Every David Fincher Movie, Ranked
The guy who gave us Tyler Durden and "Gone Girl" is a force to be reckoned with. But how has David Fincher not won an Oscar yet? That's almost as messed up as the subject matter of most of his films. We've ranked every gritty film on the intense auteur's resume.
10. 'Alien 3' (1992)
Fincher's feature debut is his least favorite among his own films, and you can see why, given the compromises forced upon him by the studio. Sigourney Weaver is typically great as conflicted heroine Ripley, and the movie hints at Fincher features to come -- with its grim atmosphere, violent shocks, and a less-than-happy ending.
9. 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' (2012)
Not that we needed a big-budget Hollywood remake of the Swedish thriller -- the third telling of this story, mind you. But if any American director could capture the Stieg Larsson bestseller's bleak atmosphere, tech-savvy heroine, horrific violence, convoluted mystery, and sins of the past coming home to roost, it's Fincher. (Though we prefer the 2009 original.) His "Social Network" sweetheart Rooney Mara seemed an unlikely choice for the fearsome, fearless Lisbeth Salander, but she certainly nailed the part. And her partner Daniel Craig -- well, his cheekbones alone are enough to cut through the icy Scandinavian gloom.
8. 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' (2008)
Give Fincher credit for the technical achievements here, making Brad Pitt appear to age backwards (starting with his dotage-distorted face spliced onto the head of a baby). But screenwriter Eric Roth's epic expansion of F. Scott Fitzgerald's slight short story feels like a retread of Roth's own "Forrest Gump" script. It's another tale of a Southern lad with a congenital defect who nonetheless lives a charmed life, one that intersects with the dramatic highlights of 20th-century history. In the end, Hurricane Katrina washes everything away, and you're left wondering what it all meant -- or whether there was any point at all.
7. 'Panic Room' (2002)
You can enjoy this nail-biter on many levels -- as an efficient, economical action thriller; as a black-comic satire about the perils of the Manhattan real estate market; and as a sinister Fincher fable about how the technology we trust can be turned against us. Oh, and as a vivid display of visually stunning opening credits, something else that's become a Fincher trademark.
6. 'The Game' (1997)
Michael Douglas, in one of his symbol-of-white-male-privilege roles, is thrust into a paranoid scenario where anyone could be part of a deadly game. Sean Penn is effortlessly wily and mysterious as the brother who's bestowed this dubious gift, either to destroy Douglas or to save him. Still, despite the refreshing excitement that comes with not knowing where the story is going, the whole adds up to slightly less than the sum of the parts. The notion of the game as a metaphor for life as an unsolvable puzzle ends up delivering a less-than-satisfying payoff, but the movie works more times than it doesn't.
5. 'The Social Network' (2010)
Aaron Sorkin's Oscar-winning screenplay about the invention of Facebook may be almost complete fiction, but its take on the truth is very entertaining. The film's Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg, in a career-defining role) is a convenient paradox, the antisocial genius who got the whole world to "friend" each other but cut himself off in the process from everyone with whom he was even a little bit close. Yet the film gets right the big-picture truths -- especially about the way money destroys friendship.
4. 'Zodiac' (2007)
Fincher's serial-killer thriller rescues the genre from its cliches. For all the diabolical cunning of the real-life Zodiac killer, the movie posits that he may just be a bland nobody. And for all the brilliance of the obsessive detective work (by journalists Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. and cop Mark Ruffalo), the sleuths never do close the case. Rather than pretend to offer us a true glimpse into the heart of evil, Fincher makes us look instead at our own frailties, at our inability to divine truth even when we're drowning in a sea of data.
3. 'Fight Club' (1999)
Here is Fincher's ultimate statement on the urge toward violence, the construction of identity, and the slippery search for meaning amid a system of information overload. Also, this adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel is the most satirical (and undeniably funniest) film Fincher has ever made.
2. 'Gone Girl' (2014)
Fincher was the perfect director to adapt Gillian Flynn's bestseller, with its foreboding air, plot twists, and media-circus satire. Rosamund Pike earned an Oscar nomination as the picture-perfect wife, but Ben Affleck is just as on point as the husband everyone assumes is a bastard.
1. 'Seven' (1995)
The movie that put Fincher on the map is, on the surface, a typical '90s crime drama about a brilliant serial killer and the cops (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) who must hunt him down. In Fincher's hands, however, the story is almost entirely about atmosphere -- a millennial, apocalyptic gloom where the killer's Biblical judgment is almost beside the point, since the characters are already living in hell. "Seven" remains so chilling, even decades later, that even that tiny spoonful of hope is hard to swallow.