You know it’s a Christopher Nolan movie when…

Movies directed by Christopher Nolan tend to have a lot of things in common. When you walk out of a theater, having seen a Christopher Nolan movie, you probably have no idea what happened in the last two and a half hours. But, you probably really liked what you didn’t understand.

Interstellar, Nolan’s newest endeavor starring Matthew McConaughey, is no exception. When the credits started rolling after the movie ended, I knew that I was really confused, that I really loved it, and that I really wanted to see it again. Nolan’s an interesting filmmaker because he plays with different themes and styles when making his films. I have compiled a helpful list of things that remain consistent throughout Nolan’s films so fans can try and figure out the movies he creates. (I will really try to avoid all spoilers when it comes to Interstellar.)

  1. Time is really important

Memento. The Prestige. Inception. Interstellar. What do all of these films have in common, other than their director? The concept of time is incredibly important in each of these movies, specifically the characters’ perception of their pasts and even their futures. In Memento, main character Leonard has short-term memory loss which impedes his crusade to find the man who murdered his wife. The Prestige is told through flashbacks, examining the motivations of different characters. In Inception and Interstellar, the characters are racing time, constrained by its passing. Nolan is very interested in the ways time affects us all, makes us grow and makes us change.

  1. Actors

Nolan, like many directors, picks favorites. Michael Caine is in The Prestige, all three Batman movies, Inception, and Interstellar. Christian Bale was Batman, but was also arguably the protagonist(s) of The Prestige. Anne Hathaway is in The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar. You get the idea.

  1. The importance of family

Family is an underlying theme in many of his movies, defining his characters and their motivations. The notion of family is strongest in Interstellar, as the relationship between main character Coop and his daughter Murph is the focal point of the film. However, it is the ultimate motivation for Dom Cobb in Inception as well: he’ll do this last great con if he can see his children again. In The Prestige, one of the characters does everything for his daughter. In Memento, Leonard is remembering and missing his wife. Hell, even in Batman, the relationship between Alfred and Bruce is an incredibly parental one. Family is seen as the ultimate motivator, and the ultimate gift, in Nolan films.

  1. They’re really long

Inception is 2 hours and 28 minutes. The Dark Knight Rises is 2 hours and 45 minutes. Interstellar is 2 hours and 49 minutes. Sometimes there are scenes in Nolan movies where you can go take a pee break. Unfortunately, Nolan movies are so intricately plotted that this is generally not the case. If you want to sort of understand Interstellar after the first time you see it, you should probably just wait till the end to go to the bathroom. Otherwise you’ll miss something important.

  1. Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer is a frequent Nolan collaborator, as he has composed the music for the Batman films, Inception, and Interstellar. Zimmer’s music is immersive and incredibly emotional. I found myself crying during several parts of Interstellar, due in large part to Zimmer’s stunning score. His music captures Nolan’s ideas and themes perfectly, complementing each scene greatly.

Christopher Nolan is one of the most intriguing filmmakers of our time, and his movies continue to engage and even inspire the American populace. But it’s almost always certain that a Nolan film will have these five elements.


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