NOLAN RANKINGS: PART 1

Well, brahs, we’ve made it to the end of a journey filled with dead wives, well-dressed protagonists, and a lot of bats. An exciting journey it was, but now it’s time to say goodbye to Nolan as we rank his films from worst to best, so let’s not stand on ceremony. Let’s rank some Nolan!

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A serviceable but forgettable Nolan movie. I’m hesitant in calling this his “directorial debut” because while Following has a few Nolan touches, it still largely feels as if he’s still trying to find his voice. It’s a neat blueprint into the director Nolan would eventually become, but the flat characters and misplaced use of nonlinear storytelling keeps it from being anything more than a serviceable neo noir. Speaking of blueprints, the Cobb we see in Following is definitely an early blueprint for the Cobb we eventually get in Inception. It’s a cute student project, but you could skip this one and not miss out on much.

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It really hurt me to rank this so low, but if we’re judging this within the context of all of Nolan’s films, this is probably the laziest work he’s done. There’s nothing wrong with the cast, the action, or the cinematography, so why so low? It’s mostly because of how much plot is crammed in with little time to focus on Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon, or Alfred, who are sidelined for a large portion of the film. Plot holes aren’t an issue for me, but even for a simple meathead like myself, they’re glaringly obvious. I still think the ending is one of my favorite endings ever, but the steps taken to get there were a little jagged. Shoutout to Bane for motivating me to start lifting weights!

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The best thing about Tenet is how much of a better action filmmaker Nolan’s become. I loved all the set pieces, especially the fight sequence between the Protagonist and the reverse version of himself. On a technical level, Tenet is a masterpiece, but it severely lacks in any personal stakes or drama that lets you fully immerse yourself into the action. I admire the ambition, but ambition can only take you so far if you don’t have the other essential pieces to make a film emotionally gripping. If you ever wondered what Nolan’s Bond film would look like, this is the closest you’ll ever get to seeing that.

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I love the Inceptions, Mementos, and Interstellars, but it’s nice to know that Nolan can also deliver a simple and straightforward story! I love Insomnia; in fact, I’d probably rewatch it more often than I would Inception or even The Dark Knight and it’s because it doesn’t need a high concept to be exciting. The best part of Insomnia isn’t the mystery, but how the focus is mainly on Al Pacino’s character and how he has to come to terms with his guilty conscience. If you’re ever in the mood for a Nolan movie that doesn’t require you to think too hard, then Insomnia is your best bet.

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The movie Nolan’s been waiting his entire career to make, and for the most part, it lived up to the hype! There are a ton of inventive set pieces and the score is iconic at this point. The biggest problem for me however, is that I felt distant from the characters more so than I felt during previous viewings. Inception seems to be the beginning of Nolan taking preference of concepts over character. Even so, DiCaprio and Corillard’s performance provide the bare minimum of narrative tension that helped keep me invested. I also want to thank Inception for introducing me to Tom Hardy, my forever man crush!

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The Dark Knight is my favorite collaboration between Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister. I’ve never seen a superhero film shot so beautifully and with so much purpose. Every shot is used to set the mood of each sequence and even without dialogue, the cinematography manages to effectively capture the thrill, terror, and tension in every sequence. Of course, Ledger’s performance is one for the ages and it was lightning in a bottle that won’t be captured for a very long time. Nolan’s ambitions extended even to the comic book genre and the result was a transcendent genre film that continues to resonate within pop culture even to today.

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