Total Recall

Total Recall: David Fincher's Filmography

We present the work of the Social Network director in chronological order.

by | October 1, 2010 | Comments

David Fincher

He’s given us aliens, serial killers, cerebral thrillers, shocking endings, and a glimpse of Brad Pitt as an old man — and now, with The Social Network, David Fincher has helped turn the story of Facebook into one of the most eagerly awaited (and best-reviewed) films of 2010. With that kind of track record, folks will bend the rules for you once in awhile, and in that spirit, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s feature to Mr. Fincher’s filmography, presented in chronological order. He may not have enough movies to his credit to round out a Top Ten, but many of the ones he has made are among the most compelling of the last 20 years. But don’t take our word for it — let’s see what the critics have to say, Total Recall style!


Alien 3

After making a splash as a director of music videos and commercials — including the legendary commercial clip that depicted a fetus smoking a cigarette — Fincher got his big feature break with the highly anticipated third installment of the Alien franchise. Unfortunately, all that anticipation turned to scorn once Alien 3 arrived in theaters, but it wasn’t all Fincher’s fault; as a rookie 30-year-old director, he never had a chance against the studio confusion and constant script doctoring that plagued the project. Not many people understood that in 1992, though, and it didn’t soothe Fincher’s frustration, which was significant enough to send him temporarily back to videos and commercials. Still, even if Alien 3 is widely regarded as the weak link in the original quadrilogy, it has its admirers — including Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman, who called it “a grimly seductive end-of-the-world thriller, with pop-tragic overtones that build in resonance as the movie goes on.”



Chagrined by his experiences with Alien 3, Fincher swore off feature films for a year and a half — and then he read Andrew Kevin Walker’s script for Seven. An unrelentingly grim portrait of a society in its hellish death throes, the grisly drama followed a pair of police detectives (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) in pursuit of a serial killer whose ingeniously executed murder victims serve as human embodiments of the seven deadly sins. Fincher, who’d become painfully well acquainted with studio interference while making Alien 3, was forced to defend his bleak vision for the film, which New Line nearly sent to theaters with a different, less brutally shocking ending — but Pitt refused to promote the altered cut, and the result was one of the biggest hits of the year, as well as a nightmare-inducing favorite for critics like Marc Savlov of the Austin Chronicle, who wrote, “Positively dripping with a soggy, oppressive atmosphere, the film is blanketed with a miasma of madness.”


The Game

Flush with the success of Seven, Fincher returned his focus to a project he’d begun earlier: The Game, a twisty psychological thriller starring Michael Douglas as Nicholas Van Orton, an investment banker whose wealth and success mask a personal life bereft of meaningful connections. On his birthday, Nicholas receives a darkly intriguing gift from his brother (Sean Penn): admission to a mysterious “game” with apparently life-changing results. And Nicholas’ life is indeed quickly changed — turned upside down, in fact, as he realizes that playing the game has profound, and perhaps even fatal, consequences. Though many critics were quick to point out the implausibilities in The Game‘s head-spinning plot, the majority were too wrapped up in its stylish thrill ride to care. “The picture provides Douglas with one of his best roles,” wrote Mick LaSalle for the San Francisco Chronicle. “If he doesn’t quite reach the bizarre heights he achieved in Falling Down, The Game makes its own demands.”


Fight Club

Yes, we are going to talk about Fight Club. Initially rejected by critics and ignored by audiences, Fincher’s fourth feature steadily built a cult following on DVD; these days, it’s widely regarded as one of the best films of the 1990s, which not only helped reaffirm Fincher as a director of stylishly thoughtful fare, but established the Hollywood bona fides of author Chuck Palahniuk, from whose novel the movie was adapted. The plot follows the eager descent of a nameless protagonist (Edward Norton) into the anti-establishment crusade of Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), who organizes the underground brawling network known as Fight Club, but on a deeper level, the story functions as a bloody, black-humored indictment of consumer culture. And more importantly, in the words of ReelView’s James Berardinelli, “Fight Club is a memorable and superior motion picture — a rare movie that does not abandon insight in its quest to jolt the viewer.”


Panic Room

A claustrophobic thriller with the heart of a B movie, Panic Room found Fincher taking another stellar cast (including Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, and a young Kristen Stewart) and dropping them in the middle of a tightly wound, tension-filled storyline. Panic sets in almost immediately, with single parent Meg Altman (Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Stewart) spending their first night in the huge Manhattan brownstone Meg has just purchased; what Meg and Sarah don’t know is that their new home contains some very valuable hidden treasure — as well as a trio of very bad men (including the skin-crawling Dwight Yoakam and a mysteriously cornrowed Jared Leto) who will stop at nothing to steal it. Where most Fincher films explore thoughtful themes and carry larger messages, Panic Room is mostly just a nail-biter — but one directed with uncommon flair. As Joe Baltake for the Sacramento Bee put it, “The star of this movie is Fincher, who has filmed it in a grand style that manages to avoid showy excesses.”



