“Almost perfectly made”: The film that influenced Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’

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In contemporary cinema, there are few names more well-known or well-respected than Christopher Nolan. Since making his directorial debut in the late 1990s, Nolan has forged his way to becoming one of the most important filmmakers of his generation, reinventing the blockbuster for a modern audience.

Breathing new life into the superhero genre and upping the scale of movie-making in general, Nolan’s films have won favour for their mammoth scope. From the bending streets of Paris in Inception to the practical effects used on Oppenheimer, he’s sparked awe and praise in innumerable audiences and critics who leave the cinema stunned.

Still, his films wouldn’t be quite so engaging and entertaining if the storytelling wasn’t up to par with his cinematic prowess. The scale of his visuals only adds to the drama and depth in the stories he takes on. From questions about humanity and morality in Interstellar to themes of fear and chaos in the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan always ensures that the intensity of his blockbusters doesn’t stop at their cinematography.

Given the standard of his own work, and the drama that lies within it, Nolan seems more qualified than most to make film recommendations. If you’ve exhausted Nolan’s catalogue but are still longing for more of his film expertise, consider delving into one of his favourite films, Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff.

The Oppenheimer director picked out the 1983 movie while naming some of his inspirations for Interstellar during a conversation with IndieWire, deeming it an “almost perfectly made film”. He didn’t expand on what made it “almost” perfect or what could’ve been changed to remove that stipulation. 

Inspired by Tom Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff, the film follows the story of the real-life Mercury astronauts through their careers and personal lives, starring Ed Harris and Dennis Quaid. Alongside Nolan’s admiration, it took home four Academy Awards in the editing and sound categories and even spawned a subsequent documentary – The Real Right Stuff – and a television series. 

It’s no surprise that Nolan admires the film, considering his own cinematic focus on space exploration in Interstellar. Although he was telling a fictional tale of astronauts, it makes sense that he felt the influence of The Right Stuff. Nolan’s love for the film also makes sense, given his more recent interest in taking on weighty historical stories with Oppenheimer and Dunkirk

Nolan was so enthusiastic about the film, in fact, that he organised a screening of it for the crew of Interstellar. “That’s a film that not enough people have seen on the big screen,” he stated, maintaining his reputation as a cinema-going proponent. It’s easy to see how the movie came to influence his own filmmaking on Interstellar, as well as why he thought it deserved a big screen showing.

His praise for the film could also be applied to the majority of his own filmography. He now has several “almost perfect” films to his name, too, from the dream-invading Inception to the Academy Award-sweeping Oppenheimer. They’re also just as worthy of a cinema trip, all the more impactful when you award them the space of a big screen or even an IMAX ticket.

Watch the trailer for The Right Stuff, the film Christopher Nolan calls a favourite, below.

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