Quality Finds, Incredible Deals – Navigate the Savings at Enterprise.Business

How to watch Christopher Nolan movies in chronological order

Key Takeaways

  • Christopher Nolan has achieved critical and box office success over two decades, with the Oscar buzz for Oppenheimer solidifying his status among the ranks of legendary directors like Spielberg and Scorsese.
  • In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Nolan discussed a potential link between Oppenheimer and Tenet, suggesting he designs his films to leave open questions that could be explored in future works, whether related or not.
  • This prompted me to consider watching his movies in a chronological order that forms a Nolanverse, where his films are interconnected within a single universe.

Two decades of critical and box office success along with the impending Oscar wins for Oppenheimer has cemented Christopher Nolan’s status as an all-time great director — alongside the likes of Spielberg and Scorsese. But did you know he’s been quietly building his own movie universe? It’s no MCU-level saga, but apparently many of his films are connected.

I was watching a recent interview he gave with comedian Stephen Colbert and noticed an interesting response he gave to a question about a connection between Oppenheimer and Tenet. (There’s a reference in Tenet, where the possibility that a nuclear ignition could destroy the entire world.) When asked if that moment is related to him making Oppenhiemer, Nolan said, “I try to leave each film with interesting questions, that maybe in some unrelated form or possibly related form, to pick up in the next film.”

You can see the clip here:

That got me thinking, as a Nolan fan, is there a way to watch his movies in chronological order, where the films are connected in one universe? A Nolanverse, if you will.

Related

How to watch every Marvel movie and TV show in chronological order

The Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Iron Man, but it’s not the first film you should watch chronologically. Here is the official MCU timeline.

How to watch Christopher Nolan movies in chronological order

Outside of Oppenheimer and Dunkirk, which are historically accurate epics, there aren’t many obvious connections between Nolan’s films. Still, that hasn’t stopped the internet from speculating and finding connections between Nolan’s films. After doing some research, I found two fan theories online that suggest Nolan’s films exist in the same universe.

The first theory: If you’ve seen Memento, you’ll be familiar with the film’s protagonist, Leonard Shelby, who suffers from amnesia that makes his memory reset every few minutes. This theory states that all of Nolan’s films are a result of Shelby’s hallucinations… as he completely loses his mind. This theory puts films like Dunkirk first, and the time-bending films like Interstellar, Inception, and Tenet at the end, with the idea that, as his mind deteriorates, his fantasies get more detached from reality.

The second theory: This theory suggests a fascinating, albeit speculative, link across Christopher Nolan’s films. It argues that Nolan’s movies collectively tell a story of scientists and inventors battling to prevent Earth’s destruction and the unraveling of time. This connection is evident in films like The Prestige, Oppenheimer, Inception, Tenet, and Interstellar, where the main characters grapple with the fallout of their revolutionary inventions. Not every Nolan film fits neatly into this theory, but the recurring themes of groundbreaking science and time manipulation hint at a larger narrative. Even Nolan’s less directly connected films lay the groundwork for a story about the impact of scientific progress on humanity’s future and the nature of reality itself. Essentially, this theory frames Nolan’s work as a nuanced exploration of how scientific breakthroughs can both save and threaten the world.

To watch Christopher Nolan movies in chronological order, we suggest following the second theory. We’re including the Batman trilogy as optional — just because those films personally feel more to me like they’re part of the Batman universe than the Nolan-universe.

1 The Prestige

Rival magicians square off in the 1890s

The Prestige (2006)

Two magicians go to great lengths to outdo each other, eventually destroying themselves.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan

Starring
Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson

Run Time
130 minutes

The Prestige follows two English magicians in the 1890s, named Robert Angier (played by Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (played by Christian Bale). After Angier’s wife dies during one of Borden’s illusions, Angier becomes obsessed with revealing all the secrets behind Borden’s performances and tricks. This leads Angier to enlist real-life inventor Nikola Tesla (played by David Bowie), to help him copy Borden’s most impressive trick, The Transporting Man.

The inclusion of Nikola Tesla, and some impossible science fiction in the form of transporting/cloning machines, show some of the early impacts of science on the world Nolan has created.

2 Dunkirk

The English Army’s most desperate hour

Dunkirk (2017)

An Academy Award-winning retelling of the English Army’s rescue from Dunkirk, where they were trapped by the Nazis early in World War II.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Christopher Nolan

Starring
Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance

Run Time
106 minutes

Reeling from its first fight with the Nazi war machine, the 338,000 men in the English Army find themselves trapped on the beaches of northern France and Belgium. Dunkirk tells the story of how the soldiers staved off the Nazi army, while English Airmen protected them until a flotilla of citizen sailors crossed the English Channel in order to pull off a daring rescue attempt.

3 Oppenheimer

The Atomic age begins

Oppenheimer (2023)

This biopic follows the inventor of the atomic bomb as he races against the Nazis to complete the device without thinking through its implications.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Christopher Nolan

Starring
Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon

Run Time
180 minutes

Oppenheimer is Nolan’s most recent film. It was a huge hit, taking in $950 million at the box office and racking up 13 Oscar nominations. The film follows Robert Oppenheimer’s life creating the atomic bomb, from leading the Manhattan Project to being investigated for his ties to socialist activities. The film is based on the book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin.

