INTJs in Christopher Nolan films

The INTJ Presence in Christopher Nolan Films |#MBTI

The first time I watched Inception, I came away on fire with excitement about the concepts that had just been left ambiguously unresolved at the end of the movie. Meanwhile, the ENFP with whom I’d watched it was left scratching her head trying to comprehend what she just seen.

We watched it again. She understood a little more, but it wasn’t until we’d seen it at least three times (and I’d explained it to her in depth) before she finally understood it.

Christopher Nolan’s more recent films, namely Inception and Interstellar, both feature ISTP protagonists. However, despite featuring only one blatantly INTJ character each (Saito and Dr. Brandt), they still bear the express markings of INTJ writing. Nolan’s earlier work however, did not hold to this trend, but showed a remarkably large frequency of INTJ protagonists.

INTJs in Christopher Nolan's Films | #INTJ #MBTI

Likely, the characters written in Nolan’s earlier career sprung more closely from his own experience, whereas, his recent characters have taken on a broader spectrum of archetypes and personalities.

Going back a couple of years, I can’t help pointing out that the Prestige and the Batman Trilogy both share a remarkable trait that often goes unnoticed by the masses. Each fits into the rare category of entertainment that features multiple INTJ characters interacting with each other on screen.

Alfred and Freddie Borden are both INTJs, which is interesting enough simply because they’re identical twins who share a life. Then, of course, we have the magnificent Nikola Tesla. Though not necessarily played perfectly to his real, historical characterisation, he is still kept strictly within the INTJ persona.

Likewise, the Batman trilogy features a total of three INTJs in various roles, as well as a large number of INFJs. First and foremost is the INTJ anti-hero, Bruce Wayne, followed closely by a villain INTJ in the form of Scarecrow. Finally comes Two-face, introduced in The Dark Knight as first ally to Bruce Wayne, then enemy. On the INFJ side, you get both Ras Al Guhl and Miranda Tate, both villains.

INTJs in Christopher Nolan's Films | #INTJ #MBTI

It isn’t uncommon for two INTJs to appear together in a piece of writing or film. We see this happening in Ender’s Game, with the interaction of Ender Wiggin and Bean Delphiniki, and also in Downton Abbey, with the friendship of Thomas Barrow and Mrs. O’Brien. However, it’s rare for any work of fiction to contain more than two INTJs, and many of Christopher Nolan’s films do just that.

Of further intrigue is the fact that most of Christopher Nolan’s INTJs resemble the likes of real life INTJs, rather than taking on the stereotypes common to INTJs in other works of fiction (written by non-INTJ authors). In all likelihood, Christopher Nolan is himself an INTJ.

There is some debate about his being INTP or ENTP on the internet, but, before you fall for the crowds, consider this. Why would an xNTP write so many uniquely accurate INTJ characters when he could more easily write from his own xNTP experience?

xNTP authors and screenwriters actually have a difficult time writing believable xNTJ characters (and vice versa) simply because xNTJs and xNTPs have opposite cognitive functions on the MBTI scale (also why I hate my xNTP professors). There little no reasonable cause for an xNTP to have written so many INTJs when he could have written just as many xNTPs, which leads me to doubt the opinion of internet ignorance.

Furthermore, Christopher Nolan’s films generally carry distinct INTJ undertones, which would explain why most INTJs understand his films perfectly the first time through, while most people have to watch them several times to get them.

Why is this?

The reason is simple, and connects directly to MBTI Jungian functions.

INTJs in Christopher Nolan's Films | #INTJ #MBTI

Christopher Nolan writes from a directly Ni-Te standpoint. Dominant Introverted Intuition has a narrow focus that is evident in Nolan’s films. Each of his films revolves around a singular idea, explored from every angle and fully fleshed out in a way that few extroverted intuitives (Ne-users) would have patience for.

Inception focuses directly around the concepts of dreams and reality. Interstellar focuses directly around the time dilution and love (and when the trailer came out, I had been waiting for another time dilution movie for years). The Prestige focuses around the idea of magic and obsession.

You get the idea.

Nolan films are not “idea dumps” in which millions of exciting ideas are poured into the film, as is common to Ne-Ti writing. Rather, each of his films focuses on the whole of a single idea. Each has it’s own philosophical framework that must be comprehended in order for the movie to make sense. Each has a different system of rules and laws in which it functions strictly. That is a classic trademark of Ni-Te writing.

Ni loves a fully fleshed out idea, while Ne might simply get high nibbling off the tip of the iceberg. With Nolan’s films however, you can’t just nibble at the iceberg if you want to understand the plot. You really do have to understand the whole idea. (Ni vs Ne).

