Skip to main content

These Are the Best David Fincher Movies Ranked

Known as a formidable force in the thriller genre, David Fincher has also come to be known as a director who is detailed to the point of exhaustion. Throughout his career, colleagues, cast members, and crew members have described him as articulate, exacting, intense, tough, and relentless; however, they also described him as a wonderful, funny, and a great friend.

Don’t let any of that take away from his talent, though — this man is behind such masterful works as Se7en, Gone Girl, Zodiac, and The Social Network, among more than a handful of others that we are about to get into. Fincher’s style of film is well known in the film community, using signature methods of cinematography, lighting, plot structure, and music. His films always include low lighting, tracking shots, multiple plot twists, and emotionally visceral film scores. The latter has been refined over the years, thanks to his collaborations with musicians and his history of music video direction.

Black-and-white image of the creature from Alien staring at a man.

As with the innovative and unforgettable best films from Steven Spielberg, Fincher has come to work with repeat film-scoring talent to fully capture his vision. None other than Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — best known for joining NIN in 2016 but has been working with him for 20 years now — have been behind the last four film scores, which have become some of his best and most renowned films of his career. “Our role is to help realize his vision the best we can,” Reznor once said.

If you don’t know much about David Fincher’s films, it should be known that they are not only dark in lighting but also in theme and plot. Those with a weak stomach should refrain from a few of his titles, all of which will be explained in the coming film descriptions. If not, I hope you agree with and enjoy my rankings of all of the David Fincher films.

Alien³ (1992)

Alien³
59 %
6.4/10
114m
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 said not to work with his friends. This was not a mistake he would make again, as he would go on to work with the people who would listen to and respect him as the esteemed filmmaker he is. Though it is not the best film in any category it would fit into, Alien 3 is still a part of the Alien universe and therefore deserves a watch from any devoted fan of the series. At its heart, it is still a good film that challenges mainstream narratives in a dark way, foreshadowing the future of David Fincher films and all that makes them so great.

Read more: Best Amazon Prime Movies

10. The Game (1997)

10. The Game
61 %
7.7/10
129m
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 is a great movie to watch. Full of endless plot twists as well as holes, The Game is a thrill ride with an over-the-top ending. As mentioned earlier, 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. Knowing that this was his first movie after Se7en makes you wonder what happened in between, but every filmmaker takes on an ambitious project every once in a while. Though this all sounds a bit on the negative side, this movie is quite entertaining and does exactly what it’s meant to do: thrill and entice the audience. Without the 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.

9. Panic Room (2002)

9. Panic Room
65 %
6.8/10
111m
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 Fincher classic but not quite exceptional on his list of greats. 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, which is something you would have to look into to know about. With a reported 103 takes, he wanted that 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.

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
70 %
7.8/10
166m
Genre Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson
Directed by David Fincher
In what is certainly the most unique story of all his films, 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 propose 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 character’s entire life and all of the people who affected it. 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 gonna 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.

7. Mank (2020)

7. Mank
79 %
6.8/10
132m
Genre Drama, History
Stars Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins
Directed by David Fincher
“Have you heard the parable of the Organ Grinder’s Monkey?” An experimental offshoot for Fincher — as well as for Reznor and Ross on the score — in his latest film, Mank turns out to be worth the wait. Possibly over-celebrated, and nominated for an astonishing 10 Oscars, this is a film feat of impressive proportions. Herman J. “Mank” Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) 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 its goals and is guaranteed to be talked about for decades.

Read more: Best Netflix Movies

6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
71 %
7.8/10
158m
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. Don’t get me wrong, the revenge is swift and just but the shock is surely the darkest of any Fincher film and lots of other films. The highlight of this film is its unique story and its incredible cast, all of which do well to creep you out in a lingering way. In the midst of his booming film career and very unlike the character we most know him as, all we want is for Daniel Craig to spring into James Bond-like action. Without giving too much away, Stellan Skarsgård’s performance is incredible but somehow still undermined by the cold and relentless Rooney Mara. “May I kill him?” This is the second of the four Fincher collaborations with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the thrilling and haunting film score, showing how their work together can affect one’s levels of comfort.

5. The Social Network (2010)

5. The Social Network
95 %
7.8/10
121m
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, gaining his attention to the most important stories of a new generation. Along with his collaboration with Sorkin, Fincher also utilized his newfound relationship with Reznor and Ross, gaining an Oscar for best score as well as best adapted screenplay. 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.

4. Fight Club (1999)

4. Fight Club
66 %
8.8/10
139m
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 scores some major popularity points from all sides. Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, some young and agitated men decide the best way to solve their problems is to kick the crap out of each other and reject social standards. Other than causing social unrest in the frustrated young men of society (despite the story’s moral resolution in the end), the movie has some great writing and an awesome twist ending. 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 yet.

3. Gone Girl (2014)

3. Gone Girl
79 %
8.1/10
149m
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. You go out into the world and be who people want you to be, but when does the acting end? “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. From a film standpoint, this one tells a visual tale that transcends the dialogue. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score their third film with Fincher, further proving that music paired with imagery has the power to invade the senses.

2. Zodiac (2007)

2. Zodiac
78 %
7.7/10
157m
Genre Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr.
Directed by David Fincher
In what is praised as one of the most historically accurate films to date, Zodiac takes the ’70s cultural phenomenon 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 and all its accuracies 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.

1. Se7en (1995)

1. Se7en
65 %
8.6/10
127m
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, but put David Fincher at the helm of this well-worn tale and you get a much bleaker version. 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 one of the best David Fincher films, it is, of course, very dark — referencing lighting and themes. Fincher’s way to capture this story is phenomenal, focusing — literally — on particular characters under great stress. The use of foreshadowing tells us what could happen or should happen, displaying it on the screen in a masterful way. 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 film 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.”

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from: