Christopher Nolan’s movies are best known for addressing very specific themes, but there are also other trends in his works, such as killing off a love interest and using that to push the main character’s story forward. Most of Christopher Nolan’s movies are centered in metaphysical themes, exploring concepts like time, identity, and memory, often combining these with other themes (like dreams and how these can be manipulated) and sci-fi elements, which have made his works stand out, but he has also made sure to add a good dose of drama to the already complex stories of his main characters.

After making a couple of short films in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Christopher Nolan made his feature debut in 1998 with the neo-noir crime thriller Following, but it was Memento (2000) that gave the audience a good idea of what to expect from him in terms of visual and narrative style. Since then, Nolan has made a bit of everything – from superhero movies with his Dark Knight trilogy to complex stories set in space (Interstellar) and even a war film (Dunkirk) –, and while his works continue to be recognized by the use of the above-mentioned themes, Nolan also has one, more subtle trend: killing off the love interest of a main character, and here are six times when he has done so.

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6 Memento

Teddy and Leonard talking inside a car in Memento.

Memento is a psychological thriller starring Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a man with anterograde amnesia, which results in short-term memory loss and thus the inability to form new memories. Memento’s particularity is that it’s told in a non-linear narrative presented as two sequences interspersed throughout the movie: one is in black-and-white and shown chronologically, while the other is in color and shown in reverse order, with both meeting at the end. Memento, then, follows Leonard on his search for the men who attacked, assaulted, and killed his wife, using Polaroid photographs, handwritten notes, and tattoos to track important information that he will forget due to his condition. The death of Leonard’s wife is what makes the events of Memento happen, but as this is a Nolan movie, there’s a shocking twist as Leonard realizes who the real killer is and what truly happened to his wife.

Related: Memento Timeline & Ending Explained

5 The Prestige

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman talking on the street in The Prestige

The Prestige is another psychological thriller, though this one is based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Christopher Priest. Set in 1890s London, The Prestige is the story of Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), stage magicians whose rivalry quickly escalates over the perfect teleportation trick. The Prestige actually has the death of two love interests, the first one being Angier’s wife, Julia, who dies during a water tank trick gone wrong, with Angier blaming Borden as he accused him of using a riskier knot that led Julia to drown. Later on in the movie, Borden’s wife, Sarah, ends her own life as she was tired of her husband’s contradictory personality, which was explained in The Prestige’s big twist right at the end, where both Angier’s and Borden’s real tricks are revealed.

4 Batman Begins

Ra's reveals his plan to attack Gotham in Batman Begins

Batman Begins introduced viewers to Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), the leader of the League of Shadows and mentor of Bruce Wayne, who he trained in different types of combat. Part of Ra’s al Ghul’s complicated backstory was revealed in the final movie in the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, but Ra’s al Ghul’s proper appearance was in Batman Begins. Ra’s al Ghul was a mercenary who fell in love with the daughter of the local warlord he worked with, and they married in secret. The warlord condemned Ra’s to The Pit, but after the daughter intervened, she was sent to The Pit and Ra’s was exiled. Ra’s wife gave birth to a daughter while in The Pit and was killed in an attack by other prisoners, while their daughter, Talia, was rescued by Bane.

3 The Dark Knight

the dark knight batman joker rachel

In The Dark Knight, the love interest was in the middle of a love triangle between Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart): Rachel Dawes, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. The Dark Knight revealed that Rachel was now in a relationship with Dent, though that didn’t put an end to Bruce’s feelings for her. The Joker knew about Rachel’s link to Dent and deduced Batman’s feelings for Rachel, so he used her to mess with the Caped Crusader and Dent. The Joker kidnapped Dent and Rachel and held them separately in buildings rigged to explode. Batman raced to save Rachel while Jim Gordon and the GCPD went after Dent, but the Joker switched their positions and Batman ended up saving Dent (though half his face was severely burned, becoming the villain Two-Face), while Gordon and company arrived too late and Rachel died in the explosion.

2 Interstellar

Interstellar Cooper

Interstellar is one of Nolan’s most ambitious and acclaimed projects, and it stars Matthew McConaughey as Joseph Cooper, a widowed NASA pilot who after the agency was closed by the government, became a farmer. Interstellar is set in 2067, at a time when a global famine caused humanity to abandon scientific pursuits such as space exploration in order to focus on a desperate and ultimately failed attempt to avoid extinction. Cooper is brought back to action when Professor Brand recruits him for a mission to find an exoplanet capable of supporting life, which is humanity’s last chance of survival. Not much is revealed about Cooper’s backstory, but it’s known that his wife, Erin, died of a brain cyst that went undetected due to MRI machines no longer existing.

Related: Tenet, Inception & Interstellar Are Linked – Nolanverse Theory Explained

1 Inception


Inception brought together time, identity, and the complexity of dreams to bring one of Christopher Nolan’s most acclaimed projects to date. Inception follows Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a professional thief who specializes in infiltrating others’ dreams to get information. Cobb and his team are tasked with infiltrating the dreams of business heir Robert Fisher as requested by Saito, a Japanese businessman and competitor of Fischer’s father. The mission turns out to be more complex and complicated than expected as Robert was trained to protect his subconscious and Dom’s trauma keeps getting in the way, as his mind’s projections continue to be sabotaged by his late wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard). Sometime before the events of Inception, Mal and Cobb entered limbo while experimenting with dream-sharing, and they experienced decades in just one night due to the time dilation with reality. As Mal refused to return to reality, Cobb had to perform inception on her to convince her, but after waking up, Mal still believed she was dreaming, and in an attempt to “wake up”, she killed herself and framed Cobb to push him to do the same.

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