Best David Fincher Movies

David Fincher movies are the best. They’re dark, full of badass characters, and they incorporate various versions of the same hardcore, disillusioned worldview. There isn’t a safer bet for a truly satisfying experience in film.

Lisbeth from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a movie by David Fincher.

Image Credit: alicexz on Deviant Art.

When David Fincher swings, he simply doesn’t miss: all his movies and shows absolutely crush it. From his work as the executive producer on House of Cards, to the excellent but short-lived Mindhunter, Fincher proves he can do it all.

His greatest hits, however, come courtesy of the big screen.

When you want an intelligently-made, edgy, unpredictable film that’s as thought-provoking as it is entertaining, look no further than these David Fincher movies.

 

Alien3 (1992)

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton
Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Available on: HBO Go/Now, Hulu

While Ridley Scott and James Cameron were tough acts to follow, Alien3 was a solid addition to the Alien franchise.

With this film, Fincher made his directorial debut.  Originally, the proposed director was Vincent Ward, and things didn’t go well.

Studio politics and producer interference carried over to Fincher’s direction, unfortunately, and he’s since stated that “to this day, no one hates [the movie] more than me.”

In the end, it’s not really his film.  Admittedly, it lacks much of the brilliance that David Fincher is known for in his later movies, and almost leaves you pining for the version he could’ve created, if not for the pushback and outright mistreatment from the studio.

Nonetheless, the film definitely didn’t ruin the Alien franchise—now boasting six installments—nor Fincher’s directing career.  He then went on to much bigger and better things, gracing fans with hit after hit.

 

Se7en (1995)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Available on: Amazon Prime

Without the success of Se7en, it’s possible that no further David Fincher movies would exist.

In his true directorial debut, Fincher doesn’t disappoint.  A mastermind serial killer, a great twist and shocking ending, and one of the most famous quotes in any Fincher film make Se7en an unquestioned standout in his catalog.

Fincher trusted Kevin Spacey with his jump into television with Netflix’s first original series, House of Cards, quite possibly due to his work on Se7en.

Additionally, this is the first of three David Fincher movies to star Brad Pitt.  And does anyone ever go wrong with Morgan Freeman or Gwyneth Paltrow?

Se7en sets the tone for Fincher’s subsequent movies with its investigative structure, smarts, insane twist, and dark tone.

In fact, the sun literally doesn’t come out until the final sequence.

See it on Amazon Prime here.

 

The Game (1997)

Starring: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Available on: Hulu, Sling TV, Starz

What’s the most ridiculous birthday present you’ve ever received? It won’t amount to this one.

David Fincher makes movies that are, at their core, almost always an investigation—and in this film, audiences are mostly trying to investigate what the hell’s going on.

Rather than annoy, this element serves The Game extremely well.  After all, leaving you in the dark (oftentimes literally) is what Fincher does best.

The Game takes audiences on a journey with Michael Douglas as he explores why his entire world is falling apart.  As absurd as The Game can get, it’s downright enjoyable to watch.

The “game” in the movie is masterfully created and carried out to perfection. This super-smart aspect of the movie is a key Fincher feature, as well.

Lastly, the ending of The Game marks the first big twist David Fincher used, which would soon become a trademark ingredient of his movies.

 

Fight Club (1999)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Available on: HBO Go/Now, Hulu

Yeah, yeah—this very mention breaks the first rule of Fight Club.  As perhaps the best Fincher movie ever made, however, it simply can’t be excluded.

Released in 1999, Fight Club joined the ranks of Pulp Fiction and Scarface immediately.  Audiences had never seen anything like it, and its rewatchability proves it’s far more than that gut-punch ending that led to the movie’s success.

Fight Club owes its staying power to incredible dialogue, dynamic casting, and a storyline that’s as dark as it is brilliant.

 

Panic Room (2002)

Starring: Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Kristen Stewart
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Available on: Vudu, Crackle

Panic Room is a good movie.

It’s also the only movie on this list that you can see once in your life and be just fine.

That’s not to say it won’t stick with you in some way.  After all, the premise is intriguing enough: three desperate burglars (Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, and Jared Leto) try to break into a state-of-the-art panic room in Manhattan, while a terrified mother and daughter are locked inside.

Where Panic Room fails, however, is that it simply isn’t novel enough.  Compared to other David Fincher movies, it lacks that intellectual and emotional satisfaction, and isn’t really investigative.

Sure, you’ll spend most of the film wondering, “Will the robbers get inside the panic room?”—but that’s hardly a burning question you just can’t wait to answer.

