If there is a definite way of ranking Christopher Nolan movies, I don’t know it yet. Over the years, I have seen his cinema countless times and remained in awe of the technicalities and sheer ingenuity in the conceptualization. I maintained Interstellar as my favourite Christopher Nolan film for a long time. But then I rewatched his other movies and changed my opinion.
For a filmography as illustrious, it is impossible to stick to just one film and regard it as the best one. His latest and the eleventh, Tenet, falls in the same category as Memento, The Prestige, and Inception, which warrants several viewings to understand and most importantly, appreciate its uniqueness.
Hence, the following ranking is subject to change over time as I re-experience his films and revise my opinion. But for now, here are all 11 Christopher Nolan movies ranked:
11) Following (1998)
As a debut film, produced on a budget of mere $6,000, Following remains a brilliant noir.
The film had a non-linear narrative, chronologically the first time for Christopher Nolan, allowing the best use of its odd runtime. At 70 minutes, it was as much comprehensive and intense as an average length feature.
Despite the absence of well-known actors, Nolan churned out compelling performances. It is ranked at the bottom, for Nolan’s other films are aesthetically and conceptually superior.
10) Tenet (2020)
This may come as a shocker, but Tenet is the first Christopher Nolan film that disappoints. And it is disappointing by Nolan’s own standards.
Though awe-inspiring as a visual-auditory experience, the film is emotionally distant and lacks good writing. A lot has been said about how Nolan is a better visual artist than as a writer. Tenet stamps it.
Half of the film is let down by tedious exposition, spy-movie cliches, and a severe limitation in character development. Nolan appears concentrated solely on the hijinks, ignoring character building, which costs the film substantially.
Nevertheless, it is far off from being a bad film. It deserves to be seen multiple times to fully untangle its genuinely fascinating plot and appreciate the audacity of Nolan as a risk-taking filmmaker.
9) Insomnia (2002)
Insomnia is to Nolan what Duel is to Steven Spielberg. It is the most underappreciated (arguably the least-watched) film of his career, despite being a near-perfect psychological thriller.
A remake of 1997 original, the film is right away dumped by Nolan fans as his weakest, which is understandable. It lacks the big-scale action scenes, temporal trickery, and capes, which he is famous for. However, it is the only film of his career where he remains focused on the direction and takes a backseat to allow the fantastic cast to take center stage.
It is sheer delightful to follow the cat and mouse game between Al Pacino and Robin Williams, who are excellent in their roles. The film also substantially benefits from being set in Alaska, as the perpetually daylit surroundings become integral to Pacino’s journey. Special mention goes to David Julyan’s mesmerizing score that wholly transports you to the snowcapped scenery, creating an eerie atmosphere from start to finish.