One of the few directors that defines generations is Christopher Nolan. He’s earned himself comparisons to some of the all-time greats, including Kubrick, whom he, himself calls an inspiration to his work. He’s given the world of cinema some of the best sci-fi and action films it has seen, coupled with his nearly brain exploding plots and intricate science, it’s no surprise to see almost all of his movies turn out as blockbusters and big commercial hits. He’s made over 11 films as a director, along with a few short films and has numerous other producer credits to his name as well. Founding his own company, SYNCOPY, along with his wife and long-time collaborator, Emma Thomas, he’s garnered a name for himself that studios kill to have on their films. But, how does IMDb see his work? Here are all 11 Christopher Nolan movies, ranked by their IMDb scores only.
Coming in last at number 11 is the 2002 production Insomnia which ranked an IMDb score of 7.2. Despite it being only his second major and third overall film, it is pretty impressive that even his lowest scored film, Insomnia, holds a pretty average but decent score at 7.2. Starring big names such as Al Pacino, as the under-investigation detective who along with his partner, goes to a small Alaskan town during polar days, to investigate the murder of a teenage girl to have a web of deceit and murder unravel, starring Robin Williams as the antagonist and Hillary Swank in a supporting role. While the film was praised for its different approach, and beautiful landscapes, it was clearly not his best work, with a lack of color and overall a dull, but likable film. Al Pacino’s role as the insomnia-ridden detective, and Robin William’s role as the dark novelist is highly praise-worthy, and a clear evidence of Nolan still finding his signature style as a director. One of his only films to run linearly, and a remake of another film of a foreign language, it showed him establishing his foothold, and was a wonderful footnote to the things yet to come.
Next up, ranking 10th, is Tenet. This production done in 2020 received an IMDb score of 7.4. One of the biggest shocks on this list is Tenet being so lowly rated, despite being the most recent, and arguably one of his most ambitious films to date. Following an unnamed protagonist recruited by a mysterious organization known as Tenet, who finds himself center-stage in the middle of a war between the past and the future, fighting all odds and stakes to win, against the Russian oligarch, Andrei Sator, he finds a complex web of the past, future and present intertwined with the fate of the universe. Something which even he, himself does not fully understand. Much like the protagonist himself, audiences had a hard time grasping the complex plot, and complaints of unusually loud audio and terrible sound mixing didn’t really help its case. While these complaints were subjective person per person, and some people hold the film in high regard, the complaints proved enough for the film to struggle, and reportedly, lose Warner Brothers a large sum of money.
Number 9 on this list is Following, a film production done in 1998 which scored a 7.5. This comes as a shocker. Nolan’s first ever film being higher rated than his most recent, but one, which after deeper thinking, makes sense. The movie follows a writer, Bill, who follows around random people as an inspiration for his writing. Here he encounters Cobb, a young thief, who recruits Bill in his crimes, and the two form a partnership. Gangsters and blondes are involved and a high stakes plot is the product. Nolan’s first take on his signature non-linear form of storytelling, but one of his more simpler to understand plots. Made on a budget of next to nothing, the product is highly acclaimed and shows huge promise of the director. It involves one of the most unexpected twists in a Nolan movie, yet, and one of his best writing. Shockingly deserved.
Nolan’s 2017 film Dunkirk has an IMDb score of 7.8, earning its spot at number 8 on this list. Christopher Nolan’s take on the war genre, with a very different plot. It follows soldiers trying to get home after being surrounded by enemy forces. Starring big names such as Tom Hardy, it also provided singer Harry Styles with an acting credit, and mastered an amazing war movie, made to be seen on IMAX. Audiences remain divided on this one, with people either calling Dunkirk a masterpiece or an unnecessary risk from the director coveted for his sci-fi movies. The film was saved, however, by wonderful camerawork and mesmerizing scenery which became the highlight of the film and enough to land it just short of an 8.0 rating. Not his best work, but certainly not his worst either. Made on a budget of $100-$150 million dollars, it had an impressive box office return of almost $530 million, which was more than decent.
Ranking 7th is Batman Begins. This production done in 2008 received an IMDb score of 8.2 and kicked off arguably one of the greatest superhero film trilogies ever, with the now iconic, Dark Knight to follow, which redefined the superhero genre, which for the first time, told a meaningful story, weaved in with the superhero stuff. Starring Liam Neeson as Ra’as Al Gul, Cillian Murphy as Johnathan Crane/ Scarecrow in the villain roles, and Gary Oldman as James Gordon, the movie set off the Nolan-verse, an unconventional take on superhero films, and one which was to inspire for years to come.
