Christopher Nolan Movies Ranked Including Oppenheimer

How do you gauge the filmography of someone who has never made a bad movie? Tasked with ranking the best Christopher Nolan movies after the release of Oppenheimer, I can’t help but marvel at the iconic director‘s incredible oeuvre and hate the idea of organizing any of his pictures ahead of the other. Some of his work features more flaws than others, but the man has done very little wrong during his 25-plus years in the industry. It’s remarkable. Is there another director with a similar résumé?

How do you gauge the filmography of someone who has never made a bad movie? Tasked with ranking the best Christopher Nolan movies after the release of Oppenheimer, I can’t help but marvel at the iconic director‘s incredible oeuvre and hate the idea of organizing any of his pictures ahead of the other. Some of his work features more flaws than others, but the man has done very little wrong during his 25-plus years in the industry. It’s remarkable. Is there another director with a similar résumé?

Does Nolan’s Oppenheimer blow his portfolio to smithereens? Check out the list below to see where his latest effort ranks among his stunning array of films. Then, sound off with your own list in the comments below!

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12) Insomnia (2002)

I watched Insomnia out of curiosity some years back and thought it was a good movie with solid performances, particularly by Al Pacino and Robin Williams, and not much else. A remake of a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, Insomnia feels like a transitional film made by a director trying to find his groove following his breakout hit, Memento. There are various Nolan elements sprinkled throughout, but none of it quite gels the way his later pictures do, resulting in a captivating, if not forgettable, early aughts thriller more memorable for its performances than its storyline, which is why it’s at the bottom of our list of the best Christopher Nolan movies.

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11) Following (1998)

I’ve only seen Following once, respected it, and never wanted to watch it again. Why? It’s a weird ass movie that crawls under your skin and makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience. It’s an excellent flick, particularly considering its thin $7,000 budget, but bleak as hell and not exactly the type of entertainment you pop in on a Saturday night.

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10) Tenet (2020)

When a film like Tenet ranks as one of your worst movies, you’re doing something right. Tenet, a time-traveling action extravaganza, isn’t bad. As summer blockbusters go, I’d rank it as one of the more ambitious offerings of the last decade. A few clunky elements keep this film from ascending to greater heights. John David Washington’s performance as the Protagonist doesn’t quite stick, but mostly because he spends most of the movie explaining the complex plot. The time travel element is more confusing than captivating. While visually thrilling, the final action sequence is difficult to follow, and the lack of an emotional throughline makes it challenging to care about the events on screen.

Still, there are several aspects of Tenet that pop. Robert Pattinson is a blast as the Protagonist’s right-hand man. Set pieces, such as the famed 747 plane crash, are appropriately epic, and when you finally put it all together, one can’t help but appreciate the complexities of Nolan’s sprawling narrative. Tenet is a solid B+ heat check from a director working hard to live up to his lofty reputation.

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9) Interstellar (2014)

This might be too low for Interstellar, a phenomenal sci-fi thriller about mankind’s quest for survival, starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chasten, and Michael Caine. Each viewing brings plenty of rewards, from Hoyte van Hoytema’s stunning cinematography to Hans Zimmer’s breathtaking score to the heady ideas about time and space, leading to an intelligent, though surprisingly muted, finale that doesn’t quite stick.

Nolan makes a valiant effort to blend intellectual complexity with emotional depth in Interstellar. Throughout the film, his characters engage in discussions about the intricacies of love, and certain scenes between Cooper and his daughter carry a powerful emotional weight, tugging at the heartstrings of the audience. However, amidst the grand spectacle of mind-bending sequences, such as the mesmerizing setting of a water-covered planet and the awe-inspiring docking scene, these emotional moments tend to get overshadowed.

Interstellar truly shines when it embraces its scientific elements, exploring the wonders of space and time with remarkable depth and authenticity. As much as it strives to be emotionally profound, the film’s true brilliance lies in its exploration of science and the fascinating possibilities it presents.

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8) Batman Begins (2005)

Nolan’s first foray into Batman resulted in one of the stronger blockbusters of the mid-2000s. Thanks to solid writing, a terrific cast led by Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, and Katie Holmes, and a fast pace that steadily drives the film towards its climactic third act, Batman Begins kicks the Dark Knight trilogy off on a high note, even if it pales mightily against its more ambitious sequels.

