Ranked: Christopher Nolan Movies

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We are a little less than three months away from a new Christopher Nolan movie. Well, that is unless the current global pandemic has its way. But let’s think positive. “Tenet” will be Nolan’s 11th feature film and easily my most anticipated movie of the year. Readers of this site probably know he is near the top when it comes to my favorite filmmakers. In fact (and this is a little crazy) his last FIVE MOVIES ended up being my favorite film for the year they came out!

So with “Tenet” (hopefully) only a few weeks away, I thought what better time than now to rank the ten movies Nolan has given us so far. Now it should be said, I don’t think Christopher Nolan has made a bad film. I like them all. But such is the nature of ranking so here we go.

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#10 – “Following” Christopher Nolan’s debut film is still a movie many people don’t know anything about. The low budget crime thriller was made for a tiny $6,000 and has a lean 69 minute running time. “Following” is dripping with noir flavor and sports a crafty structure, something Nolan would employ in several of his later films. And shooting on black-and-white 16mm film stock was a great choice. Despite its many limitations, “Following” remains a great introduction to a phenomenal young filmmaker.

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#9 – “Insomnia” This is one of the more unique films on Christopher Nolan’s resume. “Insomnia” is a movie that doesn’t tinker with time or have mind-bending special effects. It’s very much a riveting crime thriller driven by its characters, great direction, and a wonderful script. “Insomnia” has the distinct honor of being Nolan’s only film that he didn’t write or co-write. But you see his fingerprints all over the place. Still, despite great performances from big names like Al Pacino and Robin Williams, “Insomnia” is probably the mainstream Nolan film that gets overlooked the most.

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#8 – “The Prestige” Think about it, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale playing dueling magicians in the late 1800’s. Then throw in David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. How can you not love that? Nolan’s period thriller features a fascinating script with as much sleight of hand as the illusionists use themselves. I’ve always loved “The Prestige” and it’s one of those movies that seems to get better with each fresh viewing. Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall, and Andy Serkis are icing on the cake.

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#7 – “Batman Begins” Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy kicked off with the appropriately titled “Batman Begins”. It was a genre film that immediately showed Nolan had something original up his sleeve. It’s dark, moody, and takes a more realistic approach. It was a gutsy movie simply because of its willingness to put much of its focus on Bruce Wayne and the psychology behind Batman. Ultimately Nolan took a familiar origin story and injected it with humanity and pathos all while capturing the essential superhero elements you look for in these movies.

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#6 – “Memento” Christopher Nolan and Guy Pearce – one of my favorite filmmakers and one of my favorite actors. Any hesitations about either of these great talents should have died with “Memento”, a gripping neo-noir thriller that features one of Nolan’s most innovative story structures to date. It challenges viewers to stay locked in, leaving clues for us to ponder and puzzle pieces to fit together. It’s a masterclass in non-linear storytelling and the film is blessed with a game lead actor in Pearce who pulls it off brilliantly.

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#5 – “The Dark Knight Rises” Nolan’s third and final installment to his Dark Knight trilogy is probably the most divisive, but I love its sprawling story, amazing set pieces, and perfect ending. Sure, Tom Hardy’s Bane isn’t nearly the villain as Ledger’s iconic Joker, but comparing the two is a bit unfair. Hardy brings a much different type of menace and it’s very effective. Nolan’s signatures can be seen from start to finish and the final ten minutes are some of the best in the entire trilogy.

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#4 – “Interstellar” I still contend that Nolan’s ninth film “Interstellar” is his most underrated. There were several critics who criticized its length, its sentimentality, even the science behind its story. I still find it to be an audacious and thought-provoking experience with perhaps the strongest emotional pull of any Nolan movie. As the director himself said, it’s essentially a movie about human nature influenced by numerous sci-fi classics. Most of all it’s a unique slice of science-fiction, personal and spectacular.

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#3 – “Dunkirk” The idea of Christopher Nolan doing a World War II film was exciting. The results turned out to be utterly mind-blowing. “Dunkirk” tells an inspirational true story of heroism and sacrifice within the structure of one of Nolan’s favorite devices – time. The story is told from three perspectives: land, sea, and air while focusing more on immersing the audience in the experience rather than spelling it out through dialogue. The performances are superb, the cinematography sublime, and the emotional punch at the end gets me every time.

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#2 – “The Dark Knight” Leave it to Nolan to give us the best superhero movie ever made. Sure that’s a debatable claim, but for me it’s an easy case to make. “The Dark Knight” has everything you want from a superhero movie but it isn’t limited by its genre. It’s also a crime thriller and a neo-noir among other things. And of course there is Heath Ledger as the Joker, a truly unforgettable performance that sees him taking a well-known villain and giving a mesmerizing and fresh interpretation. It’s a key ingredient this visionary masterpiece.

