Posted in Film Feature, Ranking

Ranking Christopher Nolan Filmography (Collaboration)

In terms of directors working today who have had quite the considerable impact of modern day films and film-making, one name that would surely come to mind would be one Christopher Edward Nolan. Since making his directorial debut in 1998, he has made 10 feature films, and through his fine filmography, he has covered a wide range of subjects in his movies, and his films certainly have the tendency to really challenge their audiences and get the mind working.

With the director’s next film, Dunkirk now in cinemas, it begs the question, what is Nolan’s best film? I have assembled a team of fine film folk to collectively rate and slate all of Nolan’s current filmography, ranking them from worst to best: These fine folks are: Plain, Simple Tom, Nathan, Markus, Angus, QuickFire Reviews, RyanMaddy and yours truly. Please be sure to give all those great people a look see via the hyperlinks in their name! Without further ado, let’s get cracking, and see our individual thoughts on each of Nolan’s films:

Following (1998)

Maddy: There is something immediately fascinating about this film. It’s a little bit student film-like, with performances that certainly aren’t great, yet the overall film has such a unique style to it that it was undoubtedly going to put Nolan on the road to success. Not his best, but definitely worth a watch to see where it all began. (6/10)

Tom: A simple yet intriguing story, Nolan starts his foray into the film world with this overlooked film, using the homes of friends and family in which to shoot in.Not extraordinary but always intriguing. Plus, a bat symbol on one of the doors. #foreshadowing. (7/10)

Markus: Following is an ambitious ham sandwich budget debut feature from Christopher Nolan. And for the most part it paid off. Not perfect, but definitely a good way for Nolan to get his foot in the industry. (8/10)

QuickFire Reviews: Made on a budget of $6000, Nolan’s directorial debut – for the limits and restraints in received in production – turns out superbly. From the very start Nolan as a director clearly has an eye for detail, crafting an exceptionally intimate, stylish and engaging character study. (8.5/10)

Ryan: Christopher Nolan’s underground debut feature may not be a perfect film, but it’s a faultless prelude to his now world famous filmography. You can see him beginning to toy with narrative, you can sense his recognisable character types beginning to emerge. It under 70 minutes, Following comes at you quickly but doesn’t skimp on the goods – a solid debut feature with more than enough to chew on. (8/10)

Memento (2000)

Tom: Another unique premise brought to life by a clever script and a handful of fascinating performances. (9/10)

Martin: Almost unlike anything that has ever been to screen before, and since its release, there has never been a film quite like Memento. Riveting storytelling, with a very unique premise and one of the best ever performances that Guy Pearce has given across his career. And for the Love of God, PLEASE don’t remake this movie Hollywood!! (10/10)

Nathan: While Memento succeeds through its direction, with an impressive use of dual narratives coalescing terrifically, the narrative is somewhat repetitive and really challenges your concentration levels come the middle third. That said, it is largely enjoyable and serviceable in delivering us the Nolan we know and love today. (6.5/10)

Markus: Nolan manages to create a fiendishly clever story with Memento, making perfect use of it’s fractured narrative and forgetful protagonist. Guy Pearce gives a fantastic performance that often gets overlooked by people. This movie is far from forgettable. (10/10)

Angus:  The film that is known for being backwards, ‘Memento’ does a fantastic job at keeping your interest within its unusual structure. The film will have you continuously guessing what has happened in what is arguably Guy Pearce’s best performance. A great concept with interesting characters make this film perhaps Nolan’s most unique. (9.25/10)

Ryan: How many film makers create something as good as Memento so early in the career? The film may benefit more from its structure than I’d care to admit (when watched in chronological order, a lot of the magic is lost) but Nolan’s exploration of time and memory is the film’s selling point. Why mark a film down for something it technically hasn’t done? Memento is smart, intricate storytelling and one of Nolan’s strongest scripts. (9.5/10)

Maddy: Massively impressed by this film. It’s so similar to Following but with a Hollywood upgrade, & it pays off really well. Love how we see the same scenes repeated over & linked & slowly pieced together, we don’t know who to trust or what to make of things: exactly what Leonard’s life is like. It’s clever in an effortless manner. (7/10)

Insomnia (2002)

Ryan: Insomnia is my least favourite of Nolan’s films. The performances are strong and the film’s atmospheric work is immersive, but there’s something missing from this one. A bold twist, a new direction for the film to take. Insomnia isn’t a bad film by any means, but it’s Nolan’s most forgettable work by a wide margin. (7.5/10)

