All 12 Christopher Nolan Movies, Ranked by Budget


It’s no news to anyone that Christopher Nolan is one of the most talented filmmakers of his generation and among the most beloved working today; after so many box office and critical successes, the British filmmaker has received countless accolades and established himself as one of the most important voices in cinema. Celebrated for the complexity of his films’ storytelling and character-driven narratives, Nolan has finally earned, for his efforts in the 2023 box office hit Oppenheimer, his first and very much deserved Best Director Oscar after being nominated two times.

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As many movie enthusiasts know by now, one thing about Nolan is that he always favors practical effects over CGI. Naturally, this can make movie productions quite costly, leaving fans wondering which are the most expensive pictures by the Oscar-winning filmmaker. From his directorial debut Following to his latest Best Picture success, we rank every Christopher Nolan movie by budget invested.

12 ‘Following’ (1998)

Budget: $6,000

Image via Momentum Pictures

Following, Nolan’s first feature-length movie, centers around a young writer, played by Jeremy Theobald, who follows strangers around the streets of London to get inspiration. When the unnamed protagonist fails to keep his distance, he sees himself drawn into a criminal underworld.

Considering that it was the filmmaker’s first effort, Following was naturally designed to be as inexpensive as possible. As such, this black-and-white independent film features a budget of only 6 thousand dollars, which a 28-year-old Nolan paid from his own pocket. To make sure every penny was well spent and not to waste any film stock, the team would rehearse scenes heavily and use available light. Following is now regarded as one of the best directorial debuts.

Following
Release Date
April 2, 1999

Cast
Jeremy Theobald , Alex Haw , Lucy Russell , John Nolan , Dick Bradsell , Gillian El-Kadi

Runtime
69

Watch on MUBI

11 ‘Memento’ (2000)

Budget: $9M

Guy Pearce as Leonard looking over his should in Memento
Image via Summit Entertainment 

Nolan’s second film was understandably much bigger investment than his first feature, considering that producer AaronRyder, who, at the time, called it “the most innovative script” he had ever seen, brought it to Newmarket Films. With Guy Pearce in the lead role, this must-see psychological drama centers around the peculiar journey of a man with short-term memory loss as he attempts to track down his wife’s murderer.

Memento was a huge landmark in Nolan’s career; it propelled him into fame and many people still regard it as one of his quintessential masterpieces today. With that being said, the writer and director surely made the most of Memento‘s 9 million dollar budget, as it perfectly encapsulates what a well-crafted thriller should look like, featuring memorable characters, unexpected twists, and a captivating script that still has audiences glued to their screens.

Memento
Release Date
May 25, 2001

Runtime
113 minutes

Watch on Peacock

10 ‘The Prestige’ (2006)

Budget: $40M

Christian Bale as Alfred Borden, holding up a pair of linking rings in 'The Prestige'
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Featuring a 40 million budget, the third least expensive Nolan film is the Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman-led sci-fi mystery drama The Prestige, which illustrates a battle of wits between two stage magicians in 1890s London as they put everything they have at stake while struggling to create the ultimate illusion.

The Prestige is often praised for its unpredictability, mind-bending premise, and clever writing — all of these are expected compliments reckon that it comes from the now Oscar-winning filmmaker’s mind. With CGI kept at minimum usage, the two-times Academy Award-nominated The Prestige (Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography) relies solely on practical and visual effects with incredible results and is anchored by the amazing performances it features. There is no doubt that this tale of rivalry, obsession, and sacrifice makes for an entertaining time in front of the screen.

The Prestige
Release Date
October 20, 2006

Runtime
130 minutes

Watch on Apple TV

9 ‘Insomnia’ (2002)

Budget: $46M

Al Pacino looking at Robin Williams in Insomnia.
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

This remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name stars Al Pacino and Martin Donovan as two Los Angeles detectives dispatched to a northern town with the mission of unearthing the murder of a local seventeen-year-old girl. This game of cat and mouse featuring the primary suspect, a writer played by Robin Williams, slowly takes an unexpected turn, and detective Will Dormer finds his stability threatened.