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#1 – “Inception” As much as I love the other films on this list, my favorite Christopher Nolan movie was never in question. “Inception” is firmly planted as one of my favorite movies of all-time. It’s essentially a heist film set within the subconscious, unfolding through a meticulously detailed narrative. It’s a film that highlights all of the things that make Nolan such a fascinating filmmaker. An incredible mix of visual and sound. A fascinating, mind-bending story. A cool genre blend anchored by a superb cast. For my money, it is his very best movie.

So now you have my rankings. What is your favorite Nolan movie? How would your list look? Let me know in the comments section below.

First Glance: “The Quarry”

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There is so much anxiety in the world at the moment. But for some of us it’s good to know movies are still being announced. It’s a nice diversion from the worry and stress. The South by Southwest film festival was cancelled and several notable movies missed their world premieres. One was “The Quarry”, a mystery thriller starring Shea Whigham, Michael Shannon, and Catalina Sandino Moreno. That cast alone was enough for me.

The movie’s trailer dropped last week and it looks promising. Shannon plays a small town police chief who begins to suspect a new preacher (Whigham) isn’t who he claims to be. In addition to the cast I love the setting and the trailer builds a good sense of suspense. This could be a tense, fun southern noir.

“The Quarry” is set for an April 17th release in select theaters (maybe) and on-demand. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

First Glance: “The Artist’s Wife”

 

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There is a certain something about movies dealing with painters that always grab my attention. Often times painters are a special breed of artists and through the decades cinema has given us numerous portraits of them. The latest film from director and co-writer Tom Dolby looks to have a unique vision into the life of a painter who happens to be the wife of a painter. That’s all I needed to hear.

“The Artist’s Wife” stars Lena Olin playing (you can probably guess) the wife of an accomplished painter. He’s played by Bruce Dern who seems pitch-perfect for this role. Olin’s character gave up her painting aspirations to support her husband’s career, but as his health deteriorates she must decide to continue supporting his work or finally seek the career she once dreamed up. The trailer gives a good look into the complexities of their relationship, one filled with love but also regret. I’m really anxious to see where this story goes.

“The Artist’s Wife” has limited engagements throughout the month of April. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

Great Images: Max von Sydow (1929-2020)

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The great Max von Sydow passed away this week leaving behind an incredible cinema legacy. The Swedish movie icon had an spectacular 70-year career where he appeared in over 150 films. Von Sydow died Sunday, March 8th. He was 90-years-old. Here are just a few great images from some of the memorable movies he was a part of.

What is your favorite Max von Sydow performance and film? Please take time to share your thoughts on this truly wonderful actor in the comments section below.

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First Glance: “Black Widow” (Final Trailer)

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I’ve done a really good job of staying away from any spoilers for Marvel’s first big movie of 2020. While I still can’t muster much excitement for “The Eternals”, I’m really looking forward to “Black Widow”. So far I’ve only watched the trailers which (as you would expect from the MCU) have been well done. Now we’ve been given what is tagged as the movie’s final trailer and with it comes a few pretty cool reveals.

This last glimpse of “Black Widow” is a cool mix of family moments and big action. In addition to Scarlett Johansson we get more of Florence Pugh (always a good thing) and a few more details about the two sisters, their pasts, and their complicated relationship. We also get the first official mention of Taskmaster, a villain/anti-hero who is an absolute perfect fit for this kind of movie. The action has a strong “Winter Soldier” vibe and we see everything from kinetic close-quartered combat to massive set pieces.

“Black Widow” is still slated for a May 1st release. Check out the final trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

First Glance: “Greyhound”

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There are so many reasons to be excited for the upcoming World War II naval war film “Greyhound”. It starts with Tom Hanks, always good in front of the camera, but here he also serves as screenwriter. Even more, the movie is directed by Aaron Schneider, his first film since 2009 fantastic “Get Low”. Can’t wait to see him back in the director’s chair. And then you have the incredible true story from which the film is based.

Well now we get the first trailer and I’m even more excited. Hanks stars as Lieutenant Commander Ernest Krause, a career Navy officer finally given his first command. And boy it’s a doozy. He’s tasked with escorting an international convey across the treacherous North Atlantic. They immediately are hunted by a pack of German U-boats which puts Krause’s leadership and confidence to the ultimate test.

“Greyhound” is set to hit theaters June 12th. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.