the dark knight 2008Christopher Nolan is one of the most inventive directors of his generation, pushing the envelope with each movie. He casts brilliant actors and allows them to demonstrate their courage, humanity, and passion, making for powerful and emotional storytelling. Nolan is never locked into one genre -- he has tackled period pieces, outer space thrillers, even dramas that feature the ability to shape people's dreams. He also successfully rebooted the Batman movie franchise, creating a new take on Bruce Wayne along with the best Joker audiences have ever seen. This list doesn't cover all the movies Nolan has directed, but it highlights some of his -- and cinema's -- finest to date.

'Inception' (2010)

"Inception," is creative and cutting edge, with visual effects that showcase dream worlds where the rules of gravity and physics don't apply. Leonardo DiCaprio leads a cast that explores the exciting and dangerous realm of dreams. Wrapped within this visually mind-bending futuristic film is a deeply personal story of loss. As his team invades the mind of a young businessman, DiCaprio's character must come to terms with the tragic suicide of his wife. Until he is able to do so, his mind's projection of her threatens to destroy every dream he is in and every person within the dream. The cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, and Marion Cotillard, who all demonstrate fearlessness in the face of achieving the impossible.

'Interstellar' (2014)

A remarkable family drama, "Interstellar" also explores the realms of physics, faith, space exploration, and time travel. Matthew McConaughey leads a team of astronauts through a wormhole to investigate three possibly inhabitable planets. At the time of his departure, his daughter (played by Jessica Chastain) is a young and curious girl who has a knack for science and the ability to see what others cannot. As her father is away in space, time passes very slowly for him (because, science) and very quickly for her, so when his crew is stuck outside a black hole with no way home, she becomes an adult back on earth. Through a series of incredible events, McConaughey must find a way to communicate with his daughter, find his way home, and ultimately save Earth. The profoundness of "Interstellar" will have you wanting to call the people you love, and the ending will leave you breathless.

'Memento' (2001)

One of Nolan's first movies, "Memento" has a creatively mind-blowing plot, essentially telling the story in reverse order. The protagonist, played by Guy Pearce, suffers from a type of amnesia that stops him from creating any new memories. As Pearce's character attempts to investigate the murder of his wife, he must write down clues using a series of hand-written notes and tattoos. Eventually, his body is covered in tattoos and his clues help him build his case, but the memory loss allows him to be manipulated by some very dangerous people, including Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano. The jaw-dropping ending reveals the frightening truth of what Pearce learns. "Memento" is a masterclass in reverse storytelling that will leave you equally disturbed and intrigued.

'Batman Begins' (2005)

Through his work on "Batman Begins," Christopher Nolan officially "grounded" superhero movies and set them in a reality more plausible than spandex and capes. His versions of Batman and Gotham City were darker, more rooted in the comic books, and more realistic than in previous "Batman" movies. In "Batman Begins," Nolan explores Bruce Wayne's League of Assassins martial arts training, his inspiration for wanting to rebuild Gotham, and his transformation into Batman. Christian Bale is a pensive Bruce Wayne; Michael Caine is a delightful and meddling Alfred; Liam Neeson is a quick-witted and deadly Ra's al Ghul. After being haunted by his parents' deaths for years and going on a quest of self-discovery, Bruce Wayne decides to use his skills to save his city from impending destruction. "Batman Begins" revived a dying franchise, which Nolan then turned into a successful trilogy.

'The Dark Knight' (2008)

"The Dark Knight" is the second of Nolan's Batman trilogy. The story starts by featuring a corrupt city when the District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) decide to clean it of organized crime. An optimistic Bruce Wayne believes he can give up his alter ego to live with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) -- until the Joker (Heath Ledger) throws a large, murder-filled wrench in his plans. The movie follows the Joker and Wayne as the Joker threatens to cause more and more mayhem, and Wayne must make some tough decisions on who he can save. Combined with Ledger's haunting performance -- and tragic death -- it's easy to see why "The Dark Knight" grossed over $158 million opening weekend.