From brightest day to darkest knight

The top five Christopher Nolan films

British director Christopher Nolan is responsible for a wide variety of exceptional movies, including “The Dark Knight.” Nolan’s unique style sets him apart as one of the best directors today.

Warner Bros. Studios

British director Christopher Nolan is responsible for a wide variety of exceptional movies, including “The Dark Knight.” Nolan’s unique style sets him apart as one of the best directors today.

Ian Fertig, Staff Writer

Famed director Christopher Nolan’s movies range from dreams to memories to magic to Batman and even into the stars. With his reputation for creating cinematic marvels, it’s not easy deciding which films are his best, but we’re going to rank the top five anyway.

[Nolan’s] films have become the golden standard in Hollywood, receiving no shortage of awards and nominations.”

— Staff Writer Ian Fertig

Nolan’s directing career began in 1998 with his black-and-white thriller “Following.” In the two decades since, his films have become the golden standard in Hollywood, receiving no shortage of awards and nominations. No matter where Nolan’s career takes him, he never fails to create the perfect combination of story, music, visual effects, and exceptional acting performances. His movies are known for often being told out of chronological order, with plot twists and surprising revelations that crush those of M. Night Shyamalan.

#5 – Memento

The mystery thriller movie “Memento” was not the first film Nolan directed, but it still marks the early stages of a career that would prove legendary. “Memento” gave viewers an idea of what to expect from Nolan’s future movies — a near total rejection of chronological storytelling, a cast of movie stars operating at their absolute best, and a perfectly told story that leaves the viewer slack-jawed, satisfied, and astounded at the end.

This film stars Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a man suffering from extreme short-term memory loss while hunting for his wife’s killer.  Leonard can’t make new memories of anything that’s happened to him after his wife was killed. With no idea where he’s been or what he’s done, Leonard lives in a tormenting cycle of live, forget, repeat.

The best part? The story is told completely backwards, starting with Leonard catching the culprit and working its way back to how he found him. Viewers must experience the story the same way Leonard experiences his life: with no idea what happened before, and only with a set of tattoos and polaroid pictures for clues.

Although you may have to watch it several times to fully comprehend the story, this movie is a marvel destined to be a timeless classic. It explores the meaning that having memory gives life, the dangers of a loss that cannot be properly mourned, and the relentless drive of a man who can’t forget.

#4 – The Prestige

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play rival magicians hellbent on destroying and out-performing one another in Nolan’s 2006 film “The Prestige.” Set in England in the late 1800s, this movie tells the entire nightmarish tale of how two men turned from associates to bitter enemies, as their attacks on one another grow increasingly dangerous.

What we have here is a simple concept — two magicians trying to outdo each other. Any director could have made a movie with the same idea, but only Nolan could tell the story his way. “The Prestige” is presented in no particular chronological sequence, with the events of the past and present being woven together seamlessly. This way, every revelation and plot twist is revealed at the moment of the director’s choosing.

Speaking of those revelations, no Nolan film has a story as captivating and horrifying as this one. This is not a story of two heroes, not even a story of two villains. It’s a story of two men, people as human as you or me, whose intentions are as selfish as their actions. Their increasing hatred of one another can only be described as a slow descent into mania. Viewers may side with one of them at the start of the film, but there can be no doubt that by its end the viewer will be equal parts amazed and appalled by both men.

#3 – Interstellar

In 2014, Nolan expanded his horizons and told a story that takes viewers across time and space. In “Interstellar,” humanity is slowly dying. The Earth has been nearly rendered uninhabitable, and the only hope for the human race is to find a new home somewhere among the stars. A team composed of Earth’s best astronauts and one very sarcastic robot must travel to a new galaxy in a race against time to find the perfect Earth 2.0 before humanity dies out.

“Interstellar” may not be the best movie Nolan has directed, but it is unquestionably the most beautiful to both the eye and the ear. From the depths of space to a corn farm on Earth, “Interstellar” seizes every opportunity to astonish viewers visually and auditorily. The soundtrack that Hans Zimmer composed for this film is flat-out astounding. Suspenseful, elegant, and emotional, the music complements the events of the movie, but draws attention to itself because it’s utterly gorgeous.

The visuals are equally beautiful. With a surprising amount of practical effects (and special effects where necessary), Nolan was able to take his interstellar adventure and turn it into a display of art. And why wouldn’t it be? Humans have always been entranced by the beauty of the stars and the depths of space. This movie takes advantage of its setting to fill the audience with that sense wonder that accompanies the universe beyond our humble little planet.

“Interstellar” features a treasure trove of famous actors and actresses. Matthew McConaughey, John Lithgow, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, and Casey Affleck all portray characters of immense emotional depth. Their performances take a plot about saving humanity and scale it down to an up-close and personal look at love, family, and the human spirit.

The Achilles’ heel of “Interstellar” is that the story proved to be too complex and confusing for some viewers to understand the first time watching. Most of the confusion arises from the way time compresses and bends throughout the story as the interstellar crew navigates around and through a black hole. (It’s worth noting that the time distortion in this film is scientifically accurate, reflecting some serious dedication to tell a realistic story.) After almost three hours of watching a movie, viewers don’t want to be left confused. It takes attention to detail and maybe a few rewatches, but “Interstellar” does explain itself and its mind-bending story.

#2 – Inception

Up next is the movie so wonderfully complicated that it may cause you to question reality. “Inception” is an absolute mind-warp of a film that is as visually impressive as it is complicated. In “Inception,” advanced technology allows for skilled criminals to enter the dreams of other people and steal ideas, secrets, and memories. In this world, no one is crazy enough to try planting an idea into someone’s head except for Dominick Cobb, a man with everything to lose and everything to gain.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, and Dileep Rao make up the movie’s dream team. As is the norm in Christopher Nolan’s movies, the cast delivers incredible performances at every turn.

To pull off a successful inception, Cobb’s team of dreamers must enter the mind of businessman Robert Fischer and create dreams within dreams within dreams. Every new layer of dreaming creates an entirely new, incredibly realistic world. This raises questions amongst the audience if the “real world” in “Inception” is actually real, or just another dream.

“Inception” will always be famous for telling a story like no other. Don’t hesitate to enter this world where cities fold in half, the impossible becomes possible, and nothing is as it seems.

#1 – The Dark Knight

The second movie in the Dark Knight trilogy may be the best movie of all time. Sure, it’s an edge-of-your seat action movie that pits the Caped Crusader against the coolest villains in the comic book world, but it’s also a profound exploration into the ethics of the human race and the darkest depths of insanity. It’s brutal, fun, thought-provoking, and entertaining every time you watch it.

Returning from “Batman Begins” are Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, and Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow. The new faces in Gotham are Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent and Heath Ledger as The Joker.

This movie would not be Nolan’s best without the performance of Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger’s Joker taught us that not all villains need motive. Not all villains need a clear backstory or a plan to take over the world.

The Joker didn’t try to steal a bunch of money or take over Gotham or crack the world in half. Instead, the Joker terrified the people of Gotham into becoming something darker, something twisted. The Joker took the best and purest member of Gotham’s society and brought him down to the dark depths of insanity. In doing so, the Joker taught us that you don’t have to defeat the hero to win. You just have to show the hero that anyone can become a villain.