Here’s our list of the all the Christopher Nolan movies ranked. Arguably the greatest modern director working today, Nolan very rarely misses. He’s so good, in fact, that even the films at the bottom of this list are pretty damn brilliant. He’s captured the horrors of war, the art of magic, and the terrifying unknown of the universe, and has even mastered time travel.
Christopher Nolan has done it all, and his appeal is so vast that every time he releases a new picture, it becomes a genuine cinematic event — you only have to look at the atmospheric hype surrounding his new movie, Oppenheimer, to see that. He may be best known as the director of an incredible trilogy of Batman movies, but he’s also made some of the best movies of all time and shows no signs of stopping.
So, where do we stand on getting the Christopher Nolan movies ranked? It wasn’t easy, but we got there in the end because we’re the heroes you deserve and need.
All the Christopher Nolan movies ranked worst to best:
- The Dark Knight Rises
- Batman Begins
- The Prestige
- The Dark Knight
It makes sense that Nolan’s feature-length debut wouldn’t quite be as sharp or stunning as his later work, and though there are definite signs in Following that Nolan was set for the top, this ‘90s movie is a little rough around the edges.
A story of a young writer following strangers in the hopes of finding inspiration turns into a twisted crime-thriller movie, limited mainly by the resources available to Nolan at this time.
Not many people can say they bagged absolute A-list stars like Robin Williams and Al Pacino in only their third-ever feature, but Nolan did just that. With Insomnia, Nolan gets his teeth into a grizzly murder and really starts to establish his visual style and penchant for intricate stories.
Both Williams and Pacino are in fantastic form here, and while Insomnia finds itself near the foot of the rankings, it’s still a very solid detective movie that is well worth a watch.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Nolan rounded out his Batman trilogy with an epic, slightly chaotic thrill ride through Gotham City on the precipice of annihilation at the hands of the Batman villain Bane, played brilliantly by Tom Hardy.
The Dark Knight Rises is a little bit messy in places, and its plot has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese, but it’s still a lot of fun and has plenty of excellent action movie set pieces. It was always going to be a hard act to follow, being a sequel to the revered The Dark Knight, but Nolan wrapped up his time as one of the best superhero movie creators effectively enough here.
After contending with superheroes, space, and magic, Nolan went for a more grounded approach with his stunning war movie Dunkirk. Far from the typical all-guns blazing depiction of trench warfare, Nolan delivered an equally tense yet far more melancholic and meditative picture with this movie based on a true story.
This tale of young soldiers being evacuated from the beaches in World War II is brought to life with impeccable skill, and Dunkirk excels on every technical level. With heart-pounding sound design, striking imagery, and slick editing, Dunkirk is a triumph.
In the midst of a global pandemic, Nolan did his best to save cinema, and he damn near succeeded with this mind-melting time travel movie. Harnessing the star power of Robert Pattinson and putting John David Washington in the lead role, this story of temporal terrorism is utterly captivating, if not a little confusing.
Tenet also suffers from some questionable sound design, but aside from those few criticisms, this is a spy movie that well and truly redefines the idea of blockbuster cinema. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Nolan crashes an actual plane while making Tenet. While that’s not something we recommend any filmmaker does, you have to respect Nolan’s quest for absolute authenticity.
Batman Begins (2005)
Nolan stepped up to the plate and tackled arguably the most iconic superhero of all time just six years into his filmmaking career, and he knocked it out of the park. Batman Begins is an origin story which plants its titular hero in a more gritty and grounded Gotham than we have ever seen before and succeeds in it.
The MCU would come along three years later and start a phenomenon of more fun family movies, but Nolan wanted to do something significantly more mature with his venture into the arena of capes and cowls. Batman Begins has all the theatricality and flamboyance of Tim Burton’s Batman movies while putting character development at the fore and making Bruce Wayne vulnerable for the first time.
Any filmmaker would kill to have a sophomore feature as impressive as Nolan’s 2000s movie Memento. The meticulous and mesmerizing narrative at the heart of this film is one which is still analysed and examined to this day, and the level of control Nolan has over his story is astounding. It’s here that he truly marked himself as one of the future best directors ever seen.
Guy Pearce plays Leonard, a man suffering from short-term memory loss who tries to piece together the mystery of who murdered his wife and why. Leonard’s journey is riveting, throwing up one of the best plot twists in movie history along the way, and the beauty of it is the movie loses none of its impact even on repeat viewings.
The Prestige (2006)
Who knew magicians could form the basis of a most gripping drama movie? Far from the pantomime of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, The Prestige is full of death, shocking surprises, and David Bowie and features some marvelously morbid magic tricks.
While many people recognize the merits of The Prestige, it is still probably Nolan’s most underrated movie. Batman actor Christian Bale leads the line alongside Hugh Jackman as the pair engage in a heated rivalry to perform the perfect magic trick, with tragic consequences.
Nolan’s newest movie marks a slight change in pace for the master filmmaker. It’s not the first time he’s dabbled in real-life tales, but it just to happens to be his longest and biggest movie to date. Focusing on the life and work of J. Robert Oppenheimer (the father of the atomic bomb), Nolan brings some of the best actors of all time together for his Oppenheimer cast.
It’s not light fare, and asks some major questions about the value of morality and the consequences of innovation. But it’s completely memorable for reasons other than its incredibly crafted atomic bomb detonation sequence. Part biographical retelling, part political thriller, Oppenheimer is clearly Nolan’s passion project, and tells this story in a way nobody has ever dared before.
In 2010, Nolan really began to take the ambition of his work up a notch, and Inception remains one of the most dazzling achievements in cinematic history. An all-star cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, and Tom Hardy feature in this story of dream-sharing technology and dimension-bending warfare.
Inception is like the ultimate adventure movie for adults, with a story full of twists and turns, breathtaking visuals, and action set pieces that will leave your jaw on the floor.
Clearly, Nolan decided he had mastered Earth-based storytelling, and so, with Interstellar, he took audiences on a searing ride through the darkest depths of space. As far as the best science fiction movies go, there’s a good chance that Interstellar is the most authentic of them all, with Nolan even managing to depict a black hole with a scary level of accuracy before anyone had even captured an image of one.
Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper embarks on a mission that will take him to the very edge of our universe, tearing him away from his family, and the climactic sequence here is heartbreaking as he realizes all that he has lost along the way.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Okay, we know this is a bit of an obvious choice, but it’s obvious for a reason. The Dark Knight is not just a good Batman movie; it’s literally one of the greatest movies ever made, regardless of genre.
While Joker actor Heath Ledger deservedly steals all the plaudits, there’s just so much to love about The Dark Knight. The story is a brilliant web of corruption, betrayal, and morality, brought together by an ensemble cast firing on all cylinders. All of the blistering action is set against a backdrop of wonderful cinematography and a musical score from Hans Zimmer that will send shivers down your spine. The Dark Knight is sheer perfection.
And there we have it! What a filmography that is. If you enjoyed our list of the Christopher Nolan movies ranked, you may want to dive into our list of the best Steven Spielberg movies, or all the James Cameron movies ranked. You can also take a look at all the Batman movies in order, and find out what the next Christopher Nolan movie is.
And for more on his newest feature, take a look at our Oppenheimer review and find out all you need to know about the Oppenheimer sex scene controversy explained, as well as answer to “How did Christopher Nolan film Oppenheimer atomic bomb scenes?” You can also see what’s next with all the new movies coming soon.