Tom: A neat thriller with a fine cast, especially Robin Williams who gives one of his best ever performances. 7/10

Markus: Insomnia is Nolan’s most underrated movie. It’s an incredibly captivating murder mystery that takes a few interesting twists and turns. Pacino delivers a fantastic performance. I love it. (10/10)

Angus: Insomnia brings great performances from Al Pacino and Robin Williams as the cat and mouse game provides gripping entertainment. The struggle from Pacino’s character works very well alongside the mystery aspect of the film that is worth revisiting. (8/10)

Maddy: It’s not written by Nolan so it doesn’t have the same layout or rhythm of his other films, yet through his direction his unmistakable vibe is there. The acting really is first class here, with Al Pacino, Robin Williams & Hillary Swank all brilliant as you’d expect three Oscar winners to be. The audience is given everything but in a manner that seems to gradually distort along with Pacino’s character’s mentality – it’s clever, but easier watching than some of Nolan’s other work. (7/10)

Batman Begins (2005)

QuickFire Reviews: A comic-book franchise opener like no other Batman Begins matches Nolan with an equally talented cast to create a deeper, darker and downright thrilling portrayal of The Dark Knight, without ever becoming stale or monotonous. (9/10)

Maddy: This is how you do a superhero origin story. What I adore about the Nolan Batman trilogy & why I think it remains so successful is how much reality he gave it. Whereas in the past we’d seen Batman prancing around in his grey spandex with cheesy fight sound effects, this grounded the vigilante character & created a much darker & tangible take on the classic. Christian Bale makes a brilliant debut as both Bruce Wayne & Batman, & with Michael Caine at his side in what will forever be the perfect Alfred portrayal, this really was a hell of a start to a great trilogy; dark & intense without becoming overwhelming. (8/10)

Tom: Nolan reboots the Batman film universe in spectacular fashion with this exciting, cool, exquisitely designed film. It’s an excellent origin story with a superb cast and a great plot. (9/10)

Martin: The rebirth of the Batman, after the character died in ignominious circumstances. Told through Nolan’s brilliant vision with an exciting look at The Caped Crusader and his origins, magnificently acted by its super talented cast, and a truly gripping story of one man’s journey from man to symbol. (8.5/10)

Nathan: Batman Begins is a sluggish start for the rebooted Batman but helps sets the wheels in motion for an otherwise impressive franchise of films. The performances are decent but the chosen story is weak and, surprisingly, forgettable. (6.5/10)

Ryan: I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy a Batman trilogy when I first saw Batman Begins. The film is well crafted and suitably dark, telling the Bruce Wayne story in a harsher way than before, but it perhaps gets too bogged down in its “origin story” style to break away from the mould entirely. Still, it’s a stronger superhero film than anything we’ve had in the last four years. (8/10)

Angus: In my opinion, this is the best superhero origin story that does great at establishing the famous character. The Batman series needed rebooted badly and Nolan’s darker, more realistic take makes for a great viewing. The film balances its characters very well especially with its villains making Nolan’s first superhero film a successful one. (8.75/10)

Markus: After the Batman movie franchise was more or less killed off by Schumacher’s movies, Nolan managed to revitalise it with Batman Begins. An exciting action-drama that gives us a fascinating and fresh look at the characters and the world they inhabit. It also helps that the performances are top-notch. (10/10)

 

The Prestige (2006)

Martin:  Everyone loves a good magic trick, and for Nolan, this enthralling tale of two rival magicians trying to outdo the other makes for some spellbinding entertainment that will keep your eyes transfixed on screen right from the first shot all the way to the last. With two terrific performances from Bale and Jackman, as well as the late David Bowie, and one heck of an ending. (9/10)

Tom: With two charismatic performances at the centre, this film has an intriguing story that constantly keeps you guessing. A tantalising mystery with some neat visuals and a fine ending. (8/10)

Nathan: The Prestige is an absorbing and somewhat hypnotising picture, bolstered by two terrific central performances and Nolan’s reliably impressive direction. Most admirable though is that there is nothing quite like this film, demonstrating Nolan’s ability to make ground-breaking and innovative cinema. (7.5/10)

Markus: Layered, complex, and filled with twists and turns, The Prestige shows Nolan at his most fiendishly clever. Tricking you at every moment it can, like a good magic trick, The Prestige is one that shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone. (10/10)

