Ranking Christopher Nolan Movies

I’m two weeks late with this, but after going to see Dunkirk and catching up on a few more, I have now seen all of Christopher Nolan’s films. You know what that means…

  1. The Dark Knight: I mean, if you still think I need to openly praise this film, you haven’t been paying attention.
  2. Inception: I believe this film represents the pinnacle of Nolan translating one of his patented big ideas into a coherent story. Diving into the world of dreams and incorporating a heist element sounds ridiculous, but Nolan executes it to near-perfection and still explores the human emotion hidden within. Plus, it spawned the technically incorrect idea that anything with the word “ception” after it meant that there were layers upon layers of said thing (i.e. box-ception).
  3. Memento: I still remember the first time I saw Memento; I was absolutely blown away by the nonlinear storytelling that took what Tarantino started and elevated it to new heights. There’s no glamour or in-your-face style with the film either; small-name actors, a modest budget, and a “simple” story of a man trying to find his wife’s murderer combine to make one of the best films of the 21st century. It’s still on Netflix, so please go watch it if you haven’t already (even if you have, there is immense replay value).
  4. Dunkirk: If the general public thought Nolan had lost his edge after some recent missteps, he certainly came roaring back with a completely unconventional war film. Dunkirk immerses you in the chaos of the evacuation and places you right next to the other soldiers on the beach. It’s a visually stunning masterpiece that doesn’t glorify the subject matter in the slightest. Major props go to Nolan for venturing outside his wheelhouse and also coaxing a solid performance out of Harry Styles.
  5. The Prestige: My sister was the first one to highly recommend this film and I’ll admit I wasn’t a huge fan after the initial viewing. However, the second time around proved much more successful; I began to appreciate the layers that Nolan constructed into a story about two competing magicians. The obsessive nature within each one to perfect the other’s trick makes for strangely compelling material that translates to modern times quite well. Of course, with Nolan’s filmography, it’s a shame that a great film like The Prestige gets buried at #5, but I have only myself to blame for this impossible situation.
  6. Insomnia: This was the last Nolan film I had to watch on the list and it pleasantly surprised me. The thrilling murder mystery has been done well by other directors, particularly Fincher with Seven, Zodiac, and Gone Girl, so I was interested to see Nolan’s take on it. Insomnia is also the only film Nolan hasn’t officially been credited with writing and it was refreshing to see him interpret someone else’s work for a change (now if only he could team up with Sorkin). Incoming spoiler: I love how the film doesn’t wait until the end to reveal who the killer is; instead it plays with your expectations and raises questions about who’s really at fault. I had never seen Robin Williams pull off dramatic work like this and it may also be Pacino’s last decent film to the best of my knowledge. Well worth your time.
  7. Batman Begins: I should probably revisit this one because I barely remember anything about it, but for now, the best word I can think of is “fine.” It’s a fine origin story after years of wondering if Batman would ever recover from the late 90’s disaster. But it doesn’t hold a candle to The Dark Knight in the slightest (although people who just want to be different say otherwise). The one saving grace for Batman Begins is the fact that it essentially kicked off the darker and grittier tone that subsequent filmmakers used to retell age-old stories.
  8. Following: A genius is born. While I’m guessing most people haven’t seen Nolan’s feature debut, the genesis (or should I say inception) of his penchant for big ideas started right here. What initially seems to be a simple story about a man who follows strangers around slowly turns into a twisted crime drama complete with the now-classic Nolan twist. However, it’s quite clear that he has gone on to make infinitely better movies than Following, hence the low ranking.
  9. The Dark Knight Rises: For all his incoherence, Tom Hardy turns in a great performance as Bane. Sadly, almost everything else is crammed into a nearly three-hour movie that reeks of studio interference. I might be wrong about that last part, but after the career Nolan’s had, why would you insist on teasing Robin if this is definitely the end of the trilogy? Other misfires include Bruce Wayne miraculously escaping the cave and transporting back to Gotham, Marion Cotillard’s terrible death scene, and the ending shot of Wayne and Selina Kyle fulfilling Alfred’s vision from earlier. We all know Nolan’s better than this, but we see what can happen when he’s rushed or plays fast and loose with the pacing.
  10. Interstellar: Usually when Nolan aims high, he hits the target. But with Interstellar, he wildly missed the mark. Granted, the visuals are groundbreaking and there are one or two truly poignant scenes (I’ve previously referred to the gut-wrenching scene of McConaughey watching his kids grow up on tape). But the message of love as the overpowering force that transcends space and time is wildly jarring and overwhelmingly sappy. While Nolan certainly went for it, and you can applaud the attempt, it doesn’t compare to his more relevant stories about morality and identity. I feel like if the movie had ended with McConaughey desperately peering out of the bookshelf at his daughter, we wouldn’t have complained as much. But then it nearly undercuts that same message of love by having Murph tell her father to leave and go find Anne Hathaway. It’s a divisive movie for sure, but with most of Nolan’s previous work receiving near-universal critical acclaim, it deserves its place at the bottom.