As a user of dominant introverted intuition myself, I catch on to Nolan’s frameworks almost instantaneously. I was amazed the first time I discovered (by way of mouth) that there are youtube videos explaining Christopher Nolan films so that people who don’t understand them can have an easy explanation.

INTJs in Christopher Nolan's Films | #INTJ #MBTI

All the paradoxes that Nolan throws into his films are concepts that come naturally to the INTJ vision, but often take much longer to register in the minds of many other MBTI types. (The length of time it takes will usually depend on how far from NiTe their functions rest and/or the level of philosophical knowledge held by said person).

The last major trademark of Nolan’s INTJ writing is the evidence of Inferior Introverted Sensing (Se) found within his filmography. Quite commonly, inferior Se doesn’t think of time chronologically, as a timeline that progresses from one point to another. Rather, Se likes to view time as a compendium of moments, a collective, rather than a progression.

Christopher Nolan LOVES to mix up the timeline on his films. Inception, Interstellar, and The Prestige start out with their concluding scenes. Nolan’s films like to mess with your sense of time, be it through the time dilution in Interstellar, the seemingly random event-dumping in The Prestige, the idea of time as a false reality in Inception, or the flashbacks to the past in Batman Begins.

As an INTJ, I can attest to the fact that it’s a piece of cake for me to follow Christopher Nolan’s wacky sense of time. Meanwhile, my ESTJ mother is sitting next to me with her Si function, asking me what happens in what order –because to her, it only makes sense in chronological order.

A further trademark of Se-inferior writing is the focus on theatrical, visual elements. Christopher Nolan is a stickler for not using computer effects more than necessary. Most of the explosions in his films are real explosions. The infamous gravity sequence in Inception was not computer generated, but a billion dollar spinning set that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was expected to run around on without getting dizzy.

INTJs in Christopher Nolan's Films | #INTJ #MBTI

In general, Christopher Nolan is extremely picky about the aesthetics and visual elements in his films, not only with regard to their realism, but with regard to mood and symbolism. Ni-dominants cannot write something without including a largely symbolic undertone, and in film, this often comes through in the form of visual symbolism (NiSe).

This is expressly evident in the Batman Trilogy, in Bruce Wayne’s Batman existing as a symbol, an idea rather than a man, but is also present in his other films. In Inception, the image of a spinning top becomes a symbol of the question of reality, of a Cartesian doubt stemming almost directly from Rene Descartes’ classic Dream Argument. Interstellar brings into question the idea of love, not merely as a symbol, but as a tangible reality.

The majority of Nolan’s symbols revolve around questions of a prior knowledge, or rationalism verses empiricism. Is Batman a physical man? or is he an idea?  Am I dreaming? Is the reality that I perceive real? Is love merely a non-physical concept? or is it quantifiable?

These are the questions that energise INTJ Nolan fans, and drive many other MBTI types crazy with trying to figure them out.

I’m interested in everyone’s opinion, so I welcome comments.


27 thoughts on “INTJs in Christopher Nolan films

  1. Hey, really great article. I’m puzzled too. I really think Nolan’s an ENTP still. I have read that ENTP and INTJ can be real great matches and it may be the reason why they fascinate Nolan so much (is he even conscious of it?)

    Well at least, I can sense it’s an all or nothing thing there: through INFJ portrayals, either he reprensents what interests him most, either himself. Has your opinion on the topic evolved since 2016?


  2. intj here. i connect with nolan films. i just re-watched insomnia yesterday. it is amazing how al pacino just honestly doesn’t know whether he killed his partner by mistake or on purpose. this is classic intj behavior, willing to analyze his own actions, look at the different point of views, and in the end, nolan just presents the facts, leaves it ambiguous, and lets the audience decide for themselves. CLASSIC INTJ. another thing nolan does is takes an incredibly broad scope and ambition in his movies. compare Interstellar vs other recent space movies, Moon/Gravity/Martian. one was about some dude trapped in moon station, another was about a dumb chick driving a space pod, and the martian was about saving a man on mars… Interstellar is the contrast, it’s about saving humanity, period. big picture stuff. classic INTJ


  3. I’m going to have to watch these movies now. I’m not much of a movie-watcher (I prefer books) but the way you’ve described them makes me very intrigued.

    The reason I’m commenting is to say that although I’m 99% sure I’m an INTP myself, what you’ve described as a ‘Ni-Te’ combo seems very similar to how I write – or at least how I aspire to write. I generally like to focus on exploring a single theme, and tying everything back to it. While my Ne does start off by brainstorming loads of ideas, I then use Ti to narrow them down to a few essential ones relating to each other and weave those into one over-arching theme. I do sometimes go on tangents while in the process of writing, but they tend not to get past the editing process; by the time the story is finished, it should ideally be focus and coherent, with everything tying together in some way. So, I do think a Ti-dom could potentially pull off that kind of writing (not saying that I could, but the style isn’t completely alien to us). Just an idea :). I do agree that if he has many well-written INTJ characters that pushes the balance in favor of him being INTJ himself.

