Christopher Nolan attends the screening of "2001: A Space Odyssey" ahead of the "Sink Or Swim (Le Grand Bain)" Premiere during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 13, 2018 in Cannes, France.

Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors of our era. His way of storytelling is complex and resonates with audiences worldwide, leading his films to gross billions at the box office. The English filmmaker developed an interest in the industry from a young age. Growing up, Nolan was influenced by Ridley Scott’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Star Wars (1977). At just seven years old, he’d borrow his father’s Super 8 camera and shoot short films with his action figures. He’d create makeshift sets with his brother Jonathan built from clay, flour, egg boxes, and toilet rolls. At age 11, he aspired to be a professional filmmaker and worked as a script reader, camera operator, and director of corporate and industrial films.

However, with no support from the British film industry, Nolan was struggling to get his projects off the ground. Despite that, Nolan created his first feature film, 1998’s Following, which he wrote, directed, photographed, and edited with a £3,000 budget. Following won several awards during its festival run and was well-received by critics. The success allowed Nolan to make Memento two years later, which became his breakthrough film. After that, Nolan approached Warner Bros. with the idea of making a new Batman film based on the character’s origin story. He wanted to approach it with a more realistic world than a comic-book fantasy. Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy set the bar for future superhero films in the way he achieved a gritty, realistic tone. With 12 films under his belt, each seemingly his best work to date at the time of their release, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

Take a look below at our top five picks of Nolan’s best films.

  • 5. 'Tenet'

    We’re told early on in the film that we shouldn’t try to understand it, but that we should feel it. Starring Robert Pattinson and John David Washington, this 2020 thriller was a fun watch in an empty theater during Covid. Like some of his earlier films, an abstract concept — in this case, inverting time to experience things in reverse — makes for an exciting and captivating watch. Also, like his previous films, our future selves hold power over our present-day selves.

  • 4. 'The Prestige'

    As an adaptation of a 1995 novel by critically-acclaimed author, Nolan’s 2006 film starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as dueling magicians in late 1800s London showcases how far a person is willing to go to perform the ultimate magic trick: teleportation. Their characters’ obsessions with one another teeter the line of charming and sinister.

  • 3. 'Memento'

    This 2000 film starring Guy Pearce is told in reverse. It’s about Leonard Shelby, who’s been desperately trying to avenge his wife’s death. Because he suffers from short-term memory loss, he forgets everything within minutes. So, his body has hints all over via tattoos. But, the tattoos are revealed to him one at a time and sometimes in hidden places or designed in reverse to be read in a mirror. This is an exhilarating watch, especially for the first time, as we experience everything as it happens to Leonard.

  • 2. The Dark Knight

    Nolan’s second Batman film is hands-down one of the most influential movies of our time. This is our most revisited Nolan film, due to the power it holds of being more than just your average superhero flick. Christian Bale’s Batman is tormented by the late Heath Ledger’s ruthless, disturbing tactics and every droning moment of the film pulls you in (We’ll thank the score, by the legendary Hans Zimmer, for that).

  • 1. Inception

    Of all of Nolan’s films, this one was the most intriguing conceptually and visually. The 2010 film follows high-tech thieves with the ability to break into people’s dreams and steal hidden ideas from their subconscious. In order to secretly plant an idea in a person’s head, they have to enter that person’s dream — several dream levels down. Should they go too far down the dream levels, they’ll be stuck in a dream forever and their brains will melt. This film makes us appreciate the misdirection used throughout and how dangerous the power of ideas are when implanted.

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