Regardless of how you may feel about his films, there's no denying that Christopher Nolan is one of the most creative and influential directors of his time. He rose up from innovative independent films to making a major blockbuster superhero trilogy and is now the kind of director with a blank check to get his wild ideas on screen.
Christopher Nolan is currently hard at work on his eleventh directorial effort, titled Tenet. It releases next summer, so to help celebrate, we're looking back at his ten previous feature-length films and ranking them based purely on their Rotten Tomatoes scores.
10 Interstellar (72%)
Released in 2014, Interstellar is one of Christopher Nolan's most recent films. This ambitious sci-fi tale followed a group of astronauts who travel through a wormhole to try and find a new home for humanity as Earth is no longer an ideal habitable location. It was one of Nolan's most thought-provoking works of art.
Led by quality performances from Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, Interstellar was met with positive praise from critics. The fact that it is last on this list tells you about Nolan's talent. The consensus was that this film was visually stunning and thrilling, though a bit confusing.
9 The Prestige (76%)
The Prestige boasts one of the most talented casts Christopher Nolan has ever worked with. Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall, and Piper Perabo led the way for a movie filled with great acting. Combine that with a unique premise and some jaw-dropping plot twists and you've got a recipe for success.
This 2006 film centered around two rival magicians in London who were obsessed with creating the best illusions onstage. Their rivalry upends and impacts the lives of everyone around them and is ultimately destructive for the magicians themselves. Critics found the film to be dazzling.
8 Following (80%)
This was Christopher Nolan's feature-film directorial debut. Coming way back in 1999, it was made on just $6,000, which is a far cry from the budgets he'd get while making his Batman trilogy. Nolan made every dollar count and it gave us an efficient 70-minute gem.
Though it isn't long, there's a lot to like in Following. The story is about a man who follows strangers around London until a mistake leads him into the criminal underworld of the city. To keep things inexpensive, Nolan had actors rehearse their scenes often to get things done in a single take. It was a brilliant showcase that let everyone know how talented Nolan is.
7 Batman Begins (84%)
When Batman first came to the big screen, the Tim Burton versions were praised by fans and critics alike. Unfortunately, the franchise hit snags when Joel Schumacher took over. His 1997 installment Batman and Robin scored just an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Nearly ten years later, Christopher Nolan was handed the reins of the caped crusader.
Nolan broke Batman all the way down and gave us one of the best origin stories in cinematic history. He grounded the story in realism, moving away from the campiness of the Schumacher entries. This felt different from every other superhero movie out there at the time and helped usher in a new era for the genre.
6 The Dark Knight Rises (87%)
Now we move into the end of Nolan's Batman trilogy. The Dark Knight Rises was released in 2012 and marked the end of Nolan's telling of the Batman story. Nolan took the actors who shined in the series already like Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman, while adding in collaborators from acting heavy-hitters like Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard.
With an absurd $250 million budget, Nolan was allowed to tell the biggest Batman story ever. It felt like everything was done on a grander scale we had seen before. It was an ambitious way to end the franchise, but did so in successful fashion. With great action, good acting, and interesting characters, it was another hit for the acclaimed director.
5 Inception (87%)
2010's Inception gets the slight edge over The Dark Knight Rises because it holds a higher average score, even if both clock in with an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. This film was all about the high concept. A trippy sci-fi action flick, Inception centered around a group of thieves who infiltrate the subconscious and dreams of their targets.
This was a case of Nolan getting a blank check due to his success, earning a $160 million budget for this original concept. Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, and more filled out a phenomenal cast. Inception features some breathtaking special effects, a layered story filled with twists and turns, and an ambiguous ending that is still talked about nearly a decade later.
4 Insomnia (92%)
Though each of his films has grossed much more than its budget, 2002's Insomnia was the first to surpass $100 million at the box office. It is notable for being the only film that Christopher Nolan has directed without receiving a writing credit, though he did write the final draft. It was also the final film Nolan helmed before taking over Batman.
Insomnia told the story of two Los Angeles homicide detectives who investigate a murder in Alaska. Starring the likes of Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank, this was the kind of movie that showed Nolan could work with big stars. The critics were wowed by Pacino's performance and the brilliance of this psychological drama.
3 Memento (92%)
A couple of years after releasing his debut film, Christopher Nolan was back at it with Memento. With an 8.27 average, it ranks above the similarly rated Insomnia (7.7). This was trademark Nolan, providing a trippy mystery that had audiences talking for a long time after credits rolled.
Told in a fragmented narrative out of order, Memento focused on a man with short-term amnesia who searches for the person who killed his wife. Guy Pearce put on a star-making performance for a movie that helped launch his career into the next level. It did the same for Nolan.
2 Dunkirk (92%)
Holing an 8.67 average score out of 10, Dunkirk gets to hold a slight advantage over the other Nolan films to score 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. His most recent movie, it was vastly different from everything else he had done previously. It depicted the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II.
What made this film unique was how it told the story from three separate perspectives. One from land, one from the skies, and one from the sea. Dunkirk barely had any dialogue, so the script was much shorter than the rest of what Nolan had crafted in the past. This was a spectacle of a take on a true story, and racked up several awards
1 The Dark Knight (94%)
The pinnacle of superhero movies for a long time. The Dark Knight built on what Christopher Nolan started back in Batman Begins. It was done a much larger scale and many audiences saw this as much more of a crime drama than a superhero film. One major reason for The Dark Knight's critical and commercial success was the inclusion of the villainous Joker.
Portrayed by Heath Ledger, this incarnation of the Joker has become iconic. It was met with a posthumous Academy Award victory for Ledger. The story keeps you engaged throughout, the action is incredibly well done, and the performances are fantastic. This is peak Batman and peak Nolan.