It’s a movie about one of the most famous serial killers in American history, and it was helmed by the director responsible for Seven — but 2007’s Zodiac is surprisingly light on gore. In fact, while he looms over every minute of the film, it’s really not about the Zodiac Killer at all; rather than focusing on the death toll left in the wake of his murderous spree, it examines the price paid by those who dedicated their lives to solving the case — specifically San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist-turned-sleuth Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his colleague, crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.). Zodiac is just as dark and visually arresting as you’d expect, given the story and who directed it, but its pensive approach surprised critics — not to mention Paramount, where the marketing campaign played up the story’s grisly element and misleadingly drew ties to Seven. It all added up to a box office disaster, and the source of some of the best reviews of Fincher’s career. Imagining that Fincher was “aching for a return to smart suspense films from the likes of Sidney Lumet and Alan J. Pakula,” Mark Bourne of lauded the way Zodiac “pulls us by the collar into the frame and cranks the sense of menace taut without cheap tricks or cop-out gimmicks.”


1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Turning an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story into a $150 million, 166-minute epic, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button reunited Fincher with Brad Pitt — who played the backwards-aging Benjamin — and found him delivering his most mainstream-friendly film since 2002’s Panic Room. It featured a marquee-friendly cast (including Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Taraji P. Henson, and Julia Ormond), revolved around the high drama of a man forced to live his life in reverse, and was stacked high with sweeping cinematography and a Forrest Gump-style survey of 20th century American history, making it the perfect Christmas Day release and an odds-on Academy Awards favorite. It ended up earning 13 Oscar nominations, but won only three (Art Direction, Makeup, and Visual Effects), reflecting the vague sense of disappointment that shadowed Button‘s eventual $333 million worldwide gross. Though it may not have been an unqualified smash, it still found plenty of critical allies — including Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal, who wrote, “The film quickly outgrows any sense of gimmickry and matures into a one-of-a-kind meditation on mortality, time’s inexorable passage and the fleeting sweetness of love.”

In case you were wondering, here are Fincher’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. Fight Club — 95%

2. Seven — 94%

3. The Game — 82%

4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — 81%

5. Zodiac — 73%

6. Panic Roon — 61%

7. Alien 3 — 55%

Take a look through Fincher’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for The Social Network.

Finally, here’s a Fincher-directed YM commercial featuring a young Angelina Jolie:

