David Fincher is one of the most popular directors working today, because moviegoers like dark stories and Fincher’s are as dark as they come. From Biblical-themed serial killers to sadistic games to home invasions, Fincher likes to unsettle his audience.
His movies tend to have jaw-dropping plot twists somewhere down the line, but Fincher isn’t as well-known for his twists as M. Night Shyamalan, because unlike Shyamalan, Fincher doesn’t use his plot twists as a gimmick or a crutch; he uses them to enhance the plot. Of course, it doesn’t always work out this way. So, here are David Fincher’s Movies, Ranked By Rotten Tomatoes.
10 Alien 3 (42%)
David Fincher has gone on to disown Alien 3, because the studio didn’t give him any creative control and dug their claws into his vision for the threequel. The plot sees Ripley landing on a planet-sized prison and then uncomfortably working alongside jailbirds to survive another onslaught of xenomorphs.
The off-screen deaths of Newt and Bishop were enough to ruin this for most Alien fans, but the ones who stuck around found a movie that was entirely lacking in the suspenseful fun that made the first two such masterpieces. Fincher probably could’ve made a terrific Alien film, but he got shafted by the studio suits.
9 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (71%)
This movie is known for its gimmicky premise – that Brad Pitt has a condition that makes him age backwards, so we see him as an old man and a little kid – and in terms of plot, it’s just about what would happen if a man with that condition tried to find love and maintain a romantic relationship, which is about the most obvious thing you could do with that premise.
If nothing else, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button revolutionized the CGI effects that are now being used to de-age Robert De Niro in Netflix’s The Irishman and half the cast of the MCU in flashback scenes.
8 The Game (73%)
Unfortunately, The Game is one of the few cases where a David Fincher plot twist doesn’t make sense. Michael Douglas plays a business mogul stuck in his ways whose brother, played by Sean Penn, buys him an immersive game for his birthday.
This includes a clown doll being planted in his house and mysterious people following him around, so naturally, it freaks him out. It all culminates in Douglas jumping off a skyscraper and landing on a giant bounce house at a party in his honor, but there was no way the people behind the game could’ve predicted that. It’s one of Fincher’s few disappointments.
7 Panic Room (75%)
As far as tense, claustrophobic thrillers go, Panic Room is the gold standard. It’s the closest that David Fincher has come to helming a modern-day Alfred Hitchcock thriller. From the unconventional camera angles chosen by Conrad W. Hall and Darius Khondji (the rare two-cinematographer team) to David Koepp’s twisty script, Panic Room is a thrill-ride from beginning to end.
Jodie Foster and a young, early-career Kristen Stewart make a pair of leads you can root for, and reportedly, Foster reworked the script to make her character less helpless and damsel-in-distress-y, which undoubtedly improved the film’s characterization of its central duo.
6 Fight Club (79%)
While it bombed at the box office during its initial theatrical run, Fight Club has gone on to become one of the most beloved cult films of all time. Adapted from Chuck Palahniuk’s debut novel of the same name, it tells the story of an unnamed insomniac narrator who meets a carefree soap-maker named Tyler Durden just after his life goes down the tubes.
From there, he goes down the rabbit hole of anarchism and homoerotic overtones, leading him to shocking discoveries about himself. It’s rare that a movie with a style this unique and a sense of humor this dark gets made by a major Hollywood studio, so it’s a sight to behold.
5 Se7en (81%)
While a thriller about a serial killer whose crimes are modeled after the Bible’s seven deadly sins might sound a little gimmicky, Se7en executes it shockingly well. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman make an intriguing Riggs/Murtaugh-esque pairing as the detectives on the killer’s trail – Pitt as a hotshot rookie and Freeman closing in on retirement (with the clichés presented earnestly to avoid feeling like clichés) – and Darius Khondji’s cinematography contains some frames that could stand on their own as individual works of art.
Andrew Kevin Walker’s expertly crafted script leads you down a conventional structure that you think you can predict before taking an unexpected left turn, and then flying off an unforeseen ramp and doing a barrel roll.
4 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (86%)
After the Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy made a big splash at the international box office, it was only a matter of time (two years, as it turns out) before Hollywood took a crack at it. To be fair to David Fincher’s re-adaptation, he didn’t water down the uncomfortable scenes of sexual violence from Larsson’s work for a Hollywood audience.
Steven Zallian reluctantly threw out the traditional three-act structure and opted to give his script a five-act structure to accommodate the massive plot. Some could say that this slows the film down and makes it half an hour too long, but it just deepens the characters and the effects of what takes place.
3 Gone Girl (87%)
The main problem that David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling thriller Gone Girl suffers from is that the plot makes a lot more sense when you’ve read the book beforehand. Part of the reason for this is that Fincher got Flynn herself to adapt the novel, and while she’s a natural screenwriter, she’s more precious about every single plot point in the source material than a hired gun would be, and there’s too much packed into the movie as a result.
However, if you are familiar with the novel – which, let’s face it, a lot of people are, since it sold over two million copies – it’s like watching the book translated directly to the screen. Fincher deftly balances the two perspectives from which the novel is told and gives the twists just as much oomph in movie form as they have on the page.
2 Zodiac (90%)
Funnily enough, David Fincher’s cinematic dramatization of the search for the Zodiac Killer, whose identity is still a mystery all these years later, stars three would-be MCU actors: Robert Downey, Jr. as Paul Avery, Mark Ruffalo as Inspector Dave Toschi, and Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith.
Although it is masterfully directed, written, and acted, the greatest strength in Zodiac is simply its historical accuracy. Many historians and criminologists have praised the movie for its authentic portrayal of the Zodiac Killer and his crimes. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all a historical movie is worth? If it can entertain and educate, then it’s quite an achievement.
1 The Social Network (95%)
Who would’ve thought that the story of a geeky college kid creating Facebook and then stealing the code from his classmates would make for riveting big-screen entertainment?
The strongest players in the ensemble cast are Jesse Eisenberg as a morally dubious Mark Zuckerberg and Armie Hammer in dual roles as the Winklevoss twins, and the real hero here is the almost mathematically structured Oscar-winning screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, who mirrors the opening acts with the closing acts in fascinating ways. Of course, it’s David Fincher’s direction that pulls all of this together.