Every Christopher Nolan Movie, Ranked

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Christopher Nolan's films have genuinely changed the world – so we decided to rank them. 

When it comes to some of the most-known filmmakers, I'm sure plenty come to mind. Maybe you think of the best Steven Spielberg movies, or perhaps you think of the best David Fincher films. But today, we're going to be focusing on a director who has released some of the most influential films of the last few decades—and that's Christopher Nolan. 

From his debut movie Following to his latest, Oppenheimer, here is how we rank Nolan's films from the very start. 

Jeremy Theobald in Following

(Image credit: Momentum Pictures)

12. Following (1998)

For a debut film, Following is a great one to have. The movie mainly tells the story of a young man who follows the lives of strangers in London, only to find himself drawn into the criminal world when it's taken too far. 

Nolan directed, wrote, and produced the film, and as his debut film, it's not the big, bold pictures that we've seen him make way down the line in his career. Following is an interesting story to begin on, but certainly not his best. 

Anne Hathaway and Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

11. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises is the third film in the Christian Bale Batman trilogy, telling how Batman needs to return to crime fighting when a terrorist known as Bane threatens nuclear destruction. 

Regarding the best superhero movies, The Dark Knight Rises is a great one, but it pales in comparison to the previous trilogy installments. After losing Heath Ledger, it suffers an understandable pitfall with a clunky storyline that's barely rememberable all these years later. While it's saved a bit by the performances of Bale, Tom Hardy, and Anne Hathaway, there's not much to this Batman entry. 

John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in Tenet

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

10. Tenet (2020)

Tenet was released during the COVID-19 pandemic and told the story of a former CIA agent who has to trace the origin of objects that travel backward through time to stop an attack that is going to occur. 

The premise for this film is wacky. I'll give Tenet a Top 10 spot mainly because the visual effects are out of this world. I believe it should have been given a long theatrical release when it first debuted. But, the story itself leaves a lot to be desired. I've had to rewatch this film a few times to truly understand it. 

Robin Williams in Insomnia

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

9. Insomnia (2002)

Insomnia was released in 2002 and featured the story of two homicide detectives who are looking for the murderer of a teenage girl, only for their lives to become intertwined. 

The following movies in Nolan's filmography are all objectively great; it's just that some have more outstanding qualities than others. Insomnia, for example, is a silent killer of a movie. It features an exceptional performance from Robin Williams, but also Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, and so many more who rock here. If I had to pick one of Nolan's less intense films, this would be it—a true psychological thriller.

Guy Pearce in Memento

(Image credit: Newmarket Films)

8. Memento (2000)

Memento is an interesting one – it stars Guy Pearce as Leonard, a man who can't make memories after witnessing the rape and murder of his wife. Now, he uses a camera and a gun to hunt down the person who did it to bring her justice. 

This film is excellent. I wasn't super impressed when I first watched all of Nolan's films, but when I rewatched it, the movie grew on me. The mystery unfolding is unlike any other and captures the eyes of the viewer in an instant. 

Christian Bale in Batman Begins

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

7. Batman Begins (2005)

The first film in the Nolan Batman trilogy, Batman Begins, tells not only the origin story of Bruce Wayne but follows as he attempts to stop Ra's al Ghul and other villains from turning Gotham City into nothing but a criminal haven. 

Reintroducing Batman to the general public after the bombs of the Batman franchise in the 1990s took guts, but Nolan did that and more with Batman Begin. It's a gritty drama with excellent acting, an incredible cast, and a story that made even a superhero hater like me a superhero lover early in her life. 

Christian Bale in The Prestige

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

6. The Prestige (2006)

Starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, The Prestige is another psychological thriller that follows two rival magicians in Victorian London who try to sabotage the other to perform the ultimate magic trick. 

The Prestige surprised me when I first watched it, and even more so now, as it's one of Nolan's best movies. Both Bale and Jackman give career-high performances, but the sleight-of-hand scenes you witness mixed in with the game both the main characters are playing to outdo the other is what you stay for. Truly, so much fun.

Soldiers waiting on the beach in Dunkirk

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

5. Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk is an epic, and one of the best war films, that follows the soldiers during the real-life Dunkirk evacuation during World War II.

This film…sits with you. I don't think it's number one, but Dunkirk is a movie that you never really forget. Thanks to the sound editing, I can still feel the shaking of my theater seat years later, and I was blown away by the cinematography. 

The film is dark, realistic, and downright devastating when you think about all the lives lost. What makes it even better is that there's barely any speaking – only a true cinematic master can pull off a film with so much emotion when there's barely a peep of dialogue. 

Leonardo DiCaprio and Elliot Page in a dream in Inception

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

4. Inception (2010)

Inception is a sci-fi action film about a thief who can steal information by literally entering his victims' minds. However, the chance to have his criminal record erased throws his life into a tailspin. 

Arguably, Leonardo DiCaprio should have won an Oscar for Inception, as it's one of DiCaprio’s best movies. Is it confusing at first? Yeah, it is, but everything changes once you start to understand the science behind it. And, of course, the visual effects have gone down as some of the best in film history. 

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer

(Image credit: Universal Studios)

3. Oppenheimer (2023)

Oppenheimer is a biographical film about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man who created the atomic bomb. Was it one of the best movie experiences I've ever had? Heck, yes, it was. 

From the incredible Oppenheimer cast to the impeccable soundtrack, Oppenheimer hooked me. Pair that with an incredible lead performance from Cillian Murphy, and this is certainly one of Nolan's best-directed features. I think there are two others that surpass this, but it's up there. 

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

2. The Dark Knight (2008)

Most people would say that Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker makes The Dark Knight so high, but there are so many other reasons beyond his earth-shattering portrayal. 

The action scenes were incredibly well-done. Unlike any other Batman interpretation, the story was evenly paced and thrilling. The score is phenomenal. And let's not even get started on the number of iconic lines that have cemented themselves into pop culture. 

The Dark Knight would be number one if this last film didn't exist. So, one other film takes the cake for me. 

Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

1. Interstellar (2014)

I had to put this at number one.

Some people wouldn't agree with my pick of Interstellar, but objectively, I can't not put this at number one for so many reasons. Sure, the sci-fi aspect of this film — that— they must travel into space to find a habitable planet for humans — is a little clunky — I can understand that. I've needed to watch this film a couple of times to truly understand it. 

I Finally Watched Interstellar And Why Did I Wait So Long To Watch This Movie?

But the themes are downright unforgettable. The Interstellar cast gives it their all for the entirety of the film, with a positively heartbreaking and yet uplifting performance from Matthew McConaughey post-Dallas Buyers Club. Hans Zimmer's score is one I still listen to in my car as I drive down a highway late at night. 

This movie has impacted my life so much ever since I first watched it — which is why I have to place it as my number one. 

This is my list, and while I believe this is the proper ranking, your ranking of Christopher Nolan's best films might differ entirely from mine. 

Either way, let's all admire how amazing he truly is as a filmmaker — and somehow patiently await his next movie, whenever that comes. 

Alexandra Ramos
Content Producer

A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.