Ranking the Harry Potter Movies

This doesn’t really tie in to anything, but I haven’t had much (if any) Harry Potter content on this blog. Thankfully, my next guest writer Elijah Chen is a huge fan and he volunteered (or rather I pleaded with him) to rank the eight films. No, Fantastic Beasts is not included. I have known Elijah for quite a long time; in fact, we still live next to each other back in Ithaca. He may not be the biggest general movie fan, but if there’s one franchise he loves to death, it’s Harry Potter. So enjoy, all you Potterheads!

Before I start, I just want to thank Jeffrey for giving me the IMPOSSIBLE task of ranking the original eight Harry Potter movies. As an avid fan who’s read all seven books a hundred times over, seen all eight movies multiple times, and taken every single quiz on Pottermore (Gryffindor, Ragdoll Cat, silver lime wood with a unicorn hair core at 12 1/4″ and quite bendy), I still found it extremely difficult to rank these eight fantastic films. No matter where each movie falls on the list, the Harry Potter movies will always hold a special place in my heart as well as atop my all-time list. These rankings are based on several factors; I compared the movies and the respective novels to see whether or not the former closely followed the latter. I also looked at the storylines in the event that incorporating more from the novels would’ve been better. Without further ado, here is my list of the Harry Potter movies ranked from worst to best.

8. Order of the Phoenix: Some people will argue that there are worse movies than the fifth installment (mainly the second one); however, if forced to choose, Order of the Phoenix would be the worst installment of the eight. I mainly put this movie last because the fifth book was my absolute favorite. It was the longest and I get that you can’t fit it all into 138 minutes. But there are some parts (*cough* Quidditch *cough*) that I would’ve liked to see as well as some key character development moments like the St. Mungo’s scene where Harry discovers the truth about Neville’s parents. Nevertheless, David Yates told a great story, with the darkness of the film playing perfectly into the plot. However, this movie was still a disappointment considering how much I loved the fifth book.

7. Chamber of Secrets: At 161 minutes, Chamber of Secrets is the longest movie in the series. It’s also the movie that gave us Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, a character I just hated before even watching the movie. It accurately follows the novel, but takes too long doing so. The set design was amazing, but the Chamber of Secrets was nothing like I imagined; it should’ve been so much greater. Ultimately, the sheer length of this movie and the fact that it tried to cram everything from the novel into a nearly three-hour movie makes this one of the worst Harry Potter films.

6. Goblet of Fire: To me, this movie was just about bringing Lord Voldemort back to life. The way it got there was all right at best. There were some great scenes and others that needed some work. The Yule Ball wasn’t overly impressive, but the three tasks were very enjoyable to watch. We also see Harry ask a girl out on his first date (too bad she said no). That part was just cringeworthy; at least they kiss in the next movie. In addition, can I just say that Ron being jealous of Hermione going to the ball with Krum is downright pathetic? It was infuriating to watch Ron complain about her (on top of the fact that Harry and Hermione make a much better couple). While we’re on the topic of couples, the scenes with Hagrid and Madame Maxime were really awkward. Goblet of Fire is definitely a great movie; it just doesn’t stand out as one of the better entries.

