Counting Down to Gone Girl – Ranking David Fincher’s Films

As part of countdown to Gone Girl that’s out on October 3, and part Birthday tribute to David Fincher (he turned 52 in Sept. 28), I asked my pal Ted S. who’s a longtime admirer of the director to rank nine of his films since Alien in 1992. 

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David Fincher is one of the few elite A-list directors working in Hollywood today and he’s one of my favorites too. What’s so amazing was that he almost never became the filmmaker we know today. After the disastrous Alien 3, he got blacklisted by most if not all of the major studios at that time. If you own a Blu-ray set of the Alien movies, I highly recommend you watch the making of Alien 3, it’s one of the best behind scenes documentaries ever made. Long story short, everyone blamed Fincher for that film’s failure, even though it wasn’t his fault. But like he said, he’s young and stupid and he’s disowned the film ever since. I’ve decided to ranked all of the films that he directed (I’m excluding his music videos and TV work) from my least favorite to the best one.

9. Alien 3 (1992)

Fincher_Alien3

I think many people will agree with me that this was his worse film. But you know what? Even if it’s a lame film in the franchise, it’s miles better than the awful Alien: Resurrection, heck I’ll even admit that I really enjoyed this one. Mostly because of Fincher’s visual style, Elliot Godenthal‘s excellent score and very good performances by the actors. The film should’ve never been made in the first place but everyone involved did their best to make it watchable. I think had it been made by another director, the film would’ve been unwatchable.

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Fincher_BenjaminButton

It’s a bit too long and reminded me way too much of Forrest Gump. But it’s a still a very good film and of course it looks great. It’s one of Fincher’s films that I don’t feel the need to see it again anytime soon.

7. Panic Room (2002)

Fincher_PanicRoom

I think this film might be his most underrated work and sort of forgotten by many people. Personally I thought it’s an excellent thriller with great performance by Jodie Foster and of course Fincher’s direction was top notch. You might not recognize the very young and boyish looking Kristen Stewart who played Foster’s daughter. This film also include one of the best opening credits I’ve ever seen, see it here:

6. The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Fincher_DragonTattoo

I’ll probably get a lot of flak for saying this but I prefer Fincher’s version to the original Swedish one. Don’t get me wrong the original was good but I just prefer Fincher’s style and of course with bigger budget, the film looked spectacular. I guess after making a couple of light PG13 films, Fincher was itching to make another violent and dark flick and this one didn’t disappoint. The only complaint I have was the strange choice he made of letting his actors speaking either with weird accent or no accent at all. Daniel Craig spoke with his normal British accent while everyone else spoke with some kind weird Swedish accent, that’s just weird to me. This one also comes with a cool opening credits, very similar to the Bond flicks. Maybe since he cast James Bond in the film, he decided to include an opening credit like a Bond film. See it here:

5. The Game (1997)

Fincher_TheGame

After the huge success of Se7en, there were big expectations for his third film. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver as many has hoped but personally I enjoyed the film very much. In fact, if not for the cop-out ending, I would’ve put this one up higher on my list. I was actually quite ticked off with the ending the first time I saw it. But after watching it a few more times, I learned to appreciate what Fincher was trying to do but I still can’t forgive him for including that lame ending. Michael Douglas was pretty great in the film though and even Sean Penn was quite effective in a small supporting role. If you have some extra cash and really like the film, do get the Criterion Bluray, it’s an excellent HD transfer.

4. Zodiac (2007)

Fincher_Zodiac

Fincher’s first film to have been shot mostly on digital and it looked spectacular! This was my second favorite film of 2007 behind No Country For Old Men, I can’t recommend it enough to people. Excellent performances by the actors, great writing and of course tight direction by Fincher. It’s one of the films that actually creeps me out, there were couple of scenes in the film that gave me goose bumps. One of the best films of the decade.

3. Fight Club (1999)

Fincher_FightClub

So basically this was the film that catapulted Fincher into fame. Surprisingly though, the film tanked at the box office but became quite popular when it hits home video. It’s a little nostalgic but this film was the first DVD I ordered through Amazon and around that time, it’s the best DVD when it comes to picture, sound and special features. I must’ve played the disc on my first DVD player many many times. Of course when it came out on Bluray, I snatched it up fast. It’s a film that needs to be seen by all film buffs.

A little fun fact about the film, originally it was scheduled to come out in summer season. Fox executives thought it’s going to be an action picture and Brad Pitt has just became a big star, so they figured it would be a good summer flick. Well after Fincher showed them the early cut, they freaked out and released it in slow fall season.

