Oppenheimer has opened to critical praise. What are some of Christopher Nolan’s best scenes? Let’s run them down.
Christopher Nolan has proven to be a great visionary in his field over the last few decades. His dedication to bringing big ideas to the screen while telling a personal story has been unrivaled as a director by his peers. When a Nolan film is released, it becomes an event for film fans. Some of his movies fare better than others, but they all have become ‘must see’ when they hit the big screen. With Oppenheimer hitting theaters, let’s look at some of Christopher Nolan’s best scenes.
Nolan’s first venture in the world of superheroes. While he intended to make Batman as much of a real-world hero as he could, there had to be some tweaking of what would actually be possible from time to time. When Batman tries to rescue Rachel from the clutches of Scarecrow, he finds that he needs an escape route from the Gotham PD surrounding the building. He pulls out a homing beacon which summons a swarm of bats.
As they crash into the windows, he is able to use them as cover. The visual of Batman jumping down the middle of a flight of stairs is fantastic and sets the stage for what we could expect from Nolan’s trilogy. It would only get better from this point, as we’ll see.
Insomnia (2002) – Will And Walter Meet
Often overlooked in Nolan’s catalog is this remake of a Norwegian film starring Stellan Skarsgard. When Al Pacino’s character Will finally meets Walter (Robin Williams) face to face, the interaction between the two is great. This may have less to do with Nolan’s direction and more to do with William’s dark delivery, but the results speak for themselves. The volley between the two actors is great to watch, and the absolute darkness of Walter’s mind is out on display for everyone to see.
Tenet (2020) – Opening Opera
Before the explanation of time travel (or more time manipulation) in the film, we are shown an opening scene that provides one of Nolan’s best action sequences. As an opera is about to start, it gets raided by an unknown group of terrorists. We center on an American that seems to be infiltrating a Russian police group. He seeks out a man and takes him to safety while avoiding getting shot. The mystery of what is happening and the engaging back and forth between the agents leave you wanting to know more. One of Christopher Nolan’s best opening scenes.
When Bane shows up in Gotham, he takes over the city in no time at all. The bridges out of the city are destroyed, and the police force is trapped underground. He steps up to a microphone and lets his presence be known. While the film may have some other problems, this scene sets up how much of a threat Bane really is to the city and how far he is willing to go.
Memento (2000) – Teddy Revelation
In Nolan’s second film, we see how he likes twisting the narrative by playing with how the story unfolds. The film is told in reverse order so that we learn the context of what was happening in the scene before it. This keeps the viewers on an interesting journey, as the first scene should be the last scene of a normal film.
That makes the last thing we learn in the film all the more shocking as Leonard admits to himself that he has already found his wife’s killer but can’t remember. He decides to make his partner Teddy the new target in his journey for justice. Leonard’s short-term memory problems make this revelation a twist worth revisiting again and again.
More time bendy action as we learn how gravity affects time in this space adventure. Perhaps the most poignant scene of the entire film is when Cooper watches the video messages from his daughter back on Earth. Cooper has only been gone a short time, but back at home, everyone he loved is aging faster than he is.
His young daughter is now a grown woman who comments on the fact that she just became the same age he was when he left. The emotion from both actors pours out of their performance. It may not be the most mind-bending part of the film, but the emotional story shared on screen is unrivaled throughout the rest of the film. Easy to see why this is one of Christopher Nolan’s best scenes.
The Dark Knight (2008) – Joker Crashes The Party
This scene isn’t the first time we meet the Joker in the film, but it solidifies how dangerous he really is. He’s looking for Harvey Dent and isn’t afraid to cause some chaos in the meantime. Here we learn that the story of how he got the scars on his face is an ever-changing puzzle that no one knows the answer to.
Joker’s psychopathy drives his motives, making him the most dangerous person in any room. He finally meets Batman in person, and the rivals get their first real taste of each other. This pushes the narrative of the film from this point forward. It may not be the most exciting scene of the entire movie, but it is the most important.
Even though this movie is based on historical events, Nolan finds a way to still make it as tense as possible. The moment everything has been leading up to has finally arrived, and we’re still worried that the bomb isn’t going to work. We know it will, but the tension in the scene is so thick you could almost choke on it. The bomb drops, and as the light flashes, all the sound drops out of the film. We can hear Oppenheimer breathing.
Pillars of fire begin to reach for the heavens, and the secrets of the universe spill out before our eyes. They have done it. Everyone starts to celebrate, and then we cut to Cillian Murphy in the next scene as Oppenheimer is stoic, realizing that he has opened the door to the end of humanity. Such a great scene that Nolan has assembled that it could easily be called the best of his entire career.
Inception (2010) – Hallway Fight
The mind-bending film showcased some great action scenes and an interesting story that grabs the viewer’s attention. As the crew is falling backward in the dream within a dream within a dream scenario, Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character of Arthur exchanges punches with an agent that wishes to stop him. As his body in the previous level is thrown about during a car chase, it presents itself in the hallway fight as if the world is spinning.
The fact that the scene is done practically with the only CGI being used to erase wires connected to the actors is all the more incredible. It is truly the result of the combination of stunts, choreography, excellent camera work, and an interesting story. Anything is possible, and Nolan shows us how it should be done.
What are some of Christopher Nolan’s best scenes? Let us know in the comments.