Every Christopher Nolan Movie Ending, Ranked Worst-Best


In a recent interview with Inverse, Christian Bale discussed the possibility of reuniting with Christopher Nolan for a fourth Batman movie: “If Chris came to me and said, ‘I’ve got a new story,’ I’d be interested.” A fourth film would risk undoing the finality of the original trilogy. All three of Nolan’s Batman movies had great endings: Batman Begins ends with a Joker playing card teasing the sequel, The Dark Knight ends with the Bat taking the fall for Harvey Dent, and The Dark Knight Rises ends with an ambiguous scene that might have taken place in Alfred’s imagination.

And those aren’t the only Nolan films with memorable final scenes. But some of Nolan’s endings, like Inception’s spinning top, are more satisfying than others, like the confusing climactic twist in Tenet.


11/11 Tenet (2020)

Nolan’s time-bending spy-fi epic Tenet is too convoluted for its own good. Most viewers have lost the plot long before the end of the movie. The Protagonist learns that he is the mastermind behind Tenet, the time-traveling spy agency he’s been trying to decipher for two-and-a-half very long hours, and that his future self recruited Neil in the past.

For a twist ending to really land, the plotting has to make clear sense to the audience, which sadly isn’t the case with Tenet.

10/11 Insomnia (2002)

Nolan’s most straightforward thriller, Insomnia, is a grisly murder mystery starring Al Pacino as a grizzled cop and an uncharacteristically unsettling Robin Williams as a reprehensible killer. As with many cat-and-mouse thrillers, Insomnia culminates in a tense shootout between the cop and the killer.

The killer meets his just end, as audiences expect, but the cop also succumbs to a fatal gunshot wound. Pacino nails the delivery of his final line – “Just let me sleep” – before his character dies.

9/11 Following (1998)

Nolan’s low-budget directorial debut Following revolves around a writer, credited as “The Young Man,” who follows strangers and gets involved in their lives for inspiration. The message of the movie is that following strangers can only lead to trouble.

The Young Man is implicated in the killing of a blonde woman he was following, since his fingerprints are on the murder weapon, while the true killer, Cobb, mysteriously disappears into a crowd. This is a dark, ominous ending befitting of Nolan’s unique take on the film noir.

8/11 The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

After the ambiguous ending of Inception got audiences talking for a whole summer, Nolan went for a similarly ambiguous ending with the finale of his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. When the Bat flies Bane’s bomb out into the ocean to save Gotham, Nolan leaves his fate unclear.

While traveling around Europe, Alfred stops off in a café and sees Bruce Wayne dining with Selina Kyle. Whether Bruce is really there or Alfred is just imagining him is up to the audience’s interpretation.

7/11 The Prestige (2006)

The most shocking moment in The Prestige is the twist reveal that working-class magician Alfred “The Professor” Borden pulled off the “Transported Man” trick by sharing an identity with his twin brother, while his rival, aristocratic magician Robert “The Great Danton” Angier, has been pulling it off by cloning himself and killing the clones.

The movie ends with Angier dying, the theater burning to the ground, and Borden being reunited with his daughter. This ending wraps up the story in a neat bow, but it doesn’t live up to the final twist.

6/11 Interstellar (2014)

For the most part, Interstellar is a bleak sci-fi adventure about the looming extinction of the human race and the search for a new home somewhere in the cosmos. It’s a largely cynical movie, but it ends on a hopeful note. When Cooper returns to humanity, he learns that his daughter – now in her old age and on her deathbed – has saved humanity from extinction and created a new home.

Before passing away, she encourages Cooper to go back into space and seek his missing crewmate, Amelia. In the film’s optimistic final moments, Amelia is seen establishing a new home for human beings on a distant, inhabitable planet.

5/11 Batman Begins (2005)

With the gritty realism of Batman Begins, Nolan completely reshaped and revitalized the comic book genre. And on top of that, he ended the first chapter of his Batman trilogy with one of the most tantalizing sequel setups of all time.

Jim Gordon reconvenes with Batman and shows him the calling card of his next villain: a Joker playing card. The sequel tease might be a little obvious, but it set up the best all-time portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime.

4/11 Memento (2000)

At the end of Memento, the twisty psychological thriller that put Nolan on Hollywood’s radar, the chronology of the black-and-white sequences intersects with the reverse chronology of the color sequences. Amnesiac Leonard Shelby finally solves the mystery of his wife’s death.

In his final monologue, Leonard explains that he’s willing to deceive himself in the name of justice as he leaves himself a manipulative note that will motivate him to exact some more revenge.

3/11 Inception (2010)

The image of Dom Cobb’s spinning top quickly became one of the most iconic final shots in movie history after Inception arrived in theaters in the summer of 2010. Discussions of whether or not Cobb is still in the dream world at the end of the movie miss the point of the character’s crucial decision.

He walks away before seeing if the spinning top will topple over, because after everything he’s been through, he doesn’t care if he’s in a dream or not; he just wants to spend time with his kids, projections or otherwise.

2/11 The Dark Knight (2008)

A huge part of what makes The Dark Knight the ultimate Batman movie is that it ends with a sacrifice that only Batman could make. The Caped Crusader agrees to take the blame for Harvey Dent’s sinister crimes so that Gotham can hold onto its image of their “white knight” district attorney.

As the Bat rides off into the night, pursued by the law for crimes he didn’t commit, Gordon’s voiceover refers to him as “a silent guardian, a watchful protector… a dark knight.”

1/11 Dunkirk (2017)

The closing scene of Nolan’s intense World War II thriller Dunkirk perfectly captures “the Dunkirk spirit.” As the evacuated soldiers return home, they expect to be cast out from society and treated as pariahs for their debilitating defeat on the front.

But as their train pulls into the station at Woking, their fellow countrymen are just happy that they made it out alive. Tommy reads Churchill’s address to the House of Commons praising the “miracle of deliverance” at Dunkirk.

NEXT: 7 Christopher Nolan Trademarks In Dunkirk


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