David Fincher has firmly established himself as a master of blending art and commerce. It’s especially impressive considering his output has been uniformly dark, moody and disturbing, with flashes of wit and satire thrown in. The Netflix film “Mank” has brought him back to the Oscars in the Best Director category. Let’s take a look back at all 11 of his films, ranked worst to best.
Born in 1962, Fincher cut his teeth at special effects house Industrial Light and Magic, working on such films as “Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi” (1983) and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984). He left to pursue a career in directing, making his mark with a commercial for the American Cancer Society that depicted a fetus smoking a cigarette. He co-founded Propaganda Films, a production house for music videos and commercials that employed future filmmakers Spike Jonze, Michael Bay, Antoine Fuqua, Alex Proyas, Mark Romanek, Zach Snyder and Gore Verbinski. Fincher himself helmed several famous music videos, including “Vogue,” “Express Yourself,” “Oh Father” and “Bad Girl” for Madonna.
His transition into filmmaking got off to a rocky start with “Alien 3” (1992), a critical failure that Roger Ebert described as “one of the best looking bad movies I’ve ever seen.” He quickly bounced back with the box office smash “Se7en” (1995), an unsettling film noir about a psychotic killer murdering victims in the style of the seven deadly sins. Its success allowed him to make even bigger and more ambitious projects, including “The Game” (1997), “Fight Club” (1999), “Panic Room” (2002) and “Zodiac” (2007).
He hit the Oscar jackpot for the first time with “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), a romantic epic that employed revolutionary makeup and special effects to have Brad Pitt play a man aging backwards. The film snagged 13 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Fincher also competed at the DGA, Golden Globes, BAFTA and Critics Choice.
His next film, the Facebook docudrama “The Social Network,” brought Fincher a second Best Director nomination at the Oscars and DGA, plus victories at the Golden Globes, BAFTA and Critics Choice. He earned a DGA bid for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011), followed by Golden Globe and Critics Choice noms for “Gone Girl” (2014). “Mank” (2020) brought him Best Director bids at the Oscars, DGA, Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards.
Fincher has enjoyed success on the small screen as well, winning an Emmy for directing the pilot of “House of Cards” and returning to Netflix with the serial killer procedural “Mindhunter.” He’s continued to direct commercials and music videos, winning a DGA prize for a series of TV spots in 2004 plus Grammys for “The Rolling Stones: Love is Strong” in 1995 and “Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z: Suit & Tie” in 2014.
Tour our photo gallery above of Fincher’s films, and see if your favorite topped the list.