Made on a small 46 million dollar budget, the box office success Insomnia is the only feature by Nolan that he didn’t write or co-write, with HillarySeitz taking his place instead. Despite the lack of Nolan’s involvement in the writing department (where he usually excels), Insomnia is an incredible entry in the mystery genre that keeps viewers intrigued. What’s more, it is the last Nolan film to get an R-rating until Oppenheimer‘s release.

Insomnia
Release Date
May 24, 2002

Runtime
118 minutes

Watch on Fubo

8 ‘Dunkirk’ (2017)

Budget: $100M

A man stares at a burning shipwreck in Dunkirk
Image via Warner Bros. 

Featuring an expensive $100 million budget, the powerfully executed Dunkirk was a huge commercial success, taking home $525 million. As the title suggests, the 2017 film illustrates the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the French seaport of Dunkirk during World War II, illustrating the troops’ struggles and how they overcame challenges in the face of adversity.

Shot on location in natural lighting using both IMAX 65 mm and 65 mm large format film stock, Dunkirk is an incredible directorial achievement by Nolan and his only war film — excluding Oppenheimer — to date. Intense and engaging are two words to describe this must-see survival film guaranteed to appeal to fans of the genre. Its astounding cinematography, which includes outstanding aerial shots, is one of Dunkirk‘s most memorable aspects.

Dunkirk
Release Date
July 19, 2017

Runtime
107

Rent on Apple TV

7 ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023)

Budget: $100M

A close-up of Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer looking grim in Oppenheimer
Image via Universal Studios

It’s not for no reason that Oppenheimer was this year’s Best Picture winner. Based on the 2005 biography American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin and featuring an incredible ensemble cast led by the incredibly talented Cillian Murphy (his efforts rightfully earned him a Best Actor Oscar, too), this fantastic Christopher Nolan movie depicts the story of the American theoretical physicist who helped develop the first nuclear weapons during World War II.

While not the most expensive film in Nolan’s filmography, Oppenheimer was still quite costly and needed to make somewhere around $400 to break even; this is probably given its practical effects (it features no CGI whatsoever) and the star-studded cast. Fortunately, Oppenheimer broke major records and became the third highest-grossing film of 2023, the highest-grossing biopic, and the highest-grossing World War II movie of all time.

Oppenheimer
Release Date
July 21, 2023

Runtime
180 minutes

Watch on Peacock

6 ‘Batman Begins’ (2005)

Budget: $150M

Christian Bale holding Cillian Murphy's face in Batman Begins.
Image via Warner Bros Pictures

Based on the DC Comics character, the first film in the Nolanverse is Batman Begins, which introduces audiences to Christian Bale‘s take on the fan-favorite Batman, which ended up ranking high among the best. After witnessing his parents’ deaths, billionaire Bruce Wayne relocates to Asia where he is mentored in how to fight evil. Upon his return to Gotham, Bruce embarks on a journey to fight injustice and must stop a secret society that intends to destroy the city.

While not the best film in the trilogy (nor the highest-grossing or most expensive, featuring a 150 million dollar budget), Batman Begins is still an engaging watch, particularly for fans of the iconic superhero. Its dark narrative, different shooting locations, and flawless execution make Nolan’s movie a good first installment. The fact it only took Nolan fifteen minutes to pitch it to Warner Bros (and land the job, too) just further highlights that.

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5 ‘Inception’ (2010)

Budget: $160M

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur fighting a man in a spinning hallway in Inception.
Image via Warner Bros.

Inception is the film that immediately comes to mind when the topic is Christopher Nolan features, as its memorable mind-bending plot that still has many audience members confused these days remains one of his most complex and elaborate. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology and is now tasked with planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O.

Shot on 35 mm film, with key sequences filmed on 65 mm, and aerial sequences in VistaVision, this box office success reaped the amazing results of its initial $160M investment and has become one of the most celebrated science fiction features to date, throwing the heist genre into the mix with incredible results. Nolan’s epic has rightfully earned four Oscars, namely Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects.

