Every Christopher Nolan Movie Ranked from Worst to Best

Christopher Nolan has undoubtedly become one of the best directors working today.  His ability to deliver fresh, original stories and make movies feel grounded in reality has been unparalleled thus far.  Over time, he’s amassed an impressive library of films.  But which of them stand among Nolan’s best?

#10: Dunkirk (2017)

Although Nolan’s ability as a technical master has never been better, Dunkirk makes incredibly obvious what many naysayers have been saying for quite some time: Nolan’s movies are emotionally distant.  While that’s certainly not the case in his other flicks, it’s very prevalent in Dunkirk by having the film focus on the event at hand rather than the characters but then also making trying to make us care about these paper thin characters.

This critic happily accepts the fact that this sentiment lies within a tiny minority of moviegoers and that many unabashedly love this film, however.


Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 92%

Metacritic Score: 94

*To read my full review of Dunkirk, please click here.

#9: Following (1998)

It’s amazing that in an age where movies keep getting longer, one of the biggest issues with Nolan’s first film, Following, is that it’s too short, clocking in at about one hour and ten minutes in total.  The film has an interesting premise about a man who has a chronic issue of following people around, but it’s ultimately too brief and technically lacking to be ranked higher on this list.


However, I would still advise you to check this film out if you get the chance.


Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 78%

Metacritic Score: 60

#8: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Although it doesn’t have as solid of a story structure as the previous two Nolan Batman movies due to plot holes in its third act, The Dark Knight Rises is still a solid character study of one of our favorite superheroes.  Tom Hardy adds a memorable performance as Bane, providing a nice change in villain style that can take on Batman in hand-to-hand combat.  Overall, The Dark Knight Rises is a satisfying ending to the Nolan trilogy that stays true to the grounded world created in the first two films.


Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 87%

Metacritic Score: 78

#7: Insomnia (2002)

A forgotten but clever film in Christopher Nolan’s filmography, Insomnia is a great character piece about a man (Al Pacino) who slowly loses his mind as he can’t fall asleep during a trip to Alaska during the longest days of the year.  The film follows a murder case of a teenager girl and continues to ramp up the tension, led by a sufficiently creepy performance by the late Robin Williams as the killer.  Pacino and Williams have a great dynamic that gives the film an extra boost.


Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 92%

Metacritic Score: 78

#6: Interstellar (2014)

Arguably the most ambitious film on this list, Interstellar may not perfectly flesh out all its lofty themes that it sets out to study, but it does enough to be totally engrossing for its long running time.  More films like Interstellar should be made as the film explores territory and ideas like time in ways that we hadn’t seen until the film hit theaters in 2014.  Interstellar may be one of those movies that people come to appreciate more with age.


Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 71%

Metacritic Score: 74

*To read my full review of Interstellar, please click here.

#5: Batman Begins (2005)

Quite possibly the best origin story of a superhero put to film, Batman Begins takes it time to set up its central character (we don’t see Christian Bale in costume until about an hour into the movie) which gives the entire Dark Knight trilogy its emotional backbone.  Dark, gritty, and complex, Christopher Nolan striped away everything we hated about the Schumacher Batman films and gave us a reboot that is true to the iconic character.


Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 84%

Metacritic Score: 70

#4: Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan’s Inception is the rare summer blockbuster that has the levels (literally) and dramatic heft of a movie primed for Oscar season.  Nolan was so creative with Inception’s script that the film somehow managed to cram a serious love story, a group of mind-hacking spies, and three different levels of the same story into the same movie without feeling rushed or overstuffed.  It’s obvious after watching this film that Nolan likes challenging his audiences mentally.


Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 86%

Metacritic Score: 74

#3: The Prestige (2006)

Another original film that’ll leave you speechless, The Prestige is one of the best magic movies ever created.  The movie takes the time to setup the relationship between the rival magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) that puts The Prestige over the top.  As the two magicians try to one-up each other, the story becomes filled with more and more tension as the film reaches absurd (but seemingly still grounded) levels.  David Bowie also makes an appearance in the film as Nikola Tesla, which is just fantastic.


Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 76%

Metacritic Score: 66

*To read my full review of The Prestige, please click here.

#2: The Dark Knight (2008)

Seemingly everyone has put in their two cents about how much they love The Dark Knight, but what actually makes this film an all-time classic is the way in which it conveys its themes.  One of the most underrated moments of the film is when Michael Caine’s Alfred talks with Bruce about his experiences in Burma, which parallels the Joker situation quite nicely.  The dialogue and delivery of scenes are handled with such grace that the film comes out almost perfectly.


Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 94%

Metacritic Score: 82

*To read my full review of The Dark Knight, please click here.

#1: Memento (2000)

This may not be the popular choice, but Memento does so much more with a limited budget than many of Christopher Nolan’s other films.  Memento is the perfect psychological character study, led by a great performance from Guy Pierce as a man who has lost the ability to create new memories.  I would normally spoil the ending here, but I’ll let you experience it for yourself as it may be one of the best final acts put to film.  However, if you don’t buy any of this praise, you can at least appreciate Memento for being the film that elevated Nolan’s career.


Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 92%

Metacritic Score: 80

*To read my review of Memento, please click here.


Thanks for reading!  What is your favorite Christopher Nolan movie?  Comment below to make your thoughts heard.

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Nick Kush

A current young professional in the greater D.C. area, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 and hasn't look back since! Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society and the Washington DC Film Critics Association. You can follow Nick on Twitter @nkush42

84 Responses

  1. My N#1 is The Dark Knight. Nolan really raised the bar on that one, it surpasses any action/superhero films I have ever seen to this day. My N#2 is Memento, it’s a great movie and I don’t quite understand why it is being remade.
    I don’t know where I would rank Following but I really enjoyed it. It is too short but that movie was made a budget of $6000, that’s quite an amazing accomplishment with such a small amount of money!
    I think Nolan is also a very creative writer, his stories are very interesting even though I found Inception a little too complicated at first viewing (I had too see it twice to fully understand what was going on).
    I haven’t seen Dunkirk yet because I am a bit burnt out on WWII movies, but so far I have enjoyed all of his movies.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I always like how he plays with time and turns fairly linear stories into something much more. Memento would be a pretty generic story with a linear storyline!

  2. I totally agree with Dunkirk ranking as his worst till date, I found it very hard to connect with the movie. Plus his forte has always been a non linear screen play, for the first time I felt that its become repetitive.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I hadn’t even thought of the nonlinear screenplay element, youre so right! I’ll still see his films because they’re all fascinating even if they aren’t great, but he definitely needs to change up his formula!

  3. Really really liked this post! Very similar to what I would have suggested, although I think Dunkirk should be placed a little higher. Baffles me how people don’t like this work!

  4. Greg says:

    While I may not fully agree with this list (and I haven’t seen Dunkirk) it’s exceptionally close to what my Nolan top 10 would be, love seeing other perspectives of the same films

  5. I agree with most of it although I would put Inception or Dark Knight in the first spot. Inception, Dark Knight and Prestige are my top 3.

  6. _newaj says:

    Haven’t seen memento yet. But got some of my favorite movies in the list. Nolan is a Legend.

  7. Jina Jay says:

    My List: Batman Begins, Inception, Momento,The Prestige, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar. Haven’t seen Dunkirk yet.

  8. I agree with a lot of what you said here. While for me personally The Dark Knight would go in the #1 spot, Memento is still a flawlessly crafted film

  9. TMH says:

    I can’t disagree with your rating of Memento.

  10. psiberite says:

    Thank you for introducing me to Chris Nolan. I hope to see his movies. Anand Bose from Kerala

  11. H. says:

    So glad you happened to like my new blog Teacher-Voice and discovered this gem! Love Chris Nolan and was just talking about him the other day with others and we were ranking his films in a similar way. Thanks, Nick!

  12. I’d agree with Memento also – I still like The Dark Knight though it’s a bit long in hindsight. For me, Nolan’s films are like independent films with massive budgets, outside of Insomnia and Memento he’s a great subdued popcorn director. Looking forward to Dunkirk, though.

  13. This is a good list! Memento is a absolute classic, although i’d put The Dark Knight at the top of mine. Prestige; what a movie!!

  14. psiberite says:

    I don’t watch movies but your narrative is spell binding. Anand Bose from Kerala

  15. talesbytink says:

    I have a soft spot for The Dark Knight because of Heath Ledger and he was such an awesome actor and his death was tragic. I saw it around the time he died, at the flicks in Germany, I was a little homesick for Australia and it touched a nerve. I liked the way it handled its themes too. The Prestige was a great film, I’d like to watch it again. Haven’t seen Batman Begins but now I want to. And Memento has been on my list for years. Guy Pearce is another stand out actor. Soft spot for Aussies, obviously! Good overview of the films, thanks.

