I think audiences get too comfortable and familiar in today's movies. They believe everything they're hearing and seeing. I like to shake that up.
His films tend to emphasize themes of obsession, deception, and order & chaos.
Interestingly, all of his films focus on a man lying to himself or others to cope with grief.
- Following (1998)
- Memento (2000)
- Insomnia (2002)
- Batman Begins (2005)
- The Prestige (2006)
- The Dark Knight (2008)
- Inception (2010)
- The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
- Interstellar (2014)
- Anachronic Order
- An Insert
- Awful Truth: Many of his protagonists must deal with this.
- Ignorance Is Bliss: Nolan's films often deal with the theme of fooling either one's self or other people into believing something that's easier to digest than reality.
- Chekhov's Gun: An armoury of them.
- Chekhov's Gunman
- Close on Title: The Dark Knight movies and Inception have the title card appear at the end, instead of the beginning. Fridge Brilliance: He put the title card at the beginning of Memento, a film where the events are shown in backward chronological order.
- Deconstruction: The Dark Knight Saga in particular, which takes the pretty fantastical concept of a masked vigilante superhero dressed as a bat and grounding it in a somewhat realistic worldscape.
- Doing It for the Art: He refused to have Inception converted to 3D and he won't shoot The Dark Knight Rises in 3D because it doesn't look good enough. He also uses in-camera effects over CGI for the same reasons, resulting in some of the most jaw-dropping action sequences on film.
- Grey and Gray Morality / Black and Gray Morality
- Femme Fatale: To go with his Neo-noir style mentioned below.
- Film Noir: Many of his films are of the Neo-noir variety.
- The Lost Lenore: The death of a love interest is a key plot point and strong character motivator.
- Meaningful Echo
- Mind Screw: Nolan's short film Doodlebug would be the most straightforward example. His resume outside of the Batman films to a lesser extent as well, which can be confusing to follow due to their chaotic narrative structures.
- Mr. Fanservice: The men in Nolan's films tend to be extremely...pretty.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Most of his protagonists qualify.
- Once More, with Clarity: Used in Memento, The Prestige, and Inception, to go along with the audiences learning the Awful Truth.
- Playing Against Type: If you only see the casting list of his movies without knowing the characters the actors play, it'll be difficult to guess who are playing the good guys and who are playing the villains.
- Plot Twists: All the freaking time! Even though it's quite difficult to pull off in this time and age.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The Dark Knight Saga takes many liberties with the Batman universe, but they are still considered to be among the greatest Batman adaptations ever.
- Production Posse: Often works with the same actors in different films, even beyond the Batman franchise.
- Michael Caine especially for appearing in every one of Nolans films since Begins. Other actors in this posse are Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe and now Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Marion Cotillard. Goes double for Tom Hardy. Who played the villain in Star Trek Nemesis. It was supposed to be his breakout role into stardom. Instead, it murdered his acting career right until this little movie called Inception came out... and now he's going to be Bane in the third installment of the The Dark Knight Saga. If Caine's career was saved, Hardy's career was resurrected and injected with steroids.
- On the other side of the camera, he collaborates with his brother Jonathan on writing (see below), his wife Emma Thomas produces, Lee Smith edits, and Wally Pfister has done the cinematography for all but one of his films.
- Rule of Symbolism: Especially in Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, and Inception.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: A common theme of debate in most his movies with characters representing either side, especially predominate in The Dark Knight Saga.
Tropes Seen on Himself:
- Auteur License
- Creator Couple: He is married to Emma Thomas, who has produced all of his films since Following.
- Person as Verb: After his approach on the Batman film series, "Nolanize" has been used as a term used by fans, meaning rebooting a science-fiction/fantasy series to strip away all unrealistic elements from it.
- Reclusive Artist: Doesn't have a cell phone or e-mail address, and is currently hiding out in a trailer park writing his next project and growing a hermit beard.
- Red Index Green Index: Averted, since he's red and green colorblind. There's also a distinct lack of either color in most his works.
- Sharp-Dressed Man
- Sibling Team: His brother Jonathan is sometimes his screenwriting partner.