Ever since its debut in the 1800s, cinema has been one of the leading entertainment and art industries in the world. It has been affirmed the single greatest experience for human beings just to isolate themselves and become transfixed in another world with characters they care about and stories they fall in love with. But, what a lot of average “movie-goers” don’t realize about cinema is that behind every movie there is one person pulling the strings, controlling not only the actors, but the set pieces, script, visuals, and camera work. Although he/she doesn’t do it alone, one has to wonder how he/she manages to accomplish it all so marvelously. The best director in the business today, Steven Spielberg, has been directing movies for over fifty years and has only had a few (under 5) bad films. Another one that almost matches Spielberg’s heights is the legendary Martin Scorsese, who has been directing just as long and still continues to pump out masterpieces. That being said, there is room for new, fresh, and inventive faces in the industry, and, thankfully, we are getting that. But out of all of the upcoming directors that are being referred to as “future greats,” perhaps none stand out as much as Christopher Nolan. Now being dubbed as a modern day Hitchcock, Nolan is a master at the craft, actually putting heart into his projects, and heart that can be felt through the pictures. As of today, September, 8, 2012, Christopher Nolan has directed 9 films, and I, having seen them all, am going to rank them in order from least favorite to favorite. Let it be clear that this is simply my opinion and I do not wish for hate if your favorite is not where you would like it to be. That being said… “Let the games begin.”
9.) Doodlebug (1997)
Doodlebug, Christopher Nolan’s first, yet highly underrated film, is actually a short film, running at just around 5 minutes. That being said, it is a spectacular short film, exploring deep elements of psychosis and mentality. This film, about a man who is chasing a tiny bug in his apartment in hopes of killing it with his shoe, may sound silly on paper, but on film, Nolan makes this one of the most influential 5 minute short films I have ever seen. If you have time, which in reality, who doesn’t have 5 minutes, I certainly recommend checking out Doodlebug. It can easily be found on youtube.com.
8.) Insomnia (2002)
Even though Insomnia features a well rounded cast of Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hillary Swank, it is without a doubt the weakest of Christopher Nolan’s feature length films. Not that it is a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, it just isn’t as strong of affective as the rest of his work. The fact of the matter is, out of all of Nolan’s films, this is the only one in which he had nothing to do with the story or screenplay, which is, in my opinion, why this film flopped for me. Even though Nolan has crafted some superb masterpieces in his career of which this one is not, Insomnia is still a film that should not be missed by film lovers.
7.) Following (1998)
Now we’re getting into the meats. Following is Christopher Nolan’s debut feature film, which runs at just over an hour, and it is a very good and thoughtful piece of work. Filmed in black-and-white, this film follows a writer who is out of ideas for his next project, who then begins to follow random people in the city and watch what they do normally in hopes of having an idea for his novel. The man decides to follow a certain man one day, and that man happens to a criminal who detects his follower, approaches him, and interrogates him, springing into a relationship the young follower never expected. This film, while being so short, is so powerful, and although it can be confusing at some times, if you pay attention, all the loose ends are tied up at the climax. This is a fantastic piece of cinema.
6.) Batman Begins (2005)
When it was announced that Christopher Nolan was to direct the new Batman reboot, many people didn’t know what to think. Having no prior experience to comic book films, it was speculated that Nolan wouldn’t do a great job with it, even though it had to be a step up from the atrocious Batman & Robin. Also, the film’s main antagonists was Scarecrow and Ras Al Ghul, characters that only comic book lovers, like myself, would recognize. Then the film released. At that moment every doubt vanished as Nolan’s extreme vision of Gotham City’s Dark Knight proved to be masterful, creating what was possibly the best comic book film of all time prior to 2005. Also, it spring launched the epic Dark Knight Trilogy that we have today, which stands as one of the great American movie trilogies. Batman Begins is the best superhero origin story in the history of cinema.
