How to watch every Christopher Nolan movie before Tenet finally releases

(Image credit: Future)

Christopher Nolan has one of the most varied back catalogues of any director, covering crime, drama, science fiction and superhero films. It’s odd, then, that he's only been nominated for Best Director once, in 2018 for Dunkirk, which he ultimately lost to Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water. 

Despite that, Nolan is one of the most critically revered directors of our time, and has managed to continuously direct huge commercial successes. He's constantly compared to Kubrick – both in the types of films he makes and his skill as a director. 

Next up is Nolan's spy/sci-fi movie Tenet, which is expected to help theaters come back to life from a long period of closures. In the meantime, here’s how to watch every single one of his movies in the US and UK. Most of them are available to stream or buy, though there are some exceptions where you'll need to hunt down a DVD.

Following (1999)

Nolan’s first film is also his most minor, made on just a $6,000 budget. It features a man who follows strangers around London, and ends up falling into a criminal conspiracy after getting a little too close. To save on money, Nolan rehearsed the film heavily – meaning limited filmed takes and less money spent on reels – used only natural lighting and paid the crew out of his own pocket. It’s not his greatest, but it’s a fantastic example of how to make movies on a shoestring. 

It's a little easier to find in the US than it is elsewhere, where you can stream it on Criterion.

  • UK: Buy the DVD on Amazon 
  • USA: The Criterion Channel

Memento (2000)

Memento might be Nolan’s most experimental and best film, telling the tale of a man with short term memory loss tracking down his wife’s murderer. Revealing its story backwards to unravel the mystery at its center, Memento is an early example of how Nolan builds an exciting film around a simple narrative-twisting premise. Even on a third or fourth rewatch, you’ll notice new little details.

Insomnia (2002)

Starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams in one of his more serious roles, Insomnia is a psychological thriller that starts with two LAPD detectives investigating a murder in Alaska, before it twists into something far nastier than a whodunnit. The film is a remake of a 1997 Norweigian movie starring Stellan Skarsgård, and an underrated production by Nolan that would lead to him working on the Batman movies.

  • UK: DVD
  • USA: HBO Max

Batman Begins (2005)

The first entry in Nolan’s Batman trilogy helped revamp the state of superhero cinema, focusing on a gritty, grounded hero away from the over-the-top aesthetics Batman movies had previously been known for. This origin story deals with how Bruce Wayne became the Dark Knight, and tells a very human story wrapped up in superhero clothing. It helped pave the way for more realistic and serious superhero storytelling.

  • UK: Now TV, Sky
  • USA: HBO Max

The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige is about two magicians (played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) whose rivalry escalates after an elaborate trick goes wrong, leading to a deadly game of one-upmanship as each tries to humiliate the other. A densely plotted adaptation of Christopher Priest's book, it's got at least two amazing twists, and the perfect casting of the late David Bowie as Nikola Tesla really makes it. 

The Dark Knight (2008)

The middle instalment of Nolan’s Batman trilogy is arguably the greatest superhero movie of all time. With the incomparable Heath Ledger as Batman’s nemesis the Joker, The Dark Knight is a must-see movie no matter how you feel about Batman. It's a far grander and more real-feeling film than Batman Begins, taking inspiration from crime pictures like Heat. Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his turn, the first person ever to win this award for acting in a superhero movie.

  • UK: Now TV, Sky
  • USA: HBO Max

Inception (2010)

Inception takes us into dreams within dreams within dreams, and this labyrinthine star-studded sci-fi movie is just as visually stunning now as it was ten years ago. Essentially a heist film, it's about the concept of planting an idea in a subject's subconscious in order to change their conscious thought – check out our Inception retrospective if you need a refresher. The ending is still discussed and debated a decade later. 

  • UK: Netflix
  • USA: Amazon Prime

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The conclusion of Nolan’s Batman trilogy brings in Catwoman, Bane, hints at a Robin origin, and shows Batman as his most vulnerable yet. Tom Hardy's Bane, despite his slightly silly voice, feels truly threatening, even if the film's plotting overall is arguably a little wonky. It's still a nice end to the trilogy.

Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar is the Nolan version of 2001, a space epic that deals with humanity's last attempts to find a new home in the stars before starvation kills everyone. Matthew McConaughey stars as Cooper, an astronaut torn up after making the choice to leave his children behind and head out into the stars. Like Inception and Memento, Interstellar plays with time in interesting ways.

Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of British and Allied forces from France during 1940. Nolan’s film tells this true tale from several angles – the foot soldiers on the beach, the generals organizing the evacuation, the sailors on the warships, the pilots protecting them overhead, and the civilians attempting to aid the rescue attempt from back home. It's Nolan's leanest-feeling film since Insomnia, and a nice contrast to the extremely long Interstellar. 

Samuel Roberts

Samuel is a PR Manager at game developer Frontier. Formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor, he's an expert in Marvel, Star Wars, Netflix shows and general streaming stuff. Before his stint at TechRadar, he spent six years at PC Gamer. Samuel is also the co-host of the popular Back Page podcast, in which he details the trials and tribulations of being a games magazine editor – and attempts to justify his impulsive eBay games buying binges.