From the beaches of Dunkirk to the streets of Gotham. From the dreamscapes of the mind to landscapes of alien planets.
Christopher Nolan's movies have taken us everywhere and somehow made it all look like a sleek watch commercial. But don't knock it if it works—his films look amazing!
Here's our verdict on Christopher Nolan's best movies when pitted against each other in a contentious winner-takes-all comparison.
9. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Dark Knight Rises failed to live up to expectations in so many ways, but it does have several redeeming qualities.
The opening plane-hijacking sequence is one of the coolest action scenes in movie history. This madness was a practical stunt! There was very minimal use of visual effects. Nolan has stated that it's his favorite scene that he has ever filmed.
8. Memento (2000)
Memento is a bit confusing on first watch, but it earns the right to be confusing... and earns a second viewing along with it.
Guy Pearce plays Leonard, a man with anterograde amnesia—a condition that renders a person unable to create short-term memories. The last thing Leonard remembers is the brutal assault and murder of his wife.
This memory, which is forever fresh in his mind as his last experience, drives his sole obsession of revenge. He investigates and hunts his wife's killer by taking polaroid pictures of everything, and tattooing important notes all over his body.
The narrative is told in reverse, so you begin to understand the story in a similar way to how Leonard sees things—always working backwards. You're as confused and in the dark as he is.
It's a jarring and unsettling experience, but one worth undertaking for at the very least the sheer novelty.
7. Inception (2010)
This movie has its problems, but it's a really entertaining watch. The special effects are amazing, it's packed with action from start to finish, and it has an innovative—though complex—premise.
The idea of a dream... within a dream... within a dream... confused a lot of people, but I found it to be a much more thought-out concept than the end of Interstellar.
If you don't overthink it and just go along for the ride, Inception can be a super enjoyable blockbuster action experience.
6. Interstellar (2014)
Interstellar ended up biting off more than it could chew, but still ended up being pretty good.
While the grandiose ambition failed to deliver a satisfying conclusion, the ride getting there was great. (This is assuming there wasn't something I missed that others got.)
I'm guessing there are other people out there who were left with the same befuddled feeling as to what the hell happened at the end. I'm also guessing that most of these people enjoyed it regardless. Aside from the ending, it's a good movie.
Interstellar plays with cool sci-fi concepts and alien planet landscapes, which are barren and uniform yet totally awesome and engrossing with their environment designs. Overall, it's a fantastic cinematic experience that's worthwhile.
5. Insomnia (2002)
Insomnia is an adaptation of a 1997 Norwegian movie of the same name. It's a fairly typical thriller that manages to rise above its mold in the deft hands of Christopher Nolan.
In it, Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a detective beset by insomnia while trying to catch a killer in Alaska during a time of year when the sun doesn't set.
As with most of his movies, Insomnia looks great. The Alaskan wilderness is a perfect playground for Nolan's visual talents.
Nolan does a great job portraying the disorienting effects of prolonged sleeplessness. The whole movie has a surreal, dreamy look that really impresses upon you how confused and off-kilter the detective's perception of the world becomes.
If you're looking for a straight-forward thriller that delivers more than the usual fare, then Insomnia is definitely worth your time.
4. Batman Begins (2005)
By now, everyone seems kind of sick of the endless rehashing of Batman's origin story. Batman Begins is the best version in any of the live-action films though.
Batman's quest to develop the skills necessary to become the caped crusader are the coolest parts of this movie.
First he's in prison scrapping with convicts for practice. Then he's off to the secluded mountain monastery, where he is trained by a diabolical secret society before blowing the place up. Then it's back to Gotham where he puts his new skills to use.
While the movie loses some momentum by the end, it keeps up the pace enough to qualify as one of the best Batman movies.
3. The Prestige (2006)
The Prestige is one of those rare movies that's absolutely better on the second watch.
After you know the ending—"the trick to the illusion"—it almost becomes a different movie altogether. The performances (especially Christian Bale's) take on a whole new dimension.
There are small things that you wouldn't notice the first time around that become hugely significant once you're no longer misdirected by Christopher Nolan's sleight-of-hand.
With The Prestige, Christopher Nolan is the magician and the movie is the trick. And like with most tricks, once you realize what's going on, you'll notice all of the clues that were right in front of your eyes the whole time.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
The themes explored in The Dark Knight could have been conveyed more subtlety, but overall this movie is awesome. And since when have comic books been subtle, anyway?
Like it or not, The Dark Knight revolutionized the superhero movie genre. Heath Ledger set a new bar for villainy and Christopher Nolan made a convincing argument that these types of movies should be taken seriously.
1. Dunkirk (2017)
Dunkirk is a beautifully shot movie about the desperate evacuation of British, Belgian, and French troops from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk in the North of France. Winston Churchill referred to the event as a "colossal military disaster."
Keeping in line with Churchill's description, Dunkirk the film is basically a disaster movie. It drops you right in the middle of frantic terror with no outside historical or political context. What you experience is the event itself in a vacuum.
It's chaos without a cause and impending doom without a face, which might be the best way to depict the viewpoint of someone caught in this mess. (I wouldn't know. I've personally never experienced anything like this in my life!)
With its stunning cinematography and glorious sound production, Dunkirk is one of the most accurate glimpses into this level of calamity that audiences have ever gotten.