Christopher Nolan is one of the most acclaimed directors in all of Hollywood. Among his notable film credits are The Dark Knight trilogy, Interstellar, The Prestige, Inception, and Dunkirk. Each film he makes is either a mind-bender, visually captivating, or a combination of both.
Nolan is currently working on his next epic film, Tenet, set to release in 2020. He took some time out of his busy schedule to come up with a list of movies he encourages people to watch. Nolan finds them almost to be required viewing and most of them were significant influences in the excellent work he's done throughout his career. We've taken 10 of the films he named and are ranking them.
10 First Man
The most recent release named by Christopher Nolan. 2018's First Man tells the story of Neil Armstrong and the work that went into putting a man on the moon. Academy Award winner Damien Chazelle directed while Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling starred.
When Nolan spoke about First Man, he raved over the physical detail used to recreate this historic moment. Anyone who has watched this movie will agree. The scenes inside the space shuttle are masterfully done to the point where the viewer tenses up as if they were in real danger. It's the kind of cinematic experience that doesn't come around often.
9 The Thin Red Line
Since we're going back further than 2018, we're now getting into the stuff that played a part in shaping some of Christopher Nolan's movies. In 1998, the world was introduced to Terrence Mallick's World War II drama, The Thin Red Line. One viewing of it and you'll be able to see a lot of what Nolan ultimately brought to Dunkirk.
The Thin Red Line featured an incredible cast including Adrien Brody, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, and Jared Leto. It's one of the greatest war films ever made and was nominated for seven Academy Awards. It is essential viewing for anyone who is a fan of the genre.
The most financially successful piece of Nolan's filmography was his take on Batman with The Dark Knight trilogy. However, it wasn't Batman that got him hooked on the genre. Instead, it was a fellow DC Comic hero. Nolan explained that 1978's Superman made a considerable impression on him.
Though that take on Superman and Nolan's take on Batman are superhero movies with vastly different tones, the fact that it got him interested in the genre is what led to his groundbreaking trilogy. Superhero movies are all the rage these days, but none of those may have been possible without Superman.
7 Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Christopher Nolan is one of the kings of modern science fiction cinema. And pretty much everyone entering that world at least somewhat looks up to Steven Speilberg. Nolan mentioned Speilberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind on his list of recommended movies.
This film was a massive influence for Nolan when he was creating his own sci-fi epic, Interstellar. He loved the idea of focusing on the relatable perspectives given when humans meet aliens for the first time. The storylines may not be similar, but the influence is there. This movie is so vital to see that the National Film Registry preserved it in 2007.
6 The Spy Who Loved Me
As a kid growing up in the 1970s, it should come as no surprise as Nolan was a fan of James Bond. A ridiculously cool English secret agent, Bond has been wildly popular for decades. It was the 1977 Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, that Nolan included on his list.
While Nolan hasn't made his own spy movie, he pointed to The Spy Who Loved Me as a reason for how he wanted to showcase a grand scale in his visions. All the gadgets and technology used are incredible and Nolan was hooked. There's a reason his name always comes up when the need for a new Bond director comes up.
5 Saving Private Ryan
Like The Thin Red Line, here's another classic 1998 war movie. And like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it's another Steven Speilberg picture. Christopher Nolan doesn't just love Saving Private Ryan; he was heavily influenced by it to the point where he consulted with Speilberg while making Dunkirk.
The biggest thing Nolan seemed to take away from Saving Private Ryan was how horrific some of the scenes were. He knew that he wanted to take some bits from Spielberg for Dunkirk but that wasn't a level he wanted to compete on. Still, the war scenes in both films feel more realistic than most.
4 Blade Runner
Blade Runner dips its toes in both the sci-fi and neo-noir genres. Ridley Scott directed this groundbreaking 1982 film that took some time to become a hit. It underperformed at the box office and had mixed reviews early, but has since become a cult classic that set the stage for many sci-fi flicks of the future. It is one of the most significant pieces of sci-fi movie history.
Christopher Nolan pointed to Blade Runner as a direct influence on the way he crafted some of the worlds in Interstellar. He attempted to capture the same look and feel. Now just imagine how gorgeous Interstellar may have looked if Blade Runner 2049 came before it.
3 2001: A Space Odyssey
It's another director who was highly influential, creative, and unique. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is the kind of movie that every sci-fi fan needs to see at least once. This 1968 masterpiece left a big mark on a young Christopher Nolan, who saw the film in theatres.
Nolan pointed out the way he felt when he was taken to another world in this film. This feeling is part of what carried a lot of the scenes in Interstellar, a movie that did its best to capture that essence. This classic meant so much to Nolan that he helped tour a version of it around the globe in recent years.
We return to Ridley Scott for another one of his science fiction gems. In fact, Alien marked his first blockbuster hit. This 1979 title made a huge impression on Christopher Nolan as he was growing up. He even credits Scott as a director he has always been a fan of, even in childhood. Most people seem to share those thoughts, as Alien is one of the most iconic sci-fi movies in history.
Similar to his feelings on Scott's Blade Runner, Nolan was blown away by the vast level of world building that made these films so immersive. Something like Alien could be why he was able to create something as unique as the world we witnessed in Inception.
1 Star Wars
It's nearly impossible to be a sci-fi filmmaker and not have been somewhat inspired by Star Wars. George Lucas' 1977 hit was so massive that it spawned an expansive universe spanning over ten films, TV series, and dozens of books. Christopher Nolan stated that everything changed for him when he saw Star Wars.
Aspiring to make movies since he was a kid, Nolan experimented with Super 8 films during the '70s. When he saw Star Wars, the focus changed to space and doing things on a much grander scale. It's a film that paved the way for almost everything that came after it, so it makes sense that Nolan would consider it something everyone should see.