You can see shades of Nolan’s signature style bursting through the production, but too often, his vision is held back in favor of eager-to-please action that hits all the right notes but never soars. Batman Begins is solid escapism that deftly sets up its hero but lacks the epic scale that would eventually define this Caped Crusader.

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7) The Prestige (2006)

Is it fair to call The Prestige the most exciting boring movie ever made? At 130 minutes, this dark magician drama starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale is long but never dull, talky but spellbinding. Nolan zips around through different eras to tell his story. He paints an incredibly complex portrait of two men obsessed with magic who go to great lengths to outperform each other, resulting in death, pain, and sorrow. Despite a tacked-on happy ending, The Prestige ranks with Following as Nolan’s darkest film, and the director’s willingness to peer deep into the shadows is precisely what makes it so stimulating.

Though the ending may slightly disappoint as the film takes an unexpected fantastical turn, the overall journey, set against David Julyan’s haunting score, is powerful enough to place The Prestige on the higher end of Nolan’s illustrious filmography.

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6) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan’s epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy, is best described as a clunky spectacle. Its grand scale, packed with familiar and new characters, is supported by muscular action sequences and enhanced by one of Hans Zimmer’s best scores. Still, Nolan bites off a little more than he can chew here and pads the final act with far too many contrivances that induce more questions than cheers.

No matter, this is still thrilling stuff. Christian Bale carries the picture as Batman, delivering a solid performance as a broken and battered Caped Crusader struggling to reconcile his life’s work. At the same time, Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy are terrific as the villains Catwoman and Bane, adding layers of complexity to their characters.

While it may not reach the heights of its predecessor, Rises remains an electrifying and emotionally satisfying finale that deserves greater appreciation than it has received. Nolan’s vision and the cast’s performances contribute to an exciting and memorable conclusion to his iconic Batman trilogy, setting it in the top half of our list of the best Christopher Nolan movies ranked.

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5) Dunkirk (2017)

For all its historical inaccuracies, Dunkirk will undoubtedly go down as one of the all-time great WWII films. Enormous in scope, handsomely produced, and thrillingly staged, this tale about the Dunkirk evacuation slingshots viewers through three different storylines and uses time as a weapon designed to eek as much intensity as humanly possible. Where other war pictures like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down are visceral in their depiction of gory combat, Nolan focuses less on grizzly details in favor of psychological horror — the hopelessness, desperation, and futility of combat. He places viewers in one intense situation after the other: on a doomed destroyer, on a slowly sinking trawler, on a tiny boat alongside a soldier suffering from PTSD, inside the cockpit of a Spitfire, and on a beach where soldiers endure endless waves of German bombings.

Dunkirk zips by at just over 106 minutes but never feels rushed. We feel the tension and witness the struggle for survival. Here is an intense ride that tosses its viewers into the grinder and doesn’t let up until its final moments, resulting in a modern classic; a near-flawless film that deserves recognition alongside the greats.

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4) Oppenheimer (2023)

Oppenheimer stands as Christopher Nolan’s most remarkable cinematic achievement. However, I hesitate to immediately place it above his existing masterpieces until I’ve had the opportunity to experience it multiple times.

In this dark and captivating biography, Nolan presents J. Robert Oppenheimer as an intelligent yet flawed individual, deeply entangled in his love for science and his fears of the consequences of his creations. Running a brisk three hours, Nolan allows us to delve into the complexities of its subject, painting Oppenheimer not as a legendary figure but as a pragmatic man navigating through history, grappling with the uncertain future his actions are shaping.

Nolan’s cinematic brilliance shines through as he deftly navigates multiple timelines, transforming what could have been a mundane movie into an utterly mesmerizing and thrilling experience. His mastery of sound and music elevates the intensity of every scene, while the use of IMAX cameras enhances even the most exposition-driven moments, expanding their scope.

In the first half, the film meticulously builds towards a heart-pounding sequence centered around a nuclear bomb test. However, in the last hour, Nolan’s genius truly shines as he delves into the emotional repercussions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, particularly exploring how the immense destruction weighed heavily on Oppenheimer’s shoulders.

Despite lengthy courtroom battles and conversations behind closed doors, Nolan’s sharp direction and editing ensure that the story never lags, keeping audiences thoroughly engrossed from start to finish. The film’s seamless flow and gripping narrative captivate viewers, making Oppenheimer an unforgettable cinematic experience.

