6. Se7en (1995)
David Fincher’s first foray into serial killer media was also his first film where he had his expected amount of creative control throughout the process.
Se7en’s cinematography exists at a middle point between Alien 3 and later, more refined versions of his target aesthetic – the high-contrast lighting is present (adding a classic Hollywood noir layer to the hyper-violent plot that fits right into the 90s), but the color is a muted version of Alien 3’s palette. There are some striking shots in Se7en, and it has its fair share of iconic moments.
What really makes Se7en great is the suggestive violence. The camera shows the crime scenes, but it doesn’t revel in the act of slaughter. It’s a mature take on the edgy serial killer narrative that another filmmaker may have been too blunt with.
While the themes are rather broad in Se7en, this is the stunning debut Fincher should have had. The only thing holding Se7en back in this ranking is that Fincher went on to make even better films than this.
5. The Social Network (2010)
The Social Network is another film that is considered a deviation for Fincher, and was hailed as one of the best movies of the last decade.
Technology’s effect on the world and the relentless drive for perfection are themes both present in the story and Fincher’s approach to filmmaking – Zuckerberg and Fincher are both creators with a vision, and they’re each experts at their craft. At the same time, the star of the show is Aaron Sorkin’s script.
Fincher’s aesthetic creates the atmosphere and guides the audience to consider the characters, but the strong association with Sorkin places Fincher’s arguable masterpiece lower than it perhaps ought to be in a ranking of his filmography.
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4. Gone Girl (2014)
Gone Girl is another collaboration with a great author. Unlike The Social Network, Gone Girl is not a dialogue-based film. Gone Girl is about an individual’s control of their reputation and image in media, and features the thrilling twists and spectacle that marks the point from which Fincher has been said to deviate.
Gone Girl brings together some of Fincher’s most notable collaborators (cinematographer Jeff Cronenworth, composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, editor Kirk Baxter) with a fresh cast (with several performances that bolster the characters) that results in a very “Fincher” movie.
Gone Girl is, in ways, like The Game, but with more depth and a refined visual style that comes from a director who has mastered control of his craft.