Christopher Nolan’s Formula to Success

Christopher Nolan’s Formula to Success

Each filmmaker needs to find their style, obsessions, topics, and predilection, and create a formula that allows them to repeat without boring a declination of all these elements.

Just like Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker that you either must adore or hate. While Memento is still my favorite film from the British Filmmaker and his third acts often leave me slightly frustrated, I do appreciate his choices and (subconscious?) effort to keep big budget spec-scripts alive. If it were not for Nolan, Tarantino, and Paul Thomas Anderson, Hollywood would have likely stopped producing any original film over $50 million a decade ago.

There have been hundreds of videos on Nolan’s work from many angles. The video below, produced by Fandor, dissects Nolan’s formula to success, based on The Prestige three-act magic trick structure: the pledge, the turn, the prestige.

Here is what I keep in writing for our collective archives, but as always, don’t forget to watch the full below:

Nolan’s Filmmaking Formula

1 – NOLAN WORKS WITHIN GENRES: genres are both familiar and appealing to the audience. Nolan made thrillers, heist movies, sci-fi, super-hero movies, high concept premise movies.


3 – NOLAN LIKES TO SUBVERT THE CHOSEN GENRE: he uses misdirection, morally ambiguous protagonists, layered and shifting chronology, and plot twists

4 – NOLAN USES KEY THEMES AND STATES THEM CLEARLY IN THE NARRATIVE: Fear (Batman), Obsession (The Prestige), Chaos (Batman), Love (Inception)

5 – NOLAN USES A CLIMAX WITH A DOUBLE ENDING: his double-endings usually contain a surprise and offer a narrative & cinematic synergy

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