Tenet is in theatres now. I know that everyone is tempted to see it –I am tempted to see it– but, as we all know, it’s not safe to go to the movies right now.
We can still get our dose of Christopher Nolan’s trademark brand of incredible practical action and obsession with time, though. The man has made eleven films to date, and most of them have one or the other or both.
So to help get you through, here are my three favourite Christopher Nolan films, what I like about each of them, and how you can watch them in the comfort of your own home.
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This was the first time that I remember Christopher Nolan really flexed his give me a ton of money to make an original film muscle, maybe because it was the first time it was really available. Coming off The Dark Knight Warner Brothers had full confidence in him, so they gave him $160 Million.
Stories within stories, timelines within timelines, Inception blends genres and builds to the idea that an idea needs to be planted by way of emotional catharsis and that positive catharsis. As a result, this film effectively acts as a template for later films (see the next film in this list, even).
The ambiguous ending left many people asking if Leonardo DiCaprio was awake or dreaming, but the actual answer is that it doesn’t matter.
With excellent performances from the ensemble cast, mind-bending effects that still hold up, Inception is a fun film to revisit.
Dunkirk is, in my opinion, Nolan’s most accomplished film to date. However, as I said in my review when I first saw it, each of his previous works feels like it’s a dry run for some aspect of this film.
A seamless blend of three timelines that take place over three lengths of time, all of which converge at the end for a moment of emotional catharsis that legitimately made me tear up.
I don’t know if this is his biggest cast, but it feels like it is due to the three timelines, and each of them is putting in excellent work. In particular, Kenneth Branagh as the stoic naval officer, Tom Hardy in a career-best acting-through-mask performance, and Harry Styles proving that he has the chops to be a movie star, too.
The Prestige (2006)
The earliest film on this list and my favourite of Nolan’s films. All his hallmarks were in place already, men obsessed, shifting timelines, a meditation on performance and the commitment it takes to do so, but what The Prestige has above all else is that some of the rest of his films lack: an emotional core from start to finish.
I love Christopher Nolan films, but it’s not unfair to say that sometimes his films feel a little bit cold side. It’s not entirely out of place, for example, for characters to sit around and talk about love as an abstract concept in Interstellar, but the characters in The Prestige have an emotional entanglement from the start.
Sure, it’s a film about obsessed men destroying themselves trying to destroy each other, but that core of anger and jealousy born of broken trust and lost love allows The Prestige to be compelling because of investment in the characters themselves rather than the world they live in or the heist they’re planning.