The Cannes Film Festival even manages to get public attention when it is a ceremony where only movies destined to very few projection rooms are presented. These movies will raise cinephiles attention only later. The suspense around the Palme d’Or winner is cooked and held beyond the amateur circle to a point where its ceremony is broadcasted on television and is summed up to an oral announcement of the winners.
There are ultimately two criteria that rule the judgement on films. Did they attract spectators in projection rooms : it’s the commercial objective of the movie makers. Did the public like the movie : it’s the artistic objective of the authors.
About this last satisfaction criteria, we can argue on the method : instant satisfaction vs. long term satisfaction ? Enchantment vs. satisfaction of expectations ? Emotion of the spectator vs. evasion created by the show ? At the end, the most pertinent to address all these approaches lies in the simplicity of giving it a sum up grade. This brings the spectator to give his grade based on his own appreciation of the pertinence of the criterias (that can be different for a same spectator depending on the movie). And the best database executing this open method regarding every movie and every voting individual remains IMDb and its 250 million visitors : movies in this ranking have been given at least 25 000 votes while the most populars go beyond 1 500 000 votes at the time of this article (read story here).
Then why Christopher Nolan ?
As a whole, and being only 45 years old, he is responsible for seven movies in the top 250 of the best movies. Not bad for the author of 8 movies (if we neutralize Following issued in 1998 in a confidential loop). Seven, because he didn't wrote the only one missing (Insomnia). Seven, that is as much as Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg and one less than the two record holders, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick, who are both pointing at eight. They both have a much longer career than the director of Inception. Anyways, such comparison with these authors demonstrates the status Christopher Nolan built himself to the public.
However, every movie directed by Christopher Nolan issued in the last ten years has been a success. It is even more noticeable as Interstellar and Inception are original movies : no comic books or books to their origin. They are also not follow ups or reboot. Behind the record scores set by Avatar, Inception is the first original movie ranked this high in the American box-office (without Disney and Pixar animation movies that have become independent brands). Worldwide, Nolan reaches twice the symbolic number of the Billion dollar receipt for the two last movies of the Batman trilogy. His worst success is Interstellar and its 675 M$ worldwide receipt (as much as the last Hunger Games, seventh in the US box-office). It says much about it.
His movies have generated at least 45 M$ the first week end, even outside of the Batman series, which means his name has become a quality label perceived by the public. Very few authors have reached such scores, usually exclusive to actors. We can cite Steven Spielberg and James Cameron, of course, but what next ?