Best Christopher Nolan Movies

Scene from Christopher Nolan movies Inception fan art

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Whether it be a dude in a bat costume beating up criminals, or some guy with short-term memory loss hunting down his wife’s killer, Christopher Nolan always finds a way to masterfully weave in twists and turns that will leave even the savviest filmgoers in awe. Here are the best Christopher Nolan movies, ranked from worst to best.

 

11. Dark Knight Rises

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Available on: HBO Max

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%

 

Resist the urge to throw your phone or laptop out the nearest window, Batman fans. Rest assured, every movie on this list is exceptional. At the end of the day, however, one has to be at the bottom.

The film deliciously wraps up every loose end, and deserves all the acclaim and box office success it garnered during its run.

 

10. Tenet

Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh

Available on: YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 70%

 

Christopher Nolan’s latest film is truly a feast for the eyes. Literally out of the gate, this film meets audiences with excitement, stimulation, and intrigue. The film then challenges its viewers to think entirely outside the box to decipher how the story will conclude.

John David Washington plays a perfectly round protagonist that is impossible to root against. His James Bond-like coolness yet refreshing relatability make him the perfect hero.

The one issue with such a high concept film is that there are diminishing returns. With so much to pack into a two-hour window, the movie can feel, at times, a bit rushed. However, Tenet is undeniably brilliant, with mind-boggling execution.

 

9. Insomnia

Cast: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank

Available on: HBO Max

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

 

Insomnia is Nolan’s first swing at a big box office studio-backed film.

Nolan brings out previously unseen strengths in this all-star cast, such as the late Robin Williams’ surprising flair for drama.

The early twist in the story promises tension that the film’s tedious middle doesn’t quite deliver, which lands Insomnia near the bottom of the best Christopher Nolan movies. That said, it’s still absolutely worth the watch.

 

8. Interstellar

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine

Available on: Hulu, Sling TV, YouTube

Rotten Tomatoes: 72%

 

One of the most visually enchanting films of all time, Interstellar is nearly cinematically perfect—barring some on-the-nose dialogue towards the end. Its beautiful effects make it a film that rivals even the most groundbreaking sci-fi flicks.

What really places Interstellar on the top shelf, however, is its human element. Through all the oohs and ahhs on-screen is a father-daughter thread that yanks the viewers’ heartstrings. The devastating realization that time is precious makes Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain’s dynamic original and undeniable.

 

7. The Prestige

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson

Available on: Hulu, Sling TV

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

 

The Prestige can be graded as Nolan’s most thematically-rich film. The story’s perfect pairing of obsession vs. ambition, and profound performances from Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, makes this story incredible.

Audiences can’t help but pick a side in this battle between two magicians in their performative primes. What’s more, the reveal at the end is…well, magical.

 

6. Batman Begins

Cast: Christian Bale, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine

Available on: HBO Max

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%

 

Batman Begins was revolutionary for its time. The unique noir style of a mainstream comic book hero was something seldom seen in studio-backed films.

Nolan was able to take a uniquely flawed character in Bruce Wayne and then highlight those flaws. His inability to cope with his parents’ death was something fresh for audiences to sink their teeth into.

Pair this with Nolan’s ability to make thrilling explosive sequences, and you get the new blueprint for superhero films.

5. Following

Cast: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell

Available on: YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

 

In his directorial debut, Nolan flexes his filmmaking chops with unique technical prowess shrouded over a black-and-white noir.

A suspenseful thriller from start to finish, Following draws the audience in until the final seconds tick away—despite Nolan’s (now unusual) budget constraints.

4. Inception

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy

Available on: YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%

 

Assemble a crew, execute a job, and live happily ever after. These are the monotonous makings of a heist movie.

However, Nolan somehow pulls off the impossible, and refreshes the entire dynamic with Inception.

One of the most uniquely balanced, high-concept pieces of art in film history, Inception luminously delves into the inner workings of the mind while keeping audiences completely enthralled.

With an all-star cast and an all-time cliffhanger ending, Inception is undoubtedly one of Christopher Nolan’s best films.

3. Dunkirk

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn- Carney, Jack Lowden, Tom Hardy

Available on: YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

 

Dunkirk’s simultaneous telling of three perspectives (by land, by air, and sea) is a unique balancing act seldom reserved for war epics. As a result, the film is wonderfully immersive.

As with most of Nolan’s films, Dunkirk is cinematically magnificent. Unlike most of his movies, the primarily outdoor lighting aspect gives Nolan an entirely new canvas to play with.

The thematic richness of Dunkirk is also something to behold. Audiences feel the necessity of bravery in the face of sure death.

 

2. Memento

Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

Available on: Tubi, Pluto TV, Amazon Prime

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

 

For many audiences, Memento was an introduction to what would become Christopher Nolan’s distinctive style.

It’s filled with the same masterful use of timelines and flashbacks that have earned him so much acclaim as a filmmaker. Additionally, Memento utilizes misdirection and the trope of an unreliable narrator perfectly.

 

1. The Dark Knight

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine

Available on: HBO Max

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

 

No, this isn’t just an attempt to make up for insulting the Batman fans at the beginning of this list.  The Dark Knight really is an undeniable masterpiece, and manages to beat all other Christopher Nolan movies on this list.

The film kicks off with one of the most incredible action sequences of all time. Immediately, it fills the audience in on the fact that A) they’re about to go on one wild ride, and B) the conductor of this train is like no one you’ve ever seen before.

Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight simply can’t be overstated. His combination of charming wit and haunting instability is flawless.

Under this brilliant performance is a film that perfectly balances beautifully flashy moments with well-written characters and gut-wrenching turns.

 

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Nolan has seen box office success paired with critical acclaim more than any other filmmaker in history. He marries big, explosive elements with calculated scripts and thematic brilliance.

If you’re looking for trippy, mind-bending excitement, Christopher Nolan movies won’t disappoint. No other director can crush blockbuster films so consistently, taking the notion that big-budget summer movies have to be all fluff and no substance and turning it on its head.

For more movie recommendations, check out the best quotes from Judd Apatow’s films, the best Simon Pegg movies, or Martin Scorsese‘s standout films.