2. The Social Network (2010)

Fincher_SocialNetwork

I have to admit that when they first announced a movie about Facebook was happening, I didn’t have much interest in it at all. Even after Fincher signed up to direct, I still wasn’t interest in seeing it. You see around that time, I was sick of Facebook, it seemed everyone and their grandmother was using it and I just didn’t care to see a movie about it. But at the urging of my friend, I’ve decided to give it a shot and boy I’m glad I went to see it. I was mesmerized by what Fincher has done with the story about the biggest social media site on earth. Instead of just showing how Facebook was built, he focused on the relationships between the people who were involved in building the site. Of course being that it’s a movie, many of the events happened were mostly made up or changed to make it more cinematic. Also, since I’ve been involved with many start-ups throughout my career, I appreciate how Fincher dabbled into the field that many people might not know or care about. Heck currently there’s a good drama involving the founders of a popular dating app called Tinder. Google Tinder and its founders and you’ll find some good reads.

Of course after the movie came out, many people who were involved in building Facebook said everything that happened in the movie never took place. Even Fincher said he wasn’t interest in telling the history of Facebook, he just wanted to tell a good story about friendship, greed and the eventual backstabbing.

1. Se7en (1995)

Fincher_Se7en

After almost 20 years, it’s still one of the best thrillers ever made in my opinion. Heck, I’d rank this one higher than Silence of the Lambs. This dark and creepy tale of a serial killer who kills people base on their sin is a masterpiece. I can go on and on about why I love this film so much but if you’ve never seen it, then please see it as soon as you can! Some consider it a violent film but most of the violence happened off screen. And that ending, wow what an ending!

You can buy it cheap on Bluray, it’s an excellent HD transfer and I highly recommend it.

TedS_post


So those are my favorite Fincher’s films in order, are you a fan of his too and do you agree with my ranking? Do share your favorites in the comment section.

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66 thoughts on “Counting Down to Gone Girl – Ranking David Fincher’s Films

  1. Solid order, even though I don’t agree with it completely. First off, Fincher has an almost flawless filmography. Which is glorious.

    As for my top 3, I would include (in order) Zodiac, Se7en, Fight Club. But I am happy you have The Game at #5. I feel that’s his most underrated film.

  2. I haven’t seen all of his films, but I agree with the way you ordered the ones I saw. I haven’t seen The Game and Panic Room. Your list actually made me want to watch one of these. I might just do that now.
    I agree that Se7en is amazing. The cinematography is stunning and that ending is gut wrenching. I was also scared by Zodiac, mostly the murder scenes.
    About The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I kinda like them both equally. Fincher’s version is longer and the story is expanded on. However I don’t intend to watch the Swedish sequels anytime soon. Haven’t heard the best things about them.
    You are so right on Benjamin Button. I never thought of it being like Forrest Gump, but I can see now why.
    You are right about Alien 3, it shouldn’t have been made, but it’s not as bad as everyone says in terms of filmmaking. It just ruined the story.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Cristian. You should give The Game and Panic Room a watch, they’re pretty great thrillers. I watched the supposed director’s cut of Alien 3, apparently Fincher fought hard to have that version release back in 1992 but Fox executives wouldn’t let him and it’s a little better than the theatrical version. Give it a watch if you have the Bluray or DVD.

  3. Wonderful post! I love Fincher to bits, and I’m super happy I still have many of his films to look forward to. Both TGWTDT and The Social Network are among my favourite films ever. Can’t wait for Gone Girl!

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Elina. Yeah Gone Girl looks interesting, can’t say I’m that excited since the story sounds more like a TV movie of the week but I’m sure Fincher would make it very cinematic.

  4. Dan Heaton

    I’ve seen all but Benjamin Button, and my list is fairly similar. I don’t hold Fight Club in the same esteem, though. It’s great filmmaking, but the message is pretty murky for me. That said, I still really like it. In fact, even Alien 3 has its moments. It’s the only one of the eight that I wouldn’t rate as being above average.

    8. Alien 3
    7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    6. Fight Club
    5. Panic Room
    4. The Game
    3. Zodiac
    2. The Social Network
    1. Seven

    I’m curious to see what he does with Gone Girl. I read the book recently and liked it, though I hope he does some different things in the third act.

    1. Ted S.

      Hey Dan, you know I wasn’t a big fan of Fight Club when I saw it in theater but then I bought the DVD and watched it again and loved it. Did you see the supposed director’s cut of Alien 3? I think it’s better than the one that Fox released in theaters.

      1. Dan Heaton

        Hi Ted. I did see the “assembly cut” of Alien 3 and I liked it better than the theatrical version, but it’s still missing something. It makes more sense, but I think they needed to have more interesting characters beyond Ripley and Charles S. Dutton.

