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From Stanley Kubrick to Stephen Spielberg: Christopher Nolan lists his 30 favourite films

With the wait for Tenet looking like it may drag on for some time, we’re filling the period of indefinite delay by revisiting the director’s favourite films of all time.

Christopher Nolan, the highly respected English film director, screenwriter, and producer commonly referred to as an auteur filmmaker of modern cinema, has compiled a list consisting of 30 of his most cherished cinematic pictures.

Nolan has built his reputation with his consisted visual style that often emphasises urban settings, flirting with evocative shadows and documentary-style lighting all the while exploring philosophical themes of human morality and the construction of time as a pivotal point. It’s been a proposition which has seen Nolan toy the line of mainstream cinema while remaining experimental in every process.

While his past films such as Memento, Insomnia, The Dark Knight Trilogy all display elements of the above, it was his work with 2010 film Inception which culminated his greatest skills into a complete feature film. It became a point of merit on his growing CV of classics.

Preferring real filming locations rather than studio work, Nolan pushed his ability to the limits when following up Inception with the Oscar-winning science-fiction film Interstellar which starred the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine. While the film, it signified a slight change in direction for Nolan’s fans, the topic of science fiction was one that has remained ingrained in his life since a child—and it shows in his list of favourite films.

Most notably, it has to be said, is the first film Nolan picked out to kickstart his list of must-see films for Indie Wire is Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. A widely disputed member of the sci-fi family, it’s a film on which Nolan himself would go on to play a major role in its restoration years later.

Remembering when he first saw the film as a child, Nolan said: “I just felt this extraordinary experience of being taken to another world,” while in conversation with Entertainment Weekly. “You didn’t doubt this world for an instant. It had a larger than life quality,” he added.

A number of Nolan’s films have played around with varying genres, but the 2017 war film Dunkirk—which depicts the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II—signified his first major foray into the genre of war. It’s clear his admiration for the topic has been deep-rooted. His capturing of the essence of war and the people who fight in them in that film may be down to some of his favourite films.

The inclusion of Lewis Milestone’s war epic All Quiet on the Western Front is a noted addition to an impressive list. Nolan added: “All Quiet on the Western Front said it first and best: war dehumanises,” when speaking to the BFI. It’s a duality that Nolan also plays with.

He added on the film: “Revisiting that masterpiece, it is hard to disagree that the intensity and horror have never been bettered. For me, the film demonstrates the power of resisting the convention of finding meaning and logic in individual fate.”

As you can see from the list below, Nolan isn’t afraid to include more recent pictures in his list, most notably Damien Chazelle’s 2018 Neil Armstrong drama, First Man: “It’s a masterfully staged re-creation of the space program with utterly compelling physical detail and layers of cinematic immersion that command credence and ensure that the radical and intensively subjective nature of Chazelle’s point-of-view comes as a gradually unveiled shock,” Nolan told Indie Wire.

Also included is Alfred Hitchcock’s feature Foreign Correspondent as well as Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and, of course, there was always going to be room for Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Blade Runner. It really is a complete list which not only provides you with a must-watch list of movies but a subtle reflection of Nolan as a director: adventurous, timeless, captivating and classic.

See the films, below.

Christopher Nolan 30 favourite films:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey – Stanley Kubrick, 1968
  • 12 Angry Men – Sidney Lumet, 1957.
  • Alien – Ridley Scott, 1979.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front – Lewis Milestone, 1930.
  • Bad Timing – Nicolas Roeg, 1980.
  • The Battle of Algiers – Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966.
  • Blade Runner – Ridley Scott, 1982.
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Steven Spielberg, 1978.
  • First Man – Damien Chazelle, 2018.
  • For All Mankind – Al Reinert, 1989.
  • Foreign Correspondent – Alfred Hitchcock, 1940.
  • Greed – Erich von Stroheim, 1924.
  • The Hit – Stephen Frears, 1984.
  • Koyaanisqatsi – Godfrey Reggio, 1983.
  • Lawrence of Arabia – David Lean, 1962.
  • Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – Nagisa Oshima, 1983.
  • Metropolis – Fritz Lang, 1927.
  • Mr. Arkadin – Orson Welles, 1985.
  • The Right Stuff – Philip Kaufman, 1983.
  • Saving Private Ryan – Steven Spielberg, 1998.
  • The Spy Who Loved Me – Lewis Gilbert, 1977.
  • Ryan’s Daughter – David Lean, 1970.
  • Star Wars – George Lucas, 1977.
  • Street of Crocodiles – Brothers Quay, 1986.
  • Sunrise – F. W. Murnau, 1927.
  • Superman: The Movie – Richard Donner, 1978.
  • The Testament of Dr. Mabuse – Fritz Lang, 1933.
  • The Thin Red Line – Terrence Malick, 1998.
  • Topkapi – Jules Dassin, 1964.
  • The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick, 2011.

(Via: Indie Wire/BFI/Entertainment Weekly)