5. Deathly Hallows Part 1: Some people didn’t like that the last movie was split into two parts; I rather enjoyed it since this gave me more Harry Potter movies to watch. Unlike other movies that start out slow, the seventh installment came out firing on all cylinders. The opening scene with Ron and Hermione coming to terms with their impending journey is emotionally gripping. The fight between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters in the sky is awesome. The following scene with Harry and Ginny sharing a look is such an “aww” moment. Even though I think Harry and Hermione should be together, he and Ginny make a cute couple. However, after our three protagonists visit the Ministry of Magic, the movie almost trails off. The scene with Nagini was cool, but there wasn’t much after that. Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a great opening to a two-part finale. It couldn’t have done much more considering how in the novel, the bulk of the action took place in the second half.

4. Sorcerer’s Stone: Considering it had to introduce the whole world of magic to us Muggles, the first installment was quite good. Sure, the visual effects don’t quite hold up, but keep in mind that this came out in 2001. In addition, I feel like Chris Columbus did an OK job at adapting the novel into 152 minutes. There are some problems I have with the movie though. One is the fact that Peeves the Poltergeist is not introduced. It would’ve been great to see him constantly pulling pranks on the students. Furthermore, in the sequence where Harry, Ron, and Hermione are trying to save the Sorcerer’s Stone from Lord Voldemort, Professor Snape’s obstacle is cut out. It doesn’t detract from the greatness of the movie, although it certainly added to the suspense while reading the book. All things considered, Sorcerer’s Stone was a great start to an amazing series.

3. Half-Blood Prince: Was I the only one who got chills at the end when Professor McGonagall pointed her wand at the Dark Mark and, one by one, everyone followed suit? Talk about a powerful scene. Although Half-Blood Prince starts out slow, it steadily improves. I have a tiny problem with the way the movie portrayed Harry and Ginny’s budding romance. The novel did a much better job building that relationship; to me, their kiss in the Room of Requirement felt a bit forced. The music in that scene was great (I’m a sucker for romantic background music during a kissing scene), but David Yates could’ve developed their relationship beyond a couple of scenes. The last sequence starting from Harry and Dumbledore finding the Horcrux to everyone gathering around Dumbledore’s body significantly elevates this movie.

2. Deathly Hallows Part 2: RIP Alan Rickman. You were amazing as Snape throughout the whole series. The role could not have been portrayed by a better actor. Part 2 brings so much action. Picking up right after Harry and company escape from Malfoy Manor, we witness a grave robbery, a funeral, and a fight at Gringotts that ultimately leads to the Battle of Hogwarts. We finally learn the secret of Severus Snape and find out that it was all for love. The scene where Harry and Snape have their moment while the latter is bleeding out was so well-executed that I got a bit teary-eyed watching it. The only reason this movie is not ranked higher lies in the final fight between Voldemort and Harry. As epic as it was, I think it would’ve been much better had it stuck somewhat closer to the novel. In the book, Harry has a whole speech about a special kind of magic which he never really touched upon in the movie. The part about love conquering all did wonders for that scene and gave it something extra rather than just Harry beating Malfoy and earning the Elder Wand. The movie as a whole was excellent and the final Hogwarts battle scene was great; it just needed one last push to carry it over the top.

1. Prisoner of Azkaban: Most people would agree that Prisoner of Azkaban is the best movie in the series. This is the installment that gives us Sirius Black and introduces the Marauder’s Map; after all, who wouldn’t want a map that shows the location of everyone in Hogwarts? Although we don’t get to discover everything from the books (mainly who the Marauders were), it is still a great movie that starts to explore the characters more deeply, which can be seen through the developing romance between Ron and Hermione. Prisoner of Azkaban does amazingly well as a movie that doesn’t rely too heavily on the novel. It still hits the main plot points while further fleshing out our heroes. After the first two movies, which relied heavily on quickly getting to the big fight with Voldemort, Prisoner of Azkaban pleases fans of both the books and films. Hermione punching Malfoy in the face also helped.

