of the star power Nolan is now able to easily reel in.
It's matched by an equally ambitious narrative, following professional thief Cobb as he steals information by infiltrating targets’ subconscious. It’s a complex plot that requires every single shred of your concentration, but if you can make it to the end understanding at least most of it, you’ll probably agree that it’s a solid watch.
UNILAD SCORE: 82.5%
Nolan’s latest film comes in mid-way through our list with 82.5%, which certainly isn’t bad for a newcomer – especially as it’s been in direct competition with Greta Gerwig’s brightly-coloured Barbie, which has taken $423 million at the international box office, compared to Oppenheimer’s $226 million.
It’s hardly surprising, given that one’s about the creation of the atomic bomb and the other a brightly-coloured dreamworld about everyone’s favourite childhood toy.
Still, while Barbie may have been bringing in the big bucks, it looks like it’s the biographical thriller that has proven to be the greater hit with critics, with a score on Rotten Tomatoes of 93 percent – just inching it above its rival, which has 88 percent.
UNILAD SCORE: 83.8%
Both Al Pacino and Robin Williams provide performances of a lifetime in this dream-like psychological thriller set in Alaska, which begins with two Los Angeles homicide detectives investigating the murder of a teenage girl.
After one of the detectives is involved in an accidental shooting, the victim’s killer – who just so happened to see what happened – hatches a plan with the cop to try and get them both off the hook.
At times, it’s easy to forget that this is one of Nolan’s as it hinges on human complexities over narrative ones, but this is precisely what makes it one of his finest hours.
The Prestige (2006)
UNILAD SCORE: 85.6%
Set in late Victorian England, The Prestige follows two rival stage magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) as they squabble about a teleportation trick known as the Transported Man, which they deem to be the ultimate stunt.
The psychological thriller adds a flair of the theatrics to Nolan’s trademark style, using magic tricks to mirror the crafty, labyrinthine plot. Clever stuff – and visually stunning to boot, too.
The Dark Knight (2008)
UNILAD SCORE: 90.1%
We’re into top-three territory now, and it would have made no sense if The Dark Knight wasn’t somewhere up there.
It brings Nolan’s trilogy to a crashing crescendo by expertly weaving all of the tropes we’d expect from a superhero blockbuster with the introspection and realism that the director is known for.
It is, of course, often remembered for Heath Ledger’s brilliantly psychotic Joker – a role that even landed him a posthumous Academy Award.
UNILAD SCORE: 90.5%
Starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano, Memento follows a man suffering from amnesia as he attempts to piece together a recent life that he does not remember.
The film is most memorable for its non-linear narrative, flitting between chronological and non-chronological scenes to solve the various mysteries that Leonard faces. But while the structure sounds convoluted, strangely this is one of Nolan’s more rewarding creations – sometimes confusing, maybe, but smart, tightly told and fascinating.
This is Christopher Nolan before all the bells and whistles, and it is very, very good.
UNILAD SCORE: 91.5%
While many of you might have assumed a Dark Knight film may have landed the top spot, the honour actually goes to Nolan’s 2014 sublimely eerie sci-fi epic, which stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Matt Damon and Michael Caine.
Some critics didn’t look too favourably on the sentimental moments of Interstellar, compared to the colder core at the heart of some of Nolan’s other films, but the everyday cinemagoer was no doubt grateful for likeable, relatable characters to root themselves to as they were thrown towards a world of black holes and five-dimensional tesseracts.
A huge head f**k, but well worth it in the end – in our opinion, anyway.