Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View

Christopher Nolan Originally Developed Inception as a Horror Movie

Now that you mention it, we wouldn't say no to a Christopher Nolan remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

By Josh Weiss

Christopher Nolan recently set our goosebumps all aquiver by stating (via Variety) that he'd "love to make a horror film." While Nolan's previous efforts have contained elements of terror (think Scarecrow's Fear Toxin hallucinations in Batman Begins, Joker's homicidal psychopathy in The Dark Knight, the existential threat of a dying planet in Interstellar, and even the specter of nuclear annihilation in Oppenheimer), the acclaimed storyteller has yet to craft a piece of cinema meant to curdle an audience's blood from start to finish.

"I think a really good horror film requires a really exceptional idea. And those are few and far between," the acclaimed storyteller explained at an event hosted by the British Film Institute. "So I haven’t found a story that lends itself to that."

What really fascinates Nolan about the genre is the fact that Hollywood financiers are willing to provide more creative leeway for horror projects, which tend to make solid box office returns, in spite of audacious narrative choices. "It’s ... one of the few genres where the studios make a lot of these films, and they are films that have a lot of bleakness, a lot of abstraction," he said. "They have a lot of the qualities that Hollywood is generally very resistant to putting in films, but that’s a genre where it’s allowable."

Interestingly, though, the writer/director/producer behind some of the most original and imaginative blockbusters of the 21st Century nearly delved into horror over a decade ago with the release of Inception (now streaming on Peacock).

For More on Inception:
Was Cobb Still Dreaming at the End of Inception? Christopher Nolan Weighs In
How Scientists Are Actually "Incepting" People's Dreams: The Science Behind Inception
Christopher Nolan Teases “Interesting Relationship” Between Endings of Inception and Oppenheimer

Inception Was Originally Conceived as a Horror Movie

Chatting with The Telegraph in July 2010, Nolan revealed that he originally conceived the somnial heist thriller as a chilling tale —perhaps in the vein of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise or Charles Beaumont's classic Twilight Zone episode, "Shadow Play."

"I was thinking along the lines of a horror movie at first, but it eventually became this project," he said. "I was looking for a device whereby the dreams would become important to the story, and the thought that someone could invade your dream space and steal an idea is immensely compelling to me. The concept that dreams feel real while we’re in them underlies the whole film."

In a way, Nolan did follow through on the horror notion by framing Inception as a tragic ghost story from Cobb's point-of-view (the character, played by Leonardo Di Caprio, is literally haunted by the apparition of his late wife). The overall concept ultimately spent around 10 years in development while Nolan sharpened his skills in the realm of big-budget, VFX-heavy filmmaking. "I’m really happy that it worked that way because, having been involved in the Batman films and The Prestige, which had a fair amount of cinematic sleights of hand, and with all the experience we’d gained, we were ready to make it," he concluded.

Inception is now streaming on Peacock along with several other Nolan classics: Memento (2000), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Dunkirk (2017), and Oppenheimer (2023).