10 Best Acting Performances in Christopher Nolan Movies

Christopher Nolan is one of the most popular and celebrated director today. His films have a cult following who worship the director for his high concept plots and brilliant screenplays. Having 10 films in his belt, 8 of which lie in the top 250 IMDB list. Some people might feel that he is overrated and his scripts are without deeply written characters. But all said and done no one can ignore the fact that his visual presentation and storyboarding is unmatched. Nolan movies are praised for its stunning visuals, grand sets, soulful music and excellent direction. But somehow the acting performances go under-appreciated. Here is a list of top actors in Christopher Nolan movies:

10. Al Pacino in Insomnia (2002)

Between the brilliant Memento(2000) and the stupendous Batman Begins (2005) Christopher Nolan directed a relatively lesser known but equally brilliant film called Insomnia. Al Pacino starred as Will Dormer, a big-city cop who is facing corruption charges back home. He arrives at Alaska to conduct a murder investigation with his partner, who he later kills because he reveals he is going to testify against Will in order to save his own skin. He then develops the titular sleep disorder and Al Pacino is terrific. His performance anchored the whole movie and the role of a police officer questioning his own actions and witnessing it take a toll on him emotionally and physically, is something you’ve seen others do but Pacino’s is a lot more subdued and subtle unlike his previous outings.

9. Cillian Murphy in The Inception (2010) and Dunkirk (2017)

Do you remember the guy who played Scarecrow in Batman Begins. He also auditioned for the Batman role for the same movie. Do you remember Fischer from Inception whose mind Cobb enters to incept the idea. He was the first actor to be given the script and was asked to choose the role he wanted. He didn’t want the person performing Inception (which later went on to DiCaprio) and chose the role of Fischer whose mind is being incepted. He is one of the most underrated actors in the world today and although he performed some brilliant roles in Nolan movies he is relatively unknown. His role of Fischer is confined and performed the role of a person who doesn’t know what is happening around him with great brilliance. But his role in Dunkirk was even better. Although the screen time of the character is lesser he is brilliant as a soldier who is suffering from PTSD and doesn’t want the sailor to take him to the beach again. At the beginning you hate him but we later come to know what he has gone through and eventually we feel for him.

8. Robin Williams in Insomnia (2002)

Remember the fans outburst that occurred when they heard Nolan had cast Heath Ledger as Joker, one of the most awesome characters in DC comics. Well, Nolan has always been unpredictable with his castings. He can see what audiences and sometimes even the actors themselves can’t see in them. His most risky yet rewarding character choice came early on his filmography when he decided to cast Robin Williams, a comedy stalwart, as an antagonist. And as said earlier it was highly rewarding. Robin Williams was dark, subtle and highly restrained as Walter Finch, a crime novelist and murderer. Robin Williams personifies Evil as Finch and the comedian hides well behind a well layered character and gives one of his finest if not the finest performance in his career.

7. Hugh Jackman in The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige is one of the best works of Christopher Nolan and one of the best films made on Magic and Magicians. Depicting the feud between two talented magicians, The Prestige features Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier. Of the two magicians , Alfred Borden might be the technically brilliant magician but it is Angier who is the better stage performer. Jackman’s stage musical experience comes in handy in the way he handles the stage as we no longer see a character, we see a magician who desperately wants his audience to be fooled and eagerly waits for their reactions when they realise they have been fooled. Angier loses his wife, gets succumbed by grief, then by vengeance and later by jealousy. He is certainly darker of the two characters and pulling him off must be difficult. Hugh Jackman pulls off this role effortlessly as the actor ploys with our feelings, making us hate him in a scene and feel for him in another. Without an iota of doubt, this is one of the most remarkable performances in Hugh Jackman’s career.

6. Guy Pearce in Memento (2000)

After a relatively not-so-famous debut it was Memento that made the world look at Nolan. A brilliant concept complemented by a tight screenplay and wonderful performances Memento was one of the best films of the year. And Memento would not have been Memento without Guy Pearce. Pearce had to be a white paper for the most part of the film. And with every detail being written in the paper he had to bring in subtle yet profound changes in the character and his role is made more difficult if the movie is not going to be shot in the order of the screenplay. Pearce had to be completely certain and then seconds later completely uncertain and Pearce gives a stupendous performance that unites these two worlds.

5. Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

When it was revealed that Tom Hardy is going to be the main antagonist for the third installment of the Nolan’s Batman franchise the expectations were sky high. The reason was the previous antagonist of the franchise gave in one of the best performances in Cinema ever. Although, the final installment couldn’t meet the previous one in its quality, it is still one of the better Batman Films and the reason is Tom Hardy as Bane. He put on weight and could emote all the evil and the pain he has within him just through his eyes. Tom Hardy is a great talent and one of the most underrated actors of this generation and this role shed some light on the prowess that he possessed.

4. Christian Bale in Batman Trilogy (2005-12)

Christian Bale could do what actors before him and after him couldn’t. He could make us feel that the dedicated and tortured Bruce Wayne, the powerful and terrifying Batman and the drunken-billionaire playboy were parts of the same person. The parts are so different yet Bale made it look as the traits of the same character. Some actors take character traits to extents where we lose the connect with the character but that was never the case with Bale. Despite being under-appreciated for the second part and the third parts, his role in the first part received an overwhelming response. Bale set new standards for the iconic character that I don’t think anyone could reach in the near future.

3. Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar (2014)

Matthew McConaughey is the backbone of Interstellar. Portraying the role of a loving and a caring father who is going to perform Interstellar travel for a greater good for the mankind. Being a brilliant actor who had just won the Oscar the expectation of this collaboration was sky high and this actor gave one of the best performances of his career. Although critics were divided by the quality of this movie McConaughey’s performance was universally acclaimed. His performance in the sequence with his just before he leaves and in the scene in the spacecraft when he watches the AV of his children cemented his place as one of the best actors of this generation.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception (2010)

The most celebrated actor and the most celebrated director of this millennium joined hands to make a science fiction movie which is inarguably one of the greatest of this millennium so far. Dom Cobb is a man who is separated from his children in the States and is willing to do anything it takes just to get back there with his children. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb to the finest detail. Dom Cobb is one of the most layered characters Nolan has ever written and DiCaprio makes the character his own portraying the emotions, guilt, determination and selfishness each to the finest detail.

1. Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)

Yeah… Heath Ledger it is. If you thought it someone else was gonna top this list , you haven’t been paying attention.

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