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Christopher Nolan’s Favorite Movies: 42 Films the Director Wants You to See

[Editor’s note: This gallery was originally published in June 2019 and has since been updated.]

Christopher Nolan has become one of the most celebrated directors working in Hollywood, since launching his career in 1998 with the neo-noir crime thriller “Following” and breaking through two years later with “Memento.” All of Nolan’s movies are influenced by the films he holds closest to his heart, whether it’s a 1927 classic from F. W. Murnau laying the groundwork for “Dunkirk” or science-fiction favorites like “2001: A Space Odyssey” providing a backbone for “Interstellar.” Then, there’s Nolan’s love of the James Bond franchise and the spy genre fueling his espionage thriller, “Tenet.”

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Three years after the mixed reception to his 2020 sci-fi thriller, Nolan came back with a huge triumph. “Oppenheimer,” the director’s first for Universal after a heavily publicized split with his old studio partner Warner Bros., is one of the most acclaimed films in the filmmaker’s already prestigious career. Adapting Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s 2005 biography “American Prometheus” to tell the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who led the Manhattan Project and created the first ever atomic weapon, the film stars a massive ensemble lead by Cillian Murphy as the title character, with Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, Kenneth Branagh, Benny Safdie, Matthew Modine, Jack Quaid, Dane DeHaan, and Alden Ehrenreich among the famous faces.

In a career defined by ambition and a “go big or go home” mentality, “Oppenheimer” might truly be Nolan’s biggest film yet. It’s his longest, running for an epic three hours, with a healthy IMAX release to boot. And it seeks to explore incredibly potent, ambitious themes of humanity, man’s capacity for harm, and the cost that comes from greatness. It’s a movie so big and overwhelming it’s easy to imagine it tripping over its ambitions, but “Oppenheimer” iswidely regarded as one of the best films in Nolan’s career, receiving rapturous acclaim from most critics. At the Oscars, it took home most key prizes, including Best Picture and a Best Director nod for Nolan.

In celebration of “Oppenheimer’s” Oscar glory, IndieWire has decided to revisit our list of the films that inspired Nolan’s ambitious filmography thus far. We took a look at some of the films the writer-director credits with changing his outlook on cinema. Below are 42 titles Nolan encourages moviegoers to watch, and why, in his own words.

With editorial contributions from Zack Sharf.

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