David Fincher is one of my personal favorite directors. His short list of feature films include stories that are mostly dark in tone, but he manages them really well with his gritty and unique style. He is known for being a bit of an obsessive director, but that can only explain why his track record consists of so many hits and very few misses, making him one of the most consistent and respectable modern filmmakers today. With the recent release of Gone Girl, Fincher has once again proven that not only can he be counted on to make a faithful book adaptation, but also a great thriller in general. Here is my own ranking of David Fincher’s films from best to worst.
1. Zodiac (2007)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, John Carroll Lynch
IMDb rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%
When I think of David Fincher, Seven and Fight Club are the two movies that immediately come to mind. In my opinion, though, Zodiac is by far the best Fincher film, despite it being somewhat underrated by the general audience compared to the other two career-defining movies he made early on. It has a few great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. The story is interesting, being based on the real life serial murders of the Zodiac killer from the late ’60s and early ’70s, but it also involves the theme of obsession, and how obsession with the case ultimately destroys many people’s personal lives in the long run. The subject is tackled skillfully, letting the details unravel slowly before your eyes, and all the while you know from history that the killer was never caught. Movies don’t always need a definite resolution to be good, and this is an example of that. I’ll also add that it has a great soundtrack, thanks to this movie I can’t listen to Donovan’s song “Hurdy Gurdy Man” without thinking of the Zodiac killer.
2. Seven (1995)
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow
IMDb rating: 8.7
Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%
Seven is the film that allowed Fincher to really make a lasting impact on cinema, being the first good movie he directed since his rather unsuccessful debut with Alien³. It’s a thriller that stuck with me throughout the years, and often times, I find myself comparing other serial killer thrillers to this one for some reason. It’s a movie that is full of clichés, but manages to balance them out with a good script, some great actors, and particularly skillful stylized filmmaking. Full review here.
3. Fight Club (1999)
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf
IMDb rating: 8.9
Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%
Fight Club is one of those movies I can watch over and over again, and trust me, I have. Maybe there are other movies that deserve this spot more than this one, but my own personal bias won’t allow it. Fight Club is something that people either love, or they don’t understand the hype. I belong to the former group. I don’t know what it is about this one. Maybe it’s the weird humor, the anarchic message, or the fact there’s a bunch of guys kicking the crap out of each other with their shirts off. Whatever the reason, I’ve loved it for a long, long time. It’s a very stylish film, from the camera work to the editing, but it all works well in a story where the main character finds himself in a world of chaos, breaking away from the status quo via the amazing Tyler Durden.
4. The Social Network (2010)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justine Timberlake, Armie Hammer
IMDb rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%
I’m not really a huge fan of Facebook and for some reason, a movie about it just didn’t appeal to me at all, but I went to see it anyway, and man, was I surprised. Fincher took a subject I couldn’t give two shits about, told me a story I didn’t care to know, and actually made me like it. A lot of credit has to go to Aaron Sorkin for his witty script and clever dialogue, but this movie as a whole intrigued me. I have no idea if the real Mark Zuckerberg is anything like how Jesse Eisenberg played him, but I don’t even care. He was perfect for it. I hated him just as much as I liked him, and that is something I don’t feel very often. Andrew Garfield was also amazing, and even Justin Timberlake surprised me. Whenever this movie comes on TV I find myself watching it even though I’ve already seen it a bunch of times, it’s just one of those kind of movies.
5. Gone Girl (2014)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris
IMDb rating: 8.6
Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%
Gone Girl is one of the best adaptations from a book I’ve seen in a long time. The story is engaging, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike give a couple of memorable performances. It’s a dark story, and there are elements to it that are outrageous, but even so, it’s a story that is somewhat relatable. One of the main themes is that marriage is tough, and I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to. It’s a movie I enjoyed for a lot of reasons, and is possibly one of my favorites from this year so far. If you want, you can read my full review of Gone Girl here.
6. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård
IMDb rating: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Another solid book adaptation by Fincher. Based on the book by Stieg Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo deals with a lot of seriously dark themes, including rape and murder. It’s definitely a lot darker tonally than Gone Girl, but the reason I think Gone Girl was better was that it had a more relatable story, and the film engages its audience with the characters on an emotional level a lot better than this, but both are similar in some ways. I have to say that the performances here are indeed amazing. I couldn’t tell Rooney Mara could play a part like this just by seeing her in the one short scene she had in The Social Network, but she pretty much blew me away. I was skeptical about this movie at first, because it seemed cheap to remake a movie so soon after the Swedish version came out, but I’ve seen both, and this one is infinitely better. Stylishly, the film fits the tone of Larsson’s novel really well. But that’s not surprising, as Fincher proves time and time again what he can do with some dark material.
7. The Game (1997)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn
IMDb rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 71%
The Game is a well-made movie with a really intriguing story…right up until the end. Actually, the ending is really the main problem I have with this film. It starts out as a thrilling story of a wealthy businessman who gets sucked into playing a seemingly wicked game, turning everyone he meets into a person he cannot trust, not that he had anyone to trust in the first place. It has a great premise, but falls flat towards the end. Of course, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but I will just say, it’s a little disappointing and kind of strange. I will say that the journey and the mystery is absorbing and exciting, almost to the point of frustration–good frustration–and I certainly can’t take that away from it.
8. Panic Room (2002)
Starring: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto
IMDb rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%
Panic Room is actually a pretty engaging thriller. The only reason it doesn’t match up to Fincher’s other thrillers for me is that it’s just very, very simple. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that I find movies more memorable when they are juggling different themes, or making you think in one way or another. That sounds incredibly pretentious and I almost feel bad for saying it, but it’s true. This is just pure entertainment, a sit down and turn your brain off kind of movie. Jodie Foster gives a solid performance, and so does Jared Leto with his…weird cornrows. Kristen Stewart, for once, isn’t terrible, so that’s always a plus. Pretty good entertainment all around.
9. Alien³ (1992)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance
IMDb rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes score: 43%
It’s kind of unfortunate that David Fincher’s feature-length directorial debut was a sequel, and a third sequel at that. It seemed way out of place for an Alien movie, it stopped being an awesome space horror movie and turned into some kind of dark, prison thriller that just happened to have a murderous alien in it. I’ve read, though, that Fincher had basically no control over the movie creatively, the script was constantly changing and production was a mess, and that’s a big reason why it turned out the way it did. He was so upset about it, he didn’t want to read another script until he happened to come across the script for Seven three years later and used it as a chance to redeem himself. Although it’s nowhere near as good as Alien and Aliens, it really wasn’t that bad. It’s bearable at best, but not really definitive of Fincher’s work.
10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Taraji P. Henson
IMDb rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 72%
Let me just say that this isn’t exactly a bad movie even though I’m putting it last. It’s last because it was a personal disappointment. Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells a very unique kind of tale of a man who is born old and grows young. It had a lot of potential it just didn’t live up to for me, and I was really looking forward to seeing it before it came out. It suffers from being extremely overlong, clocking in at nearly three hours. While the first half of the movie wasn’t too bad, the second half dragged on and on forever with seemingly no purpose. It failed to make me feel a connection to the characters and to the story even though it tried really hard to be melodramatic. It never delved any deeper than just being a story about a man and woman whose love is doomed to fail for obvious aging reasons. But with that said, it had some great visual effects and the acting isn’t terrible. I just sadly had more fun with Alien³ .
How would you rate David Fincher’s movies? Let me know in the comments!