Top 5 David Fincher Movies–Top 5 Tuesday
He’s opinionated, I’m opinionated. He’s talented, I’m–let’s just move on, okay?
As many of you reading this likely know, David Fincher’s new film Mank–about Herman J. Mankiewicz writing Citizen Kane and the issues he had with Orson Welles afterward–comes out on Friday. In honour of the new release I thought I’d count down the Top 5 David Fincher movies.
David Fincher is a known entity. I don’t think it’s blasphemy to acknowledge him as one of the finest American directors operating today. His movies are always worth a watch, regardless of how they turn out. He has a very distinct style but this has also lead to him being very methodical, and in turn seen as difficult to work with on occasion.
His movies are also marked by the fact that he hasn’t embraced the director/screenwriter title, as many directors do. He doesn’t write his own movies, instead opting for more accomplished writers to do that for him. That way he can then interpret the words in his own way and project them onto the screen. If I was a director I’d also want to pen my scripts, but there’s a certain vision that accompanies having a proper amount of distance from the script. One way is not better than the other.
We’re going to get to the top five in a second, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that he’s also controversial in his views, recently causing a bit of a stir with comments about Joker, among other things. In my estimation his comments were misunderstood, but there’s something that he said to Vulture that really spoke to me because it speaks to a writer’s experience. It also gives great insight into him as an artist and a person.
“I’m not a writer. I don’t take credit for things that I don’t do. Listen, I’m the offspring of a writer. I can’t. I’ve watched somebody put a blank piece of paper in a 1928 Underwood and sit there for 45 minutes. I know how lonely that is.”– David Fincher in Vulture
5: The Social Network
Fincher definitely knows who to team up with. If you want to make a movie like this, who better to tap than Aaron Sorkin to write it? Then why not also give Jesse Eisenberg a role that he seems to have been built for, while also acquiring Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor to provide the soundtrack?
It’s not his best film (obviously, judging from the placement on this list) but it’s one that ticks all the boxes to be a great film. I never thought I’d care about this subject matter but Fincher made it exciting.
4: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I remember when this came out, people were saying that it was Oscar bait. Sure enough, it received thirteen nominations. It only won three but I can see the detractor’s point, at least in that regard.
But I look back fondly on it because ultimately, it corrects one issue that I feel Fincher has. For as good as his films are, they don’t really captivate me on a purely emotional level. I can watch them and get something important from them, but do they ever make me sad? For my money, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button managed something none of his other films did: it destroyed my heart.
Fincher was always the right fit to tell a story like this. It may be plodding to some people, but it was full of great performances while having an incredibly clever script. Perhaps it’s the least flashy of my picks, but it shows a solid understanding of the fundamentals of filmmaking… not that we ever questioned whether Fincher had the chops or not.
“What’s in the box?” I considered just leaving it at that because that moment is so ingrained in my mind that it should seem self-explanatory. But if you haven’t seen Se7en then you should indulge yourself in this take on film noir because it’s full of great performances and intriguing twists. It’s dark and moody, sometimes gruesome, but always compelling.
1: Fight Club
There are very few films that I’ve discussed more than Fight Club. This is partially because when I started getting serious about the movin’ pictures this stuck out to me, and partially because I’ve had some legitimately great debates about it. Some people feel it’s stupid, some feel it’s genius.
I remember watching the backlash transform from backlash, to anti-backlash, to anti-anti-backlash and so on and so forth. It was really fascinating back in the day to watch how people argued about this and how opinions changed. Perhaps I’m glorifying it a bit, but it was very real in my world.
So what made Fight Club so special? Ultimately it was that it is biting, gripping satire. What it’s truly trying to say depends on how you approach it, and it isn’t for me to make the final judgement. I’ll just say that I enjoyed seeing the different interpretations of its message; people would say that it’s about one thing and be so sure, but then others would counter that. Roger Ebert said it was fascist, for example, but I’ve seen good arguments that say otherwise.
Even if you regard it as just a film and view it on those merits, it still succeeds. The plot twist might induce cringing nowadays–when done by lesser films–but it was genuinely surprising back then. On top of that, Brad Pitt was at his most charming (and destructive), while Edward Norton played opposite of him perfectly.
I’ve read the Chuck Palahniuk novel that the movie is based on, and while I would have liked to have seen the original ending included, I believe that Fincher’s–or Jim Uhls’–decision to change it was probably the appropriate one since it’s more cinematic.
His favourite Fincher movie is also Fight Club, but he would have included Gone Girl in the list.