Ranking the Spider-Man Movies

In honor of Spider-Man Homecoming, the sixth installment starring the third actor, here are the rankings of the previous movies with the teenage (not really) web-slinger. Luckily, there are five of them, which narrowly fits into my criteria for ranking a certain franchise.

  1. Spider-Man 2: Sadly, it’s been a while since I revisited the Tobey Maguire ones, but I’m in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to the best Spider-Man movie. There are flaws though amidst all the awesome fights, like Peter conveniently losing his powers for the sake of plot and the ghost of Norman Osborn conveniently helping Harry discover the Green Goblin suit.
  2. Spider-Man: I should make a list of films that feel magical to me because this would definitely be on it (along with the likes of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark). Its origin story was well-executed and set the standard before everyone started copying the formula. The Danny Elfman score transcends a good superhero score and stands among the best of any genre. Plus, who doesn’t love that wrestling scene and the line “That’s a cute outfit. Did your husband give it to you?”
  3. The Amazing Spider-Man: Begrudgingly, I have to give this spot to Andrew Garfield’s first attempt because it’s at least better than the final two. There aren’t any glaring problems, but it rehashes the origin story and the killing of Uncle Ben (as if we need to see that again). Lizard as the main villain is also very underwhelming as well as the creepy realization that supposed high school student Peter Parker is nearly 30 years old. But I’ll award it a few points for casting Emma Stone.
  4. Spider-Man 3: I laughed so hard when one of the guys from the CinemaSins podcast tried to make an argument for this movie as underrated. There might be some cool moments, but it’s squashed by all the emo dancing and terrible Topher Grace acting. Yet another example of studio interference getting in the way of a good director who was then unable to make a Spider-Man 4 (which, from all the rumors, sounded really interesting).
  5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2: You thought Spider-Man 3 already had too many villains? Prepare for a double dose of mediocrity as Sony presents their weird and terrible versions of Electro, Green Goblin, and Rhino. In hindsight, we shouldn’t be all that surprised when Alex Kurtzman, responsible for many overstuffed movies, is one of THREE screenwriters on this monstrosity. I mean, you know your movie’s going to suck when there are SEVEN different people working on the score! Gwen Stacy’s death is so poorly handled that people have created memes out of it. The only redeeming quality? Since it was so bad, Sony finally gave in and let Marvel handle the next reboot. For all intents and purposes, Tom Holland may finally be the Spider-Man we deserve.

Ranking the Mission: Impossible Movies

Random short one today.

  1. Ghost Protocol: Has the most thrilling action set piece of the series so far in my opinion (Tom Cruise hanging off the side of the tallest building in the world). Everything surrounding that shot is perfectly directed by Brad Bird, who clearly proved that he can do more than animation. Also, Paula Patton in a green dress is everything I could’ve hoped for.
  2. Rogue Nation: Nothing in the fifth installment measures up to the Burj Khalifa, but that can’t be blamed on a lack of trying. There are multiple memorable scenes in Rogue Nation like the opera house and the underwater heist, all prominently featuring breakout star Rebecca Ferguson. After some OK movies, Mission: Impossible has hit it out of the park twice now and I can’t wait for the next one.
  3. The 3rd one: Easily has the best villain with the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman, but not much else. The last act is quite ridiculous with Ethan Hunt’s apparent “death” (even though there’s no way that’s going to last) and revival by the inexplicable gun expert Michelle Monaghan. J.J. Abrams is good at breathing new life into a dormant franchise and then handing it off to the next guy, huh?
  4. The 1st one: Good start, but holy crap, some of the action is highly unrealistic. How does someone, even as immortal as Tom Cruise, survive an explosion in a train tunnel at close range? At least we will always have the iconic image of him barely hanging off the ground.
  5. The 2nd one: There’s no contest here; John Woo’s style definitely doesn’t fit this series. The action is often incomprehensible, the plot makes no freaking sense, and the characters are quite bland. It’s just not enjoyable in any way, which is what Mission: Impossible needs to be. Thankfully, the franchise has learned from its mistakes, but we’re still stuck with this slow-motion mess.

