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Top 10 Christopher Nolan Moments

By Nguyen Le · June 4, 2014


The new Interstellar trailer reminds me of everything I love about director Christopher Nolan – attractive premise, good cast, beautiful cinematography and, fingers crossed, a well penned script. Imagine the challenge of picking 10 best moments from his small, but high quality filmography. Spoilers ahead, though these films should’ve been off your ‘unwatched’ list already.

Read More: The Nonlinear Magic of Christopher Nolan Films

10. Meeting Dent, The Dark Knight (2008)

The following conversation talks about the end of Batman, a goodbye while forewarned is ultimately unavoidable. The elegant music from James Newton Howard beautifully supports the slow pacing; all the emotions the characters feel you’re bound to get them too. As an added bonus, Nolan and Eckhart provide a meme the internet has definitely been enjoying for a while now.

9. Manipulation, Memento (2000) 

Nolan can be good at conveying chaos too – as seen here when Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) tries to manipulate Leonard (Guy Pearce) into doing her dirty work. And she isn’t afraid to reveal her plan too, thanks to his condition. I’ve never seen Trinity turning in a performance like this, so obviously calculating and sickening. The camera is always close to both characters but clearly shows Natalie is dominating Leonard. Intense.

8. Meeting Mal, Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan fully embraces the ‘femme fatale’ concept through the exquisite Marion Cotillard. Similar to Natalie, Mal moves like a predator, though with a seemingly calmer manner of speech and subtlety in communicating “I’m a threat”. Nolan first approached Inception as a horror film and traces of it are certainly seen here from the music, the sounds, acting and direction. The sequence also manages to show that his films, as highlighted by Page in an interview for the film, has the presence of a tangible human core despite an outlandish setting.

7. Hallway Fight, Inception (2010)

If Nolan can do it practically, then he’ll do it practically. Although this sequence is much simpler compared to the Batman films, it shows an improvement over Nolan’s action choreography and editing, no more quick cuts or haphazard camera movements. The 18-wheeler chase in The Dark Knight (2008) sure is something, but it is not perfect. This is better.

6. “You Don’t Know?!” – The Prestige (2006)

Brilliant acting from Hugh Jackman here, yet I want to talk about the composition of this sequence. It seems to be foreshadowing the end of the film in which Jackman’s character will be surrounded by death. The wedging of shots from a different sequence, like that revealing phone call in Insomnia, is seen again here and used to brilliant effect – Angier has received a perfect reason to ruin Alfred Borden’s life.

5. Reason for Murder, Insomnia (2002)

At first I didn’t really like the frenetic style of Insomnia, but the more I think about it I realize that it fits the character’s mindset perfectly – as seen here. During a very revealing phone call between the killer (Robin Williams) and the man assigned to hunt him (Al Pacino), the quick cuts in-between the conversation visualize what is being spoken and the speaker’s emotions as well.

4. Breaking the Bat, The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The decision to excise music from this sequence is genius, allowing every sound – the blows, the water and the footsteps – to be heard. This is definitely important to trap viewers into what will happen afterwards. Nolan emphasizes the hopelessness of the situation, from the fact that none of Batman’s tricks are working; Bane is a mobile hurting machine and he now has resources to bring Gotham down. Not to mention that haunting part when Bane throws Batman’s mask away, all to the eerie howling noise heard when the Aztec coin is seen in the first Pirates of the Caribbean.

3. The Joker, The Dark Knight (2008)

Just when I thought I’ve seen all the fear tactics of Gotham, today the best decides to come out. Joker’s love of theatrics equals endless opportunities to be so too. However Heath Ledger, Nolan and company decided to place some restraint on the character, turned him from feeble to formidable. The sequence also introduces Nolan’s brand of subtle humor, albeit for this particular occasion a spoon of twistedness is added to the mix. Damn, Gotham, you scary.

2. Leonard’s Monologue, Memento (2000)

In the midst of all the plot-twisting, mystery-solving and mystery-making you are still busy solving, the emotional aspect of Memento may be overlooked. The mind of Leonard (Guy Pearce) is always frantic and fragmented, but crystal clear about how broken and depressed it is after the death of his wife. The sequence gets to play out in its entirety, not interrupted by any cuts or fast movements. As a result, if Leonard is sad “not knowing… how long I’ve been alone”, you will be too when this sequence arrives.

1. The Magic Trick, The Prestige (2006)

Don’t you just like it when a movie wraps it up neatly? Imagine that, now added with something that will make your heart drop right before the end credits. The end of Nolan’s friendship-turned-rivalry magic flick does just that, tying all the events up to a fine, if very disturbing, conclusion.

See anything you disagree? Or anything that I’ve missed? Tell me in the comments below. Thanks youtuber CptMacAwesome for the clips!