From Seven to Gone Girl: Authors Share Their Favorite David Fincher Film


Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Seven.

Seven was a film that had a significant impact on the late 90s trend of serial killer thrillers. It introduced the dark and gritty style that became popular in the genre, as well as the disturbing fetishes of the villains. However, none of its imitators could match the careful direction and emotional depth of the characters that made it such a powerful and tragic story. The unnamed urban setting adds to the film’s unique power, representing any city in its worst state of despair and moral decay. Despite sounding like typical detective partners, Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt’s characters form a deep bond that heightens the shocking finale. Seven marked a turning point in director David Fincher’s career, launching him as a major force in the film industry after previously being written off after Alien 3.

The Game

michael douglas in the game

The Game, directed by Fincher, is not as mind-bending as some of his other works like Seven and Fight Club. However, it stands out for its restrained approach, making it a more precise achievement. The main character, Nicholas Van Orton (portrayed brilliantly by Michael Douglas), is a wealthy man lacking empathy and connections in his life. But when he receives a strange birthday gift from his brother – entrance into a mysterious game – everything changes. As the lines between reality and illusion blur, Van Orton’s life spirals out of control until the thrilling conclusion, which, although predictable, is captivating. Fincher’s exploration of themes such as identity and rebirth is less sinister in this film compared to others, striking a balance between darkness and affirmation of life. For those who find films like Fight Club and Gone Girl too heavy, The Game offers similar highs without the extreme lows.

Fight Club

still from fight club

The top David Fincher film is without a doubt Zodiac, but the David Fincher movie I have seen the most times is Fight Club, released in 1999. It has been stirring up controversy and causing people to misunderstand it for almost 25 years now. Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, the movie follows the story of a disillusioned businessman (Edward Norton) who is lured into the rebellious mindset of charismatic rebel Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). This film showcases Fincher’s sense of humor more than any of his other works, even though he has gained a reputation for his dark and precise style (which is also on display in his latest film, The Killer). Fight Club also demonstrates Fincher’s ability to show off and take risks, keeping viewers on their toes even after multiple viewings. This is partly due to Tyler’s and the movie’s insidious charm – it presents a rebellious and cool facade that distracts from its underlying themes of fascism. Despite being embraced by many misogynistic groups, the movie’s finale, accompanied by The Pixies’ music, is one of Fincher’s most heartwarming moments. While his later projects may have a more focused approach, there is something to be admired about Fight Club’s range, including satire, violence, iconic lines, physical comedy, cautionary messages, and a poignant love story.

Panic Room

still from panic room

Fincher ended his successful streak of existential crime dramas in the 1990s with a tense and suspenseful movie that captures the fears of Y2K and strips traditional cat-and-mouse themes down to their core. Jodie Foster plays Meg, a mother trying to protect her family from dangerous thieves while her young daughter, played by Kristen Stewart, rides her Razor scooter and wears a Sid Vicious t-shirt. The family takes refuge in their panic room, but tensions rise as they struggle to survive amidst their doomsday preparations. Foster delivers a powerful performance in the confined space, showcasing her skills as an actress. She transforms from an artsy divorcee into a fierce and determined protector, using her resourcefulness to outsmart the criminals. Amidst the intense moments, there are also quieter scenes that leave a lasting impression, such as when Stewart sends an SOS signal through an air vent. Fincher captures these moments with expert skill, including a memorable shot of the rain lashing against the house as seen through the vents. It is clear that this is one of Fincher’s most iconic images, representing the desperation and hope of a child in a dire situation.


still from zodiac

Fincher has a tendency to center his movies around individuals who tell stories, such as the murderers who manipulate their victims in dramatic fashion in Seven and Gone Girl, or the writers seeking truth in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Mank. These types of characters can also be found in his epic and captivating film Zodiac, a crime thriller that explores the cultural shift in America when murder became a popular subject. However, Zodiac is not solely focused on the infamous serial killer’s desire for attention in the media. It also delves into the perspectives of law enforcement, journalists, concerned citizens, and even a cartoonist as they attempt to solve the crimes and share their version of events, potentially becoming entangled in the story themselves. Fincher skillfully intertwines multiple threads, clues, and lists of suspects, immersing viewers in the obsessive pursuit without losing control of the narrative. While Fincher’s films are typically known for their meticulousness and restraint, Zodiac stands out for its refusal to provide a definitive conclusion, its acceptance of uncertainty and gaps, and its recognition that it is not simply a “whodunnit”, but rather a question of who can tell the story most effectively.

The Social Network

still from the social network

Since its release over a decade ago, David Fincher’s portrayal of the founding of Facebook has become less accurate in its depiction of modern history, but still captures the overall sentiment. We now know that Mark Zuckerberg is not the charismatic and witty genius portrayed in the film, and his stance on keeping the site ad-free seems distant. However, Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin accurately captured the desperate desire of socially awkward Silicon Valley individuals to gain acceptance from the elite. The toxic combination of self-pity and misogyny has become a prevalent issue in online communities, and Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg effectively showcases the mix of superiority and inferiority complexes that drive these individuals to seek validation from those they consider beneath them. The final scene, with Zuckerberg obsessively refreshing his page for a response, holds a relevant psychological commentary on a different tech mogul who also strives for popularity through buying followers.

Gone Girl

still from gone girl

At the time, it appeared to be an unusual combination. The highly praised filmmaker who had gained recognition and awards for his works centered around male protagonists, such as the Zodiac killer and the origins of Facebook, took on the ever-present pop sensation that everyone from your mother to your friend to your mother’s friend was talking about. However, in Gone Girl, director David Fincher captured the cunning appeal of Gillian Flynn’s addictive page-turner, beyond its intricate plot. It was a cynical and darkly humorous critique of gender roles and relationships, playing out on a grand, absurd stage of national attention. A clever and bitter modernization of Richard Yates’ equally grim Revolutionary Road, complete with juicy tabloid headlines. What would happen if all the private struggles of a relationship were suddenly made public? How would people perceive it? Who would come out on top? Can there truly be a winner in such a situation? This film is Fincher’s most engaging work, provoking the audience with its bitter tone and featuring a standout performance from the fierce and terrifying Rosamund Pike. The chilling conclusion suggests that being trapped in a loveless marriage is only made worse when a baby is involved.