Ranking the David Fincher Films

ONGOING FLUID PROJECT (ie: to be updated continuously yet sporadically)

LAST: Mank

I love my father as well, but I promise you all that if he ever produces a really shitty script I will never utilize my power in Hollywood to get the picture made. No matter what happens when I re-watch the other films in the years to come, this one will remain last!!

10. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

While Fincher was in full command of his visual skills, there is really nothing you can do with Stieg Larsson’s novel to turn it into something narratively rewarding or even especially compelling despite Mara and Craig doing their best. The story just feels too much like it is aimed at a teenager’s sensibilities (but without any shred of value for them to consume) to be in any way interesting. There is just not much there beneath the surface in a film, and the surface is not particularly pleasant.

9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

While there is a genuine sweetness to this picture, the film feels a bit distant from its characters who feel more like ideas than the people they needed to be to pull this off. It’s hard for this feel like anything but a more solemn Forrest Gump, and I am not really sure who this would be for with that in mind. Strong awards bait shit here.

8. The Game

There was just not much to this one. On one hand, the film earns some bonus points by thrusting its thumb in the eye of twist movies. But the twist being that there was no twist and that the game was in fact a game kind of leaves you in the same hollow place a film relying on a twist ending would be. Michael Douglas is really the only character and beyond the pleasure of seeing him being psychologically tortured for over two hours, there is not much appealing about this one. Some very mid Fincher.

7. Alien 3

When I first watched this film on the heels of being blown away by Alien and enjoying Aliens a great deal, I was deeply underwhelmed by David Fincher’s first feature. Time has been kind to my opinion of the film though largely due to the first hour and the obvious strong characterization of Ripley. The first hour is just absolutely beautiful in a totally new and unique way for the Alien films, as we just got to spend time with Sigourney Weaver and Charles Dance flirting and spending time together. This was great. I demand a romantic comedy starring them in 2022. The film gets less interesting after the (effectively) shocking death of Dance’s character halfway through, as the rest of the ensemble struggled to make an impression despite the makings of a strong setup for them. It’s not particularly interesting to think about in terms of the larger picture of Fincher’s career, but the film has more good than bad.

6. Se7en

It feels like Fincher is still figuring out things here. It’s a cool early picture for a talented director, but it does not feel like someone fully sure of himself. It’s similarly fascinating to see Pitt at a different stage of his career where his confidence feels performative rather than genuine swagger. It works well for the character and makes the climatic moment feeling truly earned and heart-wrenching instead of just merely shocking.

5. Panic Room

Re-watching this was one of those experiences where I was just like, “You know, this is probably just mid” and then all of a sudden I had to watch through my fingers because the tension was killing me. EVERYONE is in peak form here, and Fincher even manages to probably produce the least intolerable Jared Leto performance I have ever seen. (It probably has something to do with the fact that he set Leto on fire. More directors should set Jared Leto on fire.) 

4. Fight Club

The Teenager Canon is easily derided. After all, who would not be ashamed to own so many Kevin Smith films on DVD?? But there is something charming and endearing and dare I say valuable in films that really speak to teenagers and make them think movies are something more to mere #content. Fight Club is the ultimate member of The Teenager Canon and one of the few that still has some value as an adult! Make sure the teenager in your life watches it!

3. Gone Girl

Nowhere else in his body of work has Fincher displayed such a deep understanding of people and relationships as he did here. Buried under many layers of hilarity and absurdity is a truly horrifying picture of the human condition and the perverse failure we all participate in when it comes to our compulsion to link up with a mate for life.  But at no point does Fincher allow us to wallow in self-pity for long here and instead uses the camera to point and laugh at our own futility.

2. The Social Network

The concept of an “important” film is corny as hell, but the genesis of the current edition of hell world that we live in really feels deeply connected by how the internet was mutated by social media. Regardless of the accuracy of the details in the particular story (who gives a fuck), the smallness and grossness of the story absolutely is speaking to a higher truth of the world we encounter now on a daily basis. Also, the film is slick as hell and flies through.

1. Zodiac

Zodiac is always going to feel like Fincher’s masterpiece. The story he was destined to tell and at the time he was ready to make it. He was in full control of his voice, visual style, and pacing. The three main roles were brilliantly cast, and the rest of the film is populated with amazing character actors that cause every scene to pop. One of the best films of the 21st Century.

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