    1. Ted S.

      I was debating as to which one I would consider his “worst” film and I just couldn’t put Alien 3 any higher because the film didn’t really have a plot and if not for Fincher’s talent, it would’ve been an awful film.

  5. Nice write up here, Ted. Fincher really does have quite the solid career. I haven’t seen all of these, but of what I have seen, I really can’t dispute their greatness, and also based on his movies that I’ve seen, I can’t really take issue with your order here either.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Stu. Somehow Panic Room has its haters and sort of forgotten by many people and I thought it’s a tight thriller with beautiful cinematography and of course excellent direction.

  6. Hey Ted. I’d flip flop Se7en and The Social Network but other than that I wouldn’t change a thing. The Social Network is my favorite movie of his. The dream team of Fincher, Sorkin, Reznor and an assortment of great young actors just nailed it. I didn’t catch Se7en until home video. I sure took notice after that. Luckily the surprise cameo wasn’t spoiled for me. Just brilliant. I’m sure you know the behind the scenes on Alien. First time director with no respect from the suits… he was screwed from day one. Personally Benjamin Button bored me to tears. I couldn’t even finish it. I agree with Nick that The Game is also underrated. So it doesn’t hold up to multiple viewings. I didn’t think the ending was lame as much as it wasn’t very plausible. (SPOILER ALERT HERE: If he jumps of the building at any other place he’s kaput. Ya know what I mean?) If you don’t think about it too much it’s a heck of a ride. Hollywood wasn’t ready for Fight Club. Not to many directors could have pulled that off. I just love the audacity and subversiveness of it. One of the best, most comprehensive blu-rays out there. The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo just didn’t click w/o Noomi Rapace in the lead role. I never bought into Mara for a second. I can see what David was attracted to but it just didn’t carry the same weight as the Swedish trilogy. Lastly Panic Room was just meh. How ’bout dem cornrows??? LOL. Can’t wait to check out Gone Girl. Nice assessment Ted.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Dave, I was debating which one should be number 1 and in the end I had to go with Se7en. I actually saw Se7en twice in the theater, I still remember to this day how at awe I was after I saw it. Around that time, Fincher was just another young director whom no one wanted to hire and apparently none of the big named directors at the time didn’t want to direct Se7en. Arnold Koppleson, the producer of the film said he only chose Fincher because he’s only director who accepted the job offer.

      Yeah I was surprised that Fox actually let the public see the behind the scenes dramas that went on while Alien 3 was being shot. There were rumors for years that Fincher actually shot another version of the film but Fox wouldn’t release it. So they made it clear that Fincher’s version was the so called director’s cut, which I thought was better than the theatrical version.

      I would’ve liked The Game’s ending better had they just show he jumps off the building and inter cut that scene with his dad’s suicide, yeah it would be a more depressing ending and many people would likely hated it. I just thought the whole thing was kind of pointless since it’s just a joke.

      1. You know I didn’t really see The Game as a joke. I think it was meant as a wake up call from Sean Penn’s character. He says “It’ll change your life.” Nick Van Orton was so cut off from people and the game was his brother’s way of getting him to experience something and appreciate life. You know, not end up like his father.

        I had the same reaction to The Usual Suspects that you had to seeing Se7en in the theater. I went back the next night with another friend to experience that rush of that reveal. Se7en was one of those movies that just got by me when it was released in theaters. To think the studio wanted a different ending. Pitt and Freeman circled around Fincher and told the studio they wouldn’t do press if they changed the ending.

        Lastly I gotta say Fincher does some of the best DVD commentaries out there. For me it’s a good mix of technical stuff and behind the scenes stuff.

  7. The only films of his that I haven’t seen is Fight Club which I hope to rectify this year as he is one of the best filmmakers working today. I actually preferred Alien: Resurrection instead of Alien 3 because the former was more ensemble driven and had some humor while the latter was just a total letdown considering that they killed off some of the aspects that made Aliens a masterpiece. The only other film of Fincher’s I haven’t seen is the director’s cut of Zodiac which I heard is very superior than the original so here is my ranking of his films so far:

    1. The Social Network
    2. Se7en
    3. The Game
    4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    5. Zodiac (theatrical cut)
    6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    7. Panic Room
    8. Alien 3

    1. Ted S.

      Oh you need to see Fight Club! It’s pretty great.

      I liked the first half of Resurrection, it’s a great concept and I really like the production design of the film. But then it just became sort of chase film and I still can’t get past the awful looking half human, half alien creature. That may have been the worse creature creation I’ve ever seen, can’t believe they okay’d the design.

