Ranking Christopher Nolan’s Best Movies

Christopher Nolan’s Best Movies

Ranking Christopher Nolan’s best movies is no easy task. But we’re a sucker for a challenge here at Bodog and are going to give it our best shot.

After Oppenheimer became Christopher Nolan’s first movie to win Best Picture at The Oscars (we know, right?!), we thought it only fitting to list some of his best work to date.


Knowing the genius film director, this list might not stay untouched for too long.

To see how far Nolan has come since he broke onto the cinema scene in the late ‘90s, we’ve created a list of Christopher Nolan’s best movies.

Following (1998)

Before Nolan had his breakthrough with Memento, he wrote and directed Following. This crime thriller was his first crack at filmmaking; he wrote, edited, directed and produced it independently, using his own money to pay for film stock. In order to stay in budget, the crew had to rehearse heavily, so as to minimize scene retakes as much possible (film was his greatest expense). Nolan used an Arriflex 16BL to film the movie.

The story is about a struggling writer who looks for character inspiration in the people around him. Keen to learn more, he begins stalking people and pushing the boundaries of voyeurism. Things take a dark turn and delve into criminal activities. Nolan uses his distinctive nonlinear plot line, which set it apart from other indie films of the time.

The movie was well-received, reaching a score of 83% on the Rotten Tomatoes website—a real accomplishment considering the $6,000 budget. Following made Scott Henderson’s list of Top 10 Films Made on a Shoestring Budget.

Memento (2000)

Nolan had more money to play with for Memento, his breakthrough film. The plot follows an ex-insurance investigator named Leonard Shelby who’s seeking vengeance for his murdered wife; however, he’s unable to create any new memories due to anterograde amnesia. Consequently, he navigates life by writing himself notes, keeping relevant Polaroids and tattooing his body. The movie has two narratives—one forward and one backward—as the plot is roughly pieced together to reflect the challenging mental condition.

After Brad Pitt turned down the lead role, Nolan wanted to tighten the budget and decided to cast Guy Pearce for the lead. Carrie-Anne Moss played the role of Natalie, a love interest of Shelby’s, and Joe Pantoliano was Teddy, a corrupt police officer.

Memento was positively received and developed a cult following over the years. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote a solid review, giving it three of four stars, although distinguishing it as a one-time watch. In 2017, the National Film Registry inducted it for its “cultural, historical or aesthetic significance.”

Batman Begins (2005)

Christopher Nolan was still in his earlier days as a director when he pitched the idea of a new Batman series to Warner Bros. The brand suffered in 1997 with the release of Batman and Robin—an overly campy production that flopped. Warner Bros accepted Nolan’s pitch and hired him to direct the new series.

The first movie in the trilogy dives deep into Batman’s past. Viewers get to see where he learned martial arts and why he broke off from the training base. You also get to meet Bruce Wayne’s intelligent and trusted butler, Alfred, who’s played by Michael Caine, and the tech expert from Wayne Enterprises (Morgan Freeman) who creates the gadgets, weaponry and most importantly, the Batmobile.

Getting the right actor for the lead was critical, as Nolan needed someone who could handle the personality of Bruce Wayne, an untrusting introvert who poses as a playboy, and also the brooding character of Batman. Nolan believed that Christian Bale could handle the complexity, and he was right—the series proved to be the best one yet.

The Prestige (2006)

Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan wrote the screenplay for The Prestige based on a book by Christopher Priest. This period piece is a psychological thriller that pits two magicians against the each other after a joint trick goes wrong and ends in tragedy. They continue to rival each other and attempt to expose each other’s tricks as the story takes a menacing turn.

A cast similar to Nolan’s Batman Begins is used here, including Christian Bale who plays the part of Alfred Borden, one of the rivalling magicians. Michael Caine, who’s Alfred Pennyworth in Batman Begins, returns and plays the part of the magician’s stage engineer, John Cutter. Hugh Jackman plays the other magician, and Scarlett Johansson is Borden’s assistant. The acting is very compelling, and the Victorian-style costume design and stage sets are mesmerizing.

The movie ranked 54th in the worldwide box office in 2006 and brought in over 100 million. It received favourable reviews that included three of four stars from Roger Ebert who called it “atmospheric, obsessive, almost satanic.” The movie was nominated for an Oscar in Cinematography and Art Direction.

The Dark Knight (2008)

The sequel to Batman Begins takes the genre in a more harrowing direction. The late Heath Ledger created a unique identity for the Joker, who’s more sadistic and deranged than the one Jack Nicholson played in 1989. Christian Bale is once again Bruce Wayne/Batman and viewers get to learn more about his troubled past.

The Warner Bros movie was the biggest box office hit in 2008, grossing just over one billion dollars internationally. The following year, it won one of the eight nominations at the Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger.

