The Prestige wasn’t Christopher Nolan’s first film by any means, but you can argue he’s created all his movies in the form of a magic trick. At the beginning of The Prestige, Michael Cane explains the three parts of a magic trick: The pledge, the turn, and the prestige. I couldn’t help but think Nolan had structured the story itself with this in mind. Having two A-list actors in Jackman and Bale as our focus is the Pledge. Then the opening trick represents something ordinary becoming extraordinary (the Turn), only in this case, it’s gone extraordinarily wrong. Nolan instantly has us hooked because now we’re looking for answers we won’t find until he (the magician) decides to finally reveal the Prestige.
In this psychological thriller, we have a story about friendship, betrayal, and fierce competition . Both Borden and Angier are willing to go to the ends of the earth to prove something not only to themselves but to each other. Nolan balances the scales quite impressively as we get equal time from each character’s point of view, challenging us to choose a side. If you enjoyed the magician showdown, as well as the nostalgic wardrobe, red herrings that keep you distracted, or even the use of technology to bring forth a memorable climax, then we have a list of movies for you.
I’d like to start off with my top recommendation, my favorite movie on this list. Annihilation is a book adaptation that can best be described as technicolor suspense-filled thriller. A bone-chilling climax will have you thinking about Annihilation long after its conclusion. The film brings us to a mysterious distortion called “The Shimmer” that’s enveloped a large portion of land and is causing distortions of time, sound, and physical being. Our protagonists are tasked to go in and investigate. There’s plenty of mystery and existential dread. Like Nolan, Alex Garland leaves you to find your own answers and interpretations. You also get to watch Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac for two hours.Watch on:
All the Old Knives
I’d be surprised if All the Old Knives had a budget for any sort of visual effects. While there is a lack of flair compared to a Nolan movie, the focus here is on the characters and their multiple layers revealed to us as we progress through the story. Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton, after decades apart, find themselves at a restaurant in northern California, reciting a day in which an attack took place that altered both of their lives. Each has a mission to uncover what happened on that day by any means necessary. Like The Prestige, we learn more about the characters through flashbacks and anecdotes of their history together. They say time heals all wounds, but it can also take away the benefit of the doubt.Watch on:
Another dark film, both literally and figuratively, with a chilling ending. A neo-noir psychological thriller, Nightmare Alley takes a similar look at showmanship as The Prestige, except set 50 years later and at the circus as opposed to a theater. Bradley Cooper’s Stanton Carlisle, like Borden and Angier, rises from a humble position backstage, to prominence, to true stardom. The dark lighting gives the movie a natural sense of unease, and that tension heightens as Carlisle recognizes his true power and ability. Cate Blanchett’s suave and mystique serves as a 1:1 replica of (David Bowie’s) Tesla. Carlisle embodies the familiar adage from another Nolan film. “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.Watch on:
The Vast of Night
I’d say this film draws the most differences from The Prestige. It certainly provides its fair share of goosebumps, but It’s the “HOLY S#!%” climax that keeps me up at night. The Vast of Night is a science fiction indie film, with about a $700K budget. It centers on a small town in New Mexico, with the entire town attending a local basketball game. Two kids in charge of a radio station pick up a frequency unfamiliar to them and begin to broadcast it to the town. With only a handful of locals listening and calling in with their own stories to share, the kids begin to investigate these anecdotes one by one. With 1950’s Soviet paranoia paired with the script’s time appropriate jargon, there is an old school similarity to Nolan’s aesthetic even if it is roughly 60-70 years later. A very efficient 91-minute run time paces you to a brilliant crescendo taking the two kids to the source of the signal.Watch on:
The Current War
The Current War is like The Prestige regarding setting, time, and wardrobe. Set in the 19th century, Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikolai Tesla all entangle themselves in a rivalry for control of the electrical world. Benedict Cumberbatch, Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, and Michael Shannon all act with ease. It’s as if they were more concerned with having fun than trying to win an Oscar. Which I thought was refreshing. Let there be light!Watch on:
This is an undisputed top five sports movie for me. This film is a true story of a perilous competition between two foes who have a different idea of how to achieve success. To sweeten the pot, there is a direct correlation to both characters of The Prestige. First, you have an abrasive, cocky individual in James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) mirroring Robert Angier. He is pitted against Nikki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), a technical fundamentalist, like our Alfred Borden, who doesn’t have time for the flashy showmanship others would say is needed to win. Equal time is spent with each character gives you an empathetic appreciation for their respective styles of racing and preparation. If that doesn’t do it for you, Ron Howard as director with Hans Zimmer composing the score should bring you well over the finish line.Watch on:
This is the most underrated movie on this list by far. The Gift only grossed $60M at the box office, but when you hear it was done on a $5M budget, you have to be intrigued. Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is an impressive psychological thriller about obsession and vengeance. A chance encounter between old acquaintances grows to a friendship that feels uneasy at best. It’s when Gordo (Edgerton) continues to leave gifts for his old classmate, we find out why Simon (Jason Bateman) was hesitant to be on the receiving end in the first place. No one in this film can claim innocence, which makes it a compelling discussion of justice.Watch on:
Changing Lanes is more of a drama-thriller as opposed to a psychological one. With the baggy suits, pocket sized cell phones, even a narrated trailer, there’s plenty of 90s nostalgia even though the movie debuted in 2002. The reason it makes this list is because it highlights a simple accident (in the form of a fender bender) that leads to the ruin of two lives. Where The Prestige had an accident between two friends, Changing Lanes shows the fallout between two strangers in New York City. What befalls Ben Affleck and Samuel L Jackson is catastrophic, but is it possible to correct their wrongs before it’s too late?Watch on:
I hope you are disappointed this made the list simply because you’ve already seen this. You SHOULD have already seen The Departed. But in case you haven’t and want to have a new favorite movie in your life, I’ll make this quick: An epic crime thriller, good cop playing bad cop, bad cop playing good cop, and a lot of drama. Rival institutions take center stage between the FBI and the Irish mob (loosely based on the Boston Winter Hill Gang), with each side having their fair share of moles. Martin Scoresese makes an absolute masterpiece with a cast sheet so stacked that it brought home five Oscars.Watch on:
I was late to the party viewing this film. It demands some cerebral gymnastics to follow, which is why I immediately connected it to The Prestige. Triangle presents as a horror-slasher, but there’s plenty of intrigue. Set on a yacht that eventually sees the crew having to depart to another ship, things begin to spiral out of control. The Groundhog Day effect is largely the main character of this film, taking place with multiple time loops and infinite lives.Watch on: