AFI Movie Club: MEMENTO – Become an AFI Member and Watch for Free – American Film Institute
Memento Film Still - Guy Pearce


AFI Movie Club: MEMENTO – Become an AFI Member and Watch for Free

Want to watch MEMENTO for free! Become an AFI Star member or above and you can now watch complimentary AFI-curated films with our on-demand video streaming service, Kanopy. Each month, a selection of new titles will be added, and members will have unlimited views to titles!


MEMENTO, Christopher Nolan’s breakthrough film, was also the first of many collaborations with cinematographer Wally Pfister – a graduate of the AFI Conservatory. The film was honored with an AFI Award in 2001– recognizing it as one of the 10 outstanding films deemed culturally and artistically representative of the year’s most significant achievements in the art of the moving image. 

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MEMENTO – Reelgood

In this AFI exclusive video, watch MEMENTO director Christopher Nolan talk about looking at each new film through a fresh set of eyes and trying to remain as unselfconscious as possible with his work:


Movie Trivia About MEMENTO


Director Christopher Nolan’s brother Jonathan Nolan came up with the idea for MEMENTO, pitching it to his brother during a road trip to Hollywood. Jonathan took the idea and wrote a short story titled “Memento Mori,” which was published in Esquire magazine and served as the foundation for his brother’s film.  


Emma Thomas – Christopher Nolan’s girlfriend at the time – showed the screenplay for MEMENTO to Aaron Ryder, an executive at Newmarket Films, who said the script was, “perhaps the most innovative script I had ever seen.” Soon after, it was optioned by Newmarket and given a budget of $4.5 million. Thomas went on to become Nolan’s producing partner and wife. 


At the time an unknown director with only one previous feature credit, Christopher Nolan was able to get a meeting with Brad Pitt, who was intrigued after reading the script for MEMENTO. While his involvement went no further than their meeting, Pitt’s interest raised the profile of the project, and Guy Pearce eventually was cast in the film as Leonard Shelby. 


MEMENTO was originally to be filmed in Montreal. The production was ultimately moved to Los Angeles, in order to heighten the noir-ish aspects of the film. 


According to actor Stephen Tobolowsky, there were no lines in the script for his character Sammy Jankis. Tobolowsky was asked by director Christopher Nolan to improvise his part as the amnesia-afflicted character. 


MEMENTO took only 25 days total to shoot – and Carrie-Ann Moss’ scenes were shot in just eight days. 


MEMENTO was the first project director Christopher Nolan worked on with AFI Conservatory alum Wally Pfister. Pfister has been Nolan’s cinematographer on seven projects, including THE PRESTIGE and THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy. Four of their collaborations earned Pfister Academy Award® nominations – and a win for his work on INCEPTION.   


Christopher and Jonathan Nolan received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Original Screenplay for their work on MEMENTO, even though the film had been based on Jonathan’s short story – which was not published until after the movie had been released.  

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The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-Why does Christopher Nolan structure the story the way that he does?  

-How does the narrative structure help with the development of the characters, plot, and/or themes of the film? 

-Why are there black and white scenes throughout the film? How do they help tell the story? 

-Who is the most manipulative character in MEMENTO? Teddy? Natalie? Leonard himself? 

-Are Sammy Jankis and Leonard Shelby the same person? Why or why not? 

-Why does Leonard drive a Jaguar and wear a suit every day? 

-What is the truth about Leonard at the end (or beginning) of MEMENTO? Has he killed his wife’s assailant?  

-How would you rate MEMENTO? 

New to AFI Movie Club? Want to learn more?

AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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