The Christopher Nolan Flowchart: What movie are you watching right now?

Christopher Nolan has directed only seven feature films, but it feels like he’s made more. That’s because all of his films– the indie thrillers Following and Memento, the moral-corrosion duet of Insomnia and The Prestige, the genre-redefining Batman films, and the WTF-tastic Inception — are all constructed to reward (if not require) repeat viewings. His films are confusing. You might forget which movie you’re watching. Perhaps you’ll even forget your name. Motifs run rampant across his filmography. Is that Michael Caine, playing a wily old mentor? Is there a character named Cobb who steals things? How many dead wives does it take to screw in a lightbulb? It’s easy to get lost in the Nolanverse without a trained guide.

Here at the National PopWatch Asylum for Cinemaniacs, we’ve constructed a rudimentary Christopher Nolan flowchart. Print out a copy and carry it with you whenever you think you may be watching a Christopher Nolan film. Think of this flowchart as your own personal tiny spinning top, keeping you grounded in reality, and check it out after the jump… (SPOILER ALERT!)


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  • GreenGummiBear

    Wait…I’m confused…Batman didn’t have a wife, right? He eventually had a dead “girlfriend”. But he had dead parents. Don’t remember much of insomnia, did the dead wife – yes get swapped with the no – how about dead wife?

    • Flyer

      You’re correct, Batman didn’t have a dead wife. However he DID have dead parents, and that takes him back to the flashback question. In essence, the “Dead Wife” question is NOT needed at all for the chart to work – it’s just added because it’s such an important plot point. You could have the line go straight from “Protaganist Have Sex – NO” to the “Dead Parents” question and the chart would work exactly the same.

  • GreenGummiBear

    Sorry, swapped with the how about dead parents.

  • Jen

    No seriously though – dead wife in the Batman films? Huh? Did the whole chart just fall apart?

    • Woot

      Did you even look at the chart? If you said no to dead wife, but yes to dead parents, it goes to the same result as if you said yes to dead wife.

  • Ryan

    “Do they have a dead wife?”

    Do you have an editor?

    • Cindy

      Ryan you must be blind, if you said no to a dead wife, but said yes to the dead parents, it takes you right to the flashback question, underneath the dead wife question. Look a little harder, it makes sense.

      • Alex

        No, Ryan is still right.

      • McNulty

        Cindy, you’re right. But the chart can also be read that the Dark Knight features a dead wife and no flashbacks. that corner of the flow chart should have been cleaned up/more coherent.

      • Laura

        Ryan’s not talking about the flowchart, he’s talking about the grammar.

  • Jim

    I NOTICED A MISTAKE, BUT INSTEAD OF READING OTHER COMMENTS FIRST, I’M JUST GOING TO POINT OUT THE MISTAKE AGAIN.

    • Jaymii

      WHY ARE YOU ON THIS THREAD IF YOUR JUST GOING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT IT. DIDN’T YOU KNOW THIS WAS FOR EW-LOVERS-ONLY!

    • jack

      lmaoooo Jim

  • Dina

    Spare me yet another treatise on Inception and how good it is… Boring!

    • Steve T,

      You know the word treatise but not how to actually read?

  • Steve T,

    Batman’s dead wife is Robin.

    • Mike

      ba dum ching!

    • Skip182

      bazinga!

  • Steve from DE

    Memento is broken in this flow chart. The direct path is correct, the indirect path is not correct. The protagonist does have sex in the film but you are still able to get to the result of Memento by following the No path from this question.

    • Levi

      He did have sex, with Carie Anne-Moss.

      • Amanda

        They never had sex – Leonard went to sleep and woke up with his pants on and belt buckled.

    • Laura

      (Benefit of the doubt) Maybe they put the other path in as a fail-safe in case someone missed that part of the movie.

  • jackJack

    bahahahahahahahah

    “Print out a copy and carry it with you whenever you think you may be watching a Christopher Nolan film.”

    bahahahahahahahaha i can just imagine walking around with this whilst walking on the train or something and thinking “am i watching a nolan film RIGHT NOW?” hahahaha brillz.

  • Dorkophile

    I don’t know who this Darren Frannich person is, but I have to say I am very impressed, even despite all the nit-picky comments. This had to have been a massive (painful) creative undertaking and I appreciate the effort and enthusiasm. Something I would have expected from Doc Jensen, glad to have more creative writers on board!

    • Dorkophile

      I meant that as in “in addition to Doc Jensen, Master of Theory.”

  • Madd

    Love it.

  • lettergirl

    good lord, i’m confused.

    • mark

      you are watching a christopher nolan film.

  • stella

    You left out revenge. Revenge is the focal point of Memento and The Prestige, and to some extent Batman Begins. Unresolved guilt could apply to all of those, plus Insomnia.

    • stella

      In fact, unresolved guilt could apply to Inception as well.

      Basically, guilt over participation and/or inability to prevent the death of a loved one. This links all the Nolan movies together. Guy Pearce in Memento, Al Pacino in Insomnia, Hugh Jackman in The Prestige, Christian Bale in BB and then The Dark Knight (Rachel, though nobody ultimately cared), and now Dicaprio in Inception……any left?

    • Stella

      In fact, the common link is the guilt over either participation and/or inability to prevent the death of a loved one. Insomnia, Memento, BB, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, and Inception.

  • DP

    @Stella – also: “Does it feature Michael Caine?” That would be four movies counting. Can we get a better flowchart here? The points are too random and uncharacteristic.

  • Natalie

    Someone can just explain to me (like if I was a 6 years old girl) what’s the whole point of this? It’s suppose to be funny or enlighten? because is neither. Get a real job Darren.

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