Angus: A film about two magicians trying to one up one another is full of twists and turns that will make sure that you are watching every second until the credits role. And then after that, you will be thinking about what has actually just happened and how they pulled it off. This is a film that will stay with you for days and changes the way you watch it the second time around. There are so many layers to this film that make it special, magical if you will. (9.25/10)

Ryan: There’s a cult of film fans who loudly herald The Prestige to be Nolan’s best film and, while I don’t agree, it isn’t tough to see why. This is a starkly original work from Nolan, one that benefits from countless rewatches to fully comprehend not only the story it tells but the way it tells it. The final twist is certainly of the “make it or break it” kind, but if you fit in the former category it’ll turn a good film into a great one. (9/10)

The Dark Knight (2008)

Markus: The Dark Knight isn’t just a showcase for one of the best performances of 2008 (Heath Ledger), but it’s also a layered and suspenseful crime-drama filled with plenty of awesome moments. It’s also beautifully shot and features an excellent score from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. (10/10)

Tom: Surely Nolan’s magnum opus, The Dark Knight earns its place as one of the best superhero films ever. Amazing set pieces, a thrilling score, cool bat-action, a solid script and all round excitement. Oh yeah and there’s this guy called the Joker and he’s played by Heath somebody; apparently he’s awesome.  (9/10)

Angus: The finest superhero movie ever made is always closely linked to Heath Ledger’s stunning performance as The Joker. However, there is a lot more to the film as its filled with many great moments making ‘The Dark Knight’ a modern classic and the best within its genre. Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent/Two Face is also magnificent as his character development throughout the film is exceptional. The opening heist scene and interrogation scene between Christian Bale and Ledger are two particular highlights. (9.5/10)

Martin: In short, one of, if not THE, best superhero movies ever made, and what a sequel should do. Taking it in dark, mysterious and exhilarating new directions. A masterclass performance from Heath Ledger as the Clown Prince of Crime, among a plethora of wonderful performances and just some darn good action sequences! Now there’s a truly great Batman movie! (10/10)

Nathan: The Dark Knight is masterful in almost every sense of the word: as a superhero film, as a blockbuster, as an action-thriller, as a character study, The Dark Knight is perfect. Combining Nolan’s magnificent direction, a wonderful script and incredible ensemble performances (particularly from the late Heath Ledger), The Dark Knight is everything we love to see in cinema. (9.5/10)

QuckFire Reviews: It’s difficult to say the perfect film exists – but if it did it would look like this. From the visceral action sequences, razor edge tone and score, stunning cinematography and a script that elevates the material to what was previously viewed as unreachable heights, The Dark Knight also features my favourite and one of the all-time greatest acting performances in Heath Ledger’s menacing, complex and often funny turn as the Joker. A truly unforgettable viewing experience, destined to forever be a classic. (10/10)

Ryan: How many sequels not only improve on their predecessor, but actually grow to become recognised as a classic? The Dark Knight is a masterpiece of superhero cinema, and when people throw it around it conversations of the greatest films of all time, its inclusion in such discussion doesn’t feel unearned. Led by an unforgettable performance from Heath Ledger and a narrative as momentous as it is explosive, The Dark Knight will sit at the top of the superhero throne for a very long time – one might even argue forever. (10/10)

Maddy:  Nine years on & nothing has changed in how brilliant this film is. Without a doubt the greatest superhero movie, & one of the best performances of all time from Heath Ledger as the Joker. It’s unlike anything else – seamlessly continuing the trilogy whilst building on it, making it broodier & more gripping. Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over the role of Rachel from Begins’ Katie Holmes transforms the character into something far greater than a damsel in distress. And Heath Ledger – where do you even start? He to date is the best Joker, exactly as the character was intended to be. He is truly unpredictable in the most unsettling & jaw dropping way, & in an exceptional way seduces every viewer with his ever changing anecdotes & sick jokes. Another realm of film-making. (10/10)

Inception (2010)

Nathan: Inception may be too complex for its own good at times, but its mind-bending premise, terrific ensemble cast and brilliant visuals are all helmed by Nolan with aplomb and sophistication. It may be the smartest, most innovative film of the decade and one that deserves to be remembered for years/decades to come. (9/10)

Tom: A unique, mind-bending concept, spectacular visuals and a flawless ensemble cast. Surely one of Nolan’s most ambitious films – you ain’t never seen anything like this before! (9/10)

