10. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The big stain on Fincher's filmography, Dragon Tattoo is a film so tedious and lifeless, it's hard to believe David Fincher directed it. The cinematography is slick and the editing is spotless, but there's none of Fincher's nihilistic, often satirical, personality and the compulsive obsessions towards detail that makes his works tick. The majority of the film are a run through the motions of a poorly-written adaptation of poorly-written trash. And that could be Fincher's biggest mistake. Choosing to helm a story so thematically unfocused and hollow. Trent Reznor's soundtrack is definitely something worth salvaging, however. It's pretty fucking brilliant.
9. Alien 3
More the studio's fault than Fincher. 20th Century Fox brought him late into the game as well as botching the film's post-production without his say. Alien 3 is, what most would argue, the film that drove Fincher to become the independent perfectionist he is now. It's not as great as Fincher's biggest fans say it is, but it's not as horrendous as some diehard fans of the trilogy make it out to be either. The story progresses at a clunky pace. Events often leading to another with too little coherence and build-up, but there are truly some powerful moments in the film. Sigourney Weaver's performance is genuinely great and Fincher's direction is kinetic and exciting.
8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I would have loved this film as a giant mood piece if Benjamin Button wasn't such an unremarkable character whose phenomenon of aging backwards is so completely meaningless and trite that Fincher's impressive CG work on Brad Pitt only seems to function only as a display of the director's talents. The lover interest Daisy, played Cate Blanchett, would have made a far more compelling lead as her passion to become a dancer and to stay with Benjamin Button mirrors Fincher's best characters and holds a lovely blossom of sentiment. It's a shame to say the story adds up to a whole lot of nothing, because the set designs are gorgeous and the film is scattered with beautiful set pieces.
7. The Game
Featuring some of Fincher's best camerawork and a potent performance from Michael Douglas, The Game is yet another one of Fincher's work stunted by the script, specifically the contrived ending. It's still enjoyable, don't get me wrong, but when that ending comes around, it turns a suspenseful taut thriller into an almost baffling joke. Are we really supposed to believe that something like that could change Michael Douglas's character? It's void of the same theatrical exuberance that made the lurid twists in Se7en and Fight Club ingenious, only bringing out a big "what the fuck?!". It's like a giant pretty-looking, if not, still mildly entertaining Twilight Zone episode that's just horribly miscalculated.
6. Panic Room
Panic Room is one of the best home invasion movies. The paper-thin story is brings nil to table, but it works perfectly as the Friday Night movie Fincher intended it to be. The movie is bloated and the camerawork is indulgent, but that's what it makes it so fun. The editing and composition are tightly composed, chocked full of fantastic subtle CGI tricks as well as the not-so-subtle but still wickedly impressive one-track shot of the entire house using both real and digital camera movement. Panic Room is Fincher flaunting his style for a tense 2 hour game of cat and mouse, proving that he's one of the modern master aestheticians in cinema.
5. Gone Girl
A cynical "fuck-you" letter dressed as trashy thriller that's still fun on multiple rewatches. Fincher's gleefully manic direction and author Gillian Flynn's hateful, but spear-sharp dialogue, craft a roller coast ride of a story from, what would otherwise be, a preposterous stupid plot. Really though, the best thing is actually neither Fincher or Gillian Flynn in this film, but Ben Affleck's tongue-in-cheek performance as a ditzy douche bag of a husband and Rosamund Pike's ever so brilliant performance as a bat-shit crazy psychopath. It's the trashiest of trash and the fun is sky-high.
This film isn't meant to be taken as a meditation of how we can better fix society. It's a giant bleak reminder of how shitty the world it, but also a delicate testament of learning to accept the horrors and living life without worldly attachment. It's a theme shrewdly executed by pitting eager detective Mills, played by Brad Pitt, and the retired and desensitized Detective Somerset. The chemistry is fascinating. Mill's is blindly impulsive and optimistic, Somerset, thinking he has seen it all, only tries to persuade Mills with a more realistic perspective.
To say that the atmosphere is simply chilling is an "understatement". It is merciless and oppressive, never in a manipulative manner, but as a honest plea. Every murder is shocking, but revealed slowly; the punches are deliberate and build upon each other brilliantly to a horrifying climax. Seven is a masterful achievement.
3. The Social Network
This isn't a tale about money being the root of evil. We never see Zuckerberg fall down the rabbithole of sex, partying and drugs; he doesn't seem to give two shits about fame. Instead, we see young adult angst in its purest form. Fincher crafts his loneliness and desperation for attention so keenly; leaking his pain slowly a bit more and more each time. It makes you wonder why we don't see more character pieces that trust the audience as much as this film does.
And so, even though it isn't one of his inflexible thrillers, Social Network just might be Fincher's most chilling film. Desperate to make something out of his "loserism", Zuckerberg keeps trying to top himself and top himself until he loses the only friend who ever went out his way for him. The kicker is how much we're just like Zuckerberg, even if we're afraid to admit it. With the film ending on Zuckerberg hopelessly waiting for his ex-girlfriend to accept his friend request, Fincher is staring us right in the eyes.
2. Fight Club
You can pick at it all you want, but every time I watch Fight Club, the experience is giddy as it is harrowing. I love how it works as an exaggerated cautionary satire against counter-culture. I love genuine the romantic relationship is. I love how it nails that inner-Tyler Durden instead of society, teetering on the edge of breaking out. What else can I say? The cinematography and editing are immaculate. The message is clear-cut and loud. Really, one statement encapsulates my admiration for this work: it is a fun, fun, fun movie.
How fitting for David Fincher to direct this overlooked masterpiece. I mean, what other director could have encapsulated the madman journalistic obsessions of those caught up with the unresolved murders of an impulsive killer. Unlike Fincher's other crimes stories (and generally most crime stories at that), Zodiac is not mounting nail-biting tension that spirals into a heart-pulsing climax. It's a tale of dead ends and threads that lead to nowhere; a tale that sputters and runs out of gas by the end. But that's the beauty of it. Fincher delves every tiny intricate detail of the case with so much vigorous anxious intent and honest factuality, that those watching are too reeled into a crazy search for the culprit. The nail-biting comes as a result of our own eagerness to piece out the clues; our heart pulses with the false anticipation that each new lead could finally lead somewhere. Fincher is scattering crumbs around a maze with no exit and luring us down the rabbit hole. By the end of the two and a half hours, most would have given up by now, confused but fascinated by why the good-hearted once boyscout (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is still chasing and chasing and chasing that he doesn't even seem fazed by the loss of his family.
The aesthetics of Zodiac are so good, they're almost unreal. Rarely do films mirror the 60s - 70s so perfectly like Fincher does here. The set design, the costume designs, the props, the music... the look and the feel of this movie shouldn't be a Hollywood production. Nah, I swear to God that Fincher travelled back in time to make this film. That's how fucking amazing the illusive setting is.
This is every quirk and trait that makes Fincher "Fincher". This is what obsession does. It sucks you dry and no movie better illustrates that.
(Note: I put Zodiac number three on my 2007 list. When I get around to updating my movie list, it's bumping up to the number one spot)