A 15-Year-Old TV Show Highlights The Big Problem With Christopher Nolan’s Rumored Next Movie
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A 15-Year-Old TV Show Highlights The Big Problem With Christopher Nolan’s Rumored Next Movie


  • The failed 2009 TV remake of The Prisoner shows the challenge of adapting existing content for modern audiences.
  • A potential Christopher Nolan Prisoner movie would face obstacles in updating the story without losing its original appeal.
  • Despite potential difficulties, a Nolan-directed Prisoner movie remains an exciting prospect due to his history of creating unique cinematic experiences.



Christopher Nolan is rumored to be working on a big-budget movie adaptation of The Prisoner, but a TV disaster from 15 years ago proves it’ll be a challenge to bring this story to the big screen. The Prisoner is a surreal, short-lived cult classic British sci-fi series from the 1960s about a secret agent stranded on a mysterious island. After winning Best Picture and Best Director for Oppenheimer at the Oscars, Nolan has the freedom to make whatever movie he wants – but this particular project would be tough to pull off.

Nolan has been reportedly interested in making a movie adaptation of The Prisoner as far back as 2009 (and in the interim, Ridley Scott was in talks to take over the movie version of the series). Now that Oppenheimer’s Oscars success has solidified his status as the most revered director in Hollywood, he has a better chance than ever of getting the project off the ground. But a disastrous attempt to reboot The Prisoner over a decade ago proves that revamping this series will be a lot easier said than done.

The Prisoner Was Remade In 2009 – And Failed

There was an attempt to remake The Prisoner as a six-part miniseries in 2009. The reboot was a co-production between the British channel ITV and the American cable network AMC. Like the original, the remake revolved around a spy waking up in a strange picaresque village from which he couldn’t escape. The miniseries starred The Passion of the Christ’s Jim Caviezel in the lead role of Number Six alongside a scene-stealing, Emmy-nominated Ian McKellen as Number Two (a role that switched hands between various guest stars in the original show).

The remake of The Prisoner received mixed reviews on its release in 2009, with most critics complaining that it was nowhere near as weirdly captivating as the original series. The visuals weren’t as bizarre as the original; they were frustratingly tame by comparison. Plus, the miniseries’ reinvented resolution of the mystery felt like a let-down after all the build-up. The critical response wasn’t 100% negative, but it wasn’t even close to a positive enough reception to be worth remaking a classic and tarnishing its legacy. This doesn’t bode well for a potential movie adaptation, even with Nolan at the helm.

Making The Prisoner Work In A Modern Remake Would Be Nolan’s Biggest Challenge

Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner

If Nolan does make a movie version of The Prisoner, the biggest challenge would be updating it for a modern audience (and possibly a modern setting). Nolan’s movie would obviously be better than the TV remake – that’s a given – but whether The Prisoner fundamentally works as anything other than a cult ‘60s show with a minuscule budget is the big question. Not everything is suited to the big-budget movie treatment. The Prisoner might be one of those stories that loses its soul when the production value gets too extravagant.

The modern world, with all its cell phones and the availability of the internet, isn’t suited to this kind of mystery storyline. Today, with all the convenient technology at humanity’s disposal, it would be a lot easier for Number Six to figure out where he is and why he’s there. The strange and quirky original series was the perfect story for the paranoid ‘60s, but it might not land today.

The original version of
The Prisoner
ran for 17 episodes from September 1967 to February 1968.

Why A Christopher Nolan Prisoner Movie Is Still Exciting

Christopher Nolan seated next to an IMAX camera during the filming of one of his movies

Whether or not Nolan can turn a movie adaptation of The Prisoner into the next Oppenheimer, or whether or not The Prisoner is even suited to the big-screen treatment, a Nolan-helmed Prisoner movie is still a really exciting prospect. For starters, the premise and tone of the series are right up Nolan’s alley. In The Prisoner, much like in Nolan’s most iconic films, nothing makes sense and nobody explains anything. It just drops its audience right into the midst of the mystery and leaves them to figure it out for themselves, which is classic Nolan.

Nolan is such a brilliant director that he never makes a truly bad movie. Even Nolan’s most disappointing and overambitious films, like Tenet and Interstellar, are still a mesmerizing cinematic experience. Tenet is a baffling mess that takes too much mental gymnastics to explain time-traveling bullets, while Interstellar is a clunky mix of Kubrickian coldness and Spielbergian treacle, but they both still have plenty of mind-bending set-pieces and breathtaking imagery in spades. Whatever Christopher Nolan does with The Prisoner, it would be something special.

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