Ranked: Every David Fincher movie rated from worst to best

Fight Club
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

If you've read any interview with the myriad of actors who've worked with director David Fincher over the years, you'll likely come away with a version of the same story. Not only does he make actors work harder than most of his peers, but he likes to do a lot of takes. And by "a lot", we mean a lot. Actors including Jake Gyllenhaal and Rooney Mara have gone into detail about the sheer volume of goes each scene takes, with Mara revealing she once did the same scene a full 99 times while filming The Social Network. 

Still, it doesn't seem to stop Fincher getting work or attracting good casts, and Mara, who you'd imagine must have been dreaming about the sound of clapperboard for months afterwards, returned to work with the director on his next movie. Why? Well, unless he makes a particularly excellent cup of tea, we imagine it's because they're happy with the final movie. 

Fincher started life as a cameraman, but cut his teeth directing commercials for the likes of Converse, Nike and Pepsi, before moving on to music videos where he oversaw a number of high-profile music videos for Madonna, Sting and Michael Jackson. Earning a reputation to get results and to work to budget, Fincher was parachuted in to direct Alien 3 after Vincent Ward was fired weeks before shooting was due to start. 

It proved to be a difficult start (more on that in a minute), but it gave Fincher the break he needed and from there he has grown and grown in stature, into the sort of director who earned the right to do endless takes. 

Thus far, he's made 11 full-length movies and we've decided to rank them in order of the worst to the very, very best. Let's dive in...

11. Alien 3

Alien 3

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Fincher's movie debut was a real baptism of fire, as, to use a soccer term, he was given a hospital pass with Alien 3. 

The third instalment of Alien went through endless writers and actually began production without a finished script. In fact, the shoot was such a mess that star Sigourney Weaver, who had shaved her head for the film, and, having wrapped production, began to grow it back, was then told she would be required for reshoots and that she had to shave it again, something that she was reportedly paid $300,000 to do.  

The movie's plot follows Weaver's Ripley, who, after escaping at the end of Aliens, crash lands on Fiorina 161, a bleak wasteland inhabited by former inmates of the planet's maximum security prison. 

Sadly, alongside her on the escape pod, was an alien, which quickly begins hunting down the prisoners and guards. 

There are some good action beats here and some classic bits of Alien terror, but it was the first of many bum notes for that franchise. Now, though by no means is Alien 3 the worst Alien movie (it's actually at Number 3 in our rankings), it was all uphill from here for Fincher. 

10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Benjamin Button

(Image credit: Paramount)

It's testament to the strength of Fincher's back catalogue that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a movie which got nominated for 13 Oscars and took almost $350 million at the box office, is in second to last place in this rundown.

Loosely based on the 1922 short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the movie stars Brad Pitt as the titular character, a man who ages in reverse. 

While well told, the movie's 166-minute runtime sags somewhat and it's a lot more schmaltzy than Fincher's other work. A technical marvel, the movie ended up winning Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Visual Effects. 

That sums up Benjamin Button, a marvellous technical achievement, but not a stellar story. 

9. Panic Room

Panic Room

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

A tight, claustrophobic thriller, Fincher brought together Jodie Foster and a young Kristen Stewart to tell this home-invasion drama. 

Foster played Meg Altman, a new divorcee, who moves with her 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, into a four-story house in New York City's Upper West Side. They discover when looking around the house that the previous owner, a reclusive millionaire, installed a "panic room" to protect the occupants from intruders. 

On their first night in the house, three men break in, forcing Meg and Sarah to hide in the panic room. Sadly, the thing the men want is hidden inside. 

Cleverly scripted, packed with tension and well cast, this is a classic action thriller, the kind that you largely see on Netflix and Prime Video now. It holds up really well. 

8. The Game

The Game

(Image credit: Polygram)

Fincher followed up his hugely acclaimed and hugely lucrative sophomore effort, Se7en, with The Game, a 1997 thriller with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in key roles. 