The Dark Knight Rises
With an IMDb score of 8.4, The Dark Knight Rises ranks number 6. Produced in 2012, the final movie of the Dark Knight series, ended the trilogy with a bang. Batman not seen in the public eye for years, makes his return to fight Tom Hardy as Bane, himself being burgled by Selena “Catwoman” Kyle, played by Anne Hathaway. It was reported that originally Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker would have had a larger part to play, were it not for his unfortunate death shortly after The Dark Knight.Bringing the Bale Batman era to an end, and giving the character a worthy ending, The Dark Knight Rises was met with mixed reviews over the plot, and specifically, the second half of the film, where some call it a masterpiece, and some call it a disaster. Tom Hardy’s casting was initially criticized as Bane, as was Heath Ledger. While bringing the entirety of Nolan’s impressive catalogue in perspective, this seems like a good place for the final Dark Knight film to be placed.
Halfway through the rankings with a score of 8.4 the Nolan film Memento, produced in 2000, takes its place. Widely regarded as one of Nolan’s best movies to-date, tied with The Dark Knight Rises, Memento was also one of his cheapest to make. Fully utilizing his knack for non-linear timelines, Memento followed Leonard, an insurance claims’ investigator, with anterograde amnesia, meaning he is unable to make new memories, operating out of a motel room, trying finding the killer of his wife, who he only knows by his initials, John G. He juggles trusting his friend, Teddy, and finds out that Teddy is the John G he was looking for all along. Filled with one of the greatest twists in the history of films, ever, Memento still continues to intrigue and aspire audiences, and surely will, for years to come. Undoubtedly deserving of a spot so high in the list, despite being only Christopher Nolan’s second major film.
Speaking of iconic last minute twists, what better than the 2006 film The Prestige, coming in 4th with a score of 8.5. Exploring the obsessive rivalry between Robert Angier and Alfred Borden, two magicians, while nodding towards the Edison-Tesla rivalry as well, boasting an A-lister ensemble of Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, Michael Caine, and David Bowie, shows the fallout between the two magicians due to death of Angier’s wife, in an illusion gone wrong, and the aftermath of the fallout, compiled with spying, body doubles and deceit, The Prestige is one of the best Nolan films, ever, due to its amazing ability to weave a meaningful story in a plot of two magicians trying to outdo each other at the same trick. Timeless, and amazing.
Coming in 3rd with an IMDb score of 8.6 is Interstellar. Released in 2014 it is one of the most confusing yet beautiful Nolan films on this list, Interstellar more than deserves its place in the top three. Starring Matthew McConaughey in one of his best roles to-date, it showed humanity on the brink of extinction by dust storms and deteriorating atmospheric conditions, and the majority of families forced to farm for their only sources of food, Matthew stars as Cooper, an ex pilot, given a chance to lead one final mission to decide the fate of humanity, away from Earth. Filled with twists, turns and deceit, Interstellar is a must-watch, and truly deserving of its place amongst the greats of the greatest.
In second place is the 2010 film Inception. Inception earned not one, but two, trips to the megaplex, as it re-released for its 10th anniversary. With a score of 8.8 what’s left to say of this movie that hasn’t already been said. One of the best heist and spy movies to-date, coupled with the perfect sci-fi blend. It is one of, if not the, most confusing Nolan film to-date, boasting an A-lister cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Elliot Page. It rewrote the rules for sci-fi movies for the modern era, and provided single-handedly the most iconic score in film history to date, and one of the vaguest endings.
The Dark Knight
Topping it all off, with a score of 9.0, one of the greatest superhero films, if not the greatest to-date, is The Dark Knight. The 2008 film starring Heath Ledger in an Oscar-winning role of the Joker, to Christian Bale’s Batman, gaining widespread audience and critical praise, especially on the portrayal of the Joker, Nolan finally cemented his position in one of the greats through this movie, blending fantasy and reality perfectly, and providing with an iconic and fantastic score from Hans Zimmer himself, it truly outdid not only all of Nolan’s films, but paved the way for a new era of superhero films in general, while being not only great entertainment, but great cinema, something only the genius himself could do.