A blog about science and movies.
The other day, my roommate, Stephen, and I were discussing how we would rank the Christopher Nolan films in terms of our favorites, since we’re both huge fans of his work. I think Stephen has a slightly different order but here is my ranking:
1. Inception – One of the few movies that truly lived up to my ridiculously high expectations for it. The simplicity of the concept, the complexity of the story, the acting, the effects, the score – loved it all. I believe I told Stephen after I saw it, “I need to come up with a new word to describe this movie because I don’t have one in my vocabulary that comes close.” The movie definitely has its flaws; the time dilation concept is really difficult to figure out and some of the gravity rules seem to be inconsistant. But my favorite part is how the film itself is a metaphor for a shared dream, and when Nolan wakes up, we’re all ripped back into the real world…or maybe another dream. Like any good work of art it keeps people talking long after they’ve seen it.
2. The Prestige – A much tighter film than Inception, The Prestige doesn’t leave you with nearly as many questions when it’s over, but still takes you on plenty of twists and turns from start to finish. Another superbly acted film, it grays the line between science and magic and weaves a story as only a good magician can tell.
3. Memento – I still remember how much this film blew my mind the first time I saw it. I had purchased it on a used DVD on a whim to watch with my friend Brian one night. We knew very little about it. Halfway through, we thought we had it all figured out. By the end, I felt like I had just been taught what a movie was. Memento demonstrates just how well Nolan understands the elements of filmmaking and how they can be used to drive a story. By telling the story backwards, he takes a fairly straightforward tale and turns it on its head, leaving the audience spinning after it’s over.
4. Batman Begins – Batman is probably my favorite superhero, going back to when I used to watch reruns of the campy Adam West television show when I was a kid. But I didn’t really know who Batman was until I saw this movie. A film that brought legitimacy to the genre, Batman Begins took the classic DC character and made him real enough that you could almost believe he could exist. The story is tragic, not just for the tragic way in which his parents’ lives ended, but for the tragic way Bruce Wayne lives his own. It captured the essence of the Dark Knight in a way that had been lost on film and tv, and brought him to life in not just a great superhero movie, but a great all-around film.
5. Dark Knight – The only Nolan film that didn’t live up to my ridiculously high expectations of it. First off, it’s a great movie. Action, score, performances – Heath Ledger, obviously, but also Aaron Eckhart – all fantastic. My problem with it is when I hold it up to its predecessor, it falls short in the areas that I thought Batman Begins did so well. Where the characters were once almost believable, those in this film were now deified, with very little explanation for how they carried out epic feats of destruction. How does the Joker, with his small crew and seemingly limited resources, wreak the havoc on Gotham City that he does? It seems as if the need to outdo the first film caused the sequel to become too larger-than-life. And the third act is both dragged-on and rushed, with too many endings and a wrap-up that probably could’ve been put off to the third movie. Again, it’s great, I still like it, but compared to the first film, it comes up a bit short.
6. Insomnia – Ironically – and nothing against this film – but the first time I saw it, I fell asleep. It wasn’t the movie’s fault, I was already tired, but I did nod off for a bit in the first act. I have watched it many times since then, though, and it is really quite good. Al Pacino and Robin Williams turn in two fantastic performances and the film does a great job of capturing the feeling of the title. One of the things I really love is that such a dark movie is set in perpetual daylight, and it plays off of that concept well.
Six really great movies from a fantastically talented filmmaker. I have yet to see his first film, Following – it’s still sitting in my Netflix queue – but when I get around to watching it, I’ll fit it somewhere in the list. Same for The Dark Knight Rises, which I will be seeing on opening day, with probably ridiculously high expectations yet again. Until Nolan delivers a true “miss” though, they’ll keep going up every time.
What do you think? Feel free to leave your rankings of the Nolan films in the comments below!