Oppenheimer is cited later on in Tenet — as the unnamed scientist of a formula that controls the flow of time through objects is called the Oppenheimer of her time, because her creation has the power to destroy all life. Nolan said he was inspired to write Oppenheimer after actor Robert Pattinson gave him a book about Oppenheimer’s speeches during the filming of Tenet.

4 Following

Nolan’s first film

Following (1998)

A struggling writer who enjoys following strangers finds his way into London’s criminal underworld

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Christopher Nolan

Starring
Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell

Run Time
67 minutes

Following is Nolan’s first film. It shows a struggling young writer, played by Jeremy Theobald, who enjoys watching strangers and following them around. When one of his stalking sessions leads him to meet a career criminal, played by Alex Haw, and the young writer begins a slow descent into crime. Following was produced on a shoestring budget, which shows on a re-watch, but it’s also a fantastic movie that lays the groundwork for how Nolan will use time throughout his films.

5 Memento

An amnesiac out for revenge

Memento (2000)

A man with short-term memory loss attempts to avenge his wife’s murder.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan

Starring
Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

Run Time
113 minutes

Guy Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a man who’s developed severe amnesia that doesn’t allow him to form new memories after him and his wife were attacked by home-invaders. Leonard managed to kill one of the attackers, but his wife died in the process, so he’s looking to find the other killer and avenge her. The only problem is Leonard’s form of amnesia won’t allow him to form new memories, so he is forced to constantly leave himself clues, in the form of tattoos and Polaroid photos pointing him in the right direction.

6 Optional: Batman Begins

Batman’s origin, Nolan style

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman’s origin story is retold with Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, facing off against the man who trained him, Ras Al Ghul.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer

Starring
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson

Run Time
140 minutes

Christian Bale stars as Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, in the first film of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It’s an origin story that sees Wayne leave Gotham City and spend seven years traveling the world before ending up training in an organization known as the League of Shadows, which is led by Henri Duccard (Liam Neeson). Afterward, Wayne returns to Gotham, dawns his cape and cowl, and takes on a plot to poison Gotham’s water supply.

7 Optional: The Dark Knight

Why so serious?

The Dark Knight (2008)

Batman’s arrival in Gotham prompts the emergence of the Joker, who quickly seizes control of the city’s organized crime underworld.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer

Starring
Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart

Run Time
152 minutes

Christian Bale returns as Batman in one of the greatest sequels of all time. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best supporting actor for Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as the Joker. The film sees organized crime bosses of Gotham desperate for an answer to their Batman problem, and in that desperation, they turn to the Joker. Meanwhile, Gotham has a new district attorney in Harvey Dent, who could finally end Gotham’s need for Batman.

8 Optional: The Dark Knight Rises

Batman takes on Bane

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Batman returns from a self-enforced exile to take on a new villain terrorizing Gotham, Bane.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway

Run Time
164 minutes

Starring
Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

After living in exile for eight years, Bruce Wayne is forced to return as Batman when Bane, a former member of the League of Shadows, begins a reign of terror over Gotham. Unfortunately, Batman isn’t as spry as he’s used to be, thanks to the years of crime fighting. Thomas Lennon, who also appeared as a doctor in Memento, fills in all the details about the damage done to Batman’s body, but it’s going to be an uphill battle for him to be able to defeat Bane.

9 Insomnia

Al Pacino tracks down a killer Robin Williams

Insomnia (2002)

An LA detective, played by Al Pacino, is sent to a small town in Alaska to find a killer.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Hillary Seitz

Starring
Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank

Run Time
118 minutes

Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a successful LA detective dispatched to Alaska to help find the killer of a 17-year-old girl with his partner. Once they arrive, his partner, played by Martin Donovan, reveals that he plans to testify against Dormer for fabricating evidence. This leads to Dormer navigating a career-threatening investigation while tracking down a dangerous killer, who happens to be played by Robin Williams. It’s worth noting Insomnia is Nolan’s only film he didn’t have a hand in writing himself.

10 Inception

Walking in dreams

Inception (2010)

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a thief who steals from peoples’ dreams. He’s offered a chance to wipe away his criminal past for a price.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Christopher Nolan

Starring
Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page

Run Time
148 minutes

Inception stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, a man who enters people’s dreams and convinces them to reveal valuable secrets. He’s approached with a deal to “incept” an idea into a man’s dream that would cause him to destroy his father’s corporation. In return, Dom will get his entire criminal history erased, which would allow him to return to the US and his young children, but in order to accomplish this task, Dom will have to deal with the memory of his haunted wife who haunts his dreams.

The Nolanverse really picks up with this film, as fans have theorized that Dom’s two young children, Phillipa and James, go onto become members of the organization known as Tenet in the next film. The character have different names, now going by Neil and Barbara, but that’s explained away by the mysterious nature of Tenet. The age difference between them fits for the characte’s to be a match, and fans find it suspicious that the casting call for the character of Neil called for the same hair color as James in Inception.