  16. KalyanSingh says:

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  17. KalyanSingh says:

    nice dude i like it

  18. Kanesha says:

    I LOVE BATMAN and I REALLY, REALLY REALLY wanted to love the Dark Knight, because I love Bane as well, however I think Bale was a poor choice for Batman, I could barely understand what he was saying, his speech was unintelligible. But the movie was well rounded. Inception was my favorite though, and memorable too.

  19. ghostof82 says:

    The Prestige is probably my favourite. Its pretty much perfect regards achieving what it aims for and doesn’t rely on major stunts or spectacle. The characters work and are pretty likeable too. Nolans films generally suffer from a Kubrick-like emotional detachment that distances the viewer, but I don’t think that applies to The Prestige.

  20. Great list! Following is the only movie on the list that I haven’t seen, so I’ll have to check it out. My list would go:

    1. Interstellar
    2. The Dark Knight
    3. Inception
    4. Batman Begins
    5. The Dark Knight Rises
    6. Insomnia
    7. The Prestige
    8. Memento

    I know I’m in the minority when it comes to Memento. I saw it shortly after it came out and didn’t really enjoy it. I should give it another shot.

  21. Inception was probably my favorite even though I am a die hard Batman fan. I want to see how Ben Afflek does before I make a decision about my favorite Batman. But Inception was such a mind trip, I loved it!

  22. cadepb says:

    All of these are great films, no doubt in my mind. But in my opinion, when it comes to his best, then Inception has to be Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus. It’s original, rewatchable, believable, and proves that summer movies can have the narrative and emotional heft of arthouse films.

  23. For me, Interstellar (my vote for top pick) is one of those films which I appreciate more with repeated viewings.

  24. Karandi says:

    I wasn’t a big fan of his take on Batman (I know, I’m in the minority), but I like quite a few of his other films. He’s an interesting actor.

  25. raistlin0903 says:

    Am a complete and utter fan of Christopher Nolan, as stated earlier. This is a great list. Except for Following and Memento I have seen them all. Strangely enough ( and yes I know I am in the minority on this) I liked The Dark Knight Rises more than The Dark Knight (even though both of them are pretty much very close to each other). Insomnia was in my opinion a very underrated movie. Great, and ofcourse it had Pacino, who was a terrific actor. My favorite movie to date has been Interstellar, but I have the funny feeling that Dunkirk is going to take the number one spot. Loved this post! Great to see this overview and be reminded of his greatness ??

  26. Jade says:

    Memento is easily his best, but The Dark Knight and Inception come close. The man has never made a bad movie, and I’m so excited for Dunkirk!

  27. Nice to know I’m not the only one who has Dark Knight Rises near the end.

    Can you do a worst-to-best Hitchcock films list?

  28. Bookgirl says:

    Memento and Inception are hard to choose between, maybe just because I love Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I really liked Interstellar and The Prestige too. I discovered The Prestige was a book after I saw the movie and read it several years later – it’s equally good yet preposterous. I am embarrassed to say I never saw Batman Begins. I need to go back and watch it and then rewatch the second two in the trilogy.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Nice list! Nolan’s Bateman trilogy is my fav superhero saga but I haven’t seen much else on here. Can’t wait to check them out

  30. Picking a favorite for Nolan turned out to be easier than expected. He makes solid movies but nothing quite beats the awesomeness of Memento. There was an actual mind-blowing factor to just understanding and realizing how to piece it all together.

  31. Carrie says:

    I sometimes wish he was still the storyteller who would make that kind of movie like Memento. Anyway, my fav might not be the popular choice either lol- Interstellar. I know lots of people didn’t really enjoy it, but that was the one movie that changed my perspective on film and cinema. I wasn’t born at a time when 2001 space odyssey could still have The tremendous impact on teenagers who have that passion for movies. And I admit the ending of Interstellar was cliche and I thought he would done something cooler or unpredictable. But god I’m so glad he did that! Cuz for me that’s what makes him the perfect filmmaker (Yeah I’m like super cliche sometimes). I think Denis Villeneuve might achieve something like that. Cant wait to see blade runner!

  32. dronstadblog says:

    When I come to thinking, I can’t find a movie that I “don’t like” from Nolan, although I know people that hate him with a passion… I have to run and hide now.

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