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David Fincher: From His Best to His Worst

Updated on May 8, 2017
Alec Zander profile image

Alec is a film critic with a true passion for the film industry & hopes his reviews and articles will help launch his career.

Prologue

David Fincher has garnered a lot of praise and a multitude of fans from his impressive directing skills. But how much of the praise is deserved and how much is blind loyalty? In the following article I will rank David Fincher's films starting with his best and ending with the worst.

Best: 'Se7en'

Se7en follows a couple of cops, one rookie and one older, to track and find a serial killer who has been using the seven deadly sins as tools to kill. The film stars Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

This film is nothing short of a thrilling masterpiece. Fincher creates a tension that keeps you on the edge of your seat and your eyes glued to the screen. The story is paced to perfection and acted fantastically. Most thrillers today are predictable and often disappoint in the final quarter. Se7en, however, never disappoints and is certainly never predictable. I give it a perfect 4 out of 4.

#2: Zodiac

Zodiac tells the story of the hunt for the Zodiac killer. The man who continues cracking the Zodiac Killer's code is probably the most unlikely of all - a newspaper cartoonist who becomes obsessed with finding and exposing the killer. Zodiac stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr, and Mark Ruffalo.

Zodiac is a mystery film that is engaging from start to finish. It opens with a shock and never stops delivering the thrills until the final frame. What makes the movie that much more intriguing is the fact that it has a slower pace and focuses on every detail, both important and unimportant, because we don't know for sure what's truly important and necessary until the credits roll, and even then we're all still reeling from what we've witnessed. I give Zodiac a perfect 4 out of 4.

#3: Fight Club

Fight Club centers around an insomniac office worker who desperately wishes to change up his life. He's bored and tired of doing the same old thing, a problem we all face at one point or another. One night, he meets an anarchist soap-maker who changes his life forever.

I honestly wish I could have placed Fight Club higher up the list. It's without a doubt one of Fincher's best films and conveys more truth than one might care to admit. What really sets this film apart though is its unpredictable, insane, incredible twist. The twist alone sets the film apart from all others and while other films have tried to take on mirroring the same type of change in direction, none have accomplished what Fincher has with Fight Club. I give the film a 4 out of 4.

#4: Gone Girl

Gone Girl centers around a man who is suspected of his wife's disappearance and possible murder. There's more to this case, however, as it soon becomes clear that the person responsible means to frame him. Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry star.

Gone Girl almost earns top spot. Almost. In what is probably David Fincher's creepiest and grittiest film to date, Gone Girl delivers more twists than a rollercoaster and never stops delivering shocking revelations along the way. The film actually follows the book very well and brings to life what one could only imagine when reading. What holds the film back is its pacing. The story itself and the acting within are remarkable, but there were times when the film's pace would slow and, combined with its lulling score, would cause the mind to drift. Otherwise, it's a fantastic piece of work, one I hope will inspire Fincher to continue making unsettling and gritty films without compromise. I give Gone Girl a 3.5 out of 4.

#5: The Game

Michael Douglas and Sean Penn star in The Game, a film about a wealthy banker who participates in a mysterious game and soon finds himself in a deep state of paranoia and can no longer tell the game apart from reality.

Creepy, paranoia-inducing, and at times downright disturbing, The Game is one film you won't soon forget. The story is incredibly written and the fantastic acting by Michael Douglas amps up the creepiness factor to a hundred. The ending could have been handled better, but overall the film succeeds, I give The Game a 3.5 out of 4.

#6: Panic Room

Panic Room tells the story of a mom and daughter whose home is broken into. The mom and daughter hide in the home's panic room in order to survive the night, only for things to get very complicated very fast.

Panic Room is one of those films that you can't shake easily no matter how hard you try. It's incredibly realistic and forces you to step into the mother's shoes and question yourself. What would I do in this situation? Could I be strong and protect my kid or would I die immediately? Real horror is always much better than supernatural horror because real horror could happen to anyone, and Fincher proves just that. I give Panic Room a 3.5 out of 4.

#7: The Social Network

The Social Network chronicles the life of Mark Zuckerberg as he postulates, designs, and creates the infamous social networking site Facebook. Of course, just like every other successful business creator and owner, Zuckerberg is sued and has to defend himself, and his creation, in order to remain on top.

