Fincher Friday… Wrap Up

David Fincher

Fincher Friday ended up taking me a lot longer than I expected, but we finally come to the end today with a wrap up and ranking of all his films. I started this in April and finally finished it here in July; it took me way longer than Tarantino Tuesday and I actually did two of Fincher’s films on Thursday instead. Regardless, I’m done with it now and feeling very proud of myself that I’ve gotten through these.

Though Fincher is definitely not my favorite director of all time (mostly because of Fight Club, which I loathe), he is extremely talented and I love three of his films. His batting average with me is not as good as Tarantino’s but there you have it. His choice of stories also is not as consistent as Tarantino’s and some other directors’ but I’m guessing that probably has to do with the fact that he’s not really a writer.

I tend to like Fincher’s later films a lot better than his earlier ones. One reason is probably because of the over hype the earlier ones have gotten and then failed to deliver on for the most part, but another is because I think he’s just picked better stories to tell. His earlier ones are generally more darker, but his later ones can definitely be dark as well. I get sucked into his later films more and I also care about the characters more. I think there is also a maturity present in his later films that his earlier films lack.

It’s clear that Fincher likes telling serial killer stories. Se7en, Zodiac, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all feature serial killers to some degree. For the most part, I think what unites his films thematically is a loss of control. Serial killers mess with everybody’s lives, in The Game Douglas’ character is continually messed with, the narrator in Fight Club is suffering from mental illness (though he blames society) and is not in very good control of his life, Jodie Foster in Panic Room has to regain control over her apartment, and Benjamin’s aging causes him problems as well. I think the main difference between his earlier films and his later ones (and this is not a perfect trend) is that the characters don’t like being out of control. I like these a lot better as it fits more with my views on life.

Fincher’s greatest strength is undoubtedly atmosphere. He knows how to create settings with unsettling feels to them. From his depiction of New York in Se7en, with rain and apathy surrounding the city, to his meticulous recreation of San Francisco in the seventies for Zodiac, to the chilling Swedish setting of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, he knows exactly how to set up the environment for his characters to work in. They stick in your mind and give you a creepy feeling long after the films are over.

As for what’s next, I’m clearly hoping for the sequels to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That doesn’t seem to be a strong possibility at this point in time, however. I think that if he can’t get the money he needs or Daniel Craig then I don’t think he should make them. If Sony is going to be that much of a jerk about it then he should just do another project where he is actually appreciated. I guess it’s pretty much a done deal that he is going to direct Gone Girl, but I also read some stuff about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (which seems out of character) so I’m not sure how finalized any of this information is. A couple of days ago news came that it Ben Affleck is looking to star as the male lead in Gone Girl so that seems like the film Fincher will do next.

I haven’t read Gone Girl, but I’ve heard good things about it and know the general premise. It seems like Fincher’s type of story, though from what I’ve heard this will have more relationship stuff in it than Fincher’s done in some of his films. Come to think of it, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Benjamin Button dealt heavily with relationships so maybe this is another characteristic of his more recent work. I don’t have anything against Affleck as an actor though he probably would not be my first choice for this, and I’m excited to see the performance Fincher can get out of him if this is indeed what happens. If Fincher is going to direct Gone Girl, I will not be reading the book before the film comes out. I believe Fincher can do a great job with it and I want to be surprised going in. Also, if he could get Rooney Mara again I think that would be fantastic.

And now for the ranking!

Coming in at number nine is…

poster_alien3Year: 1992

Starring: Sigourney Weaver

Even though I like the next film on the list even less, I grudgingly must give it points for actually involving me. This one did nothing to me. Other than as an addition to this list and my list of every film I’ve see, it’s like I’ve never even seen it. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not a good film either. By the time I got around to this film, I was tired of aliens, tired of Sigourney Weaver and Ripley, and even getting pretty tired of Fincher. Overall, it’s just a resounding meh.

Coming in a number eight is….

fightclub_verticleposterYear: 1999

Starring: Ed Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter

I really hate this film. I’ll admit it has some redeeming qualities and brings up a lot of good issues, but I disagree with it so strongly that it’s lucky to be ranked this high. Just thinking about it makes me angry. I don’t outright hate a lot of films, but this is one of them.

Coming in at number seven is…

verticleposter_panicroomYear: 2002

Starring: Jodie Foster, Kristin Stewart, and Forrest Whitaker

Panic Room was a pretty good film. It was really tense and I liked how strong the characters were. Other than that, it’s a comparatively unremarkable film from Fincher. It’s a well made thriller, but at the end of the day that’s really all it is. Though I enjoyed it, I really don’t see myself going back to it anytime soon.

Coming in at number six is…

untitledYear: 2008

Starring: Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett

This one was kind of a disappointment to me in the way that they handled the reverse aging concept. It could have been so much more. That said, I loved the overall feel of the film and could see myself revisiting it some time (though I don’t feel a burning need to as with some of the films higher on this list). Cate Blanchett’s performance was a particular stand out for me.

Coming in at number five is….

verticleposter_se7enYear: 1995

Starring: Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman

I know this is coming in kind of low, but it’s because of the ending. Not a fan; I thought it could be more. This film really suffers for all the buzz it gets, in my opinion. The less you know about it going in, the better off you’ll be. I, unfortunately, knew quite a bit about it and the film didn’t quite deliver. It’s still a really good film. The atmosphere Fincher creates as well as the killings themselves make it worth your time.

Coming in at number four is….

poster_thegameYear: 1997

Starring: Michael Douglas

I really had fun watching The Game, though again I have a bit of a problem with how Fincher ended it. The film grabbed me from the moment it began and never let go, and it was one heck of a ride. There was no telling which crazy place the film was going to go next. Whether it holds up on a rewatch or not is another story, for this reason it might slip below Se7en upon second consideration. On first viewings only though, I have to say this has it beat for keeping me guessing. Also it doesn’t suffer from over-hype like Se7en does; this is a fairly obscure film and has a better chance of surprising you.

