There’s been a half-finished copy of Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ on your bedside table for the past five years. But maybe THIS year, you’ll finally get around to finishing it. You’re also likely a white male between the ages of thirty-nine and sixty-five.

The Dark Knight

You were a psychology major in college, hence your fascination with the Joker’s “dog chasing cars” MO. There’s so much meaning hiding behind the nihilism, you insist. The film’s existential dread is reflected in the WHY SO SERIOUS? T-shirt you bought off Redbubble.


There’s a Scandinavian darkness in your soul. You eat most dinners alone to the sound of Bon Iver before retiring to your hard, non–memory foam mattress. Either that or you said Insomnia in the interest of not seeming too basic by going with Oppenheimer or Dark Knight.


You have great taste and tremendous intellectual acumen. That’s what it takes to appreciate the misunderstood brilliance that is Tenet, a work that proves that some films aren’t meant to be fully understood after the first, second, or seventh viewings. In a decade, the canon will reevaluate Tenet as a true masterpiece overlooked by critics, audiences, and that one mouthy Peloton instructor.

Those neophytes want a movie that explains the logical underpinnings of why every set piece is happening. They want the filmmaker to hold their hands and walk them through the core conceit of the film. They feel entitled to understanding who the characters are, what they’re fighting for, and where and when the film takes place. I mean, come on, people! Go watch Marvel movies or Snyder cuts or Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo instead.

But not you. It’s rare to find someone else who understands just how great Tenet is. Everyone in your writers’ group dismisses it as purposefully obtuse garbage. But with every viewing, you pick up on more of the film’s intricacies and subtleties. You’re probably a half-dozen watches away from finally comprehending the timeline and mechanics of the entropy-inverted car chase. Nolan’s work feels like a meditation on a world in which cause and effect have been reversed, similar to what Pynchon did with Gravity’s Rainbow. Have you read that? Of course, you have. Because you are awesome.


You have dragged your friends to many an escape room. You enjoy puzzles and the satisfaction of unlocking life’s mysteries. Memento is undoubtedly a puzzle box, although not quite as intricate as Tenet. It’s almost too easy to follow. I mean, Kenneth Branagh was in Tenet, and even he doesn’t understand any of his scenes. That’s the mark of pure genius.

The Prestige

You’re in a committed relationship, and this is the Nolan film you’ve seen most often. It has something for everyone: period piece, magic, a David Bowie cameo—the perfect compromise for two people sharing one life.


Your shelves are filled with DVD box sets of every Ken Burns documentary, making you both a student of military history and a custodian of physical media. (While we’re on the subject of tactical combat, how brilliant was the temporal pincer movement in Tenet?) You’re also likely a white male between the ages of thirty-nine and sixty-five.

Batman Begins

You’re not too demanding in life. When you go out to dinner, you never make any special requests to your order. Simple needs, easily pleased. This film has a beginning, middle, and end. Does its job. And you probably do a half-decent Michael Caine impression, which always garners laughs from your friends.


One of your formative childhood moments was when your father took you to a 70mm IMAX film. This one hits you right in the feels.

The Dark Knight Rises

It’s the only Nolan film you’ve ever seen, and that’s the sole reason it’s at the top of your list. Ignoring the plot holes, you can’t hear a word Bane says in the entire movie. Unlike Tenet, where the sound design being so scratchy that it needs subtitles is an artistic choice.


You love explaining Inception to others. And whenever someone says that they didn’t care for it, you say, “Oh, you just didn’t understand Inception. It’s such a complicated film!” Well, it isn’t. It’s a dream within a dream. It really is that simple. Stop Nolan-splaining. You’re somehow even worse than the Interstellar people. You think you sound like Frasier Crane, but you’re actually more like Kelsey Grammer.

You are convinced this film is life-changing and ethereal and refuse to see it any other way. It’s cinematic Dunning Kruger. Stop trying to find profound levels of meaning in a film that doesn’t have them. Inception isn’t a brilliant mix of Lynch and Kubrick. No matter your arguments, it isn’t evocative of Tarkovsky’s Stalker or Marker’s La Jetée. No. It’s an elevated version of Cronenberg’s Existenz. It’s fine. It’s passable. But it isn’t a world-changing generational talent—much like those who are obsessed with Inception.


Wait, you love Nolan’s first film? Seriously? Wow. You sound like a pretentious cinephile.