Inception
Release Date
July 15, 2010

Runtime
148

Watch on Hulu

4 ‘Interstellar’ (2014)

Budget: $165M

Cooper and two other astronauts walking in an ocean in Insterstellar.
Image via Paramount Pictures

Ever since its well-received release, |nterstellar has evidently established itself as one of the most beloved films in the science fiction genre. The Matthew McConaughey movie meditates on love, time, and exploration of the unknown while taking audiences to a near future scenario where the Earth becomes inhabitable. It’s up to a farmer and ex-NASA pilot named Joseph Cooper to pilot a spacecraft alongside a team of researchers to find a new planet for humans.

Gathering over $731 million in earnings on a $165 million budget, Interstellar is one of the highest-grossing original sci-fi movies. It’s not difficult to grasp the popularity of this Chris Nolan epic, whose appeal only seems to increase with time. While some consider it to be the least Nolanesque feature, Interstellar is one of the filmmaker’s best, with an unforgettable HansZimmer score to match. According to GQ India, Nolan planted 500 acres of corn for the film (which makes sense considering how he often rejects the use of CGI). As a result, the studio gained heavy profits from the leftover corn that wasn’t destroyed during the filming, making close to $162,000.

Interstellar
Release Date
November 7, 2014

Runtime
169 minutes

Watch on Amazon Prime

3 ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)

Budget: $185M

Joker smiling while showing off his card in The Dark Knight.
Image via Warner Bros.

The Dark Knight is mostly known for introducing fans to Heath Ledger‘s iconic The Joker, a DC character that has become widely known in pop culture and garnered a massive fanbase over the years. The neo-noir focuses on Joker’s quest to bring chaos to Gotham, portraying his confrontation with Bruce Wayne who undergoes one of the most difficult psychological and physical tests to fight injustice.

Again, Nolan not being a particularly big fan of CGI is one of the reasons why The Dark Knight was so costly, ranking third place among his most expensive films, with a budget of 185 million dollars. Still, it is worth noting that all of The Dark Knight‘s expenses were covered by its massive box office numbers, which cemented it as the 13th highest-grossing superhero film of all time.

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2 ‘Tenet’ (2020)

Budget: $200M

John David Washington wearing a mask in Tenet
Image via Warner Bros. 

While it gathered mixed reviews and had varying levels of box office success, Tenet is an engrossing enough Nolan flick to draw audiences in. Starring Denzel Washington‘s son John David Washington, the 2020 science fiction mystery film follows an unnamed CIA operative who is introduced to a complex world of international espionage on a global mission that unfolds beyond real time.

Nolan’s efforts on Tenet should not go unnoticed, as the filmmaker took over five years to write the screenplay after meditating about Tenet‘s central ideas for more than a decade and came up with an incredibly complex feature as a result. Some argue that Tenet is actually the most confusing movie by the filmmaker so far, and its perplexing ending does not help its case. This may be the reason why Nolan’s film didn’t do so well at the box office despite its impressive $200M budget.

Tenet
Release Date
August 22, 2020

Runtime
195

Rent on Apple TV

1 ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012)

Budget: $250M

Batman (Christian Bale) and Bane (Tom Hardy) fighting in the street in The Dark Knight Rises
Image via Warner Bros. 

Set eight years after the chaos unleashed by Joker, this 2012 movie follows Bale’s Batman as he is pressured out of exile with the assistance of the mysterious Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) in order to defend Gotham City from the brutal terrorist Bane, played by the undeniably gifted Tom Hardy in one of his best and most memorable roles.

The Dark Knight Rises endures the most expensive Christopher Nolan film to date featuring a budget of $250 million; it is also the second highest-grossing Batman film ever made, only behind The Dark Knight Rises. Despite not being as beloved by global audiences as its predecessor, The Dark Knight Rises is still a pretty solid entry. With so many practical effects put into use (including blowing up a building), it’s not difficult to understand where the budget for Nolan’s film was spent.

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