When describing the career of director Christopher Nolan the word “amazing” comes to mind. Beginning at the lowest rung of the independent circuit, he has risen to craft some of the most artistically and commercially successful blockbusters of the last decade. With the epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, hitting shelves this week, now is as good a time as any to go back and rank the acclaimed director’s films.
The premise is simple enough. A man (Guy Pearce) suffering from short-term memory loss sets out to avenge his wife’s death. The brilliance of Memento lies strictly in Christopher Nolan’s approach to the material. By electing to tell the story in reverse, Nolan puts you inside the head of Guy Pearce. The result, is a truly immersive cinematic experience that is sure to stand the test of time. A masterpiece.
2. The Dark Knight
Despite being released only four years ago, The Dark Knight has acquired an almost mythic status with most crowning it the greatest superhero film of all-time. So, does the film live up to its reputation? You bet. Packing a supremely talented cast, expansive production design, and layered screenplay, this crime epic improves on its predecessor in every possible way. The late Heath Ledger’s fearless performance as the Joker is simply a revelation.
3. Batman Begins
Leave it to Nolan to give fans the Batman movie they deserved. Unlike most superhero adventures which aim for pure spectacle (i.e. The Avengers), Batman Begins focuses on character. Nolan and his co-writers take great strides to flesh out Bruce Wayne (a terrific Christian Bale), painting a portrait of a deeply wounded man who seeks redemption through sacrifice. This fantastic reboot fully captured the spirit of the Batman comics and set a new standard for all superhero films to come.
The enormous success of The Dark Knight allowed Nolan to let his imagination run wild with this mind-bending thriller about dream hacking. Featuring some of the most intricate set pieces of any blockbuster in the last decade, Inception is hampered only by a heavy handed screenplay that dissects every plot point down to the most minute detail. While subtlety has never been one of Nolan’s strong suits, he may have gone too far on this one.
5. The Dark Knight Rises
Expectations could not have been higher leading up to the release of the final installment in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. By and large, the film delivered. Sure, Bane (Tom Hardy) isn’t a particularly compelling villain and there are some gaping plot holes. However, no one can deny the film’s immense entertainment value, particularly in the second half when Batman and a much depleted police force fight to win back Gotham. The closing five minutes of The Dark Knight Rises are among the best of Nolan’s career, packing an emotional and inspirational wallop.
After breaking all the rules with his storytelling in Memento, Nolan, in a curious move, chose to take on a straight crime drama. Easily Nolan’s most subdued and impersonal effort, Insomnia still manages to leave a mark thanks to some striking visual flourishes and a trio of knockout performances from Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, and an against-type Robin Williams. Let’s just say you’ll never look at Mrs. Doubtfire the same way again.
7. The Prestige
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are in fine form as rival magicians looking to create the perfect illusion. Period sets and costumes are also a sight to behold, transporting you back to 19th century London. However, the film’s plot is very muddled, with the numerous turns proving to be more frustrating than fascinating. This undermines the inherent tragedy that lies at the core of this twisted tale of obsession and deceit. Nevertheless, The Prestige is still a technical marvel.
Shot on weekends with a $6,000 budget, Christopher Nolan’s debut is a lean, mean, and intelligent film noir about a down-on-his-luck writer (Jeremy Theobald) who gets taken in by the sly thief (Alex Haw) he is shadowing. With its low-grade production values and Hitchcockian plot, Following is a deeply unsettling film that manages to get under your skin and crawl around. For Nolan, this is quite an achievement given his limited resources and experience.
How would you rank Christopher Nolan’s films?