Coming in at number three is….

poster_thesocialnetworkYear: 2010

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake

This is the height, people. This is where we get into the Fincher films that I absolutely love. Despite all of the good things I had heard about this one, I hadn’t expected it to be as good as it was. It has a surprising amount of humor and tragic moments between the two friends. Fincher switches between the stories of the different characters with ease, and the actors all give great performances. It’s definitely Fincher’s most humorous movie. All around, it’s a compelling film.

Coming in at number two is…

verticleposter_zodiacYear: 2007

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr.

Zodiac was number one for a long time. It was the first film of his I watched, and there was a stretch in the middle there were I feared I had started with Fincher’s best film and my journey through his filmography was just going to be all downhill from there. I turned out to be wrong, but Zodiac is nevertheless one of his best films in my opinion. He creates suspense really well, and also the recreation of the time period was fantastic. There’s also a great central performance from Gyllenhaal, and the rest of the cast backs him up easily. It’s really hard for me to put this at number two, but I have to do it.

Coming in at number one is….

verticleposter_thegirlwiththedragontattooYear: 2011

Starring: Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig

Oh man. This film is unbelievably good. It’ll kick you in the stomach multiple times before it’s over, but trust me, the caliber of the film you are watching will more than make up for it. I had no idea what I was getting into when I watched this film, but I loved it. The murder part of the story is fascinating enough in itself, but what’s more fascinating are the characters.  Mara’s Lisabeth Salander is without a doubt one of the most captivating characters ever filmed, and Mikael Blomkvist is not uninteresting either. I really love the film allows you to see them in situations unrelated to the case at hand and tracking down the killer. The ending is way more heartbreaking for me than any other Fincher has given so far, because I connected with the characters more than ever before and it’s so understated. He also expertly creates a gloomy and depressing atmosphere as he has done in his other films. This works on every level, and while Zodiac does too, it’s mainly the characters that put this one at the top for me.

So there you have it, my thought on Fincher after finishing up his filmography. I’m glad to have gotten through it and it was good for the most part, especially towards the end. I don’t really have another director to pursue on a week by week basis, but I’ll be trying to see more of my favorites whenever I get a chance and hopefully I’ll be finishing some more soon. Be sure to leave your thoughts on Fincher in the comments; I want to see how my thoughts compare!

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8 responses to “Fincher Friday… Wrap Up

  1. Nice ranking. I am a fan of Fincher and his direction reminds me of Kubrick’s. I don’t hate Fight Club, I think it’s well acted and crafted, but I also feel it’s overrated simply because its fans treat it like Citizen Kane. That might be a bit unfair on my judgement, but I don’t see it as the classic most do.

    • Thanks! I do agree that Fight Club is well made; my issue with it is more ideological than anything else. I just don’t buy into what it is saying.

  2. oooh, I must see Zodiac, that sounds really interesting. I can’t believe I haven’t even heard of it. I mostly agree with your list here, except I really indeed loved Se7en; it did get a heck of a lot of hype but I think it was well-deserved. That said, i fear for a movie when that happens too, so I guess I was lucky in the way that I ended up not being let down too much. Hm, let’s see. . . still need to get to Dragon Tattoo, I’ve actively avoided Alien 3, and need to see The Social Network.

    • In all honesty, you can skip Alien 3 and you won’t be any worse off. The only time I would recommend it is if you were trying to watch the whole franchise or all of Fincher’s films like I was.
      Yes, see Dragon Tattoo and Zodiac. Obviously they are my favorites, as already stated. They are both terrific thrillers and Fincher piles on the atmosphere like crazy. The Social Network is a bit different but still good. Unprecedented amount of humor from him in that film.
      I mean, I did like Se7en. I was expecting to love it but that just didn’t happen unfortunately. Mostly due to the ending (I had heard it was going to be really depressing and I was not feeling as depressed as I should have and I thought it was semi inconsistent with what Spacey had been doing previously). It’s still a very good movie and I would watch it again. I’m sure if I had seen it before all of the hype I would have contributed to it, but as it was I was expecting it to be a little better than it turned out to be. Still a fantastic film and I don’t blame anyone for ranking it higher than I have done here.

  3. I was so excited to read this post and then you tell that you loathe Fight Club! That is my favourite film of all time. Guess I’m one of those fans that treat it like Citizen Kane. But it is quite a masterpiece that works everytime. But I’m still glad you did this challenge because to me Fincher is one of the best directors working today. His visual eye is exquisite. And also admire how he creates the atmosphere. But my order of those films (I haven’t seen Alien 3 and I don’t think I will but I’ve seen the rest) would be more like (from 1 to 8) Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Game, Panic Room, Benjamin Button and Zodiac. But thanks for the post anyway! 🙂

    • Ah sorry! I know it sucks to have your favorites hated by other people, but I just really hate Fight Club. I did admit it was a well made film though, you gotta give me credit for that. We’re almost even though because you rank Zodiac so low 😦 love, love, love that film. It’s not my number one favorite of all time, but definitely in the top 30ish or so. I love the time period recreation, great suspense, and Gyllenhaal’s slow descent into madness while still keeping the nice guy persona. Great stuff.
      Thanks for coming back to comment!

      • It’s not bad film. I like everything that Fincher does but it was very slow for my liking. I’ve watched it twice but the second time was not better. I was quite bored even though the cast was top-notch and I like (normal much) serial killers a lot.

        • Aw that’s too bad. I thought it had a considerable amount of suspense and I liked the characters anyway, so I was pretty invested in it. Different strokes for different folks, I guess 🙂

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