    (It’s also true that I tend to use my Ti a lot more than my Ne, so that may affect my style somewhat. It also bears mentioning that I have a lot of preferences that could be seen as INTJ-ish and that stereotypical Ne randomness tends to annoy me. I also have much more patience than the stereotypical Ne user.)


  4. Heyo!

    That was an interesting post and it was full of interesting stuff :p
    I, and also my best friend, both love Nolan films (especially Interstellar, which may be our favourite film), and yet we both are INTP.
    Still, I don’t think we’ve had a hard time understanding it, even if some details and reflections might have only come later.
    We might be even more enthousiastic because of our natural tendency to disperse that makes us bring an exponential amount of ideas and concepts that come and graft themselves to the basic idea.
    I’ve been wondering myself if I would someday be able to write realistic INTJ characters, as it’s always difficult to not let yourself contaminate your character, or, on the reverse, make a parody of it by not fully understanding :p

    Still, thanks for the post !


  5. Excellent post overall, but even being an INTJ, I think you went a bit overboard in saying that only INTJs can understand a Nolan film the first time through. You can argue that not every personality type are so interested in Nolan’s films as to really pay attention and understand them, but not that they lack capacity for doing so if they want.
    I love Inception, the batman trilogy (despite the romance crap b/w Bruce and that Rachel girl), and the others I haven’t watched yet, but I’m sure I’ll like them.


  6. INTP here – fantastic article. Inception, The Prestige, and the Batman Trilogy are my favorite movies of all time simply because of their depth, architecture, and the sheer amount of patterns shared between the plots. Ironically the hardest part for me to grasp in Inception while debating over the plot with a friend when it first came out was the idea of a paradox. It never even occurred to me to look at it that way until seeing Interstellar years later, and then re-watching Inception afterwards. I could go on raving about Nolan’s work for hours, however none of my friends have ever shared my deep appreciation for his films, and this explains why (most of them being S or F types).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Enjoyed reading this. Christopher Nolan has been one of my favorite film directors for ages, specifically because of the moody, fantastical INTJ elements. I agree with a lot of what you wrote, and from an intuitive perspective it resonates in me (him being an INTJ). As a consumer and a producer of art I find myself being drawn to the work of other INTJs’, like Nolan.


  8. Thanks! I had never understood why people have such trouble with his movies. I always thought they made perfect sense, though it takes a couple viewings to catch all the symbolism. I am an ENFP, but being a sci-fi geek makes it easy to deal with non-linear time.


  9. Excellent article!
    Now I know why I’ve gravitated heavily towards the Christopher Nolan movies…and why I’ve always been the only one able to ‘get’ the story lines the first time around (or at all in some instances). Female INTJ here, btw.
    “Inception” is very possibly my ultimate favorite movie of all time. At least is it so far. Hmm…interesting to know that “Interstellar” is one of his as well, I just picked it up but haven’t seen it yet.
    Thank you for the insightful read!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. As a fellow INTJ, I think this might actually help me understand why I can find many Nolan films boring. With the exception of Inception, I’m not really a fan. I think the interpersonal relationships depicted in his films tend to be simultaneously overwrought and essentially empty. I appreciate his thematic focus, but usually I can see where he’s going long before the end of the film and the effect is like getting hit over the head with ideas that are already evident.


    • Olivia, confirmed, not an intj, “I think the interpersonal relationships depicted in his films tend to be simultaneously overwrought and essentially empty.”


  11. Of Nolan’s films, I’ve only seen Interstellar, but I agree that I understood it better than many of my Sensor friends who watched it.
    Actually I also appreciate this kind of symbolism and a single fleshed out idea in books. That’s probably why I like series to be planned out from the beginning (though some extremely spontaneous ones I also like, if they’re well done), and especially when my knowledge of the world and the characters slowly completes as the books go on, and by the end of the series I get the feeling of understanding everything, how the tiniest unimportant aspects at the beginning turn out having a huge importance. It’s the most satisfying thing when an author is able to build up an alternate world like that and make all the details, all the little aspects, come together perfectly.
    Oh and you wrote “Inferior introverted Sensing” instead of extroverted in the paragraph “The last major trademark of Nolan’s INTJ writing […]”.


    • Unfortunately I’m less familiar with that one -not because I didn’t find the ideas/concepts in it fascinating, but because I don’t care to listen to the profanity in it. Needless to say, I figured my argument would be stronger if I didn’t include materials that I was unfamiliar with.


