Who doesn’t love David Fincher? He’s one of the most distinctive filmmakers working in the industry today. Who would have thought that the man who got his start in movies about as rockily as possible with ‘Alien 3’ would now be considered one of the best directors without an Oscar? He’s come up short twice now in the Best Director category, losing for ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ and just narrowly missing for ‘The Social Network’ last year. Could the third time be the charm this year for ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’? As anyone who read my review undoubtedly knows, it’s a superbly directed flick, but I highly doubt the Academy will honor him this time around. This all did get me thinking about his best works, much as I do with any under appreciated filmmaker. Before I get into the 5 best David Fincher films, I want to get into his history a bit.
Fincher got his start at Industrial Light & Magic before moving into commercials and music videos as well. I’m sure it surprises no one to learn that he was one of the most sought after in both industries, quickly establishing a reputation for quality and creativity. This success led to him being tapped to direct the highly anticipated ‘Alien 3’ in 1992. As almost everyone knows, he clashed with 20th Century Fox on everything from the script to the budget, so the less than stellar final product only showed a hint of what he could do. He went back to music videos after that, but returned with a vengeance in 1995 with ‘Seven’, a serial killer flick that showed how much of a talented filmmaker he could be. 2 years later he continued to master genre film with ‘The Game’, though it would be another couple of years before he unleashed ‘Fight Club’ on the world in 1999. At this point, there was no denying that David Fincher was an emerging master of the craft. While some were let down with his next thrill in 2002 ‘Panic Room’, he was only honing his talents more. Fincher then took a bit of a longer break than normal, but returned to serial killers with ‘Zodiac’ in 2007. His pace would pick up from then on, with ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ the next year, ‘The Social Network’ just missing Best Picture and Director two years later, and of course has ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ this year. Up next he has a take on ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and perhaps another encounter or two with Lisbeth Salander. Now that we’ve seen what he’s done, how about deciding what’s the 5 best projects of his? I’ll obviously want to know what you think, but for now, here’s how I see it:
5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
This film has gotten a raw deal since its release, but I remain very impressed by it, especially David Fincher’s direction. I won’t deny it’s got flaws, but it has more ambition than almost any film of the past decade or two. The seamless blending of special effects and story worked together to form a tale about how different our life experiences are that many don’t fully appreciate or embrace, but I do. This slot had competition from ‘Zodiac’, but in the end I realize how similar my admirations and issues with both films are, but I simply find myself coming back to Benjamin Button for subsequent viewings far more often. It comes down to Fincher just doing something different and stretching himself in a way I really admire. I may not have been right back during my initial review when I called it “the best film of next year”, but it hasn’t lost any of its luster in my eyes. A controversial pick, I know…but I think the next 4 are a bit safer for the most part.
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
You all are about to be able to see Fincher’s take on the popular novel, but rest assured it’s an improvement on the Swedish film adaptation…even if you liked that one. It’s just a much tighter take on the material, and somehow it even features a better performance by Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander than Noomi Rapace turned in (as my Early Review stated here). It’s still a pulpy story, but it fits perfectly with some of his earlier films. I was much more impressed with it than I expected, so I’m eager for you all to experience it as well. It’s one of the better films of the year. It’s in play for my top 10, and while I think it will ultimately just miss, it could very well end up on plenty of your lists!
The godfather of films like ‘Saw’ is also one of the best thrillers ever made. Also known as ‘Se7en’ (I switch back and forth between how I refer to it, not that it really matters), this is David Fincher at his darkest in many ways. This is a film that is one of the finest genre works ever, plain and simple. I’ve written about it a few times before, most recently in my countdown of the best horror films of all time (found here), and I never get tired of it. Fincher is just toying with the audience, but brilliantly. This is a classic, no two ways about it. Tack on one of the more shocking climaxes of any film I’ve ever seen, and it’s a very special work.
2. The Social Network
Who ever would have guessed when we first heard about this project that it would turn out as phenomenal as it did? Of course, we knew it would be well directed, and a script by Aaron Sorkin is always a treat, but wow, did Fincher ever knock this one out of the park. It was my second favorite film of 2010, and in my mind the best written and directed film of the year, along with being one of the 2 or 3 best acted ones as well. It was just a perfect flick in every single way possible, and I seriously considered making it my top choice, but the next movie down just has that title by a thread…
A classic film sprung from a classic novel, this is my favorite David Fincher work and a flick that will stand the test of time. Besides being magnificent (and another perfect film from him), it’s an important film, and that’s no small thing. It’s among both Brad Pitt and Edward Norton’s finest works, it’s one of the most written about films of the last 30 years, and Fincher’s masterpiece. It’s one of the 10 favorite books of all time, and the movie actually improves on it somehow. I tip my hat to Fincher, as this is the type of work you’re shocked a director can actually achieve, but thank your lucky stars that they did so that you could experience it. I was blown away the first time I saw it, and it just gets better with each subsequent viewing. Few films compare to this one. That’s just the truth.
There you have it…my picks for David Fincher’s 5 best works. I know there’s a title or two that most won’t have on their lists, but that’s the whole fun of this exercise. Debate will be forthcoming, and I look forward to it!
–Thoughts? Discuss on the Forum!