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These are the best David Fincher movies, ranked

Does your favorite David Fincher movie top the list?

Since he emerged on the scene with his own Alien sequel, David Fincher has gained a reputation for being exacting, precise, and brilliant. Whether he’s making an unconventional thriller or a throwback to Hollywood’s golden age, Fincher’s movies are always distinctive, imaginative, and hugely engaging.

Over the course of his career as a director, Fincher has made more than a couple of genuine masterpieces. While he’s yet to win any major Oscars, Fincher has always seemed most interested in following his own muse, and is less concerned about how his decisions will be viewed by those around him. You may think of Fincher as a thriller guy, but anyone who’s followed his career closely knows that thrillers aren’t the only thing he makes.

Black-and-white image of the creature from Alien staring at a man.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

As is also the case in the best films from Steven Spielberg, Fincher has established collaborators that help him realize his vision. That’s especially true for his movie’s scores, which are composed none other than Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who have been behind the scores for his last four films. “Our role is to help realize his vision the best we can,” Reznor once said, and each time they come up with a new score, they do exactly that.

While Fincher has a varied career, it’s undeniably true that he has tended to focus on projects that are bit dark or grisly. There are some titles on this list that anyone with a weak stomach should probably avoid, but we’ll get into all of that below. Without further ado, these are David Fincher’s best films ranked:

11. Alien³ (1992)

11. Alien³
59 %
Genre Science Fiction, Action, Horror
Stars Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance
Directed by David Fincher
The first and worst on our list today is Alien 3, Fincher’s first full-length feature and the one that nearly ended his career before it even began. Following Aliens (one of the best James Cameron movies of all time), this film flopped in more ways than they even anticipated. Fincher was extremely excited in a “naive” way for this to be his directorial debut, even though he didn’t like the script. In his own words, Fincher said he “listened to the people who were paying for the movie” who dictated who his collaborators should be. This was not a mistake he would make again, as he would go on to work with people who would listen to and respect him as the esteemed filmmaker he is. It’s certainly not his best work, but Alien 3 is admirably dark and subversive in ways that would define Fincher’s career moving forward.
ALIEN 3 Official Trailer (1992) Sigourney Weaver, David Fincher Movie HD

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10. The Game (1997)

10. The Game
61 %
Genre Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Stars Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger
Directed by David Fincher
If you’re looking for a thriller that throws you for more than a few turns, this movie may fit the bill. Full of endless plot twists and a few plot holes, The Game is a thrill ride with an over-the-top ending. David Fincher loves his plot twists, and this film takes that element to a whole new level. Granted, Fincher didn’t write this script himself, but he did choose to direct it. In spite of its inherently convoluted nature, this movie is quite entertaining and does exactly what it’s meant to do: thrill and entice the audience. Without a  great performance from Michael Douglas, this gritty drama might not have done as well as it did. The original concept alone was enough to draw Fincher to the script, but it doesn’t quite match up to the power of his later works.
THE GAME - Official Trailer (1997) Michael Douglas

9. Panic Room (2002)

9. Panic Room
65 %
Genre Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker
Directed by David Fincher
Sticking to the subject of the basic thriller genre, Panic Room is another more middle-of-the-road entry in Fincher’s filmography. Though Fincher has always been known to get some great on-screen talent, it doesn’t always shine through if the material is a bit lackluster — not to take credit away from the performances of Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and the very creepy Dwight Yoakam. Watching this film felt a bit like going through the motions of a thriller film — if you can’t notice the Fincher signatures, it’s just another thriller. Fincher’s attention to detail was not lost on this film, though. It reportedly took 103 takes to get a medical bag to slide across the floor and into the panic room perfectly. But besides all that, it’s definitely worth a watch for a scary movie night, especially if you don’t want things to get too scary.
Panic Room (2002) Official Trailer 1 - Jodie Foster Movie

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
70 %
Genre Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson
Directed by David Fincher
In what may be the most sentimental film he’s ever made, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a long-winded tale of a man who ages backward. A beautiful and somber tale that focuses on time and how little we have of it, this film points out thoughts everyone has had and translates them seamlessly to the screen. The most memorable is when Button is contemplating timing and events taking place throughout the world, questioning “coincidence” with all of the “series of intersecting lives and instances” that make great and terrible things come true. As always, Fincher chooses scripts that ask open-ended questions to the viewer, forcing you to think and confusing you to no end if you don’t. Chock full of acting talent, this film goes through the characters’ entire lives and how they affected one another. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett star as the arguably cursed lovers, both doing an exemplary job at what Fincher directs them to do. Plus, If you’re going to get someone to play a man in his twenties with wrinkles and graying hair, Brad Pitt and his ageless appeal is always a good choice.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

7. Mank (2020)

7. Mank
79 %
Genre Drama, History
Stars Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins
Directed by David Fincher
Possibly over-celebrated, and nominated for an astonishing 10 Oscars, this is a film feat of impressive proportions. Mank follows Herman J. “Mank” Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), who is given a deadline to finish the screenplay for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane but struggles to meet it while confronting old Hollywood politics, corruption, and debilitating alcoholism. Its fast-paced and clever writing makes for some possible confusion, especially if you don’t know your “Golden Age of Hollywood” elites. The original screenplay, written by David’s father, Jack Fincher, had been in the works since before David’s Alien 3 catastrophe. Considering the power struggle Fincher experienced on that first film set, he decided that Mank needed to address the “notion of enforced collaboration” more than what “just felt like revenge.” Filmed in a style reminiscent of the classic Welles films with a Helium Monochrome sensor, this film goes above and beyond in its goals and largely succeeds.
MANK | Official Trailer | Netflix