Martin: Dreams, within dreams, within dreams. Crikey what a mind-boggling premise, and one that in the wrong hands could have been an enormous bloated mess, but yet again Nolan makes it all work, with a first class screenplay, utterly bonkers but quite brilliant visuals, another top notch ensemble cast, and absolutely mind-bending action sequences. (9.5/10)

Markus: Taking an idea as complex as Inception’s could turn out really convoluted and bad, but Nolan manages to make it all work. The cast is fantastic, and the score by Hans Zimmer might be the best he’s ever done. Complex, exciting, and epic, Inception is my personal favorite of Nolan’s movies. (10/10)

Angus: I believe this to be Nolan’s best film as it succeeds on so many levels. Thoroughly entertaining whilst being a film that really makes you think makes this truly remarkable. The story is solid and is helped by breathtaking visuals and a phenomenal cast which is the best ensemble that Nolan has worked with. ‘Inception’ is innovative and clever whilst maintaining an exhilarating feeling throughout the whole of the runtime. Again, this is a film that gets better with repeat viewings as you start to pick up little details you may have missed at first glance. Nolan’s finest work to date. (9.75/10)

QuickFire Reviews: With a memorable score, an impeccable cast, stunning visuals and a director that compliments the larger than life concepts, Inception is sleek, engaging and mind-bending all at once, without ever being over convoluted. Though I have never been the greatest fan of this movie, I laud it for being what it is – a thoroughly intelligent blockbuster. (8/10)

Ryan: I won’t beat around the bush here – Inception is my favourite film. It’s the one that drew me into the world of the film, the one that opened my eyes as to the limitlessness of cinema. The film’s action sequences are exhilarating and the narrative structure is sensational, but it’s Inception’s emotional core that mesmerises me with every rewatch. Benefitted further by Hans Zimmer’s masterpiece of a soundtrack, I doubt I will ever love another film in the ways that I love Inception. (10/10)

Maddy: This seemed like Nolan’s real breakout into high budget films he set out to make. Inception is so difficult to explain, but so brilliantly told that you don’t realise that it is confusing (if that makes sense at all). Leonardo DiCaprio is phenomenal in the lead, with more excellent performances from Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy & more. (8/10)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Maddy: I know that The Dark Knight is the best film in this trilogy, & the best comic book movie of all time. But I think Dark Knight Rises is my favourite; it’s the only one I saw in theatres after my Uncle introduced me to the films one weekend in the summer. I am utterly in love with Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, & Joseph Gordon Levitt being revealed as a sneaky Robin was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Following in the footsteps of an iconic performance as an iconic villain was hard for this film, but Tom Hardy as Bane is a fantastic villain & Marion Cotillard is genius. And then just go round it off, we have Gary Oldman & Michael Caine being absolute sweethearts & making you want to weep from it all. (8/10)

Tom: Concluding the Dark Knight trilogy, Tom Hardy makes for a . . . unique . . . Bane but the overall story is often muddled and unfathomable. Regrettably a bit disappointing. Then again, The Dark Knight was nigh-on impossible to top. (7/10)

Martin: With two excellent films in his trilogy completed, wrapping up the trilogy in the wake of The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger’s death was always going to be tough. The story is far from perfect, but a plethora of intriguing new addition, the highlight being Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, mixed in with familar faces, and some absolutely batshit (pun not intended!) action scenes, with Tom Hardy truly menacing as Bane, ensure it was a fitting end to Nolan’s Dark Knight Legend. (8.5/10)

Nathan: The Dark Knight Rises may not match the success of its predecessor but it marks a vast improvement on the first in the series, presenting a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion to one of the most acclaimed trilogies of our cinematic time. (8/10)

Markus: Filled with spectacle and a good sense of finality, The Dark Knight Rises is a solid end to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. There are moments of “Eh” at a few points throughout, but overall this is a great movie. (9/10)

Angus: The Dark Knight trilogy ended with its weakest film as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ did feel a level below Nolan’s usual standard of work. This is a fun film for sure as it is packed with some great action and moments. Tom Hardy is great as Bane, posing a true physical threat to Batman whilst being incredibly clever. However, I feel the film dips in quality after the first encounter between Batman and Bane. At this point there are many questionable and convenient moments that have many problems. However, I can’t deny that this is still a fun blockbuster to watch. (7.75/10)

