Jonathan Nolan was born the youngest of three boys to Christina Nolan. Raised in both London and Chicago, Christina and her boys alternated between the two cities as the boys were growing. Nolan attended Georgetown University, where he majored in English and was a staff writer for The Hoya.
Nolan's short story "Memento Mori" was used by his older brother, director Christopher Nolan, as the basis for the film Memento. Although Jonathan received a "based on a story by" credit, not a screenwriting credit, the brothers shared a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay as the film was released before the story was published. In 2005, Jonathan and Christopher co-wrote the screenplay for The Prestige, which is based on Christopher Priest's novel of the same title. The brothers collaborated on the screenplay for the 2008 film The Dark Knight. The film went on to become the most financially successful Batman film, which has since been surpassed by its sequel, The Dark Knight Rises. On 10 February 2011, CBS picked up Nolan's pilot Person of Interest. The show was officially picked up by CBS on 13 May 2011 to air in fall 2011. The series ran for five seasons and starred Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson. Nolan served as executive producer along with J. J. Abrams. Nolan wrote the screenplay for Interstellar, a science-fiction feature based on the works of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who served as the film's executive producer. Christopher Nolan co-wrote, directed and produced the film, with Paramount distributing domestically, while Warner Bros. distributed internationally. Nolan and Lisa Joy wrote a pilot for an adaptation of Westworld, Michael Crichton's 1973 science fiction Western thriller of the same name. On 31 August 2013, it was announced that HBO had ordered a pilot for a show, with Nolan, Joy, Weintraub, J. J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk as executive producers, and Nolan making his directorial debut. The pilot was subsequently picked up to series, with Nolan and Joy as co-showrunners, and premiered on 2 October 2016. In November 2016, HBO renewed the show for a 10-episode second season, that started in April 2018. On 1 May 2018, following the first two episodes of Season 2, the series was renewed for a third season. Nolan and Lisa Joy signed a $150 million deal to create The Peripheral for Amazon.
Nolan found that having an English accent was very unpopular after moving to Chicago, so he learned to "sound like a good Chicago kid." When contemplating the artistic differences between himself and his brother, Nolan remarked: "I've always suspected that it has something to do with the fact that he's left-handed and I'm right-handed, because he is somehow able to look at my ideas and flip them around in a way that's just a bit more twisted and interesting. It's great to be able to work with him that way." Nolan is married to Burn Notice writer and Westworld co-creator and executive producer Lisa Joy. They have a daughter and a son together.