If you’ve read an interview with the myriad of actors who have worked with director David Fincher over the years, you’ll likely come away with a version of the same story. Not only does he make actors work harder than most of his peers, he likes to do a lot of takes. And by “a lot” we mean a lot. Actors such as Jake Gyllenhaal and Rooney Mara went into detail about the volume of each scene, with Mara revealing that she’s already done the same scene 99 times while filming The Social Network. (opens in a new tab)
Still, that doesn’t seem to stop Fincher from getting work or attracting good actors, and Mara, who you can imagine must have dreamed of the clapperboard sound for months afterwards, returned to work with the director on his next movie. Why? Well, unless he makes a great cup of tea, we imagine it’s because they’re happy with the final film.
Fincher started life as a cameraman, but cut his teeth doing commercials for Converse, Nike and Pepsi, before moving into music videos where he oversaw a number of high-profile music videos for Madonna, Sting and Michael Jackson. Earning a reputation for getting results and staying on budget, Fincher was parachuted in to direct Alien 3 after Vincent Ward was fired weeks before filming began.
It turned out to be a rocky start (more on that in a minute), but it gave Fincher the break he needed and from there he grew and grew in stature, director-like who has earned the right to take endless takes.
So far he has directed 11 feature films and we decided to rank them from worst to best. Let’s dive in…
Fincher’s film debut was a true baptism of fire as, to use a football term, he received a hospital pass with Alien 3.
Alien’s third installment went through countless writers and actually went into production without a finished script. In fact, the filming was such a mess that star Sigourney Weaver, who had shaved her head for the film and, after finishing production, started growing it back, was then told she would be needed for reshoots and that she had to shave yet again, something for which she was reportedly paid $300,000. (opens in a new tab)
The film’s plot follows Weaver’s Ripley, who, after escaping at the end of Aliens, crash lands on Fiorina 161, a dark wasteland inhabited by former inmates of the planet’s maximum security prison.
Unfortunately, beside him on the escape pod was an alien, who quickly begins to stalk prisoners and guards.
There are some good action beats here and some classic alien terror bits, but this was the first of many negative notes for this franchise. Now, even though Alien 3 is by no means the worst Alien movie (it’s actually at number 3 on our ranking), it was all uphill from here for Fincher.
10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
It’s a testament to the strength of Fincher’s back catalog that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a film that was nominated for 13 Oscars and cost nearly $350 million at the box office, is second to last. of this summary.
Loosely based on the 1922 short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the film stars Brad Pitt as the titular character, a man who ages backwards.
While well-told, the film’s 166-minute runtime sags somewhat, and it’s far more schmaltzy than Fincher’s other work. A technical marvel, the film ended up winning Oscars for Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Visual Effects.
That sums up Benjamin Button, a marvelous technical feat, but not a stellar story.
9. Panic Room
A tight, claustrophobic thriller, Fincher brought together Jodie Foster and a young Kristen Stewart to tell this home invasion drama.
Foster played Meg Altman, a new divorcee, who moves in with her 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, to a four-story house on New York’s Upper West Side. They discover by looking around the house that the previous owner, a reclusive millionaire, has installed a “panic room” to protect the occupants from intruders.
On their first night in the house, three men break in, forcing Meg and Sarah to hide in the panic room. Unfortunately, the thing men want is hidden inside.
Cleverly scripted, full of tension and well acted, this is a classic action thriller, the kind you see mostly on Netflix and Prime Video now. It holds up really well.
8. The Game
Fincher followed his hugely acclaimed and hugely lucrative second effort, Se7en, with The Game, a 1997 thriller starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in key roles.
Douglas plays Nicolas van Orton, a wealthy investment banker, who, seeming bored with everyday life, receives a mysterious gift from his brother, a voucher for a game donated by a company called Consumer Recreation Services, promising that he change his life
It turns out the game merges with van Orton’s real life in an all-too-real way and he gets drawn into a plot.
Twisty, twisty, thrilling and full of scares, it’s very much in the classic 1990s thriller genre, but fun nonetheless.
Fincher and Netflix have come together to produce Mank, a love letter to old Hollywood, based on a screenplay by her late father Jack.
