The Christopher Nolan Historic Epic Leaving Netflix That Will Take Your Breath Away

By Phillip Moyer | Updated


With Oppenheimer set to make a big showing this weekend, it’s worth taking a look at some of the other films created by director Christopher Nolan. Nolan might be best known for the Dark Knight trilogy or sci-fi films like Inception and Interstellar, but Oppenheimer is not the first movie he’s made about a historical event. Nolan has also made the absurdly well-crafted World War II film Dunkirk, which is available to watch on Netflix — though only until August 13. 

Christopher Nolan‘s historical war epic Dunkirk is leaving Netflix on August 13.

Dunkirk followed the famed evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers from the titular French beach in the early days of World War II. After Nazi Germany’s quickly conquered France in May of 1940, trapping around 400,000 troops between the rapidly advancing German forces and the English Channel.

Over the course of eight days, a quickly assembled fleet of about 800 military and civilian vessels helped rescue 338,226 soldiers as French troops fought to delay seven German divisions.

The film was something of an anomaly when it was released — a big-budget film about a historical story that had never had a film made about it, created by a director who had never made a historical war movie before. Creating the movie was a risky move by Warner Brothers, but the risk paid off, raking in $527 million on a $82.5–150 million budget.

While that’s not as much as Interstellar or Inception made at the box office (nor did it match the box office receipts from the similarly-budgeted Wonder Woman), that’s still a hefty profit for the studio.


Like many of Christopher Nolan’s films, Dunkirk was a critically acclaimed film, with reviewers praising its technical excellence, unique narrative structure, and the emotional impact the tale had on the audience. The tense moments on the beach, the dramatic aerial combat, and the tension surrounding the civilian evacuation of troops impressed theatergoers as they watched the real-life story play out to the masterful score by Gladiator and Inception composer Hans Zimmer.

Dunkirk won Academy Awards for sound editing, sound mixing, and film editing. It was nominated for five more Academy Awards: Best Picture (won by The Shape of Water), Best Director (won by Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water), Best Cinematography (won by Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049), Best Original Score (won by Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water), and Best Production Design (won by Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin for The Shape of Water).

In short, the main thing that Dunkirk had going against it was the fact that it wasn’t The Shape of Water).

Despite featuring famous faces, Christopher Nolan decided to make the historical event the real star of Dunkirk.

However, the fact that it wasn’t Guillermo del Toro’s 2017 romantic fantasy isn’t the only issue with Dunkirk. Some critics have noted the lack of any strong character development in the Christopher Nolan film, with the events of the film taking prominence over the people who experienced them.

Some critics also found the nonlinear storytelling confusing and thought that many of the sequences featuring the evacuation from the French beach became repetitive over time.

tom hardy christopher nolan dunkirk
Tom Hardy in Dunkirk

Quentin Tarantino, who pioneered the practice of nonlinear storytelling with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, is passionate about Dunkirk, calling it one of the best films to be released in the 2010s. He stated that the story was told in a way that only Christopher Nolan could have told it and that it wouldn’t nearly have the impact it did if it were told more conventionally.

Tarantino also praised the cinematography, stating that it contained many shots that almost seemed like they would have been impossible to film.

Christopher Nolan has a lot of famous fans, including Quentin Tarantino considering Dunkirk one of the best films of the last decade.

After Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan returned to Science Fiction with Tenet, though the movie didn’t receive nearly as much recognition critically or at the box office. Whether Tenet’s failure was a pandemic-influenced anomaly or a sign of things to come will become more clear after Oppenheimer‘s opening weekend.

Meanwhile, Dunkirk will only be available on Netflix for less than a month before it’s pulled from the streaming service. If you want to take a look at one of the most original visions for a war movie ever produced, give it a watch before it disappears on August 14. Who knows how long it will take before the Christopher Nolan classic is available to be streamed again?