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Ranked: David Fincher Films from Worst to Best
Is Fight Club better than Seven? Does Alien3 have any redeeming qualities? On the eve of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, we find out.
by Rick Paulas
David Fincher does not seem like a pleasant person to work with. His works exude such technical craftsmanship that his collaborators must be nervous wrecks throughout. But unlike most perfectionist filmmakers, Fincher's actually been working at a steady clip. And his track record — eight films in sixteen years, six of them great, four modern classics — is unparalleled among contemporary filmmakers. With his ninth feature, the Americanized remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, out this week, it's time to take a look at his brilliant career thus far.
9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Upon its release, plenty of snarky Internet commenters compared Benjamin Button to Forrest Gump, and they had a point. Both films concerned the decades-long journeys of outcast white guys witnessing historical moments of the twentieth century as they try to get back to the love of their lives. The big difference was that Gump was actually decent. The only redeeming quality of this saccharine mess — in fact, possibly the only reason Fincher made the movie at all — is the neat CGI the director later used for The Social Network.
8. Alien3 (1992)
This disaster avoids the last position only because its failure isn't entirely Fincher's fault. Heavy rewrites, constant studio interference, shooting without a script; Fincher has said that his first feature was the most frustrating filmmaking experience he ever had. "The Assembly Cut," on the special-edition DVD, may be closer to Fincher's original vision, but while it's certainly better than the theatrical version, it's still far from the "hidden masterpiece" some fans claim it to be.
7. Panic Room (2002)
Panic Room is a puzzle movie where the puzzle is less about the plot than about the logistics of how Fincher got his dazzling shots. You can hear the wheels turning in Fincher's head as he figures out how to frame his tightly-woven claustrophobic thriller in the confined spaces of a New York City brownstone. For the most part, it works. But I've got to dock it a couple points for Jared Leto's stupid cornrows.
6. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Despite the unevenness of the source material, it makes sense for Fincher to tackle this adaptation: you have serial killings (Seven, Zodiac), puzzle-solving (The Game), and a whole bunch of tech (The Social Network, Panic Room). But the end result is merely adequate; it’s Zodiac, but without the existential uneasiness. It’s well done and worth seeing — if only for the droning Reznor/Ross score alone — but the original novels set a ceiling that Fincher can’t transcend.