By Liam Grogan
There are few filmmakers who can boast as many noteworthy films as Christopher Nolan.
Plunged into the spotlight through his groundbreaking “The Dark Knight” trilogy, Nolan is known for his complex plots and thrilling, over-the-top visual and action sequences. Every fan will claim a different Nolan movie as their favorite, but there’s only one list you can look to as the true definitive ranking of his work: mine.
As a quick disclaimer, I will be leaving 2002’s “Insomnia” and 1998’s “Following” off this list, because firstly, I haven’t seen them, and secondly, I’m willing to bet you didn’t know those movies even existed until about 25 words ago. So, without further ado, here are the rankings:
8. “Batman Begins”
This is the only movie on the list that I actually don’t like. Everything about it is played extremely safe to the point of being overwhelmingly forgettable. Liam Neeson plays Liam Neeson, Christian Bale is okay as the titular role and the rest of the cast is … blah. Of all “The Dark Knight” movies, this one is the most expendable.
7. “The Dark Knight Rises”
Nothing would ever live up to Heath Ledger’s Joker, so the highest praise I’ll give Tom Hardy’s Bane is that he tried. Hardy physically looks the part, as does the film as a whole. It’s as visually impressive as both films before it, but no amount of bombasticism can keep this movie from feeling hollow. In a rewatch of “The Dark Knight” trilogy, I’d probably skip the first and third movies and just watch “The Dark Knight” three times in a row.
I have many friends who not only consider this their favorite Nolan film, but also their favorite film of all time. To those people, I nod politely and then try to change the subject. It’s certainly a good movie, but when compared to his later work seems quaint. I get the impression that Nolan was still coming into himself as a director, only hoping to pursue more ambitious productions.
5. “The Prestige”
This is the most divisive of Nolan’s films, so I’m saving the headache and putting it smack in the middle of my list. I don’t hate it, like many people do, but it’s also not the masterpiece that others claim. Much like “Memento,” “The Prestige” feels like a precursor to bigger, better things.
“Dunkirk” holds a weird place in Nolan’s filmography. It’s certainly not his most impressive work conceptually or visually, but it culminates in an amazing piece of filmmaking. It’s also my favorite of his uses of nonlinear storytelling and an excellent example of a movie with very little dialogue. Not to mention Harry Styles is also kinda great in it too…
While the plot makes it seem like it’ll break down into an incomprehensible mess, “Inception” remains comprehensive. Nolan takes this complex story and calculates exactly how much information to give to the audience at exactly the right time so the complicated story never becomes boring — which is an achievement. Many consider “Inception” as the epitome of Nolan’s style as a filmmaker.
I’m honestly still amazed that this movie even exists. A sci-fi space drama with time travel, dazzling visuals, an incredible score and a brutally emotional core, starring … Matthew McConaughey? However, I honestly believe that no other actor could have pulled this off the way he does. There’s no way you can watch this movie’s heartbreaking scenes and argue it doesn’t deserve to rank higher than “Inception” on my list.
1. “The Dark Knight”
Yeah, of course this was destined to be number one. This is the movie I’ve watched the highest number of times in my life and I fully intend on keeping it that way. Maybe I’m a little biased because I love the Batman cult, but there’s no arguing this movie is in a league of its own. This is the movie that DC has, unsuccessfully, tried to emulate for over a decade … and for good reason. It also has, of course, Heath Ledger as the Joker. Need I say more?