This week I’ll be ranking feature films directed by Christopher Nolan. I’ve grown up as Nolan’s career has progressed, and I rank him as the most exciting director out there at the moment. I’m a huge fan of his work, and while I don’t believe he has made a bad film, some are definitely better than others. Please vote for your favourite in the poll above, and comment if you wish!
Following is Nolan’s debut feature-length film. Not known, or seen, by many, it is a smartly written neo-noir made on a tiny budget, and when put alongside Nolan’s usual epic scope, it is quite flat. The biggest problem when comparing this film alongside others is that the best parts of it are reused in later Nolan films, meaning that everything stand out also stands out in something much more spectacular. Of course it would be foolish to write this film off due to that, after all it serves as the inspiration for almost all of Nolan’s later films. The most difficult part when watching this film is the acting, or the lack there-of. It’s so hard to get into this story as the actors are just so wooden. Unlike Nolan’s later films, the actors in Following are not professionals, and many do not work in the industry now. This shows. It really is disappointing as although the run-time of 70 minutes is short, the acting still makes the smart script seem weak and slow. A remake with strong actors (professional, not necessarily famous) would make this film jump much higher on the list.
7: The Prestige
Implementing flash backs first attempted by Nolan in Following, The Prestige is another of Nolan’s ‘smart’ movies, where the twists appear to never stop. Unlike other Nolan thrillers, however, The Prestige is let down by the fact that it begins to try a little too hard to impress you. The twists become almost ridiculous, and that’s saying something when the film revolves around magic. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are superb in this film, and Nolan regular Michael Caine also delights, but when placed alongside Nolan’s other thrillers, this one does not stand out as much. I decided to place this film at 7 as out of Nolan’s films, I find this one is harder to watch again, as the twists really do make it the first time round.
6: Batman Begins
Seen by many as the most solid entry in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Batman Begins contains fantastically powerful acting, a smartly written script, and surprisingly haunting villains. I won’t write at great length about the three Batman films, so as not to seem repetitive, but for me I prefer the later two entries due to the simple fact that I find ‘origin’ movies, such as this, not as entertaining as superhero cinema in comparison to later sequels. I find this is my issue with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man as well, which in my opinion pales in comparison to the faultless Spider-Man 2. The villains are strong, although the Scarecrow is not as memorable as the later villains, and Katie Holmes is a poor piece of casting. Still a fantastic film, but not as powerful as The Dark Knight, or entertaining as The Dark Knight Rises.
5: The Dark Knight Rises
Only slightly stronger than Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises is a pleasing finale to Nolan’s epic trilogy, but falters in the middle. Bane is an immense villain, but not as overwhelming as Heath Ledger’s Joker. If Bane was the villain of The Dark Knight, it would have made him far more intimidating and overall impressive. Aside from that, The Dark Knight Rises is superb when considered solely as a comic book movie. The acting is superb, with an incredible ensemble formed for this final adventure. Anne Hathaway is a surprisingly strong and seductive Cat-Woman, while Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman once again add the perfect emotional touches in order to ground the film somewhat. As mentioned briefly, the only disappointing element to this film is the middle act, which is horribly paced to the point where it feels like a chunk of movie has been accidentally deleted. Apart from that, this really is an incredible action film.
A fantastic thriller, this is Christopher Nolan’s closest film to Following in terms of elements copied over. Flashbacks are presented in black and white, both paying respect to Following as well as creating a stronger differentiation in the distorted sequences of events. What makes this film so much stronger is both the more refined script, as well as the standout acting by Guy Pearce. He truly immerses himself into the role, creating both a frighteningly lost and powerfully overwhelming character than enthrals the audience throughout. A real powerhouse performance for a fantastic film.
Unlike the majority of Nolan’s films, this was neither written by himself or by his brother (a regular collaborator). Instead, this is a remake of a Norwegian film, starring Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, and Robin Williams. The acting is superb throughout, and at times the film truly is tense. The Alaskan setting, complete with 24 hour sunlight and haunting mist, adds incredible tension to this smartly crafted thriller. Although I have not seen the Norwegian original, this is one of few remakes that does not fail. A true delight to watch, and a film that can both thrill and entertain many.
A thriller, an action movie, and a throwback to Following. Inception is an incredible piece of cinema, in that it manages to so effortlessly blend a smart thriller with a high-budget, explosion-heavy action movie. The fantastic casting of Leonardo DiCaprio allows this balance to be perfectly managed, while the complicated script is paced at a rate which allows the audience to stay on top of events, while still not being entirely prepared for the next twist. What I love so much about this film is the fact that unlike many thrillers, it’s so easy to watch this film over and over again. Perhaps this is because of the superb action sequences, but every time I watch this I discover something new, and am not bothered that I’m aware of what’s going to happen next. An intelligent movie, crafted superbly by Nolan.
1: The Dark Knight
The ultimate superhero movie. The perfect balance of darkness and hope, with the greatest villain performance and some of the finest action sequences ever seen on screen. The Dark Knight is a film that has made action movies poorer since the day it was released, as they simply cannot compare to it. Forget about The Avengers, Iron Man, even Man of Steel, nothing so perfectly balances reality with the superhero world such as this. I find it so easy to nitpick films when I watch them, but with this I have no faults. My list of favourite films is small, but The Dark Knight is proudly placed in it. There are so many superb turns in this film, and so many involve one man: The Joker. Heath Ledger’s performance makes Jack Nicholson look like an extra from Following. He is the ultimate Joker, no actor should ever attempt to better him, as it will just end in incredible failure. The Joker dressed as a nurse, the Joker in the truck, the Joker explaining his scars, the Joker threatening to blow up a packed ferry, the Joker dangling upside down hundreds of feet above Gotham. That’s 5 scenes quickly off the top of my head that blew me away. Rewatchable and more fascinating every time, this film is exhilarating, and is my number 1 Nolan film for the fact that he has crafted the finest superhero movie ever made.
So that’s my ranking of Christopher Nolan’s films. I’m a huge fan of his work, and for the moment he is far and away my favourite director currently working. As you can tell by my number 1 ranking, I’m also an incredibly huge fan of The Dark Knight, but I think it’s important to point out that his lower budget movies are also incredible pieces of cinema, that deserve to be watched and enjoyed. Some don’t realise, but there is more to Nolan than his recent turn as super-director.