Every Christopher Nolan movie ranked

Cameron Frew
Batman from The Dark Knight, the Oppenheimer poster turned blue, and the poster for Insomnia, all Christopher Nolan movies

The world is obsessed with Oppenheimer, so we’ve ranked all of Christopher Nolan’s movies from worst to best; don’t try to understand our ranking, just feel it.

How do you define “big” when it comes to directors? If it’s in pure box office gross, a rogue collective of unlikely candidates make up the list; for example, the Russo Brothers and David Yates, two filmmakers with no almost no directorial USP, have raked in more than $13 billion combined. If we’re talking about generation-transcending legacies, there’s obvious names: Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Quentin Tarantino, to name a few.

Christopher Nolan is the fairest, greatest candidate for today’s biggest director. Everybody knows his name, and as the culture of moviegoing slowly shifts away from cheaply considered IP to honest-to-god good films, he’s an event in himself; just look at Tenet, which grossed more than The Flash in its entire theatrical run, and that was released during the pandemic. Did you know he’s also the only director in history to have four movies in the top 30 films of all time on IMDb?

Oppenheimer’s imaginings may have horrified him, but Nolan’s consistently amaze, bewilder, and inspire us to think harder, feel deeper, and demand better from the big screen.

Christopher Nolan movies ranked worst to best

Below, you’ll find a list of Christopher Nolan’s movies ranked from worst to best (as an urgent preface, we’d add that none of them are outright bad), including Oppenheimer, and where you can watch and stream them.

Now, are you reading closely?

12. Following

The poster for Following

What it’s about: An aspiring writer begins shadowing random people around London and soon comes into the orbit of a burglar, but he begins to lose control as his interest intensifies.

What we think: Nolan’s directorial debut is still a pretty astounding watch. The acting is a bit hammy, and some characters are a bit vapid, but there’s a deviously clever eeriness to it; the vibe is overtly sinister, and you can see the early seeds of his whole body of work.

Where to stream: AMC+ via Prime Video and on-demand

11. Memento

Guy Pearce in Memento

What it’s about: A man tries to figure out who killed his wife, but there’s a big obstacle: he has anterograde amnesia, aka short-term memory loss, meaning he has to track his clues through tattoos, maps, and other scribblings to piece together the truth. 

What we think: The headache of Memento’s structure can overpower the intrigue, but with his sophomore picture, Nolan proved himself to be a considered, cerebral filmmaker; it’s remarkable how much dread can be mined in the absence of traditional narrative flow. 

Where to stream: On-demand

10. Tenet

Robert Pattinson and John David Washington in Tenet

What it’s about: The Protagonist embarks on an international mission to prevent World War III, forced to contend with and utilize continuum-breaking technology that allows people to travel backward in time. 

What we think: A skull-rattling swagger of visual filmmaking, inverting the flow of spectacle like a puzzle box that fights back. There’s too much exposition, eye-twitching science, and grating non-sequiturs in the script – but its impenetrability is part of its charm. 

Where to stream: On-demand

9. Batman Begins

A still from Batman Begins

What it’s about: Rather than allowing himself to be consumed by grief and rage over his parents’ murder, Bruce Wayne dedicates himself to cleaning up Gotham City as a new night-looming vigilante: Batman. 

What we think: With Batman Begins, Nolan redefined the superhero movie; it’s a gritty, mature, debut for the caped crusader of a generation. The vivid, gothic presentation of Gotham is deeply missed in its sequels, especially in its frightening illustration of Scarecrow’s powers. And that ending – all-timer.  

Where to stream: Max and on-demand

8. The Prestige

David Bowie in The Prestige

What it’s about: In 19th-century London, two stage magicians become bitter rivals after a trick goes wrong, duking it out for supremacy and working to uncover the secret of the ultimate illusion.

What we think: Rightly revered as an early highlight of Nolan’s filmography, it’s all tricks all at once; a sleight-of-hand, magical juggling act that loses none of its oomph even after you’re left dazed by the payoff. 

Where to stream: On-demand

7. The Dark Knight Rises

Batman and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

What it’s about: Eight years into exile after framing himself for the death of Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne is forced to become the Dark Knight once more to take down Bane, a demagogue hellbent on culling the rich and turning Gotham into an ash-covered dystopia. 

What we think: Nolan crafted a maximalist, epic reckoning before the genre needed it; we’re caught in an all-you-can-eat buffet of superhero content, when all we’re craving is an end. Maybe it’s time to stop outsmarting the truth and let it have its day: The Dark Knight Rises is the finale we needed, and the one we deserved.

