Over at Mother Jones, Ben Dreyfuss unveiled a completely incorrect ranking of Christopher Nolan films. More egregious than the actual ranking, however, was this bit of heresy:
Of those seven films,* one is great, four are good but forgettable, and two are bad bad bad.
"wow wrong," as the kids might say. Nolan has never made a bad film (let alone a bad-times-three film). On a four-star scale, only Following would drop below three (and that one just barely; it's a glorified student film, so it's technically rough) and several would be fours.
Anyway, here's the correct ranking of Christopher Nolan's films.
Two-and-a-half stars. Probably only really needed to be seen by completists, Following is, as I said, a bit rough (the performances aren't the best and the budget constraints were obvious). Two interesting things to note: We see here Nolan's interest in identity and self-conception—how do we see ourselves and, perhaps more importantly, why do we see ourselves how we see ourselves—as well as his penchant for playing games with timelines. Indeed, Following‘s script is almost as ambitious as Memento‘s. The Criterion edition of this flick is well worth picking up if you're into that sort of thing.
Three stars. A noir that takes place in a town without any darkness, Insomnia is a remarkably tense crime drama that has the added bonus of containing Al Pacino's last decent performance. This is the only of his films he did not have a hand in writing.
6. Batman Begins
Three stars. I always get vaguely annoyed when people say Nolan has no skill as a visual filmmaker (see, for instance, this tweet and conversation). No one has better captured the essence of "Batman, Terror" as Nolan has. With very little in the way of dialogue—that one "Here" is just perfect—we see how utterly terrifying and baffling it would be to come up against The Batman:
Three-and-a-half stars. OK, I'll admit. This one's a bit talky. But it's also visually brilliant. And, once you get past the twists and turns of who is in who's dream, it's the most affecting of his films. Cobb's sense of loss and regret is pretty damn heartbreaking.
4. The Dark Knight Rises
Three-and-a-half stars. If it wasn't for that shot of Bruce and Selina at the end, this might have hit number one.
Four stars. One of the best films of the 2000s and arguably the most structurally innovative and impressive script since Pulp Fiction. Also, this: "I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can't remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world's still there. Do I believe the world's still there?"
2. The Prestige
Four stars. Easily one of the most underrated flicks of the 2000s.
1. The Dark Knight
Four stars. The best film yet made about the post-9/11 mindset and one of the few comic book flicks to transcend its genre. Heath Ledger's performance continues to haunt. And that last sequence—of Batman riding off into the sunrise, chased by the very people he has pledged his life to help—gets me every time. That little kid calling after the wounded hero as he leaves the scene reminds me a bit of the end of Shane. Fitting, given that the comic book flick is our western.
*Nolan has made eight films, not including Interstellar. However, Dreyfuss hasn't seen Following. Like, why even bother living, you know?