The Dead Wives of Christopher Nolan Movies Ranked


The Dead Wives of Christopher Nolan Movies Ranked

The Dead Wives of Christopher Nolan Movies Ranked

Christopher Nolan may have a problem. As plenty of you probably know, Nolan is one of this generation’s greatest filmmakers thanks to films such as The Dark Knight, Inception, Memento, and The Prestige, among others. The man makes dark blockbuster-sized films that challenge the mind, body, and soul.

And yet, as Sherlock Holmes would (kind of) proclaim, something is afoot. Within each of Nolan’s films lies one continuous motif: the dead wife. As surly as Matthew McConaughey removes his shirt or Tom Hanks takes a leak in practically all of their films, Nolan likes to murder the wives of his protagonists for one reason or another.

This isn’t a criticism. As stated, Nolan remains atop the list of extraordinary filmmakers, but someone may want to check on his wife Emma Thomas from time to time as the man seems to harbor some sort of dark vendetta against wives that, if left unchecked, may lead to something truly sinister…

Read! Though, please be warned: SPOILERS! (including for Tenet)


Memento’s entire storyline stems from the death of the protagonist’s wife. In this case, Leonard (Guy Pearce) helplessly watches his lady die in front of him during a violent altercation that leaves him with short-term memory loss. Leonard spends the entire film searching for Marlin’s son Nemo his wife’s killer and audiences try to wrap their heads around a plot told in reverse — it begins at the end and works its way back to the beginning. Except, plot twist: Leonard’s wife didn’t actually die from the incident but instead perished after an insulin overdose administered by Leonard himself — an event we witness twice with two different women! Cue the dramatic music. And someone check to make sure Emma Thomas isn’t diabetic.

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Mallorie Cobb (Cottilard, again) haunts her husband Dom’s dreams and serves as the one thing he must quite literally (and figuratively) overcome in order to get home to see his kids. Why? Mal killed herself, you see, because she thought she was trapped in a dream state and decided to take her life by leaping off the edge of a building. Of course, she plants evidence that frames Dom for her death in the hopes that he will opt to skip prison and jump with her instead as delusional spouses are prone to do… Except, Dom doesn’t jump. Instead, he dumps the kids with his in-laws, high tails it to Europe, and goes on a dream vacation with a dream job at a dream locale with a dream team. As a special bonus, he murders his ex-luvah every day in a variety of scenarios usually brought upon by his own subconscious — and he doesn’t even have to pay child support!

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The Prestige

In Nolan’s masterfully crafted magician v magician slugfest, Robert (Hugh Jackman) helplessly watches his lady (played by Piper Perabo) die from drowning because Michael Caine sucks at breaking glass. Angered by her death, ole Logan sets out on a quest to murder Michael Caine out magic Alfred (Christian Bale), the man he blames for her death. What follows is either a near-Satanic dive into obsession as both magicians try to destroy the other in a movie that can only be described as “the most exciting talky movie since The Conversation”; or a wild fever dream involving Wolverine, David Bowie, Batman, and Batman’s two butlers.

Oh, and just to hammer the wife-dying motif home, Nolan also murders Alfred’s lady, Sarah (Rebecca Hall) once she discovers the secret behind his act. A bit extreme? Perhaps, especially since the film wants us to be happy that Alfred (or Borden?) ends up with the kid at the end.

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The Dark Knight

A lot of people die in The Dark Knight, but it’s Rachel Dawes’ death-by-explosion-while-tied-to-chair-and-talking-to-Harvey-over-a-radio that leaves the greatest impression mainly due to its ferocity and abruptness. You may say, “Well, Rachel isn’t married to either Bruce or Harvey, so this shouldn’t count.” Well, right before she goes kablooey, Rachel does promise to marry Harvey…so, it counts.

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Batman Begins

You can’t really blame this one on Nolan as Batman’s mythos revolves around his parents’ grisly murder — a moment we’ve now seen exactly 322 times in comic books, cartoons, and film adaptations. Although, it was always a bit odd that Mrs. Wayne (Sara Stewart) received as many lines as Viggo Mortensen in Witness, and disappears from memory faster than Superman’s biological mom in Man of Steel — a film that, coincidentally, was also produced by Nolan. Though, both of Supe’s dads died in that one, too, so maybe we can chalk that up as a wash.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Miranda Tate, aka Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard), bites the big one at the end of the film, but otherwise, everyone’s mothers stay alive. Although, you could count Ra’s al Ghul’s “great love” as another mother who succumbs to Nolan’s hidden obsession. The woman, seen only briefly, gives birth to Talia al Ghul while in The Pit of Dispair and eventually dies via prison riot. Her death, naturally, serves as one of the main catalysts to the events of Rises, and even Batman Begins. Are you starting to see a pattern?

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In true Nolan fashion, we learn that Cooper’s wife died of a brain cyst…and that’s really it. As such, John Lithgow’s insane father-in-law spends a good chunk of his time hanging with Mr. Cooper and co. in a role almost as pointless as Topher Grace’s. His time on screen amounts to nothing in regard to his own daughter and begs the question: why would any sane human being let their father-in-law live in their home during a corn apocalypse?

Of course, if Coop’s wife hadn’t died, he may never have become a reckless pilot, nor would he have flown to space. Clearly, leaving behind a crusty old in-law and a couple of kids is much easier than leaving behind the love of your life — a point made abundantly clear by the film’s end. So, in a sense, her death served as the main catalyst…well, you get the gist.

[We couldn’t find a video of Coop talking about his dead wife, so enjoy this docking scene parody instead.]

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[AGAIN, SPOILERS!!!] Ok, so a wife doesn’t technically die in Tenet, but there is a moment where Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) is shot by her abusive husband Sator (Kenneth Branagh) with an inverted bullet which begins to poison her with radiation. Except, the Protagonist (John David Washington) and Neil (Robert Pattinson) take her through the time travel turnstile thing-a-ma-jig so that she and the bullet move backwards in time, thus preventing her death. So, there was a strong chance she would have died if not for the time travel interference, which means Nolan might be getting soft in his old age. Perhaps there’s hope for Emma after all!

Them’s the facts, folks. Now, it’s up to you to deduce what it all means! Does Nolan have a serious problem we need to discuss? Sound off in the comments below!