    1. Ted S.

      That’s a true sign of a great filmmaker, we all like his work but it doesn’t make we all have to agree which one are his best films.

  8. Great list Ted. I’m a pretty big fan of Fincher too, I think the only movie of his I still have to see is Panic Room. My faves are Fight Club and Se7en. I feel the same way about Benjamin, it’s nice to watch but not something I’d rewatch anytime soon. Actually I’m getting pretty excited for Gone Girl and recently started on the book, I heard the author is going change things up for the movie version.

  9. Hey Ted, I haven’t seen #6-9 but hey, glad I’ve seen the five you rated after those. I think out of the ones I’ve seen, my top 3 would be: Fight Club, Se7en and The Social Network.

    1. Ted S.

      I think you might enjoy Panic Room, it has the look and feel of a Hitchcock’s thriller, in fact I think it was Fincher’s homage to some of Hitchcock’s thrillers.

  10. Ooo, great post idea! I have enjoyed a lot of Fincher’s films, and I am so pumped for Gone Girl. I’ve seen all the films on the list except for Alien 3 and The Game.

    Glad you’re a big fan of The Social Network. I thought it was an incredible movie, that it’s probably my favorite of Fincher’s! Also big fan of Fight Club, Se7en, and Zodiac. I think the only movie of Fincher’s I didn’t like was The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo. I know a lot of people loved it, so I won’t hate on it, but it was one of the few movies I wanted to walk out of the theater during! Being more familiar with the source material, I really didn’t like where Fincher took the movie, and I thought the performances were more solid from the Swedish version. But hey, that’s just me. 🙂

    Great post – really looking forward to seeing what Fincher has done with Gone Girl!! 😀

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Kristen, you should check out Alien 3 and The Game, the former was kind of a mess but it’s still watchable, while the latter was a good thriller with a weak ending.

      I had the opposite reaction to Girl with Dragon Tattoo, I read the book and saw the original film but I thought Fincher’s version was much better than the original source and film.

      Let’s hope Gone Girl won’t be his first “bad” movie!

  11. My list would differ significantly, Benjamin Button was an odd choice on Fincher’s part, given how he usually makes completely different movies, but it’s a beautiful, life-affirming movie.

    Panic Room for me was just so misguided and he really went overboard with all the technical stuff, cameras flying through key holes etc. The Game is somewhat ridiculous, Alien 3 at least had some ballsy moves, like killing off her friends in the opening credits.

    I love that Se7en is your #1 too, many choose Zodiac and the praise for the latter just baffles me, it’s a good movie but none of the characters are fleshed out enough, which is strange in such a long film. Pitt and Freeman got to do so much more because their characters were so vivid and really felt like real people, which is ironic, given how Zodiac was based on real people.

    I love Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo movie so much more than the Swedish version, his adaptation is better in every single way and it makes me sad that we will probably never see the sequels made by him.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah after he directed a lot of dark thrillers, I was surprised that he made Benjamin Button too. I didn’t hate but it’s a film I don’t feel the need to see again anytime soon.

      I thought the main reason why Panic Room worked was because of what you mentioned, if not for all the technical stuff, the film would’ve been kind of boring and not that interesting. I like The Game until the not so great “twist” at the end. I’ve seen Alien 3 a few times and I’ll always appreciate it for its visual style and the excellent score.

  12. jackdeth72

    Great, well explained and executed compilation, Ted!

    Arrangement relies upon personal tastes. And you’ve defined yours very well. Mr. Fitcher’s raw, unvarnished talent made itself known with ‘Alien 3′ and has been polished and honed a bit with each successive film.

    My choices most closely resemble Dan Heaton’s. With one juxtaposition. Switching #7, (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ for #2, (The Social Network). Which struck me as a little too cool, cute and presumptuous for its own good.

    An overall very nice piece of work, my friend!

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Jack! It speaks volume of how talented Fincher is when we all love his films and yet we don’t agree on which one of his films are his “best”.

    1. Ted S.

      You know, I think that’s the only role I thought Eisenberg was great in, I’m not a big fan of his either but I thought he’s perfect as The Zuck.

  13. Seen them all. Plan on doing my own list after seeing Gone Girl. I will spoil it a little and say that Seen will be at the top while Zodiac won’t be anywhere near it.3rd act ruined it for me. Good write up.

  14. Great work Ted. I LOVE Fight Club, Se7en, and Zodiac. I must say that I was incredibly underwhelmed by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which really broke my heart. I loved the book, and the Swedish rendition of it was good, too. I love Daniel Craig, so I was just hoping for a little more 😦 I am really looking forward to Gone Girl, I think Ben Affleck is perfect for his role, as well as Pike. The trailers look really promising!

