Christopher Nolan celebrates his 50th birthday today. The director enjoys a stature in Hollywood similar to what Steven Spielberg enjoyed in the 1990 and 2000s. Having directed films like Inception, The Dark Knight, Interstellar, and most recently Dunkirk, Nolan has not known failure in his career that spans more than two decades.
Nolan combines arthouse sensibilities (complex themes, narratives, distinct cinematic and visual style) with blockbuster returns for his studio of choice — Warner Bros.
Here is a ranking of Christopher Nolan’s top 5 movies.
Interstellar was the first time Christopher Nolan went into outer space. With his tight hold on the narrative and visual aspects, Nolan was able to create a film that was set in the outer reaches of our solar system and even parallel worlds, but it was essentially about the relationship between a father and his daughter. Add to that, Hans Zimmer’s exquisite score elevated an already brilliant film.
Inception was a film famously complicated due to its time-jumps, unreliable protagonist and, well, dreams. Not just dreams, sharing dreams and dreams within dreams. The idea of stealing other people’s ideas from their minds and also planting foreign ideas into their minds and translating it into cinema was a great feat. Nolan’s tendency to prefer practical effects over CGI made the film a great action movie as well. The ideas put forth by Nolan were complemented once again by Zimmer’s stunning score.
3. Batman Begins
Right from the outset, a typical Batman fan knows while watching Batman Begins that this is an incredibly dark and grounded film for its genre. The story is taken from the shadiest recesses of comics. Unlike Nolan’s earlier films, Batman Begins was backed by a big studio, and yet Nolan went the gritty, realistic way instead of relying solely on special effects.
2. The Dark Knight
Batman Begins garnered much critical acclaim, but it was The Dark Knight that made Christopher Nolan one of the top filmmakers in the world. The uncrowned king of all superhero movies, The Dark Knight was released in 2008 and is yet to be bettered. What was unique about it was that, although it was certainly a superhero movie, it did not have a large scale climactic battle between a good guy and a bad guy, both costumed. Its antagonist was a great mind (no matter how sick and twisted), and not a great fighter. The Dark Knight also explores a bunch of complex ideas, one among them the War on Terror. This film is a superhero movie for thinkers.
1. The Prestige
A year ago, I would not have considered The Prestige as Christopher Nolan’s best. I liked it, sure, because of the story, atmosphere and performances, but it was not my favourite Nolan film. That changed after I saw it the second time, and the third time. This is a movie that improves greatly with repeated viewings. Set in late 19th century London, two magicians (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman) turn from friends to bitter foes with their rivalry ending in the greatest trick of them all. Nolan’s obsession with the twists at the end of his movies may have begun with this film.
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