David Fincher made a total of 11 films (and one short animated film) in his career, and almost every one of them became a phenomenon in its own right. Fincher is like the great directors of classic Hollywood (1930s to 1950s), who managed to leave a distinct stylistic and thematic mark on the films they directed within the studio system, where they had no creative freedom. Fincher is mostly associated with thrillers that weave creeping horror in shades of gold and black, but every now and then he tries something different.
His upcoming film The Killer (Due to be released in 2023), about an assassin (Michael Fassbender) who begins to develop a conscience as his clients continue to demand his skills is a good opportunity to rate his films, from the mediocre to the excellent. And so, we ranked all the David Fincher’s best films from “Fight Club” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, to the mind-blowing “Zodiac” and the masterful “Seven Deadly Sins”.
11. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
The film follows Benjamin Button who was born older and gets younger as the years go by, and follows him throughout his life.
After a series of dark thrillers that brought him fame and box office success, but no Academy awards, Fincher seems to have decided to change course, and the result was an ambitious but emotionally barren fantasy. Inspired by a short story by P. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who was born old and kept getting younger, Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump”) wrote a script that has trouble connecting historical events in the real world with fantasy.
Brad Pitt delivers one of the more pallid performances of his career, and the only characterization of his character is the strange physiological process he goes through, produced by an impressive combination of make-up and computer animation. It’s a David Fincher movie, filled with rich and seductive cinematic language, but when the long film ends, we are left with too little. Because “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” actually doesn’t have a clear saying.
10. Alien 3 (1992)
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the sole survivor of the crew of a spacecraft that crashed on the desolate planet Fiorina “Fury” 161″ where a futuristic prison facility with dangerous prisoners is located. After the dismembered bodies of various prisoners begin to be discovered, Ripley begins to fear that one of the creatures has entered the escaping spaceship she escaped from in the previous film.
After an impressive career as a music video director, the 29-year-old Fincher was hired to direct his first feature film. On the one hand, it was a great honor, because the two previous movies in the Alien franchise were directed by Ridley Scott and James Cameron. On the other hand, it was the third film in the series, and Fincher had no control over the creation. He went into filming with an unfinished script and left the production before he finished post-production. However, already in Alien 3 where Ripley fights an alien on a distant planet that is used as a penal colony, you can see hints of the visual power that will take shape in his next films.
9. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
The American remake of Niels Arden Oplev’s Swedish thriller follows Lisbeth Salander (Roni Mara), a young computer hacker, and Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), an investigative journalist at an independent newspaper who is accused of a crime he did not commit. The two team up to uncover a dark secret.
“Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” falls short of the Swedish version, a lot because the character of Lisbeth Salander gets a much flatter version than the Swedish one. Fincher’s choice to omit significant scenes from her past found in both the book and the Swedish version makes the character too mysterious and as such she simply falls short of her Swedish counterpart. And despite that, David Fincher captures us already in the sensual and gruesome credits sequence and does not let go throughout the brutal and mysterious journey.
8. Mank (2020)
Fincher, who as mentioned does not write screenplays, created this film as a tribute to screenwriters who don’t get the credit they deserve – his father Jack Fincher wrote the screenplay in the nineties and died before he got to see it come to the screen, and Herman Mankiewicz who wrote “Citizen Kane” – one of the greatest and the most influential of all time – but the credit went to its director Orson Welles. What a shame that “Mank” is actually flawed in the script department.
The film rushes back and forth between the early thirties and those weeks in 1940 when Mankiewicz wrote “Citizen Kane”, and there are quite a few moments where there is a feeling that the transitions between times are made in the wrong places, and that the script needed editing. Gary Oldman is many years older than the character he plays, and his repetitious performance remains on the surface.
As in “Benjamin Button”, it seems that Fincher invested most of his energy in the (impressive) visual style of the film, which was shot in black and white, and although it is undoubtedly a personal project, it is less interesting and touching than it should have been.
7. The Social Network (2010)
Aaron Sorkin wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay about the gifted student from Harvard who developed a website to rate the attractiveness of female students and proceeded from there to build a Facebook-like website. The phenomenal success leads to legal battles between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his various partners – the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer in a double role) and the good friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) who developed the initial algorithm.
Sorkin’s staccato style fits like a glove with Fincher’s sharp direction, and the result is a masterful docu-drama, which makes a striking statement about predatory capitalism, and shapes Zuckerberg as a cold-blooded exterminator.
The most verbose film of Fincher’s career is also one of his most engrossing, and that in itself is an almost improbable cinematic achievement. Some of this comes built-in with any script by Aaron Sorkin, the film is stretched throughout, and although there are a lot of dialogues about algorithms, it’s completely a David Fincher film.
6. Panic Room (2002)
The plot deals with a mother (Jodie Foster ) and her daughter who rent an apartment in Manhattan with a sealed and protected security room designed to protect them from unwanted intruders. Of course, immediately, after the intruders enter the house, Foster and her family hide in the sealed room with a sense of security, but it turns out that the money the burglars are looking for is actually in this room.
Jodie Foster replaced Nicole Kidman who injured her leg during filming. 12-year-old Kristen Stewart (in her second film) plays her diabetic daughter. After the divorce, the two moved to a new apartment in New York. When three robbers (Forest Whittaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam) break into the apartment in search of a safe full of money, the mother and daughter enter the security room and look for a way to save themselves. It’s a compact, efficient, and tense thriller that Fincher used as a staging ground for spectacular camerawork.
