Rankings

Rankings: 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.  With his next film, Dunkirk, due out this summer, I thought now would be a good time to explore all of Nolan’s films to date and rank them from worst to best.  As a warning, spoilers may be discussed so tread lightly.

#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.  The film has an interesting premise about a man who has a chronic issue of following people around, but it’s ultimately too dated to be ranked higher on this list.  I would advise you to check this film out if you get the chance, however!

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 78%

Metacritic Score: 60

MovieBabble Score: B

Following
image via The Film Authority

#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

MovieBabble Score: B+

The Dark Knight Rises
image via Plugged In

#7: Insomnia (2002): A forgotten but clever film in 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

MovieBabble Score: B+

Insomnia
image via Why So Blu?

#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

MovieBabble Score: B+

Interstellar
image via IndieWire

#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, 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

MovieBabble Score: A

Batman Begins
image via Forbes

#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

MovieBabble Score: A

Inception
image via cinefex.com

#3: The Prestige (2006): Another original film that’ll leave you speechless, The Prestige is one of the best magic movie 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

MovieBabble Score: A+

The Prestige
image via AMC

#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

MovieBabble Score: A+

The Dark Knight
image via Audiences Everywhere

#1: Memento (2000): This may not be the popular choice, but Memento does so much more with a limited budget than many of 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 launched Nolan’s career.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 92%

Metacritic Score: 80

MovieBabble Score: A+

Memento
image via Deadline

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

Thanks for reading!  What is your favorite Christopher Nolan movie?  Respond to the poll and comment below to make your thoughts heard.

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What movie topic should I discuss next?  Whether it be old or new, the choice is up to you!

43 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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 😊😊

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

      1. Even though it’s three hours long, I would recommend watching the ultimate edition rather than the theatrical release if you get the chance! The ultimate version has a much more streamlined storyline that is much less jarring

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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