Where to stream: Max and on-demand

6. Dunkirk

Tom Hardy in Dunkirk

What it’s about: In 1940, allied soldiers find themselves awaiting rescue or annihilation on the beach of Dunkirk as they come under enemy fire from all directions. As officers try to coordinate a desperate evacuation, everyday citizens on home shores take to the seas to help them. 

What we think: Nolan’s obsession with time is well-known, but his three-pronged, land-air-and-sea storytelling in Dunkirk illustrates how it’s not just a gimmick of his filmography; each scene ratchets up the tension, making for a grand, heart-pounding showcase of the unpredictability of war and the mere seconds that separate life and death. 

Where to stream: On-demand

5. Insomnia

Al Pacino and Robin Williams in Insomnia

What it’s about: Two Los Angeles detectives are sent to Nightmute, Alaska, a town consumed by inextinguishable light, to investigate the murder of a local teenage girl. When the killer starts dangling himself in front of one of the officers, it starts to scratch away at his sanity. 

What we think: Insomnia isn’t underrated, just underseen, but this taut, thrilling daymare is equipped with scorching-hot star power and a cat-and-mouse story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s a simple story by Nolan’s tricksy time-hopping standards, but you can’t be a master without the basics absolutely nailed. 

Where to stream: Only on DVD & Blu-ray

4. Inception

Joseph Gordon Levitt in Inception

What it’s about: Cobb is a thief who infiltrates the dreams of his targets. He’s offered the chance to have a clean criminal record and reunite with his children, but this final job demands a whole new feat: inception, the act of implanting an idea in someone’s subconscious. 

What we think: Inception is probably the most iconic original movie of Nolan’s career: a one-of-a-kind, hair-raising dream that blew everyone’s minds in ways we didn’t realize were possible, with maybe the finest piece of movie music of the 21st century so far, ‘Time.’

Where to stream: On-demand

3. The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight

What it’s about: With crime and corruption still gripping Gotham, Bruce Wayne looks to pack away his cowl and hand crime-fighting duties over to Harvey Dent. However, a new villain emerges to shake-up the underbelly’s status quo and give the city a new class of criminal: the Joker. 

What we think: The Dark Knight is the most important superhero movie since the turn of the millennium. It gave audiences a high that’s never been reached again, featuring the greatest performance of all time in Heath Ledger’s Clown Prince of Crime, and an inspiring, legendary clarity of vision. 

Where to stream: Max and on-demand

2. Interstellar

Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in Interstellar, one of Christopher Nolan's best movies

What it’s about: In a not-so-far future, humanity is doomed as Earth’s resources dwindle. Joseph Cooper, an ex-NASA pilot, is enlisted for a top-secret mission: to fly through a wormhole and find a new home for mankind. 

What we think: Interstellar is a jaw-dropping refutation to anyone who accuses Nolan’s work of being emotionally cold: this is an unabashed celebration of love, conveyed through one of the most exhilarating deep-space voyages ever put to film.

Where to stream: Paramount+ and on-demand

1. Oppenheimer

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer

What it’s about: Based on American Prometheus, Nolan’s latest movie explores the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer; more specifically, how he became the “father of the atomic bomb” and was forced to reckon with the weight of his catastrophic, extraordinary creation. 

What we think: Oppenheimer isn’t just the best movie Christopher Nolan has ever made: it’s the culmination of his directing oeuvre; a sense-rattling, precise behemoth of a film that shakes your bones and leaves you in a state of awe and disquiet. 

Where to stream: Exclusively in cinemas 

That’s all of Christopher Nolan’s movies ranked. Oppenheimer is in cinemas now, and you can check out our other coverage below:

Oppenheimer review | Ending explained | Epic runtime revealed | R-rating explained | Best way to watch Oppenheimer | Christopher Nolan on sex scenes | Cast and characters | Filming locations | True story explained | Is Oppenheimer streaming? | Nolan ranked by Rotten Tomato scores | Is it based on a book? | Age-gap controversy explained Robert Pattinson’s influence | How Oppenheimer died | Christopher Nolan explains strange script | Did Japan ban Oppenheimer? | Review roundup | Does Oppenheimer have a post-credits scene? | Box office | Was Jean Tatlock murdered? | What happened to Kitty? | Why did Lewis Strauss hate Oppenheimer?

Most of Christopher Nolan’s movies can be rented or bought digitally via Amazon Prime, which you can sign up for here.

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