House of Caine: ranking Sir Michael's emotional roles in Christopher Nolan's movies

Where Christopher Nolan goes, Michael Caine follows. The British acting legend has appeared in seven of the director's movies. and he's next set to appear in Nolan's Tenet.

We've no idea what the nature of Caine's role is, and the actor has admitted to being confused by the script. Judging from the trailer, he initiates a meeting between globe-trotting espionage agent John David Washington, and Kenneth Branagh's menacing-looking "Russian national". Other than that, we've got zip.

Nevertheless, we do know something about Caine's work for Nolan: it's very, very emotional. So much so, it's been parodied on more than one occasion.

With that in mind, and in anticipation of Tenet's release on 26th August, we thought we'd rank Caine's performances in terms of emotion. Which one will come out on top? Scroll down to find out.

7. Dunkirk (2017)

Emotional Caine rating: 

At the bottom of our list is Caine's voice-only role in Nolan's nerve-shattering World War II drama. It's nice that the director found a role for Caine where the storyline wouldn't otherwise allow it. But in terms of pure emotion, the actor's brief vocal appearance as Tom Hardy's superior officer (heard during the Spitfire sequences) means it's a low ranker.

6. Inception (2010)

Emotional Caine rating: 

Another relatively fleeing Caine appearance, but more significant than his cameo in Dunkirk. He portrays Professor Stephen Miles, mentor and father-in-law to Leonardo DiCaprio's mind-heist expert Dominic Cobb. It's Miles who facilitates Cobb's return to his children during the powerful climax, a sequence of such magnitude that we add an additional Caine emotional point.

5. The Prestige (2006)

Emotional Caine rating:

We're now entering slightly more emotional Caine territory, in a Nolan movie where he plays a significant role. This slippery and devious magician thriller plays out in the manner of a three-act magic trick. And Caine's props assistant Cutter is our guide, talking us through the pledge, the turn and the prestige. More than a mere technician, however, Cutter has a front-row seat to the escalating tension between central characters Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Borden (Christian Bale).

4. The Dark Knight (2008)

Emotional Caine rating:

Ths second instalment of Nolan's blockbusting Dark Knight trilogy showcases Caine's agreeably warm and personable Alfred. Loyal butler to Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale), Alfred witnesses the toll that the diabolical Joker (Heath Ledger) is taking on his surrogate son. Moreover, he actively withholds the reveal of a letter from Wayne's on-off love interest Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), which has significant emotional ramifications in The Dark Knight Rises.

3. Batman Begins (2005)

Emotional Caine rating:

Nolan's first movie in his Batman trilogy, and Caine's first appearance as Alfred. There's perhaps more intimacy to the Wayne/Alfred relationship in this film, as we get flashbacks showing how Caine's character shielded the orphaned Bruce in the wake of his parents' death. There's also the classic line: "Why do we fall master Bruce? So that we can learn to pick ourselves back up."

2. Interstellar (2014)

Emotional Caine rating:

Now, we begin the escalation into full-blown Caine histrionics. In sci-fi odyssey Interstellar, he portrays NASA scientist Brand, another mentor figure (this time, to Matthew McConaughey's pilot Cooper), but one with a few dark secrets up his sleeve. Caine's eventual death bed scene is a blubbering onslaught of revelations that's actually quite difficult to understand. Still, if Caine cries, we cry.

1. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Emotional Caine rating:

Here's the Nolan movie that goes full Caine, with not one but two scenes of weepy recriminations. The Dark Knight Rises sees Nolan's Batman trilogy come to its cathartic conclusion, and that means the emotion is laid on with a trowel. In a movie full of lavishly-staged action, the most affecting scene is Alfred's pained reveal about withholding Rachel's letter, which hastens his departure from Wayne Manor. Just when we've come to terms with that, the juggernaut of a climax drops in a returning Caine at the apparently dead Bruce's graveside, crying that he "failed him". No, we're not weeping, we've just got something in our eye...


Click here to book your tickets for Tenet, opening in the UK and Ireland on 26th August. What, in your opinion, is Caine's most emotional performance for Nolan? Let us know @Cineworld.