QuickFire Reviews:  Ambitious, haunting yet also immensely crowd-pleasing, Rises is not quite as refined as its predecessors, but is an overly satisfying conclusion, to Nolan’s revolutionary trilogy. (8.5/10)

Ryan: Is The Dark Knight Rises a perfect film? No. In fact, it isn’t even a perfect conclusion to the trilogy. But it’s big, and big is good enough when surrounded by as many strong components as this film has. Some sloppy fight scenes and questionable plot holes aside, The Dark Knight Rises is a climactic and emotional trilogy closer, a film that coasts on its ambition and ends up as more than the sum of its parts. (9.5/10)

Interstellar (2014)

 Tom: Undeniably ambitious and impressive with its visuals and score but hindered by a cumbersome sentimentality that holds it back while it’s trying to be a big sci-fi epic. As Danny Leigh said: “like trying to land a 747 in someone’s back garden.” (7/10)

Angus: This sci-fi film really brings emotion mainly due to McConaughey’s performance and his character Coop’s relationship with his daughter Murph. This is a truly beautiful film with great sets and special effects showing how well Nolan can work with the latest technology. ‘Interstellar’ showcases Nolan’s creativity as he looks for new ways to get his ideas onto the big screen. The ending didn’t work entirely for me and I do feel that the effects overshadowed the story in this film making it weaker than most of Nolan’s previous endeavours. A film that I would definitely recommend all to watch at least once as its provides a great experience. (8.25/10)

Martin: A very ambitious film to say the least, but if anyone could pull it off, Nolan could and he did. A deeply powerful, human story at its core mixed in with the usual top calibre of performances, some truly stunning visual effects, and a spine-tingling score from Mr Hans Zimmer. (9/10)

Maddy: I was late to the Interstellar game, but oh boy was it worth the wait. I started crying about twenty minutes in & didn’t stop until long after the credits rolled – & at it’s two hour forty nine minute run time that really means something. Every single actor gives it their all, making this futuristic & unrelatable scenario absolutely emotionally touching from the get go. Matthew McConahay, Jessica Chastain & Anne Hathaway are simply phenomenal, the score is beautiful & the entire story is uniquely effecting. I can’t fault it. (10/10)

Nathan: Interstellar is a smart and engaging slice of science-fiction that unfortunately crumbles in its third act; complex ideas progress into conceited ones, twists develop unsatisfyingly, with a few uneven performances in the mix – but with Nolan at the helm, it is still worth a watch. (7.5/10)

Markus: With an almost three long hour run-time and a focus on philosophical themes, Interstellar is a movie that will test some viewers’ patience. Patient moviegoers on the other hand will be rewarded with an intriguing, if mildly up it’s own ass idea, great performances, great music, and fantastic visuals. Also, Matthew McConaughspace. (9.5/10)

QuickFire Reviews: Interstellar is wonderfully filmed, both incorporating aspects of old Hollywood genre film-making, with Nolan’s stamp of uniqueness. It loses a lot of is steam and begins to pander to the extent that I fail to call this a great movie, but it is still as well-crafted as it is ripe with gorgeous visuals and emotion. (8.5/10)

Ryan: Much like his previous film, Nolan took on a lot with Interstellar. The film’s final act will always be divisive, but I hold no restrains in admitting my love for it. The film is visually stunning, but its conclusion takes an already bold film and twists it into something staggeringly ambitious – and, in my eyes, it nails it. Interstellar is one of those films that I love – and always will love – unequivocally, but for those that really don’t get on board with it? I hear ya. Interstellar is a funny one, but it works for me. (9.5/10)

Dunkirk (2017)

Our thoughts on Dunkirk will be added to this post in the coming days, watch this space!

Now that we’ve all had our minds blown by the remarkable filmography of Christopher Nolan, how do we collectively rank his films when we average out all of our scores? Here are the results:

9. Following: 7.5

8. Insomnia: 7.9

7. The Dark Knight Rises: 8.3

6. Batman Begins: 8.5

5. Interstellar: 8.7

4. Memento: 8.75

3. The Prestige 8.8

2. Inception 9.2

 1. The Dark Knight: 9.75

And there we have it, it seems we as a team share the perspective of many a film fanatic out there, with the Dark Knight ranking as our favourite Nolan film combined. For many people, there is a belief that Nolan has not made a bad movie, and if our scores are any indication, we would also probably agree with that sentiment! How would you rank Nolan’s films? Comment below and let us know!

 Massive thanks to my awesome contributors!

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