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.


5. Gone Girl
It's the perfect premise for Fincher. A husband (Ben Affleck) comes home to discover that his wife (Rosamund Pike) has gone missing. Even worse, there are signs of a struggle, and almost instantaneously, the police begin to suspect him. Naturally, there are secrets and lies in abundance, as well as Fincher's famed disdain for the media-frenzy limelight that grows around such suburban shockers. This is another expertly executed thriller which manages to avoid many of the pulpier elements of Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel without destroying it's puzzle box reveals. It's also further proof that no one deserves a blank checkbook approach to his output more than the often undermined Fincher.

4. The Social Network
The story of Facebook, scripted by Aaron Sorkin, this was finally supposed to be Fincher's ticket to mainstream success and Academy Award winning respect. Then, for some inexplicable reason, Tom Hooper and The King's Speech stepped in and staged a creative coup. Naturally, the Oscar awarding blue hairs sided with the late George VI, and not with the man who turned the tale of a pissed off nerd with a computer chip on his shoulder into a billion dollar business. This is a dangerous film, especially from the standpoint of storytelling. Once Fincher and Sorkin get you, you can't turn away. You have to ride it out to the end.

3. Zodiac
This is another perfect vehicle for Fincher, another brilliantly realized (and overlooked) gem. The still unsolved case of the San Francisco based serial killer from the '70s gave the filmmaker a chance to do something really clever: the post-modern period piece. By highlighting the technological limits of both journalism and the police procedural in the midst of the Me Decade, he created a kind of crime sci-fi, leaving viewers to wonder how any cases were solved during such a backward era. He also focused on the individuals involved, allowing actors like a pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal a chance to shine.

2. Fight Club
Leave it to Fincher to find the main male-driven message in Chuck Palahniuk's major league mindf*ck of a novel. Our narrator, a nobody feeb played expertly by Edward Norton, discovers a special "friend" in polar opposite Tyler Durden (Fincher fave Brad Pitt) and together they explore the emasculation of the modern man with all the psychological subtlety of a bare knuckles street fight. Indeed, violence is the answer, both politically and personally, but Fincher also finds the inherent sadness in the state of humanity in his brilliant, bifurcated deconstruction. One of the truly great American movies of the last decade. Or all time, perhaps.

1. Se7en
Do you want to see a perfect, pristine example of why Fincher is a true artist? Want to watch a flawlessly directed film where not a single shot is wasted, where we are witness to a major talent working without a net (and without interference from a scared studio) and delivering a modern masterpiece? This is it. After the disappointment, Fincher poured everything he had into this tale of two cops (Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt) trailing a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who uses the Bible's deadly sins as his guide. Gruesome, dark, and bleak, Se7en set the benchmark for all crime films to come.

* * *

Splash image: Brad Pitt as Mills in Se7en (1995)

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