The film is further elevated by its stellar cast, with Cillian Murphy delivering a nuanced performance worthy of accolades. The supporting actors, including Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., and Matt Damon, equally impress, adding to the film’s remarkable ensemble. Special mention goes to the cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, composer Ludwig Göransson, editor Jennifer Lame, and the sound team for their impeccable contributions.

Even though Oppenheimer has just been released and will require a few more viewings to fully appreciate, I am confident in considering it one of the best Christopher Nolan movies. This brilliant motion picture stands apart by respecting its audience’s intelligence, presenting a dark and bleak examination of humanity. Oppenheimer is the kind of film that lingers in your mind long after the credits roll, leaving a profound impact that stays with you.

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3) Memento (2000)

The best of Nolan’s character projects, Memento, is small in scale but enormous in its repercussions. Starring Guy Pearce as a man battling short-term memory loss while searching for his wife’s killer, the story works backward, starting from the end and making its way towards the beginning so that viewers are, like the film’s protagonist, left scrambling to make sense of the situation. Nolan knows how to place a viewer in the shoes of a character and make us feel what they are feeling. In this case, we empathize with Leonard down to the bitter, twisted end.

Memento is a tour de force of filmmaking, characterized by its ingenious writing, top-notch performances, and deft direction. Nolan’s ability to intertwine mystery, psychological drama, and intricate character development is nothing short of jaw-dropping. It remains an enduring testament to his storytelling prowess and a remarkable achievement in his storied career.

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2) Inception (2010)

Nolan’s rise to stardom began with The Dark Knight, and his subsequent film, Inception, further solidified his status as a cinematic powerhouse. Inception’s marketing rightfully listed Nolan’s name alongside a stellar cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, and Cillian Murphy — this is the first film I remember seeing specifically because of Nolan. And boy, oh boy, did he deliver!

In my opinion, Inception remains the best blockbuster since, well, The Dark Knight. The film is packed with ideas, action, drama, and well-developed characters, surpassing even Nolan’s other major event films. The dream concept is brilliantly realized without compromising character depth or story, and the action is superb. Nolan skillfully mines a wealth of emotions from DiCaprio’s portrayal of Dom Cobb, a man yearning to reunite with his children, giving the audience a reason to care about the well-executed shootouts, chases, and plot twists.

Furthermore, Inception boasts mesmerizing set pieces, many executed using practical effects, like the breathtaking zero-gravity fight sequence in a hotel hallway and the intense battle atop a snow-covered military base. Remarkably, every element feels grounded, allowing viewers to fully immerse themselves in the onscreen chaos without sacrificing the fascinating, fantastical elements. Throw in Hans Zimmer’s impressive score and the visually stunning work of Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister, and Inception cements its status as a genuine classic and a truly extraordinary action-packed spectacle.

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1) The Dark Knight (2008)

After three years of anticipation, Nolan returned to the world of Batman, and he delivered beyond expectations. While Batman Begins served as a solid introduction to the franchise, The Dark Knight takes everything to the next level. The action is grander, the stakes higher, and the villains more menacing. This film became a defining moment in Nolan’s career, showcasing his exceptional cinematic abilities. With his adept writing (alongside brother Jonathan Nolan), masterful directing, and unwavering ambition, Nolan crafts an unforgettable experience. The massive $185M budget never overshadows his vision, only amplifying it through the lens of IMAX cameras and Wally Pfister’s remarkable cinematography.

Christian Bale returns as the iconic Dark Knight, facing off against Heath Ledger’s legendary portrayal of the Joker. Their confrontation is gripping and deeply personal, but Nolan goes beyond the surface, exploring the profound impact of their actions on Gotham City. The movie delves into the intricate web of the Batman mythos, dissecting his ideologies, ethical dilemmas, and the essence of heroism. Nolan skillfully raises thought-provoking questions about privacy, terrorism, and the blurred line between justice and revenge. These weighty themes set The Dark Knight apart from typical blockbusters and Nolan fearlessly uses them as a springboard for powerful storytelling.

Even today, The Dark Knight’s impact remains profound, standing as a testament to what a Hollywood blockbuster can achieve when crafted with genuine passion and dedication. It stands tall as number one on our list of the best Christopher Nolan movies ranked, captivating audiences with its brilliance and leaving an indelible mark on the superhero genre.