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Zoe.

      I enjoyed the Girl with Dragon Tattoo book and the original film but I thought Fincher’s was much better, like I said I’m probably in the minority by saying that.

  15. I know Fincher isn’t happy with it but I’m a big fan of Alien 3 in its extended version (which I believe it closer to Fincher’s original vision of the story before the producer’s undermined him). It is, however, a no brainer for me to have Seven at one and Fight Club at two. I would probably stick Zodiac at 3 and Alien 3 at 4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button would be bringing up the rear.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah the longer cut of Alien 3 was much better than the theatrical version, it’s still a film that shouldn’t have been made in the first place though.

  16. Abbi

    I’m a bit crap at keeping track of directors so I rarely know who directed what but I loved Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiak, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (thought English and Swedish were equally good) and The Social network so by default Fincher must be one of my favourite directors!

    1. Ted S.

      Ha ha, that’s cool. I’m one of the only few people who always pay attention to directors more than the stars. But yeah The Social Network was a great film.

  17. I love se7en…never really pay attention who the director was till now. What a shame that he is the same director of the boring case on Benjamin Button.
    Finchers seems to like Brad pitt a lot

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah it seems he and Brad Pitt get along quite well, you see that a lot in Hollywood. Look at Leo DiCaprio and Scorsese, Tom Hanks and Ron Howard, Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott.

    1. Ted S.

      Those are good choices for your top 3. I’m trying not to have too high of expectations for Gone Girl, I don’t want it to be Fincher’s first “bad” movie.

  18. So excited for Gone Girl! Fincher always rounds up an interesting cast, and I’m really excited to see how everyone does.
    Great ranking – I’m not as big on Se7en (don’t kill me) as most people, but I still like it. I think The Social Network would be my No.1

    1. Ted S.

      Hey no worries, I remember a lot of people I knew back in the days didn’t like Se7en when it first came out. But I think the film grew in popularity as the years have gone by, same with Fight Club.

  19. It is quite a task to rank films, especially in the case of a fine director like David Fincher.
    Despite the fact that I consider him one of the most consistently good film makers out there, I’m on the fence as to whether he deserves to be included in the same category as other giants of the medium. I’ve seen every movie of his, and in that respect, I can at least say that he touches upon the kind of films that I am interested in watching. However, looking at my compendium of ratings, I’ve only rated the Social Network with a 4/5, but much of the rest I’ve given either a 3.5/5 or 3/5.
    I’m also one of the few film buffs that, like you, isn’t entirely swept by the tricks and surprises of Fight Club. It might even be my least favorite of his. Another thing I can say is that I’m on Fincher’s camp when it comes to Alien 3. Certainly the weaker of the first three films of the franchise, but not by much. I think there’s a lot in the production and in the story that is worth looking at.
    As for Zodiac, I feel that it has gotten a second life in the blogging circles that praise it for its eerie suspense. Though I tend to agree with that, I found the way in which the story was constructed a bit problematic, mainly because the same procedural investigation into the zodiac killer is conducted twice, first by the character played by Robert Downey Jr. and then by Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s the same investigation, only different by the fact that Jake’s character goes a little further and becomes nearly crazy in the process.

    My ranking would be as follows:
    1. The Social Network
    2. Se7en (great ending, among the best ever in cinema)
    3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (agree that it is better than the Swedish original)
    4. Alien 3
    5. Zodiac
    6. The Game (fantastic until the end almost completely ruins it)
    7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (overlong)
    8. Panic Room
    9. Fight Club

    Really nice post!

    1. Ted S.

      Hey thanks for stopping by and I like your list too! I wasn’t a fan of Fight Club when I first saw it in a theater, I thought it’s a cheap trick. But after watching it again on DVD, I pretty much got what Fincher was going for and loved it.

      To me though, Fincher belongs on the list of the few A-list directors like Nolan, Spielberg, Cameron, Ang Lee and Tarantino. Sure his none of his films were huge box office hits like most of those directors but talent wise, he belongs on the list. Did you read his interview on why he left 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea remake? It would’ve been his first $200mil picture but he and the studio folks couldn’t agree on who should play the lead after Brad Pitt turn down the role. He said he didn’t care about how the movie will perform overseas, he just want to make a good movie. But of course the studio folks only see the $$$.

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  22. Great list, Ted. I haven’t seen The Game, but I can’t argue with Se7en at #1. My list would be similar, though I might put Benjamin Button higher.

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