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9 Cerebral Thrillers Like Christopher Nolan’s Tenet

9 Cerebral Thrillers Like Christopher Nolan’s Tenet

Movies like Tenet

Christopher Nolan has, in no time, established himself as the cinematic master of time manipulation. He continues his mission of making escapist spectacles with Tenet. In Tenet, John David Washington stars as a dashing operative who’s recruited by a mysterious organization to save the world from absolute annihilation. This mission will require him to master the art of time inversion. So, if you enjoyed the film and tried connecting the dots after the end credits had rolled, here are 9 more movies like Tenet that will leave you feeling the exact same way.

Watch Tenet on Amazon Prime


1. The Game (1997) 

David Fincher’s thriller tells the story of a wealthy banker, Nicholas Van Orton who receives a mysterious gift package from his brother. The package is an invitation to participate in a thrilling high-stakes game that is unlike anything he’s ever been a part of. But, with time it becomes apparent that a conspiracy may be afoot. Nicholas starts to lose his grip on reality as the lines between fiction and reality start to blur. 

Fincher pulls all the stops to deliver a memorable film that keeps us guessing until the very last moment. Watch out for Michael Douglas’ impressive performance who perfectly mirrors the viewer’s sentiments in any given scene. 

Where to Watch: Netflix


2. Dark City (1998) 

Dark City is one of Alex Proyas’ best films filled with stunning visuals and powerful symbolism. The plot revolves around a man who wakes up one fateful night to the startling realization that he’s wanted for murder. He tries to shake off the cops and tries to find answers. With time he understands that he’s just a mere pawn in a much larger conspiracy involving a mysterious group of humanoid creatures called “The Strangers”.

A perplexing storyline infused with eye-catching futuristic set design makes Dark City a must-watch, especially for fans of the sci-fi genre.


3. Memento (2000)

Memento is the film that made everyone take notice of Christopher Nolan’s talents as a storyteller. This neo-noir thriller tells the story of Leonard Shelby who must hunt down the people responsible for his wife’s murder. The catch is that he suffers from retrograde amnesia making him incapable of remembering the events that led to the death of his wife. 

Nolan famously decided to deviate from the traditional three-act structure. The narrative features two parallel storylines, one moving forwards in time and the other moving backward in time. Memento with its groundbreaking narrative style is an exceptional achievement in filmmaking. It manages to be new, fresh, and exciting without ever tiring its audience out.


4. Primer (2004)

Shane Carruth’s Primer is a great example of a movie that doesn’t dumb itself down to make it more palatable for viewers. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize in the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, Primer features two close scientists who accidentally end up discovering time travel. The plot goes on to further explore the ramifications of this modern technology on the dynamic between the two characters and how it affects both of their individuality. 

If you’re looking for a film that challenges you as a viewer, this one should be right up your alley. Primer is sure to keep you up at night pondering about its philosophical implications. 


5. Inside Man (2006) 

Spike Lee’s captivating thriller stars Denzel Washington as a hostage negotiator who’s frantically trying to deal with the repercussions of a bank heist gone wrong. Can he get the bank personnel and innocent customers out in time? Standing in his way is the shrewd leader of the robbers who seems to have thought of absolutely everything. Played to perfection by Clive Owen, the antagonist has planned everything to perfection. The story now shifts its focus into the battle of wits between Denzel and Clive’s characters. Who will ultimately emerge victorious?

Inside Man is more than your regular thriller, infusing subtle humor into some of the grittier moments of the film. Watch out for the clever twist ending. 

Where to Watch: Netflix


6. Inception (2010) 

Inception is Christopher Nolan’s best film, in my opinion. It sets up an environment similar to Tenet. While Tenet grapples with the idea of inversion of time, Inception plays with the concept of lucid dreaming. Inception stars Leonardo Di Caprio as a professional thief who steals information from his targets by infiltrating their subconscious. He’s offered a one-time deal to have his criminal history wiped out in return for a risky job that requires him to plant an idea instead of stealing one. 

Despite having to deal with high-science concepts, Nolan ensures that we stay emotionally invested in the movie. This is largely thanks to the inclusion of a subplot involving a child. 

Watch Inception on Amazon Prime


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7. Coherence (2013)

Coherence is a wonderful example of what can be achieved with a limited budget and a relatively unknown cast. The entire film was shot over the course of five days and the dialogues were mostly improvised by the actors. Despite these compromises, James Ward Byrkit is successful in narrating a coherent (pun intended!) sci-fi thriller. The plot revolves around a group of eight friends who meet up for a dinner party. The passing of a comet sets into motion a series of events eventually leading to a stunning climax.

Give Coherence a chance for its audacious attempt at telling a timeline-jumping, deliciously twisted thriller. 


8. Predestination (2014) 

The Spierig Brothers’ Predestination is a time-bending, fearlessly original thriller. They employ themes that are seen commonly in sci-fi movies but put their own spin on it by introducing a much darker tone. Based on a 1959 short story called All you Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein, the plot revolves around a temporal agent chasing after the one criminal who’s eluded him all these years. This seemingly simple chase for an individual evolves into a meditative exploration of love and fate.

Ethan Hawke is excellent as usual, but it’s Aussie newcomer Sarah Snook who steals the show. Predestination belongs to the rare category of films that requires multiple viewings to truly unravel all its layers.

Watch Predestination on Amazon Prime


 9. Spectre (2015) 

While the Bond film might not explore complex themes as Nolan’s works, it shares similarities with Tenet in its design. Both films feature a military operative in pursuit of a secret organization that wants to see the world burn. There are similarities in the framing of the shots, thanks to cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema working on both projects. 

Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes returned to direct Spectre. He’s said to have had a large influence on the Bond films assuming a much darker, grittier tone. It was also Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as the suave British superspy. Spectre is an inventive action thriller whose well-choreographed action set pieces are a sight to behold.  


There we are! That’s our list of the movies like Tenet. If the Nolan fan in you isn’t still satisfied, we’d recommend you to check out In The Shadow of the Moon that features two detectives pursuing a serial killer jumping across time periods, and Tom Tykwer’s impeccable crime movie Run Lola Run. 


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