Christopher Nolan’s Best Films – An Exercise In Ranking The Director’s Efforts

I have to kick this off with a bit of introduction. This post comes to you from the guys at They run a podcast that is rather unique, and it’s one that I’ve taken to quickly. Instead of a movie podcast, theirs is a movie trailer podcast. They give you their rundown on the trailers of the films that are about to come out, and let you know whether or not you should see it based on what they can glean from the trailer itself.

They also give their predictions on what the rating of the film will turn out to be.

I should really say that I’m not a podcast guy. I know they have taken over, and people subscribe to tons of them, but very few of them do anything for me. There are those I listen to occasionally, and a select group that I listen to more frequently, but it’s rare that one comes along that I find is really worth my time.

I really like this one though, and there’s something about the theory that I find works. You can only be so serious about reviewing a movie’s trailer, and these guys (Kyle, Gerry, Chris, Jared, and Matt – a sampling of whom may show up in any given podcast) deliver a good mix of info, humor, and randomness that makes this an exceedingly easy to listen to podcast. That probably doesn’t sound like huge praise, but it is for non-podcast-centric me.

I encourage you to check out their website (they have other cool stuff besides just the podcast), and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Check out their podcast on iTunes here


Also, you are doubly encouraged to go ahead and subscribe to the podcast now, because I will be running the most massive giveaway ever shortly, with dozens of Blu-Rays up for grabs, and one of the ways to enter will be to subscribe to their podcast. Check back in about a week for that giveaway. Trust me, you won’t want to miss it.


Check out a sample below, wherein they take a look at the trailer for Fright Night.


That out of the way, Kyle Coleman has generously offered up some content for me to share with you. It’s his attempt at ordering Christopher Nolan‘s films. It’s not the order I’d put them in, but there you go. Enjoy, and let me know what your list would look like.


In honor of the greatness that is Christopher Nolan, I’ve decided to rank his movies from best to “worst.” I put the word “worst” in quotes because none of these movies are even close to bad, in fact, none are even close to mediocre. Nolan is the rare director without a single blotch on his record; every film has been met with critical acclaim for its innovation and style. I am a huge fan of Nolan’s so ordering this list was a painful exercise, and I’d like to stress again that I love all of these films. I truly feel like I could watch any of these at any time, and take something new away with each viewing. Please feel free to give your ranking in the comments section below!

7. Following (1998)

Nolan’s 1998 debut shot in black and white on a $6,000 budget with friends from a London film society. A struggling writer becomes addicted to following strangers for “material for his writing” and befriends a burglar, leading to all kinds of trouble.

Nolan introduces his penchant for non-linear plot structure as well as his uncanny ability to parcel out bits of information to keep the viewer underinformed, involved and very interested. He paces the film beautifully (only 70 minute runtime), and builds everything up to a crescendo twist of an ending. A must see for Nolan fans.




6. Insomnia (2002)

A suspense-thriller starring Al Pacino and Robin WilliamsInsomnia is a great example of how Nolan creates complex characters and unfolds their motives throughout the film.

The viewer is fed limited information at the beginning to learn a bit about the characters, but as the story unfolds, the constant sun of the Alaska’s perpetual daylight sheds light on the dark past of our protagonist, changing the scope of the entire film. Nolan brings out the best in his actors, as both Pacino and Williams give great performances, but this film is ranked #6 because it lacks the sheer imagination that pervade the rest of the films.



5. The Prestige (2006)

As much as I love the story in this film, I can’t give Nolan all the credit since it is adapted from a 1995 book. That aside, Nolan creates a great on-screen rivalry of one-upsmanship between magicians Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale.

Nolan is able to balance the darkness of the plot with the intrigue and fun of the science which is a rare combination. He again shows his mastery of withholding information from the viewer for a wild and thrilling finale, creating one of the most shocking twists of any film I’ve seen. As I’m writing this I’m reminded how much I love this one but I have to rank it here since I give Nolan more credit when he directs his original ideas.



4. Batman Begins (2005)

Pundits were nervous about putting one of the most beloved franchises of all time in the hands of a relatively inexperienced director, but Nolan got the job and really delivered. In typical Nolan fashion, he reworked the franchise aiming for more humanity and realism than was in the 1997 franchise flop, making viewers connect with and care about Bruce Wayne and Batman.

Nolan’s smart writing and directing created a realistic superhero film, grossed over a half billion dollars and resurrected an immensely popular franchise. Not too many directors could have pulled this off.



3. Memento (2000)

This is the absolute standard for non-linear storytelling. Based on his brother’s short story, Nolan alternates between two narratives, a chronological black-and-white one and a backward moving color narrative. Again, this serves to only give the viewer as much information as they need without giving away the brilliantly twisted ending. What gives this film cult status is its watch-ability: you can watch this film time and time again, picking up different clues each time, adding more appreciation for an already wonderful film. I’m ranking this film third because it showcased Nolan’s skills perfectly and fast-tracked him into bigger projects down the line.


2. The Dark Knight (2008)

It is really painful for me to have to put this film at #2, but that is a testament to the overall quality of this list. Nolan creates an awe-inspiring world, a cast full of memorable characters, and one of the darkest superhero films ever made.

What impresses me most about this film is the intellectual debate it inspires concerning lawlessness and politics in general, which will make this film remembered and talked about for generations to come. Nolan intertwines this message with powerful action scenes and brilliant directing, grossing over a billion dollars and delivering the best superhero film I’ve ever seen.



1. Inception (2010)

How can someone even think this film up? More importantly, how difficult will it be to bring this imagination to life? I give the #1 spot to Inception because of Nolan’s creation and execution of theconcept. I’ve already discussed his ability to tell a non-linear story, and he brings that to a whole different level in this film, creating multiple levels of reality that are all co-existing.

I have seen this film more times than I care to admit, and I learn something new each time (did Cobb make it back from limbo?!). Can’t forget the coolest fight scene of all time: JGL’s anti-gravity hallway scene, which required amazing engineering and physics calculations. This film has everything anyone could ask for, making it not only Nolan’s best but also my favorite film of the 2000s.


article originally published at –



Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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