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6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
71 %
Genre Thriller, Crime, Mystery, Drama
Stars Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer
Directed by David Fincher
Released the year after The Social Network, Fincher takes a turn to the intriguingly morbid with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Before watching this film it should be known that it has some very disturbing and graphic scenes, and is surely the darkest of any Fincher film. Adapted from the bestseller of the same name, Dragon Tattoo features electrifying performances from Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in the middle of his James Bond run.Without giving too much away, Stellan Skarsgård’s performance is incredible but somehow still undermined by the cold and relentless Mara. “May I kill him?” she asks near the end. This is the second of the four Fincher collaborations with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the score, and it’s some of their most effective work.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO - Official Trailer - In Theaters 12/21

5. The Social Network (2010)

5. The Social Network
95 %
Genre Drama
Stars Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Directed by David Fincher
Turning his sights to a famous story from recent history, The Social Network exposed the drama behind the creation of Facebook. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin wrote the script for this film, technically based on Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, but he has stated that he had written almost 80 pages before the book was even released. Sorkin’s script is what really drew Fincher in, and he wound up telling one of the most important stories of the internet generation. Along with his collaboration with Sorkin, Fincher also utilized his newfound relationship with Reznor and Ross, earning both Oscars for the screenplay and score respectively. Released less than 10 years after Facebook’s big boom, this film — however profound and scandalous — was just the tip of the scandal iceberg, which merits murmurs of a sequel to portray the last 20 years of insanity.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK - Official Trailer [2010] (HD)

4. Fight Club (1999)

4. Fight Club
66 %
Genre Drama
Stars Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by David Fincher
In what might be the most culturally influential film on this list, Fight Club is also worth watching on its own merits. Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, the film follows young and agitated men who decide the best way to solve their problems is to kick the crap out of each other and reject social standards. Thanks to a great twist ending, Fight Club feels like a sendup of an entire generation. There was some freedom with the writing on this one, with Fincher, Pitt, Norton, and Walker (Andrew Kevin Walker, who wrote Se7en) further adapting the screenplay in a looser, more improvisational method. This film also features a somehow disgusting, charming, sexy, and terrifying Brad Pitt in one of his best roles, commenting on the social expectations and outlooks of young men in a sometimes very meta way. Whether you love or hate this film, it’s guaranteed to be continually referenced for a long time to come.
Fight Club (1999) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

3. Gone Girl (2014)

3. Gone Girl
79 %
Genre Mystery, Thriller, Drama
Stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
Directed by David Fincher

When it comes to Fincher films, think of Gone Girl as a possible response to the cultural response to Fight Club. People weren’t sure if they should think this movie is a feminist guide or the patriarchy at it again. What’s amazing about this movie is that it is both. Both main characters are twisted in their own way, but introduce some very interesting concepts to the viewer, one of which is that the world can shape you into what it wants you to be. We’re so cute. I wanna punch us in the face,” Amy says as pieces of her true personality shine through for others to see, but only if they’re looking. What it all comes down to is that everyone always expects you to be better than you truly are, which is exhausting to keep up all day every day. It can drive people to do crazy things.

2. Zodiac (2007)

2. Zodiac
78 %
Genre Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr.
Directed by David Fincher
In what is praised as one of his most historically accurate films to date, Zodiac takes the story of the Zodiac killer and turns it into cinema gold. Hugely underrated, this film goes into such great detail to get things right, aiming to silence all of the myths and rumors about the case that are simply not true. That is all thanks to Fincher and producer James Vanderbilt, who spent months studying the many cases and stories of the Zodiac killer, much like its protagonist Robert Graysmith. Graysmith (in one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s best roles) is a cartoonist-turned-true-crime author who was obsessed with solving the Zodiac case for over 10 years of his life. Based on Graysmith’s book of the same title, this film actually caused the investigation to reopen. Relating to his style, Fincher kept it steady and maintained his themes of darkness, showing the characters in low light and tilted angles to portray their emotions in a way that does not undercut the many great acting talents on screen.
Zodiac (2007) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

1. Se7en (1995)

1. Se7en
65 %
Genre Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Stars Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow
Directed by David Fincher
A classic young buck is partnered with a veteran on his way out in what could have been a trite, predictable detective story. Thankfully, Se7en is anything but predictable. Tracking a serial killer obsessed with the seven deadly sins, Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) encounter horrors even Freeman’s days-from-retirement detective has never seen. As the best David Fincher film, it is, of course, very dark — both in its lighting and its thematic content. The use of foreshadowing is expert here, as Fincher deploys his craft to maximum effect. If you haven’t seen this film before, it can be hard to see who should be in focus and when. Watching it a second or third time, however, the filmic tools are used to paint a visual narrative that almost needs no dialogue. Being his second feature film ever, it’s incredible to see how quickly Fincher came into his own style, setting the template for his following films. This, among other things, is what makes this the best David Fincher film of his career. “Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”
Se7en (1995) Official Trailer - Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman Movie HD

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance culture writer based in upstate New York. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The…
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