Shot entirely in black and white, the film stars Gary Oldman as screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. We meet Mankiewicz in 1940, where the flush movie studio RKO hired rising star Orson Welles under a deal that gives him full creative control of its movies.
For his first film, Welles decided to call on Mankiewicz, a sort of exhausted alcoholic at this stage of his life, to write the screenplay. This film? Citizen Kane.
Directed by Oldman but with a supporting cast that also includes Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke and Charles Dance, the film is probably Fincher’s weirdest, but also one of his most compelling. No wonder he was nominated for 10 Oscars.
6. The girl with the dragon tattoo
Fincher’s 2011 adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel didn’t do enough at the box office to earn the green light for a planned trilogy, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a damn good thriller.
For the film, Fincher reunited Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, with Craig playing journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Mara as Lisbeth Salander, the damaged, eccentric but brilliant computer hacker with an eye for spotting crime.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tells the story of Blomkvist’s investigation to find out what happened to a girl from a wealthy family who disappeared 40 years before, a job given to him after his failed career as a journalist.
Shot with style, unflinchingly violent, and beautifully scored (as so many Fincher movies have been) by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, it may not have started a trilogy, but it’s still worth watching. to be revisited.
Fincher’s 2007 drama is one of the most underrated films of the past 20 years and still holds up incredibly well if you sit down to watch it now.
The film, which stars Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr, follows the still unsolved case of the infamous Zodiac Killer, a serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s and in the early 1970s.
With the murder still unsolved. it’s not about the case, it’s about the reporters and police detectives scrambling to try and crack the case.
Sleek, captivating and incredibly well put together, it’s a meaty watch at 157 minutes, but well worth the effort.
4. Fight Club
Fincher’s 1999 adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s surreal novel is an exceptional work, transforming a novel that might have seemed unfilmable into a powerful and cohesive drama.
Starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club follows Norton’s unnamed narrator, dissatisfied with his boring daily life and forming an underground fight club.
Fincher gets Palahniuk’s love of misery and taste for random hit here and the film remains a cult classic.
Fincher’s sequel to Alien 3 shocked everyone with its power, thrill, and unwavering nature, and it’s still a powerful thriller when you sit down to take it now.
The setting is classic, Morgan Freeman’s William Somerset is a disillusioned police detective on the verge of retirement. For his latest case, he’s partnered with Brad Pitt’s short-tempered but idealistic Detective David Mills, who is new to the department.
The two men are assigned to investigate a series of murders and quickly realize that they are inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins. They must now find the man responsible before he manages to kill again.
Horrifying, beautifully plotted, and with an ending you’ll miss, Se7en is one of the great thrillers of the last 30 years. It’s almost as good as…
2. Missing Girl
Another perfect adaptation of a best-selling book, Fincher brought Gillian Flynn’s bestseller to the big screen in 2014.
The film stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as Nick and Amy Dunne, a couple about to embark on their fifth wedding anniversary, when Amy suddenly disappears and Nick is framed for her murder.
As the plot unfolds, it turns out that Amy was quietly plotting something, with Nick struggling to come to terms with his wife’s disappearance while desperately trying to prove his innocence to a frenzied media.
Pike is in his life form here as Amy, but Fincher handles the material brilliantly and delivers an incredible thriller.
1. The social network
In the lead up to the release of The Social Network, a film that saw Fincher team up with writer Aaron Sorkin to adapt Ben Mezrich’s 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires about the founding of Facebook, the discussion focused on how the only thing more boring than Facebook itself was the prospect of a movie about it. How wrong they were.
The film traces the founding of Facebook while Mark Zuckerberg was still a student at Harvard, following the lawsuits that resulted from its launches, first by the Winkelvoss twins, who claim Zuckerberg stole their idea, and by Eduardo Saverin, the co -founder who was later ousted from the company.
Superbly cast, particularly with Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as Saverin, and Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker, who would play a key role in directing Zuckerberg’s early decisions, the film sizzles and crackles from the first minute.
A searing, hard-hitting, and emotionally charged drama, this is, for us anyway, Fincher’s finest work in what, as you can see, is a winners’ list.
Want another ranking? We applied the rule to all Martin Scorsese films, 25 films ranked from worst to best.