Roger Ebert applauded the film for taking things beyond the traditional comic book movie genre and turning it into an “engrossing tragedy with characters we come to care about.” The movie quickly eliminates any preconceptions about simple good vs evil by creating a villain who has a disturbed past that helped to turn him into the diabolical monster he is.

Inception (2010)

This mind-bending science-fiction thriller was a passion project of Nolan’s that took 10 years to write. He pointed to a specific time in college as the inspiration behind it; after pulling all-nighters trying to cram for exams, he’d find himself in these half-asleep half-awake states and would try to control his dreams.

The screenplay is about a white-collar thief named Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) who figures out how to extract people’s thoughts and ideas while they’re sleeping. He exploits this skill for high-paying corporate espionage clients. Eventually, he has the near-impossible task of figuring out not how to steal an idea, but how to Implant one instead.

Martin Scorsese’s Best Movies


Nolan’s penchant for non-linear narratives is at its best in this movie, which brought in under a billion dollars (fourth-most in 2010) world-wide at the box office. It received the maximum four stars from Roger Ebert, who described it as “a breathtaking juggling act” in his review.

Inception won four Academy Awards the following year: Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects. Nolan’s ability to bring the dream world to the screen and confuse viewers with the multiple layers of reality made this an impressive masterpiece.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The third segment of the Batman trilogy focuses on the era following the Joker’s reign of terror. The new villain in Gotham is Bane (played by Tom Hardy). Bane is a product of a terrifying fictional prison in the Middle East known as the Pit. After beating Batman in hand-to-hand combat, Bane sends him to the Pit where he’s forced to watch Gotham City erupt in chaos. Selina Kyle, better known as Cat Woman, is a big part of the story and is played by Anne Hathaway.

Christian Bale puts forth another flawless portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne. As for Hardy, this was his second time working with Nolan, having been part of the Inception cast. In order to fit the role, he had to put on 30 pounds and create an accent inspired by the English boxer Barley Gorman. Bane is beyond intimidating with his big bulky physique, shaved head and iconic vapor-inhaling mask.

Although The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for any Academy Awards, it did bring in well over one billion dollars worldwide at the box office—the most money of any Nolan movie.

Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar is a science fiction movie that presents the world as ecologically spoiled to the point of no return. The only hope for humanity is to find new habitable land through interstellar travel. In order to do this efficiently, a crew of astronauts locate a supermassive black hole that can propel them through space. Thanks to the work of theoretical astrophysicist Kip Thorne, viewers get to see a scientifically accurate depiction of one for the first time.

Matthew McConaughey plays the lead role of Cooper, a widowed ex-NASA pilot and engineer who turns to corn farming to try to mitigate the worldwide famine. He must leave his children to answer NASA’s call for help as he joins a team of astronauts in this perilous trek.

McConaughey fully commits to the role with the intensity he’s known for and connects viewers to the storyline with his internal struggle that revolves around leaving his family. The movie ranked 10th at the international box office in 2014, and was well received critically by Matt Zoller of RogerEbert.com. The following year, it won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Interstellar perhaps didn’t receive the immediate credit it deserved, but as time passes, it is quickly becoming recognised as one of Christopher Nolan’s best movies yet.

Dunkirk (2017)

One of Nolan’s more recent productions, Dunkirk tells the true story of 400,000 British and French soldiers who were trapped on a harbor in France in the Second World War and can’t make it over the channel to their homeland. While they’re stranded and waiting for rescue, German forces continue to mount attack after attack, increasing the pressure to get back home. With very little hope of survival, a call is made to civilians with boats to help rescue as many soldiers as possible.

Nolan returns some of the previous actors he’s worked with for this war epic, including Tom Hardy (Bane from The Dark Knight Rises), who’s a pilot, and Cillian Murphy, a shivering soldier pulled from the sea who’s suffering the effects of PTSD. With the exception of the civilians, the characters in the movie aren’t heavily identified, leading viewers to see them more as a collective than individuals.

The three-piece narrative plays with the concept of time, following different events that vary in duration. Thanks to the mixing and editing team, it’s done masterfully and creates the feeling of a time warp as the gruelling events play out before our eyes. Dunkirk won three Oscars: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Film Editing.

Barbie vs Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer (2023)

Nolan’s newest movie, Oppenheimer was released in July 2023. After using Irish actor Cillian Murphy is various roles before, he decided to give him the lead role of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

This bio-epic takes place during WW2 and tells the story of Oppenheimer, an American theoretical physicist who’s tasked with helping the American government create the first atomic bomb before the Nazis do—a military undertaking known as the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer must live in isolation in New Mexico with his colleagues as they test their theoretical work in a live environment. Murphy puts forth his best performance yet, drawing in people with his neurotic confidence.

The media lapped up the release of this instant classic coinciding with Margot Robbie’s Barbie and labelled the week “Barbie vs Oppenheimer”.



We’re already excited for his next project and to see if it will force its way onto our list.