5.) Memento (2000)
Before Christopher Nolan launched his breakout Dark Knight Trilogy with stars Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman, he was assisted by the extremely underrated Guy Pearce in what is possibly one of the greatest psychological thrillers of all time. Written and directed by Nolan and based on a short story by his brother, Jonathon, Memento follows a man with memory loss and his attempts to remember something, all leading up to his meeting with a man who takes him on a psychological ride that shocks and captivates audiences. Even though this is a fantastic film, I do not see this as Nolan’s masterpiece, as many people do, but it is very smart, engaging, and illuminating.
4.) The Prestige (2006)
Immediately after the release of the blockbuster hit Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige was released. This is a true example of great cinema. The Prestige is about two magicians, one of which supposedly kills the other’s girlfriend, only to spark rage and hate and a longing to discover what illusion was used to kill her. Hugh Jackman stars alongside Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Scarlett Johansson, and is written and directed by Christopher Nolan. This movie is completely captivating from start to finish, features solid performances, and is one of my all time favorite movies. Of all of the films out there, this is the only one that is about illusions, but by the end reveals to us that the real illusion had been the movie itself. Such an intellectually constructed piece of storytelling.
3.) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Possibly the most anticipated film in the past few years, Christopher Nolan’s third and final entry into his blockbuster Dark Knight Trilogy was a smashing success. When a masked terrorist leader named Bane enters Gotham, he wrecks havoc on the people, forcing them to “take control” of a once-people-led city. Bane, and his incomprehensible physical strength, may prove to be too much for the now hunted Batman, and it is up to him to stop Bane from unleashing hell on the fallen city. It is unfair to compare Rises with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, as they are three different films with three different themes and three different tones. As Begins was a movie about “Fear,” Rises takes on the theme of “War,” and while watching the army tanks and camouflaged soldiers marching through the streets of a corrupt and broken city, the war element is completely evident. This may be the most comic-like of the three, but it is still the best film I have seen all year, and it is a worthy and satisfyingly rich closure to one of the great American movie trilogies.
2.) Inception (2010)
Often dubbed as Nolan’s best film, and completely understandable, Inception is one of the best films of the past hundred years, offering viewers with an intelligent, beautiful, richly thrilling, and visually dazzling piece of art. Inception, taking place inside the world of dreams, follows Dom Cobb, a skilled extractor, who is given an opportunity to, instead of steal an idea from someone’s mind, plant one there instead. This simple job could get him home to his children and allow him to live a happy life once again, but this simple job just may not be as simple as he had hoped. Inception is a cinematic masterpiece, full of rich dialogue, crisp camera work, and thrilling set pieces. If you have not seen Inception, it is necessary. In 50 years when film schools are looking for movies to use for their classes, Inception will indeed be a certain addition to that list.
1.) The Dark Knight (2008)
Really, what else needs to be said that hasn’t been already? This is the most influential film in the recent decade on so many levels. It inspired all comic books films after it to maintain a realistic and dark tone. It inspired already good comic book franchises to be rebooted in hopes to have a Dark Knight feel. And most importantly, the fact that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture in 2008 caused the fans to lash out against the Academy, resulting in the limit for Best Picture nominees to be extended from 5 to 10. When you can cause The Academy Awards to extend a nominee category, you know your film is great. Sure you can say Heath Ledger stole this film, and yes, he did. But aside from Ledgers terrific, horrifying work as the demented Joker, the script is strong, Nolan’s direction is astounding, and the film overall is a masterpiece. The Dark Knight is undeniably Christopher Nolan’s best Batman film, and arguably his best film. Even though Inception was the only one of his films to be nominated for Best Picture, Dark Knight is the richest and most entertaining, and it is one of the best pictures to ever be put to screen.
So, as can be speculated, I personally like every one of Christopher Nolan’s films, and for someone who has nine films, that is great work. Having stated that he interested in doing a possible James Bond movie and a Howard Hughes biopic, I am so on board with whatever Nolan plans to do next. What is YOUR favorite Christopher Nolan film? Do you agree that The Dark Knight is better than Inception. Do you think The Dark Knight Rises has a shot at the Best Picture nomination this year? Let me know.