David Fincher is one of the best directors working in Hollywood and one of my favorite directors. Over the last two decades, Fincher has given us some iconic and memorable films, from violent thrillers to Oscar winning dramas. Here is my ranking of all of David Fincher’s films.
10 – ALIEN3 (1992)
- Following Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens, two masterpieces of the sci-fi genre, David Fincher made his directorial debut with Alien3. Following two masterpieces was a tough enough task, but the troubled shoot made it even worse. Constant script changes, studio interference, reshoots, crew replacements, and different cuts of the film eventually took the film away from Fincher. Though nowhere near as good as Alien and Aliens, Alien3 is still a very interesting watch that keeps in the same vein as the first two films while showing some flashes of genius that we would see from Fincher later in his career. Not knowing what Fincher could have done with this movie given full power and final cut is one of the great cinematic mysteries there is.
8 – PANIC ROOM (2002)
- Panic Room is a fun little thriller, yet is probably Fincher’s most forgotten film. Jodie Foster stars in the film as a woman who hides in her recently purchased new home’s safe room with her daughter (a young Kristen Stewart) while a trio of men break in in search of a missing fortune. Panic Room is tense and thrilling, highlights themes about technology, and shows Fincher working on a relatively smaller, tighter scale, yet with the same visual flair we are used to from is films. But unlike most Fincher films, it doesn’t leave a lasting impression and doesn’t feel like a true Fincher film.
8 – THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008)
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was Fincher’s first major Oscar player. After over a decade of being behind the camera to constant critical acclaim, Fincher’s movies barely got recognized by the Academy. But in 2008, Fincher made a film that was right in the Academy’s wheelhouse, being nominated for 13 Oscars and winning three. Though visually stunning with some good performances, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is David Fincher’s softest film and one that lacks a bite that we’ve come to know in Fincher films.
7 – THE GAME (1997)
- The Game is a very strange movie, but a really entertaining one. Following the success of Se7en, Fincher created a twisted, thrilling look at a man (Michael Douglas, in one of the best performances of his career) who agrees to participate in a mysterious game for his birthday and has his life turned upside down when he becomes unable to distinguish between the game and reality. What’s great about The Game is you never know where it is going. You think it’s going left, and then it twists you right and then quickly back left. And good luck predicting the ending, because it’s insane and shocking, yet incredibly not the wildest ending of Fincher’s career. Though thought of as lesser Fincher, The Game is one of the directors most interesting efforts.
6 – THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011)
- Coming in hot off a best-selling novel and a critically acclaimed foreign film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was bound for an American remake. Fincher was the perfect choice for this remake about a journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (a terrific Daniel Craig) who is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara, in a legendary performance), a young computer hacker. This was Fincher’s darkest and most violent film since Se7en, yet he makes sure to never lose track of the chilling mystery at the center of the film. It’s a shame Fincher was never able to adapt more of these novels with Rooney Mara as the lead.
5 – FIGHT CLUB (1999)
- There’s been a lot that has been said about Fight Club, Fincher’s hyper-violent satire on masculinity and consumerism that shook the cinematic landscape back in 1999, that it’s hard to say anything original about it. This movie is great and really established Fincher as a powerhouse director. Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bohnam Carter all give incredible performances and the movie pulses with energy and life thanks to great cinematography, a pulsating score, and quick, efficient editing. This is the movie Fincher will forever be famous for and the film that solidified him as one of the best directors in Hollywood.
4 – GONE GIRL (2014)
- Gone Girl is yet another David Fincher mystery film that he executes to perfection. The film follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck, in easily one of his best performances) who’s wife, Amy Dunne (Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike) goes missing and nobody knows where she could be. Was she kidnapped? Murdered? Nobody knows and Fincher keeps us on our toes the whole time, twisting and turning the narrative until the final moments. Based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay), Gone Girl is the funniest and most biting film in David Fincher’s filmography, as he looks the dishonesty of media, modern upper-class marriages, and perception.
3 – SE7EN (1995)
- Following the troubled production of Alien3, Fincher bounced back in a huge way with Se7en. This is a grisly police thriller about two detectives (Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, both of whom are perfect) who are trying to solve a series of murders based around the seven deadly sins. Fincher showed his understanding of tone and mood here, making a dark, rainy a neo-noir that will the scare the hell out of you. All the terror and suspense leads up to one of the greatest endings in cinematic history, permanently cementing Fincher as a voice to be reckoned with as a director.
2 – ZODIAC (2007)
- What’s insane about Zodiac is that it could arguably be David Fincher’s most underrated movie, which is utterly insane. Zodiac is a masterpiece. A chilling procedural about the search for the Zodiac Killer in 1970’s San Francisco. It’s a sprawling, nearly three-hour-long film that covers over a decade, yet you are gripped by every single second of it. Like most Fincher films, the film is technically outstanding and features a great ensemble including Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, and John Carroll Lynch. This is a film that looks at obsession and how affects people and those around them. Though under-seen on its original release, Zodiac has proven its staying power and is truly one of the best films of the 2000s.
1 – THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)
- As seen through the list, David Fincher has made some truly great films that have defined cinema over his nearly thirty years. But when choosing which film was his best, there was no competition. With a script from Aaron Sorkin (adapted from the book The Accidental Billionaires), The Social Network looks at Mark Zuckerberg (a brilliant Jesse Eisenberg), the creation of Facebook, and the court cases that followed. Though about the creation of the biggest social media platform, Fincher doesn’t let up on the darkness of the story, showing how man’s obsession with trying to be cool and fit in ultimately alienates everyone close to him. Fincher’s direction has never been better and the film is full of technical brilliance. Though it came out a decade ago, The Social Network is even more relevant today ever. This is a movie that will define modern cinema and modern culture. It is David Fincher’s best film, the best film of the 2010’s, and one of the greatest movies I have ever seen.
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