      • I recently watched it (didn’t realize the higher film rating until I already had the movie in hand), and it essentially bears with your points about Nolan’s other films. The plot essentially moves backward–the main character murders another to avenge his dead wife, and we follow him back through time to see if he killed the right man. We find out pretty quickly that Leonard, the brain-damaged main character, thinks that Teddy (the dead man, particularly annoying and a probable ESFJ) is a liar, while Natalie (maybe ISTP?) is trustworthy and will help him from pity. Both Teddy and Natalie turn out to be dishonest. Natalie uses Leonard’s inability to build new memories to manipulate him into getting rid of her problems. Teddy lies at least some of the time–when, it’s hard to say. Leonard is a very obvious INTJ, despite the memory problem. Since he can’t remember anything since his wife’s murder, he ends up on a hunt for her killer, which (according to Teddy) he chooses to continue even after the killer is dead. He destroys evidence, forgets what he’s done, and continues the hunt, since it gives him a purpose in life. Yet he’s convinced that he’s after the truth, thanks to his inability to remember when he’s lied to himself. The whole “noble lie” them from Batman Trilogy is here in full force (less nobly, though), with the existential uncertainty from “Inception.” Since the end of the film puts the accuracy of Leonard’s pre-injury memories into doubt, it asks some pretty serious questions about memory in general and honesty in particular.

        At any rate, “Memento” is anything but an idea dump. It’s incredibly focused, more so than even his (still very focused) later movies.


  12. I presuming you don’t play many video games based off of the guidelines on this site, but a great example of potential Ni in video games is Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series. He explores pretty awesome thematic stuff (i.e. the lifespan of an ideology) through multiple perspectives; each game essentially focuses on a different character and how they view what’s going on around them, which I find highly intriguing. The series has a consist cast of characters, so it’s especially cool to see how some of them view each other. I’m not sure what Kojima’s type is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was an INXJ or an INTP with some crazy Ti-Ne interaction going on.


  13. I loved this! Thank you so much for writing ;) I am an INFJ and I love Interstellar. Being similar to INTJs (esp re dominant Ni and inferior Se) I really love his style and what he does. (I was thinking that maybe Cooper (from Interstellar) was also an INTJ….)


    • Cooper’s not an INTJ. I believe you’ll find him in the ISTP section of this blog. I’ve noticed that Nolan’s recent films have branched out in terms of portraying non-INTJ lead characters, and Cooper is actually a great example of that.


  14. Although I have only seen one of Christopher Nolan’s films, that being The Prestige, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and many of the concepts that I see in his other films, even though I am not an INTJ. (Actually, I happen to be an ENFP.) After having said this, I don’t think that I had much of a struggle with following his content, despite being a dominant Ne (and a recessive Si). Actually, I enjoy deep, contemplative works, even if I may not understand them or want to understand them fully.

    Anyway, this statement is up for discussion if the need for discussion is found, and I am not making a claim to refute what is said about my type’s functions in this article. I just thought I would leave some input.


    • I would agree. Not having INTJ functions in no way excludes other types from understanding Nolan’s films. INTJ functions just make the click 10x more likely.


  15. Glad to hear that somebody else relates to this!

    Another great example of a writer using singular symbolism would be the short stories of Flannery O’Connor. Literally every story she wrote has the same overall symbolism, and the meanings are incredibly deep.


  16. I love Nolan’s films, and I’m amused, too, that some people need explanations in order to interpret the concept of them. I understood Inception from its first second to the last, and I loved it, much for the same reasons you already mentioned in your post – the symbolism, the question of reality/realm of fantasy are soft spots for me, and I love to use these for my own writings as well. For instance, in my latest novel, there is a profoundly confusing chapter, which is key at the same time for the whole plot, because the protagonist has a mental breakdown, and it’s varying between dreams/nightmares and reality. It’s not in chronological order, either, because the whole point of that chapter is to confuse the readers, so that they will be able to easier imagine what the protagonist is going through.

    I also use one huge symbol for all of my works, I honestly can’t not do that. I have to give them a deeper significance, and the readers really have to understand and be able to catch on to the whole of my logic, otherwise they most likely won’t like the plot, because it doesn’t make sense to them.

    Another similarity is that I also love using my prior knowledge – for example, in my aforementioned work, a pentacle was the solution for the mystery that ensued, and it was also the symbol in my novel. I know nowadays pentacles are solely known for keeping harmful spirits away, but they are also symbols of perfection due to their relation to the Golden Ratio, and this was the idea that I held onto. Speaking of which, I also love mentioning rarely-known things in my stories, so that whoever reads them will learn something new.

    I can agree with you on Nolan most likely being an INTJ – I mentioned my writing habits briefly to show that I can relate to his style, too, and I rarely enjoy a film as much as I do his.


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