I’ve ranked Christopher Nolan’s before, but at the time Interstellar had not yet been released. Additionally, I literally just ranked them and did not provide any details as to why I chose as I did. So this list is updated and more detailed than ever. Because I care about the fans.
Christopher Nolan's Films, in Order of Quality (Objective), Worst to Best
9.) Following- Nolan’s first film and it shows. A little muddy (although that could be the print I saw) and the performances are pretty flat. Still, atmospheric and intriguing.
8.) Interstellar- Kind of the opposite. Good performances in a beautiful looking film that unfortunately is overlong and ultimately devoid of intrigue or atmosphere.
7.) Insomnia- In striving for a kind of spaced out ethereal feel, Nolan sometimes ends up as airless.
6.) The Dark Knight Rises- Overlong, to speak in understatement, and it feels like it. Tom Hardy’s Bane and Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman are great editions to the Dark Knight world and Michael Caine continues to be an MVP. The third act revelation of the real villain fails to shock or add significant drama, however, and Bale as both Wayne and Batman seems absent, often. Also has a groaner of an epilogue involving Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character that feels forced and pointless.
5.) Batman Begins- While it has reaped some less than great things for the DCEU, Batman Begins was a welcome change of pace for super hero films. Serious and smart about the ins and outs of urban vigilantism with moments of humor to cut the pomposity. Bale’s Batman voice has been the subject of much sport since, but he nailed the real haunted Wayne and the feckless playboy mask so well and his physicality in costume is impressive.
4.) The Prestige- A puzzle box of a movie I’m not entirely sure plays it fair, it nonetheless is an example of Nolan’s talent for world building and capturing how obsession drives and destroys us.
3.) The Dark Knight- The best Batman film of all time. The best Joker so far. A great balance of hero and villain. A late appearance by the best depiction of Two-Face on the big screen. A joy.
2.) Memento- Nolan’s breakthrough film works as well on first watch as it does on the tenth. The kind of movie where knowing the twists and turns does not diminish it one bit. The non-linear storytelling is done so well with such an easy touch, it’s hard to believe this is only his second movie.
1.) Inception- All his themes—dead wife, obsession, unreliable world, big action set pieces—in a movie that is a special effects triumph where not one trick seems out of place or not in service of the story.
Christopher Nolan’s Films, in Order of Preference (Subjective), Least to Most Favorite
9.) Interstellar- For a movie with such rich emotional themes, it frequently felt too cold for my tastes.
8.) The Dark Knight Rises- The kind of movie that I like but leaves with a lingering un-ignorable feeling that maybe I don’t.
7.) Insomnia- Interesting, but the Pacino/Williams faceoff never crackles like I wanted it to.
6.) Batman Begins- I like so much of this but it is a bit undone by its climax.
5.) Following- I know this is way overranking this, but what can I say, I just like it. Something about the soon to be tapped potential just works on me.
4.) The Prestige- The kind of movie that seems engineered in a lab for me. A battle of wits movie. A movie involving “magic” that might actually be MAGIC. A mystery. A twist that the movie reveals right off but your mind does not catch up with it until the movie crosses that “T”. If Nolan did not hit my joy button so consistently this would be higher. But he gets me, man.
3.) The Dark Knight- I love Batman. This is the best Batman movie ever (excepting, perhaps, Mask of the Phantasm). Ergo…
2.) Inception- Beautiful. Trippy. Stylish action. Well-acted. I adore it.
1.) Memento- But I love this one even more. A wicked, sly sense of humor. Guy Pierce at his most magnetic. A noir for now that was neither a throwback nor a neo-noir. And the structure—audacious and it plays it fair. Standing ovation.