The film grossed around $200 million worldwide and received mostly positive reviews, but it is considered one of the more neglected films in Fincher’s filmography, a tight, well-directed, and fascinating thriller, but without the innovation and subversion that characterizes many of the director’s other films.
5. The Game (1997)
Michael Douglas plays a rich banker who receives a special birthday present from his brother – a ticket to participate in a mysterious game specially tailored for him. The game turns out to be a trap that entangles him physically and mentally, and he begins to suspect that it is a conspiracy to destroy him.
Jodie Foster was supposed to star in the film as the daughter of Michael Douglas (who was 53 at the time), but he feared that it would mark him as an aging man, and demanded that she play his sister (even though she was 18 years younger than him). Foster declined, was replaced by Sean Penn, and filed a multi-million lawsuit against the studio.
The convoluted plot hides a surprise around every corner, and Fincher directs everything with the skill of a master. I’ve never understood why David Fincher doesn’t get enough respect as a director of actors – they make fun of the astronomical amount of takes he usually takes, but don’t notice that it brings phenomenal results – and I’ve never understood why this excellent film, about a mother and daughter who imprison themselves in a MM” The home d to defend against burglars, did not gain the status of a classic.
4. Gone (2014)
Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of the 2012 bestseller Peri Atta was critically acclaimed, but also accused of misogyny for the image of the demonic woman posing as a victim. Three years after the film became a box office hit, the era of “me too” broke out and it is hard to know if today “Gone” would have been approved for production.
Rosamund Pike was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Amy, who became famous as the inspiration for a popular children’s book series written by her parents, and Ben Affleck is her husband who was suspected of her disappearance.
It’s a deceptive thriller that plays poker with the viewers’ identification by gradually revealing plot details and psychological layers. With the exception of Danny DeVito’s “The War of the Roses” this is probably the meanest movie about a bad marriage to come out of Hollywood – and I mean that in the most positive sense of the word.
3. Zodiac (2007)
158 slow burn minutes, “Zodiac” was a box office failure and a film that carried very little hype, but it is one of David Fincher’s best movies, also due to its human nature. “Zodiac” works with a meticulous script by James Vanderbilt, and tells the story of a cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal), a journalist (Robert Downey Jr.), and a police detective (Mark Ruffalo) who for about 15 years who tried to track down the killer. After the chilling opening that depicts the murder of a young couple on a date, Fincher recreates the style of the paranoid thrillers of the seventies, weaving a rich work that invites repeated viewings.
On the one hand, this movie is a shameless rip-off of Bong Joon-ho’s “Memories of a Murder.” It’s true that the two films are based on the stories of different serial killers – one American and the other South Korean – but it’s essentially the same film, the same process people go through who sink too deep into an investigation that goes nowhere. “Zodiac” is an amazing work in its own right.
2. Se7en (1995)
Fincher’s crime thriller established his status as one of Hollywood’s greatest talents. You can cut the air with a knife in the movie about a pair of cops – Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman – who try to hunt down a serial killer played by the creepy Kevin Spacey. As the two get closer to catching the killer, the case gets more and more complicated – until at a certain point it is no longer clear to us who is chasing who.
Thanks to the excellent Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt in one of his best roles and his sadistic-genius ending, “Se7en” is one of the best thrillers created in recent decades. Fincher embroidered in shades of black and mustard a modern variation on the classic film noir style and created a cinematic text that is hard to take your eyes off of, even when he presents us with horrors, such as the unbelievable ending. Full of impossible moral dilemmas and brutal murders, we get into the worst kind of evil that exists – one that truly and wholeheartedly believes that it is doing the right thing.
1. Fight Club (1999)
In Fincher’s film based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, Edward Norton struggles to find an outlet for his frustrations as he works for a big company. In his free time, he joins a variety of support groups until he meets Taylor Darden (Brad Pitt), a charismatic young man with great influence. Together, they establish a fight club that attracts a lot of men.
The satire on the crisis of masculinity in the age of IKEA was not a box office or critical success when it was released, but shortly after it became the first DVD hit and the most prominent cult film of the century. As the two sides of toxic masculinity, Edward Norton and Brad Pitt play iconic roles in a kind of barbed stream-of-consciousness movie, barbed and spectacular.
In Fincher’s most stylish film, he explores what happens when we decide to give up the masks and limits that society has placed on us, and how dangerous the outcome can be.
The effect of the film on the viewer for the first time and with every rewatch, the soundtrack that pulls the viewer in, Tyler Darden played by Brad Pitt, and the countless unforgettable quotes make “Fight Club” a film that was undoubtedly several years ahead of its time, his favorite and most important film, as well as the best of David Fincher and one of our most important and influential films.
Notable Mention: Bad Traveling (2022)
Fincher returned to the director’s chair after producing the first two seasons of ״Love, Death, and Robots״ – this time, taking the helm of the “Bad Traveling” episode.
Bad Traveling is based on the short story by British science fiction writer Neal Asher and sounds a bit like a certain Alien franchise in which Fincher made his film debut. This time, Bad Traveling trades xenomorphs for live crabs, and the entire episode takes place in the Jebel Shark universe that first appeared in Neil Asher’s collection of short stories, The Engineer Reconditioned. A Jebel shark-hunting sailboat is attacked by a giant crab whose size and intelligence are matched only by its appetite. The episode synopsis reads. “Rebellion, betrayal and ventriloquism to a corpse… Welcome aboard David Fincher’s animated directorial debut.”
“Bad Travelling” features a dark moral message about the extent people would go to in order to defend their actions. Like Fincher’s first debut film, his debut animated film also features a team of survivors stuck in endless space with a gigantic, slimy (crab) alien.