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Film

Ranking the Greats: The Films of David Fincher

With his latest film arriving October 3rd, it's time to put David Fincher and his efforts alongside the other cinematic greats to see where he stacks up, aesthetically speaking.

He was born in Denver, Colorado. Inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), he started making 8mm movies. He worked for George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, serving time on such celebrated movies as Return of the Jedi (1983) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), before moving to Propaganda Films to make commercials and music videos.

During his stint as an MTV favorite, he collaborated with Rick Springfield, the Motels, Loverboy, Sting, Paula Abdul, Madonna, Aerosmith, Nine Inch Nails, and the Rolling Stones. He won two Grammys in the process, becoming a noted name in the fledgling artform. When Hollywood came calling, it was with the third installment of an incredibly successful sci-fi horror series. When David Fincher was done with it, the Alien property would never be the same.

Now, with his tenth film in 22 years (he's as bad as David Lynch and Terry Gilliam when it comes to output), Gone Girl (2014) coming to theaters, we thought it was time to install the director among his auteur brethren and rank his efforts, from worst (not that there is really a bad David Fincher film) to first (an easy choice, at least in our book).

Using a de-saturated palette and an attention to detail that reminds one of past greats like Kubrick and Hitchcock, Fincher has created some of the most amazing post-modern movies of all time. He's also left a trail of tantalizingly unrealized projects (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Torso, Rendezvous with Rama) that would make the average cinephile weep over "What if?" After looking over this list, it's clear that anything he touches usually winds up wonderful.

 
10. Alien3
We will, perhaps, never see what drew Fincher to make this his first feature film. The troubled third entry in franchise was fraught with script problems from the beginning. Then the studio stepped in, unhappy with what it was seeing from its novice director. Even with home video trying, unsuccessfull, to resurrect at least some of Fincher's vision, this is one of only a couple of films in his creative canon that the auteur more or less disowns. Which is too bad since, all problems aside, the entire prison planet concept provides an interesting setting for the story.


 
9. The Game
Fincher has recently come out against this film as well, except this time, his displeasure has more to do with his wife's reaction to the final product than its ultimate success or failure as a thriller. The story of a rich man caught up in a live action "experiment", it was his next effort after the amazing response to Se7en, and while many fans of the filmmaker adore it (Criterion even deemed it worthy of a splashy release), the man behind the lens sees several flaws. "I thought if you could just keep your foot on the throttle it would be liberating and funny," he said. Apparently not.


 
8. Panic Room
Alfred Hitchcock was known as the Master of Suspense. He was also a meticulous filmmaker who spent untold hours in preproduction to make sure what ended up on the screen accurately reflected the version of the project he had in his head. So it makes sense that Fincher's own nod to one of the greatest directors of all time would have many of his obvious aesthetic earmarks. A brilliantly executed thriller with Jodie Foster protecting daughter Kristen Stewart from a gang of home invading robbers, it's one of the best examples of the post-modern nailbiters ever made. Hitch would be proud.


 
7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
For many, this weird adaptation of an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story is one of Fincher's most puzzling. Usually a maestro of the dark and disturbing, there 's a lot of heart and a sense of home here. Brad Pitt is the title character, a man born old and ages into youth. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it does allow its maker to experiment with time, place, and mood. While not 100 percent successful in the end, it's hard to argue with what Fincher does. It's one of his best, most confident directing jobs overall.


 
6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
After Noomi Rapace and Niels Arden Oplev burst onto the international movie scene with their adaptation of the late Stieg Larson's celebrated novel, film fans had only one reaction: no one in Hollywood could handle this material (for the inevitable remake) better than Fincher. Well, he got the job, got the actress he wanted, and delivered his usual dark and foreboding brilliance. Sadly, even though it arrived two years after the original, there seemed to be little interest in his otherwise amazing take on the material. The opening credits alone showcase that no one understands the subtexts here better than Fincher.

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