There’s also another connection between this film and Tenet. Dom and his team are in hiding because of a failed job they pulled involving a company known as Cobol Engineering. In Tenet, the Protagonist is also involved with a company called Cobol.

11 Interstellar

Space and time

Interstellar (2014)

A team of astronauts set out to find a new home for humanity before Earth dies.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Writers
Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

Starring
Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

Run Time
169 minutes

Interstellar is set in a semi-near future where humanity and the Earth are dying. Crops have failed one-by-one and soon humanity will starve. This leads Matthew McConaughey’s Joseph Cooper to be sent into space along with a team of astronauts to enter a wormhole that’s mysteriously opened in space. The wormhole lets them travel to a new solar system where there are potential habitable worlds for humanity. The team needs to check out the worlds and find the best option.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, a team of scientists, that ends up being led by Cooper’s daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain), has to figure out how to solve the problem of a mass exodus of humans leaving Earth.

Fan theories connect Interstellar to Tenet through the destroyed Earth, with the idea being that Interstellar’s Earth would’ve been the perfect environment for a scientist to develop something like the algorithm from Tenet, which is capable of reversing the flow of time and attacking the past. So, Murph might not have got all of humanity off of the dying Earth, and a remnant scientist developed the Algorithm in the dying days of Earth. Even though Tenet is set around our own time, it can only take place after the events of Interstellar, where the Algorithm would’ve been created before being sent back in time and discovered in Tenet.

12 Tenet

A timeless film

Tenet (2020)

An elite soldier joins an organization known as Tenet before being tasked with stopping time from being reversed, erasing life on earth.

Director
Christopher Nolan

Starring
John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki

Writers
Christopher Nolan

Run Time
150 minutes

John David Washington plays the lead in Nolan’s 2020 blockbuster that was most famous for confusing its audience. Washington’s character (credited only as The Protagonist) is an elite CIA operative recruited to join the organization known as Tenet, where it’s revealed that the rules of time can be broken, and it’s threatening all life on Earth.

Part of what confused audiences is the macguffin that allows time to be manipulated, known as the Algorithm, which lets the entropy of objects to be reversed. The Algorithm was invented a few generations into the future of the Tenet universe by an unnamed woman who is compared to Oppenheimer in that she immediately realizes she invented something that could end the world. This leads to her sending it into the past, where the members of Tenet need to track it down.

There’s a lot of speculation about whom this mystery scientist is among fans. There’s speculation she could actually be one of the characters in the film, like Barbara (Clémence Poésy) or Priya (Dimple Kapadia). More interesting to our chronological order is when and where she invented the Algorithm. It’s a weapon capable of destroying the past, which is particularly useful if you were living on a planet that was destroyed by your ancestors. A weapon like the Algorithm would allow these people on a dying world to take some revenge on the people who killed them. Imagine a world ravaged by climate change and famine, with humans desperately trying to escape their planet, like in say, Interstellar. That’s where a weapon like the Algorithm would’ve been created.

Related

Upcoming Marvel movies: Every new MCU film and TV show in the works

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s next for the MCU, including every movie and TV show, their expected release date, cast info, and more.


Spoiler-free: Christopher Nolan Movies in chronological order

The second theory

Here’s the above guide in a spoiler-free list.

The first theory (aka the Memento order)

Memento features a doctor, played by Thomas Lennon, who explains to Shelby that he suffers from imaginary realities along with his amnesia. This has led fans to theorize that all of Nolan’s films are actually taking place inside of Guy Pearce’s Leonard Shelby. The films more grounded in reality would take place first, while the ones that feature more sci-fi elements that are detached from reality would happen later on as Shelby’s mind breaks further. That does make it hard to make a concrete order out of this theory though.

What’s crazier, hallucinating Batman movies, or the plot of Inception?

The theory does have one vocal proponent though:Thomas Lennon, the actor who plays the doctor who diagnoses Leonard Shelby. He also appeared as Bruce Wayne’s doctor in The Dark Knight Rise. He gives his full support to the theory. In an interview with Huffpost, Lennon said, “Exactly the same doctor, and it’s all happening inside Guy Pearce’s mind.”

Christopher Nolan movies by release date order

Here’s all of Nolan’s films in order they were released in theaters.

Trending Products

0
Add to compare
Corsair 5000D Airflow Tempered Glass Mid-Tower ATX PC Case – Black

Corsair 5000D Airflow Tempered Glass Mid-Tower ATX PC Case – Black

$168.05
0
Add to compare
CORSAIR 7000D AIRFLOW Full-Tower ATX PC Case, Black

CORSAIR 7000D AIRFLOW Full-Tower ATX PC Case, Black

$269.99
0
Add to compare
Corsair iCUE 4000X RGB Mid-Tower ATX PC Case – White (CC-9011205-WW)

Corsair iCUE 4000X RGB Mid-Tower ATX PC Case – White (CC-9011205-WW)

$144.99
.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Enterprise.Business
Logo
Register New Account
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Compare
0
Shopping cart