I can't go as far as to say that The Social Network is a masterpiece but it comes close. It suffers from a problem that a few of his movies suffer from and that's a lack of emotion. Now, I don't know Mark Zuckerberg personally, but Fincher made him come off as a complete jackass with a speed-talking disorder. It was interesting to learn about him but he was ultimately unrelatable and sometimes difficult to understand. Aside from that, the film was very good. I give The Social Network a 3 out of 4.

#8: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is curious alright. It tells the story of Benjamin Button who has a rare aging disorder. He was born a frail, near death being and aged backwards into a young man and eventually a baby. He lived a rather remarkable life, one that no one else can say they lived.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button had some great ideas, some very intricate storytelling, and incredibly emotional, believable acting. In fact, it was almost perfect. What held the film back was its overlong running time. At times it felt like it dragged when a few things could have been skipped or at least altered to save time. Even though this is toward the bottom of the list, I still highly recommend it. I give the film a 3 out of 4.

#9: Alien 3

Alien 3 continues Ripley's story of horror and terror. This time, she crash-lands on a maximum security prison. Pretty soon, strange things start happening and Ripley figures out that she must have unknowingly brought an alien with her. Now, she and the inmates have to find a way to work together in order to kill the alien before it kills everyone else.

At this point, Alien had become predictable. The first was fresh and horrifying. The second was remarkable storytelling and packed one powerful punch. Fincher's Alien 3 was just a rehash of the others and it wasn't even up to the same quality. The film replaced smart storytelling with dull, mind numbing action. There were a few thrills along the way but ultimately, Alien 3 was nothing more than average. I give the film a 2 out of 4.

Worst: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Remake

David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a remake of the Swedish film of the same name which was directed by Niels Arden Oplev. The story follows two storylines that eventually merge into one. The first is Mikael Blomvkist, a reporter who has been accused of libel and sentenced to prison. His sentence isn't set to start for a couple months and in that time he is hired to work for Henrik Vanger. Henrik wants Mikael to resurrect a closed case and track down the killer of his granddaughter Harriet. The second storyline follows Lisbeth Salander, a master hacker who investigates people for a security firm. Eventually the two meet in order to solve what turns out to be a series of assaults and murders of females.

Remember toward the top when I said I hoped Fincher would continue making films without compromise? This is what I was referring to. Fincher's take on Dragon Tattoo is a flat-out insult to the book, the original film, and the very thing author Stieg Larsson was trying to accomplish. First off, the film is called The GIRL with the Dragon Tattoo, not The Man from Millennium Magazine. Fincher focused on Mikael more than Lisbeth and that was not fair. The film is supposed to be about uncovering and exposing the truth behind the assault on women with Lisbeth at the center. She's one of the women being assaulted. How can we feel bad for her or develop a viewer-character relationship if we hardly see her? Also, who was in charge of the makeup, costumes, and hairstyling? Rooney's Lisbeth looked horrifically anorexic, her hair styles shown off as nothing more than a goth look rather than a statement, and many times her wigs were annoyingly obvious. Under Fincher's direction, Lisbeth looked gross rather than remotely likable. In the book, she's described as being attractive but boyish. This was severely different in Fincher's film, as Lisbeth looked like she needed medical help.

I could go on for days talking about how much I despised this film so I will cut to the biggest problem of all: the ending. The ending was, for lack of a better word, stupid. There were important plot points dropped so that another sex scene could be squeezed in. Mikael went through the entire film as a smart man and suddenly forgot to bring his brain with him in the last 30 minutes. It became sloppy and almost parodical. Oh and the one Mikael was looking for? He actually talked to her face-to-face at a bank in London. SERIOUSLY??? She's trying to hide from the world and she decides to become a bank teller in London?? That's not a twist, that's a cop out.

Look, do yourself a favor and watch the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in its extended edition glory. The acting, writing, tension, storytelling, and emotional punches are all top-notch and perfectly timed. Fincher's version is a slap in the face to the author and honestly should have never been made. I give Fincher's Dragon Tattoo a 1 out of 4, and that's being nice.

Which David Fincher film is your favorite?

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Conclusion

For the most part, David Fincher has proven that he is one remarkable director that knows how to grip you, rattle you, unnerve you, and leave you a limp puddle in your seat once it's all said and done. Not many directors can accomplish that, which just proves how much of a master he really is. So he had two crappy movies. Every director has their down days. All they can do is learn from their mistakes and try not to repeat them.

© 2017 Alec Zander

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