Every Christopher Nolan film ranked from worst to best, including 'Oppenheimer'

Every Christopher Nolan film ranked from worst to best, including ‘Oppenheimer’

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With the release of OppenheimerIt’s time to rank all of director Christopher Nolan’s movies from worst to best (BWAAAAAHM!). It wasn’t an easy task. Unlike ranking five Indiana Jones movie or seven Mission Impossible films, Nolan offers 12 films ranging from historical dramas (Dunkirk, Oppenheimer), to science fiction thrillers (Interstellar, Principle) to the mysteries (The prestige, I remember) to his Batman trilogy. Through it all, Nolan has become one of the best directors in the world, one of the few who can reliably fill theater seats on an opening weekend, and is considered the last respite for adult movie fans. Here are all of Nolan’s movies, from weakest to strongest.

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12. Insomnia (2002)

It says a lot about Nolan that the “worst” movie he directed is still pretty good and worth watching. Insomnia is a remake of the Norwegian title and it is perhaps notable that it is the only film directed by Nolan that he did not also write or co-write. Here a Los Angeles detective (Al Pacino) teams up with a small town detective (Hilary Swank) to solve a murder in remote Alaska. It’s a good, moody crime drama, but it lacks Nolan’s usual ambitious scope.

11. Later (1998)

Nolan’s debut film, made for $6,000, showed all the promise for the then 20-year-old director. Shot in black and white, it has some themes it would explore for decades to come: It centers on a hauntingly alienated from society obsessive protagonist who follows a code (sound familiar?), and has a meandering third act and clever expository dialogue that plays Nolan. The feature film centers on a man who follows strangers around London and gets caught up in more than he bargained for after breaking his rule of never following the same person twice. At just 70 minutes, some might argue it’s not a feature film, but Nolan—who pieced together three years of his life—said it’s as good as anything he’s made.

10. Principle (2020)

John David Washington is compelling as a secret agent trying to prevent World War III in a war between the present and the future. Principle it feels like a collection of Nolan’s most frustrating habits: from an oppressive soundscape that overshadows the dialogue, to elegant but flat characters, to a meandering storytelling to the point that it sometimes loses an audience. Still, Principle earn some admittedly superficial points for looking cool and sounding cool and bravely trying to do something original with time travel. (THR review.) (DAYreview by.)

9. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Tom Hardy is wonderful as the menacing terrorist Bane and there are some strong sequences in the climax of Nolan’s Batman trilogy (like the opening plane hijacking and Bruce’s trial in The Pit). Plus, the movie deserves credit for thinking big: Criminals taking complete control of Gotham City is a storyline that’s actually worthwhile (as long as you don’t think too much about the believability of a police force conveniently trapped in a sewer for months). (DAYreview by.)

8. I remember (2000)

What caught everyone’s attention: Nolan’s second work (co-written with his brother Jonathan) is a twisty noir thriller starring Guy Pearce as a man unable to create new memories trying to solve his wife’s murder. It’s a gripping puzzle that showed a filmmaker able to blend an accessible genre film with a thought-provoking narrative and pull it off, all leading up to an ending that’s, well, unforgettable.

7. Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk it’s masterfully well-crafted from its very first shot, breaking cuts to leaflets falling onto a street amid a ticking clock as WWII British soldiers attempt to escape from the Germans as they invade France. Nolan’s skill at staging action is evident in one gripping sequence after another. Yet many of the heroes feel unknowable and interchangeable, which keeps audiences at an emotional distance even as Nolan employs every radical cinematic technique to bring us closer together. (DAYreview by.)

6. Interstellar (2014)

Nolan is often accused of being a cold director and he can be. But there’s nothing detached about Matthew McConaughey’s powerful performance as an astronaut who leaves behind his daughter on a mission to save humanity by finding a new world to replace a dying Earth. While the story has some plot holes (okay, a lot), the resulting combination of 2001: A Space Odysseyinspired cinematic marvel and emotional weight make this one of Nolan’s most popular films (and currently his most successful non-super-hero title at the box office). (DAYreview by.)

5. Beginning (2010)

From here on out, Nolan is hitting home runs. Start it has Nolan packing so many of his signature talents into one original blockbuster as he follows Leonardo DiCaprio as a man who implants false memories for his corporate clients. He’s visually spectacular, extremely intelligent, and has the director’s finest final shot. While Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack has become a meme for that iconic Oh, is also one of the composer’s major efforts (see “The Time”). (DAYreview by.)

4. Batman Begins (2005)

The first hour of Batman begins is a fantastic launch of not only a Dark Knight trilogy for adults, but also a reimagining of what superhero movies can be, if they’re treated as larger-than-life crime dramas with practical effects instead of CGI-fueled world-saving dramas. Christian Bale has quickly proven to be a fine successor to the hood and there has never been a better Alfred than Michael Caine, even if the film’s final act falters a bit.

3. The Prestige (2006)

The prestige is a gorgeous mystery based on Christopher Priest’s novel about turn-of-the-century obsessive wizard duels with fantastic performances from a dogmatic Bale, a searing Hugh Jackman (“You do not know?!“), and an all too wise Caine. The Nolan brothers’ script uses voiceover and narration so confidently and propulsively, and there’s a final twist you’ll never see coming.

2. Oppenheimer (2023)

Oppenheimer it’s too long, overly chatty, and its final act goes from stakes of the fate of the world to men sitting around tables arguing over a security clearance (imagine if Batman defeated the Scarecrow in Batman begins and then spent another 40 minutes discussing how best to repair Gotham City’s damaged monorail system). And yet, Nolan uses every well-honed tool in his toolbox to create a dramatic masterpiece that has something so much missing from his other, more pulpy films: the importance of the real world today. Based on the biography American Prometheus, Nolan successfully tells the story of a major historical figure, champions science, and movingly reminds the world of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction. Ludwig Göransson’s score may be the best for a Nolan film. And Nolan’s hellish post-Trinity pep rally scene is perhaps the most skillfully directed and emotionally powerful scene of his career. (DAYthe review and story of.)

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

Because you will never look Oppenheimer as many times as you’ve probably already watched The dark Knight – as the clown says, it’s “just too funny”. It’s still the best superhero movie ever made with Heath Ledger delivering a legendary (and posthumously Oscar-winning) performance as The Joker that looms over every frame, despite only appearing in 33 minutes of the 152-minute film. The script (by the Nolan brothers, co-starred with David S. Goyer) is fantastic, with so many iconic lines (“Either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”… “It’s all part of the plan…”). Every supporting cast member opens up, Zimmer’s score is menacingly tense, and the action sequences are grounded and effective. So many of Nolan’s movies have long running times, but this is one you don’t want to end. (DAYreview by.)

Aaron Couch contributed to this story.