The 10 Best Female Characters in Christopher Nolan Movies, Ranked

Christopher Nolan has been able to take film into realms that others have not for the last two decades. His elaborate stories are not privy to normal storytelling techniques that other Hollywood movies use, instead relying on mind-boggling plots and great characters.

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Among those great characters are fantastic female leads and supporting actresses who help bring his visions to life. Yes, Nolan may have a fetish for killing the wives off, though Nolan does not do this for pure fun, it is to serve the plot and to make interesting, thought-provoking stories. His female characters are always intelligent and some of the most interesting characters in his films.

10 Natalie – ‘Memento’

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Image Via Newmarket

The psychological thriller stars Guy Pierce as Leonard, a man who suffers from amnesia and is determined to find the killer of his wife. Helping him along the way is Natalie, Carrie Anne Moss, one of the key characters of the film.

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Natalie is a bartender and offers her assistance in his search. Due to the non-linear narrative, secret motives and desires pervade in what the actual reality is. As we discover more, we learn the true motives and connections Natalie has in the events that transpired around the killing of Leonard’s wife.

9 Selina Kyle – ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises
Image Via Warner Bros.

Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman, AKA Anne Hathaway is the skilled thief that eventually helps Bruce Wayne in the third installment of Nolan’s trilogy. She is agile and has an affinity for theft and infiltration. She is a complex character as she acts as both an antagonist and protagonist in the film.

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Nolan shows a redemption story through Kyle as she evolves from a self-serving thief to willing to help fight for a greater cause. She is an asset to the story as well as Batman as her resourcefulness makes her a good ally. A part of pivotal action sequences, Kyle never is shy of danger and creates some of the most memorable moments of the trilogy.

8 Olivia Wenscombe – ‘The Prestige’

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Image via Buena vista Pictures 

Scarlett Johansson portrays the alluring stage assistant that becomes involved with two feuding magicians in the late 19th century. At the films core themes of the lengths people will go through the lens of obsession and sacrifice.

Wenscombe is an added dynamic to the enhancing hostility between the two magicians. The intriguing part of Nolan’s writing is creating elusive tensions behind each character. As the magicians feud, it is not clear-cut where Wenscombe will end up.

7 Mal Cobb – ‘Inception’

Cobb and Mal on the beach in Inception.

Mal Cobb, played by Marion Cotillard, is the wife of Dom Cobb, Leonardo DiCaprio, a skilled thief who specializes in extraction. Together they played in the dream world, only for Mal to become convinced the only way to get out was by killing herself.

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Nolan gives Cotillard a metaphysical role as her presence often is felt rather than in physical form. She lingers in dream sequences that carry immense weight to them, showing Dom Cobb’s guilt and grief over the loss. Her character is the driving force behind Cobb’s motivations making her an integral part to his journey.

6 Ariadne – ‘Inception’

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Image via Warner Bros 

Elliot Page plays a talented architecture student that is recruited by Dom Cobb to join his team. She becomes responsible for creating the dreamscapes in their target subconscious during the process of “inception.”

Ariadne helps give exposition to the audience as the new member of the team, learning of the complexities of how to construct immersive and stable dream worlds. Like an ethical meter, Ariadne gives conversation to the moral aspect of what they are doing as well as helping Cobb to emote his struggles related to the past.

5 Katherine Oppenheimer – ‘Oppenheimer’

Emily Blunt in Oppenheimer
Image via Universal Pictures

The wife of historical figures hardly ever get a mention when it comes to a biopic, but Nolan seems to right this wrong. Emily Blunt as Katherine Oppenheimer shows the immense dedication wives show to help support a seemingly trivial cause.

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A stoic woman, she is not only there for moments of grief and let down in J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life but also moments when he needed to have confidence and to fight against the people that are after him. Her presence is truly felt on screen as much as it would have been in real life.

4 Rachel Dawes – ‘Batman Trilogy’

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Image Via Warner Bros. 

Rachel Dawes is played by two actresses in the trilogy Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Dawes is the childhood best friend of Bruce Wayne. Nevertheless, her status as the assistant district attorney gives her power to help fight crime in Gotham.

Throughout the trilogy she serves as a source of moral guidance to Bruce Wayne. She holds a significant place in his life as an avenue for which he can be vulnerable. Dawes is a well-rounded character in the trilogy, embodying the themes of justice, sacrifice, and the struggle between good and evil.

3 Amelia Brand – ‘Interstellar’

Matthew McCounaghey and Anne Hathaway as Cooper and Brandt in Interstellar.
Image via Paramount Pictures

Amelia Brand portrayed by Anne Hathaway is one of the astronauts chosen for the interstellar mission to find a new habitable planet. Brand is a scientist and the daughter of the leader of the mission. She is intelligent and determined to help save humanity.

Brand holds a strong belief that love is a powerful force that transcends through space and time. It is her principles that help to guide the protagonist further on his journey and is integral to her decision-making in the film as an altruistic heroine. In the film she touches on many moral and philosophical dilemmas that play a part in the rationality of the mission they are on.

2 Ellie Burr – ‘Insomnia’

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Image via Warner Bros 

Hilary Swank plays the ambitious detective Ellie Burr, a young member of the Alaska Police Department. She becomes involved in an investigation of a murder that becomes high profile due to a renowned Los Angeles detective.

Ellie is inquisitive and fast thinking in a film where guilt and deception pervade. She balances a moral compass of what is right and wrong being the guide that navigates the intricacies of law enforcement and human nature. As she uncovers the truths behind the case, she has to decide what the right choices are.

1 Murphy Cooper – ‘Interstellar’

Jessica Chastain as Murph in Interstellar stands in corn field.
Image via Paramount Pictures

A key character that goes through their entire life in one movie is played by Jessica Chastain. Murphy is the daughter to the film’s protagonist and is highly intelligent and motivated. She has a loving relationship with her father and a magnetizing relationship with science that could help save humanity.

Murph plays a crucial role in helping the mission her father is on from down below helping to solve intricate scientific puzzles. Murphy is the emotional core to the science fiction film that brings levity to what it means to be humans in the first place. The relationship she has with her father helps to drive the narrative and create themes of everlasting love and the connections between humans.

NEXT: The 10 Best Christopher Nolan Acting Collaborators, Ranked

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