All that said, Panic Room checks the boxes of most thriller moves, so it’s worth a watch…but, most likely, just one.

 

Zodiac (2007)

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Available on: Crackle

Of all the genius characters and plans that David Fincher invents, few movies stack up to Zodiac.

True, it’s non-fiction, but he goes beyond Mensa-level stuff whenever he tackles that genre—and this film is the prime example.

What’s more, Fincher has a personal connection to the story.  Growing up in Marin County, he viewed the Zodiac killer as a “real-life bogeyman,” both terrifying and intriguing in the mind of a child.

In fact, for a while, Fincher’s school bus was accompanied by a police escort, following highly specific threats from the murderer that he’d shoot the children on a bus in that area.

Decades later, the Zodiac killer remains unknown.  His kill count exceeds 35, and the mystery continues to fascinate armchair detectives and vex real detectives to this day.

The simple fact you can be so engrossed in a movie where you know the mystery won’t be solved is a true testament to Fincher’s talent.

Zodiac is long and meticulous, perfect for a patient and curious mind. It’s yet another investigation, primarily journalistic in nature this time around, and the smarts are delivered by way of the serial killer and his ciphered communications to the media.

Almost as maniacal as the killer himself, Gyllenhaal’s impassioned efforts to catch him present yet another thread to the Fincher way—the complete devotion of a lead character to his work.

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Available on: Hulu, Sling TV, fuboTV

The Academy Awards had a lot to say about Benjamin Button, which landed 13 nominations and 3 awards.  While commercially a huge success, and loved by much of the general public, it’s a tough departure for diehard Fincher fans.

Although it definitely brings a unique storyline to the table—the saga of a man who ages backward—it leaves out all the rest of Fincher’s usual tricks.

There’s no mystery or burning questions, other than why Benjamin Button ages in reverse (which is never answered).  Its dialogue isn’t particularly memorable.  There’s no big twist at the end.

And, while this weird, sad premise showcases a smart interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original short story, the film itself isn’t smart or cerebral.

Overall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is decently entertaining, if only because of its initial hook.

 

The Social Network (2010)

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Available on: Netflix

Loosely based on the true story of how Facebook came to rule the world, The Social Network is perhaps the pinnacle of Fincher’s film career.

With a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score, eight Academy Award nominations, and three wins, this movie did it all.  It met or exceeded the mainstream, commercial appeal of Benjamin Button, but not at the expense of Fincher’s most loved techniques.

Part of that, perhaps, is due to the fact that the real story of Facebook’s creation naturally included so many things David Fincher loves making movies about.

After all, Mark Zuckerberg is incredibly smart, so much so that few people really understand him—often a hallmark of Fincher’s invented characters.  He’s intensely motivated, as well, with a sort of blind fervor that propels the storyline ever forward.

The casting is also flawless, and the soundtrack from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross slaps.  Justin Timberlake shows up like Will Ferrel in Wedding Crashers—at just the right time, taking the story to the next level.

While the film isn’t dark, and lacks the iconic twist Fincher fans usually expect, it’s executed to perfection. No one else could have told this story this well.

Watch it on Netflix here.

 

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Available on: Hulu, Sling TV, Starz

This is the Fincher film for Fincher fans.

There’s murder, and perhaps David Fincher’s most badass, hardcore character of all his movies.  From start to finish, it’s a pure investigation—this time, with more than one mastermind at work.

It’s also dark, both visually and thematically, and the ending is impossible to predict.

In fact, the only greater mystery might be why on earth the trilogy was never completed.  This movie is truly unique, on par with the creativity of Forrest Gump or Watchmen.

Dragon Tattoo was nominated for five Academy Awards, yet took home only one. It’s not exactly surprising, since Fincher films can be as misunderstood as many of his characters.

 

Gone Girl (2014)

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Available on: Amazon Prime

Ultimately, a film is only as good as its audience believes it is—and Fincher definitely nailed it with Gone Girl.

The experience is perfect, and Fincher’s direction is even better.  With an 87% from Rotten Tomatoes, this crime mystery starring Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry once again struck that sweet spot between classic David Fincher movies, and mass-market commercial appeal.

Gone Girl, adapted from the Gillian Flynn book, follows the search for a missing person, a renowned writer in her own right (Pike). Her husband is the primary suspect, which is the last expected thing you’ll encounter in this movie.

Affleck absolutely delivers in his role, and Gone Girl more than scratches that itch for a satisfying crime film.

See it on Amazon Prime here.

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If you liked this list of David Fincher movies, the best psychological thrillers, sci-fi movies, or post-apocalyptic films now streaming on major platforms.

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