Christopher Nolan Films Ranked

2. Interstellar (2014)

A philosophical undertaking unlike any that Christopher Nolan has worked on thus far, 2014 science fiction drama Interstellar – which follows Matthew McConaughey’s absent father figure traversing the universe to save humankind – is perhaps the most emotive film of Nolan’s career. In this empathetic look at love and loss, the filmmaker is able to make his complex ideas very personal, tapping into the universal human experience of losing time with the ones we love.

While controversial in some circles regarding the validity of its scientific foundations – a criticism that seems at odds with suspending your disbelief when ingesting an art form that by its very nature distorts space and time, and is dismissive of the production’s own scientific accomplishments in the realm of visual effects – Interstellar was a science fiction blockbuster movie of a filmmaking standard few others have been able to achieve.

Indelibly tied to Nolan’s unique authorial traits of glossy aesthetics and thematic explorations of time and man’s confrontations with environments not built for them, Interstellar is a tremendous example of the filmmaker at his most imaginative and empathetic, a genuinely heart-wrenching watch that expresses a lot about the director’s overall cinematic output.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

10 Best The Dark Knight Moments

In the middle entry of Christopher Nolan’s iconic DC Comics trilogy, the filmmaker set a new benchmark for superhero cinema and thus became a worldwide celebrity. This perfect post 9/11 analogy, following Christian Bale’s Batman facing a threat that seems to defy all logic and simply cannot be reasoned with, captured the zeitgeist of the time better than any other blockbuster from the era.

Using techniques considered to be old-school even in 2008 – in-camera visual effects and stunt work taking the place of computer generated imagery, the majority of the film being shot on traditional film stock – The Dark Knight borrowed from Nolan’s biggest inspiration Michael Mann (specifically Heat in this case) to present a tense thriller in a comic book disguise, an unmissable and always relevant tale of good versus evil and the shades of grey that blend the two.

With world-first IMAX footage complimenting his very real film stock presentation of a relatively dialled back comic book universe, the director importantly set the stage for one of the performances of our lifetimes: Heath Ledger as the Joker. The Oscar-winning portrayal was revolutionary for the burgeoning comic book sub-genre, and spoke of a dark truth in western culture that simmered beneath the surface in the paranoid era of the 2000s. His role was to bring total anarchy to the defined morality of this universe, and in turn made us question the very strict rules of our own.

The Dark Knight is arguably not as characteristic of Christopher Nolan’s authorship as DunkirkInception, or Oppenheimer, but it is without a doubt a classic of the screen and is an incomparable filmography entry in terms of its impact to its genre and to wider studio filmmaking; the best and most important film of a storied career.

Recommended for you: 10 Most Important Comic Book Movies Ever

But what do you think? Would you have ordered these films differently? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to never miss another insightful movie list.

This article was updated to include Oppenheimer on 16th September 2023. Originally published 26th June 2020.

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