Christopher Nolan has directed some of the finest, most accomplished actors in entertainment, including Oscar winners Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. But none of them make my list of my favorite performances in Nolan movies.
It begins with the late Heath Ledger, who was incredible as The Joker in 2008’s “The Dark Knight”. Showstopping in every scene. Ledger earned posthumous Best Supporting Actor awards that entire season. His performance is one of the most legendary ever in a comic book film adaptation.
Two-time Academy Award winner Michael Caine has been a frequent Nolan collaborator over the years — from “The Prestige” to “Inception” to “TENET”. Caine’s performance in 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises” is excellent. Caine doesn’t have much screen time, but he provides a hefty amount of emotion and power as Alfred in Nolan’s conclusion to his Batman trilogy.
Mackenzie Foy gives a confident, breakthrough performance in 2014’s “Interstellar” as Murph, daughter to McConaughey’s Cooper. Foy earned a Critics Choice Award nomination for Best Young Actor/Actress and went on to lend her voice to “The Little Prince” and star in Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” and “Black Beauty”.
The entire ensemble of “Dunkirk” delivers respectable performances in what still is my favorite Nolan movie. Standouts include Tom Hardy and Oscar winners Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance.
And finally… Cillian Murphy in “Oppenheimer”. Nolan’s latest (now playing in theaters) is far from a perfect film, but it is a dynamite showcase for Murphy, who puts a tremendous amount of raw energy into the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Over the three hours, Murphy excels in scene after scene, through his facial expressions, inner reflections, outbursts and casual conversations. He deserves to be on Best Actor ballots this awards season. But will he still be on voters’ minds in five to six months? I hope so.