Ranking Quentin Tarantino Movies

  1. Pulp Fiction: The cream of the crop. The gold standard. The magnum opus. You name the title, Pulp Fiction has in all likelihood earned it. This is probably my favorite Samuel L. Jackson performance (and it’s a travesty that this was his only Oscar nomination) because he just relishes in the dialogue that his frequent collaborator Tarantino writes for him.
  2. Inglourious Basterds: In much the same way, Christoph Waltz turns in a pitch-perfect performance (say that three times fast) as Colonel Hans Landa. If you’re looking for the ultimate exercise in screenwriting, look no further than the opening scene or the one in the tavern.
  3. Reservoir Dogs: What a debut for one of my favorite directors. To make a crime film without showing the actual crime is a bold stroke of genius that few people can successfully pull off. Tarantino also begins his habit of juxtaposing violence and music with the “Stuck in the Middle with You” scene (I get chills just thinking about it).
  4. The Hateful Eight: This was one of my favorite viewing experiences for a Tarantino movie ever. Even though it’s almost three hours, I rarely stopped to look at the time because I was captivated by every line of dialogue. Everybody from Samuel L. Jackson to Jennifer Jason Leigh to a surprising cameo from Channing Tatum are on their A-game here. Plus…that Ennio Morricone score (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EbmNz0GC2A).
  5. Kill Bill: LOVE the martial arts sequences that, like most of Tarantino’s filmography, pay homage to other genres. Yes, I’m counting both volumes as one film, which might actually work against it. I think the ending drags a little too long once she finally meets Bill, but everything that comes before is one thrilling ride.
  6. Django Unchained: The heavy usage of the n-word makes me feel uncomfortable, even though I know what Tarantino was going for. Christoph Waltz is also literally playing the same character from Inglourious Basterds in another time period (only worse), yet he wins the Oscar again. The defining performance is hands down Leonardo DiCaprio, who absolutely blows everyone out of the water with that scene where he actually cut his hand on glass. It almost makes up for the insanely long runtime…almost.
  7. Jackie Brown: I think I need to see this one again; it worked last time with No Country for Old Men where I gained a deeper appreciation for the film after a second viewing. But Jackie Brown didn’t stick with me like any of the movies ranked above it. Robert De Niro is hilarious in his small role, but as of this writing, I don’t remember much else.
  8. Death Proof: Tarantino has publicly said that once he’s done making movies, this has to be the worst one. Death Proof is not terrible, far from it, but Tarantino was clearly going through a phase where he wrote anything and everything that came to mind. Just look at the conversation between four girls where the camera spins around the table for an eternity. The events presented are just not as engaging and don’t match up with his other brilliant work.

Ranking the Star Wars Movies

Since Star Wars Celebration took place this past weekend and we’re all still geeking out over that new teaser trailer for The Last Jedi, why don’t I rank the eight Star Wars movies that have been released? Sound good? Alright, cue the opening crawl!

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory…nah, I’m just kidding.

