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Christopher Nolan’s Top 12 Films: A Ranking and Overview of His Best Works

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Top 12 Christopher Nolan Films

#01 – Memento (2000)

Christopher Nolan’s best film is undoubtedly the first to have massively reached the general public. Memento is a neo-noir psychological thriller centered on a character suffering from retrograde amnesia and who struggles with his memory loss as well as his inability to create new memories. The film adapts the story “Memento Mori” written by C. Nolan’s brother – Jonathan Nolan – and published in the March 2001 edition of Esquire magazine.

#02 – The Dark Knight: The Dark Knight (2008)

The second opus of the Dark Knight trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan is still 15 years after its release in cinemas one if not the best superhero film ever made. The Dark Knight, a feature film co-written with his brother Jonathan, follows the events of Batman Begins and pits Gotham’s protector against his worst enemy… the Joker… while the city fights organized crime in the person of prosecutor Harvey Dent. The Dark Knight is based on DC Comics publications recounting the adventures of Batman over several decades.

#03 – Oppenheimer (2023)

The most recent work of the American-British filmmaker is also one of his most captivating. Oppenheimer is a biographical thriller retracing the life of the eponymous physicist considered the “father of the atomic bomb” as well as the implementation of the Manhattan Project at the origin of the first nuclear strikes which partially destroyed Japan. The film is adapted from the 2005 biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin.

#04 – Inception (2010)

Its ending caused a lot of discussion and intrigue. Inception is a science fiction film that focuses on the character of Dom Cobb, a professional thief who specializes in extracting information from the subconscious minds of his victims. Forced never to return to the United States, he is offered the chance to erase his criminal past by implanting an idea in someone’s mind.

#05 – Interstellar (2014)

After completing his Dark Knight trilogy, Christopher Nolan ventures into the depths of the universe. Interstellar is a science fiction film based on the impending death of planet Earth and humanity’s search for a new home. A group of astronauts sets out to find this new home by traveling through a wormhole near Saturn. The film incorporates the theories of physicist Kip Thorne, as detailed in the book “The Science of Interstellar,” and could easily have been directed by Steven Spielberg.

#06 – The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy was impacted by the untimely death of actor Heath Ledger, who played the Joker in The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight Rises was initially planned to open with the trial of the Joker but instead takes place several years after the events of the previous film. Batman is retired and a new enemy forces him to come out of hiding and save Gotham once again.

#07 – The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige takes audiences back to the late 19th century, further than any other film in Christopher Nolan’s repertoire. The Prestige portrays the intense rivalry between two famous magicians in London during the 1890s. Adapted from Christopher Priest’s 1995 novel, the film showcases the acting talent of Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale.

#08 – Batman Begins (2005)

Sometimes, all it takes is a single spark to reignite the passion for a genre. Christopher Nolan’s adaptation of Batman’s adventures on the big screen provided just such a spark for superheroes, propelling them towards the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Batman Begins tells the story of how Gotham’s vigilante came to be and his early years fighting the city’s criminal underworld. The arrival of former allies who have turned into enemies reshapes the landscape, forcing Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego to reveal himself.

#09 – Insomnia (2002)

Insomnia stands as the only film in Christopher Nolan’s filmography that he did not write or co-write, making it a unique work. This psychological thriller is a remake of the Norwegian film released in 1997. It follows two Los Angeles police detectives sent to a small town in Alaska to investigate the murder of a young woman. The film presents a gripping showdown between Robin Williams and Al Pacino.

#10 – Tenet (2020)

Tenet was the film that brought audiences back to cinemas in the summer of 2020 after their closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While the financial success of the film was mixed, it remains a thrilling blend of action and science fiction with stunning visual effects. The story manipulates the flow of time in an attempt to save humanity from a Third World War.

#11 – Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk is the only war film directed and written by Christopher Nolan. The film depicts the events leading to the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk during the Battle of France in 1940. Nolan chose to tell the story from multiple perspectives – land, sea, and air – to capture the essence of these crucial days in history and bring them to the big screen.

#12 – Following (1998)

This film may be unfamiliar to most people, and that’s not surprising. Following is Christopher Nolan’s first feature film, an independent neo-noir thriller made on a very limited budget. It revolves around a young man who randomly follows strangers in the streets of London, unknowingly becoming entangled in the criminal world. Released in 1998, it marked the beginning of Nolan’s successful career as a filmmaker.

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