Tag Cloud

romantic comedy Sundance suspense Paramount Network SDCC TV renewals FX Super Bowl children's TV Oscars Pop Masterpiece hispanic superman news Lifetime 2021 spy thriller space summer TV preview Photos Native binge 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards royal family NYCC festivals OneApp Netflix reboot leaderboard Shondaland Cannes Countdown LGBTQ TV movies lord of the rings Sony Kids & Family Arrowverse BBC ABC APB posters Ovation 45 TCA 2017 fresh TCA First Reviews discovery sequel Brie Larson video Wes Anderson kaiju new star wars movies Peacock Indigenous Prime Video Ghostbusters Universal stop motion new zealand superhero serial killer wonder woman screen actors guild sitcom AMC football ABC Signature nbcuniversal X-Men Musicals golden globes Drama universal monsters History canceled 2019 Animation laika Watching Series Television Critics Association period drama 24 frames jurassic park A&E Disney+ Disney Plus 2018 Focus Features Fargo ViacomCBS twilight Instagram Live PBS mutant Marvel Studios Esquire crossover Trophy Talk Binge Guide Turner target scene in color christmas movies documentaries Emmys HBO BET Epix stoner dreamworks MGM Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt comedies marvel comics marvel cinematic universe Lifetime Christmas movies President Comic-Con@Home 2021 Extras dexter The Walt Disney Company Rocky supernatural Film target spanish language Quiz Fall TV cats revenge Funimation anime vampires social media political drama CMT feel good YouTube Disney Channel historical drama 79th Golden Globes Awards Pet Sematary Showtime golden globe awards italian aapi WGN adventure spain Pixar Sci-Fi Acorn TV all-time Star Wars Hear Us Out CBS All Access HFPA Geeked Week Rom-Com Song of Ice and Fire die hard Opinion ID emmy awards 71st Emmy Awards slasher Video Games MCU LGBT know your critic cartoon biopic james bond scorecard streaming Amazon Studios war films Universal Pictures politics Western OWN strong female leads dceu screenings basketball Neflix WarnerMedia Netflix Christmas movies asian-american 20th Century Fox south america Paramount Pictures TV One Music Cartoon Network vs. 21st Century Fox VOD Stephen King stand-up comedy sequels YA Britbox doctor who 94th Oscars interviews 73rd Emmy Awards Pacific Islander CBS Family Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Set visit Disney Plus Discovery Channel DGA indiana jones blockbusters razzies women king kong Spring TV Thanksgiving Walt Disney Pictures Classic Film Horror trailers 99% 1990s popular joker Polls and Games aliens heist movie critics Premiere Dates casting Sundance TV Comics on TV RT History cars prank talk show Toys game show blockbuster saw Baby Yoda movies hollywood transformers deadpool TNT Paramount Disney satire slashers The Arrangement series monster movies Mudbound Ellie Kemper hidden camera french 4/20 comic book movies dc obituary See It Skip It Broadway critic resources scary cooking unscripted Lucasfilm diversity comic spider-man Hallmark Christmas movies Red Carpet kids award winner MSNBC docudrama YouTube Premium Freeform USA zombies mcc Adult Swim Tarantino live event batman art house Crackle DC Universe action-comedy Comedy VH1 hist Crunchyroll Emmy Nominations teaser Reality Competition Star Trek Awards Vudu Shudder foreign FX on Hulu ITV new york theme song BBC America FOX Teen Spike nfl fast and furious Chernobyl best pirates of the caribbean travel YouTube Red TCA Winter 2020 Sony Pictures tv talk what to watch USA Network CW Seed boxoffice halloween tv nature zombie technology rotten halloween witnail free movies mission: impossible video on demand Film Festival ABC Family godzilla Holidays Best Director elevated horror CNN FXX Image Comics GoT green book Oscar Apple trophy Lionsgate comics live action Star Wars Celebration Country finale Musical worst movies concert Captain marvel crime thriller 2015 Infographic psychological thriller Women's History Month renewed TV shows movie Bravo sports TruTV classics Best Picture Fox News toy story gangster Tubi black comedy anthology Apple TV Plus a nightmare on elm street Podcast VICE Legendary richard e. Grant The Purge South by Southwest Film Festival 2017 psycho HBO Go NBA independent cancelled television book adaptation Christmas Winners comiccon Interview A24 2016 E3 young adult Martial Arts australia BAFTA boxing comic book movie kong summer preview ESPN AMC Plus Black Mirror Black History Month dark name the review Dark Horse Comics TCM GLAAD obi wan RT21 Tumblr Trivia versus TV Sundance Now Marvel Television justice league zero dark thirty rt labs critics edition Character Guide Election adaptation TCA Awards TV Land Endgame rom-coms high school blaxploitation Hallmark crime drama festival debate Exclusive Video olympics Grammys police drama Action rt labs Box Office documentary streamig Columbia Pictures Superheroes spider-verse dramedy Syfy book crime venice Best and Worst cancelled TV shows jamie lee curtis cops Hulu Fox Searchlight disaster cults SundanceTV SXSW 2022 scene in color series worst remakes ghosts latino Pirates Mary Poppins Returns rotten movies we love toronto El Rey game of thrones TBS rt archives San Diego Comic-Con IFC streaming movies Avengers Apple TV+ Holiday docuseries First Look Winter TV 007 PlayStation TLC harry potter child's play genre composers Tags: Comedy Sneak Peek Logo Spectrum Originals Amazon Prime Turner Classic Movies Marvel Nickelodeon Marathons DirecTV 93rd Oscars Travel Channel Calendar Academy Awards Fantasy Alien cinemax GIFs directors Mary Tyler Moore Nat Geo dogs mob Food Network Trailer robots scary movies Reality Summer Heroines cancelled TV series Starz The Walking Dead 2020 IMDb TV BBC One canceled TV shows thriller werewolf Nominations Tokyo Olympics medical drama legend cancelled japanese Rock Mystery Valentine's Day Anna Paquin 90s Best Actor Year in Review Awards Tour chucky Pop TV PaleyFest The Witch BET Awards MTV sopranos black Schedule Mindy Kaling Amazon spanish criterion Comic Book telelvision Cosplay comic books The Academy adenture DC streaming service Television Academy Certified Fresh The CW reviews Rocketman spinoff quibi DC Comics miniseries Amazon Prime Video based on movie mockumentary biography Comedy Central summer TV romance Paramount Plus Creative Arts Emmys indie Pride Month sag awards Writers Guild of America Mary poppins true crime SXSW Superheroe animated ratings international NBC 72 Emmy Awards Elton John TIFF Tomatazos television hispanic heritage month science fiction HBO Max Biopics japan Hollywood Foreign Press Association dragons Warner Bros. IFC Films singing competition Disney streaming service American Society of Cinematographers Best Actress E! facebook National Geographic scene in color film series franchise archives breaking bad natural history king arthur parents New York Comic Con scene in color broadcast