  1. The Empire Strikes Back: I don’t care what you say Matt, this is the best Star Wars movie possibly of all time. Maybe it’s because I also love Game of Thrones, but there’s something about seeing the bad guys win for once that’s oddly satisfying. For more reasons, check out my Top 10 list from way back (notice the subtle cross-promotion there).
  2. A New Hope: Magical, isn’t it? The original Star Wars effectively introduces us to a world beyond our wildest imaginations and ends with a bang (literally). Are you not entertained? Oh wait, wrong movie.
  3. The Force Awakens: I can’t honestly rank Episode VII higher when it borrows many of the same story elements as Episode IV. But J.J. Abrams and company brought the fun back to Star Wars with interesting new characters and a surprisingly keen sense of humor (that BB-8 thumbs up joke though). Sometimes when beginning a new trilogy, you need to start with familiarity before branching out.
  4. Return of the Jedi: I usually lament appealing to the lowest common denominator, but…Princess Leia in a golden bikini will do the trick. Coupled with the ultimate redemption story of Darth Vader, no amount of Ewoks can ruin that.
  5. Rogue One: This is certainly the most visceral of all the Star Wars movies; there are just a few issues with character development and the questionable CGI. But if you ever wanted a little Saving Private Ryan in this universe (and how can anyone say that’s a bad thing?), the third act of Rogue One delivers. Also…Beast Mode Darth Vader!
  6. Revenge of the Sith: It’s the best of the prequels, but that’s like saying Ben Affleck was the best part of Batman v Superman. Revenge of the Sith is simply the least offensive and strangely enough the one I watched the most growing up. The Mustafar battle is epic and features some of Ewan McGregor’s best work; part of me wants to believe in this whole trilogy when he’s standing on the high ground and screaming “You were the chosen one!”
  7. The Phantom Menace: The Darth Maul lightsaber battle. And the John Williams “Duel of the Fates” theme. These are the only two redeeming qualities that keep The Phantom Menace from the bottom of this list. Why, George Lucas, did you choose to focus on the politics of Star Wars? At least make the pod racing sequence longer, am I right?
  8. Attack of the Clones: Oh, you say that The Phantom Menace is the worst because it has Jar Jar Binks? Well, I can top that (or just the opposite) with the “I don’t like sand” line as well as every other minute of that horrible Anakin-Padmé romance. There’s a decent gladiator fight somewhere in there, but it’s surrounded by crap that’s coarse, rough, irritating, and gets everywhere.

Ranking the Fast and Furious Movies

With the release of The Fate of the Furious (still a stupid title) slated for this Friday, I thought it would be appropriate to rank the 7 movies currently in the franchise. Before we begin, by no means am I recommending you go out and watch any of these movies right now; that’s why they weren’t on either of my must-see lists. If you’ve gone your whole life without seeing a single Fast and Furious movie (like my sister has so far), I can’t rightfully say you’re missing anything. I understand that these are just dumb fun action movies without much story to fall back on, but I wouldn’t label any of them, even the best, as great. But there’s definitely an order to the madness. So rev up your engines, activate the NOS, and get ready to defy all the laws of physics!

  1. Fast Five: Have a franchise in need of saving? Just call the Rock! Fast Five is the most enjoyable of the bunch because the studio realized that car racing just wouldn’t suffice; we need more heists in these movies! While the chase with the safe is indeed ridiculous, I was willing to forgive it at the time because that was only the tip of the iceberg.
  2. Furious 7: You know, I’ll give Vin Diesel and his crew (sorry, his family) a pass most times when they attempt something impossible. But sometimes, a line is crossed so far that all you can do is throw your hands up in frustration. It’s safe to say that jumping from one skyscraper to another qualifies here. The main reason Furious 7 is so high up is that tribute to Paul Walker; some manly tears were shed that day.
  3. Fast & Furious 6: Seriously, how long is that airport runway?
  4. The Fast and the Furious: Remember when this franchise was still about car racing? Yeah, me neither. But the original (actually just a Point Break remake with cars instead of surfing) gets points for establishing the tone on a smaller scale…before everything blew up.
  5. Fast & Furious: Which one is this again? Oh right, the fourth one (which is technically the third one chronologically, but also the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatoes). You see, it’s all so confusing that I sometimes wonder why I even bother. I can only describe this installment with one word: inoffensive. It’s neither good nor awful, it’s…MEDIOCRE! Two more words are needed: Gal Gadot.
  6. 2 Fast 2 Furious: Who the hell remembers this one? The title is, once again, stupid and only two characters (neither bringing much to the table) stumble around for an hour and 40 minutes without any payoff at the end.
  7. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift: Hey, you know what would be a great idea? Let’s make a sequel set way in the future and then connect it to another sequel that won’t come out for another 7 years! Let’s also replace literally everybody you liked from the first two movies with even less talented and likable “actors”! That is, if you consider Bow Wow, the girl from the “Just the Way You Are” music video, and 30-year-old high school student Lucas Black to be serious actors. I mean, they make Diesel look like Daniel Day-Lewis. I dare you to name anything memorable in Tokyo Drift other than how often people now yell that phrase while driving (I’ll be honest, I’ve done it).