Why Christopher Nolan Prefers One-Word Titles Like Tenet

Robert Pattinson in Tenet

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan is an iconic director who has had plenty of acclaimed blockbusters throughout his long and successful career. Currently all eyes are on what Nolan has in store for Tenet, which is one of the first movies to arrive now that theaters are reopening. And now the director has opened up about how he titled the time-reversing blockbuster. Namely, why Tenet is yet another Nolan film that is a single word.

Christopher Nolan had had a slew of hit movies over the years, many of which have big twists and make big money at the box office. And quite a few of the blockbusters have one-word titles including Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk, and Memento. The acclaimed filmmaker recently appeared on our very own ReelBlend podcast, where he opened up about his titling process. As he put it,

For me, titles are very tricky to be too self-conscious about. You’re looking for a way of expressing something about the film. To a certain extent, it’s a branding exercise on larger-scale films. I’ve always gravitated towards the simplest version of something that gets it across. Following, I think when I wrote that script, it was The Following, so we got rid of the The and stripped that down. I think that was the beginning of my interest in trying to make things as short and a pithy as possible, really. But it’s all instinct at the end of the day. It’s all trying to create something that you’re excited about, that you’re excited to share with the world.

It looks like Christopher Nolan is trying to keep things simple, and therefore enjoys a short and teasy title for his movies. And while the filmmaker acknowledges that finding the right name for his films is a "tricky" process, now we can understand a little bit more about the creative journey. Especially as audiences head to theaters to see Tenet on the big screen.

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Christopher Nolan's comments come from his recent appearance on ReelBlend about the highly anticipated release of Tenet. Nolan's films are in a pedigree of their own, so it's fascinating to take a peek behind the curtain about just ho the filmmaker makes each visionary movie into a reality. And that includes finding out what to name the damn thing.

In his comments, Christopher Nolan specifically mentioned the 1998 British movie Following. The movie is one of the earlier entries in Nolan's opus, which he wrote and directed. Even then the filmmaker knew brevity was at the heart of wit, and therefore pushed for the movie to have the shortest possible title, one without a pesky "the."

Funny enough, that one short word was recently taken out of Marvel's Eternals movie. And over at DC James Gunn's The Suicide Squad will stand apart from David Ayer's 2017 movie titled Suicide Squad. There's a lot of power in a "the", as Christopher Nolan learned early in his filmmaking career.

As for Tenet, Christopher Nolan's latest movie is dealing with more high concepts and featuring plenty of explosions and practical stunts. The movie's reviews are in, and have been positive towards the filmmaker's latest work. The movie was delayed amid global health concerns, with Christopher Nolan hoping that the blockbuster would help revitalize the industry. We'll just have to see how much the movie ultimately makes, especially as theaters aren't able to fill to capacity due to social distancing protocols.

Tenet is hitting theaters in the U.S. today. In the meantime, check out our 2020 release list to plan your next movie experience.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.