Douglas plays Nicolas van Orton, a wealthy investment banker, who, seeming bored in day-to-day existence, is given a mysterious gift by his brother, a  voucher for a game offered by a company called Consumer Recreation Services, promising that it will change his life

The game, it turns out, blends with van Orton's real-life in a way that's all too real and he gets dragged into a conspiracy. 

Twisty, turny, thrilling and full of scares, this is very much in the classic 1990s thriller ilk, but good fun all the same. 

7. Mank


(Image credit: Netflix)

Fincher and Netflix came together to produce Mank, a love letter to old Hollywood, which is based on a screenplay by his late father Jack. 

Shot entirely in black and white, the movie stars Gary Oldman as screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. We meet Mankiewicz in 1940, where flush film studio RKO has hired rising star Orson Welles under a contract that gives him full creative control of his movies.

For his first film, Welles decides to call in Mankiewicz, something of a washed-up alcoholic at this point in his life, to write the screenplay. That movie? Citizen Kane. 

Led by Oldman but with a supporting cast that also includes Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke and Charles Dance, the movie is probably Fincher's oddest, but also one of his most-compelling. No wonder it got nominated for 10 Oscars. 

6. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Fincher's 2011 adaptation of Stieg Larsson's hugely successful novel did not do enough at the box office to earn itself the green light for a planned trilogy, but that doesn't take away from it being a damn-good thriller. 

For the movie, Fincher brought together Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, with Craig playing journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Mara as Lisbeth Salander, the damaged, eccentric, but brilliant hacker with an eye for spotting criminality. 

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tells the story of Blomkvist's investigation to find out what happened to a girl from a wealthy family who disappeared 40 years prior, a job he is given after his journalism career falls apart.

Stylishly shot, unflinchingly violent and beautifully scored (as so many of Fincher's movies have been) by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, it might have not have started a trilogy, but it's still well worth revisiting. 

5. Zodiac

Best Netflix movies UK Zodiac

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Fincher's 2007 drama is one of the most underrated movies of the last 20 years and still holds up incredibly well if you sit down to watch it now. 

The movie, which stars Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr, follows the still unsolved case of the infamous Zodiac Killer, a serial murderer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

With the murder still unsolved. this isn't about the case, its about the journalists and police detective who drive themselves to distraction trying to solve the case. 

Stylish, gripping and incredibly well put-together, it is a meaty watch at 157 minutes, but well worth it.

4. Fight Club

Fight Club

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Fincher's 1999 adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's surreal novel is an outstanding piece of work, making a novel that might have seemed to unfilmable into a coherent, powerhouse drama. 

Starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club follows Norton's unnamed narrator, who is dissatisfied with his boring day-to-day life and forms an underground fight club. 

Fincher gets Palahniuk's love of squalor and taste for the random bang on here and the movie remains a cult classic. 

3. Se7en

A still from the movie Seven

(Image credit: Netflix)

Fincher's follow-up to Alien 3 shocked everyone by its power, thrills and unflinching nature, and it's still a powerhouse thriller when you sit down to take it in now. 

The set-up is classic, Morgan Freeman's William Somerset is a police detective disillusioned with life and about to retire. For his final case, he is partnered with short-tempered but idealistic Brad Pitt's Detective David Mills, who is new in the department. 

The pair are tasked with investigating a series of murders and quickly realise they are inspired by the seven deadly sins, now they've got to find the man responsible before he manages to kill again. 

Gruesome, superbly-plotted and with an ending that will flaw you, Se7en is one of the great thrillers of the last 30 years. It's almost as good as...

2. Gone Girl

gone girl

(Image credit: TSG Enternainment)

Another note-perfect adaptation of a big-selling book, Fincher took Gillian Flynn's bestseller to the big screen in 2014. 

The movie stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as Nick and Amy Dunne, a couple about to embark on their fifth wedding anniversary, when Amy suddenly goes missing and Nick is accused of her murder. 

As the plot unwinds, it turns out Amy has been quietly plotting something, with Nick struggling to cope with his wife's disappearance while at the same time desperately trying to prove his innocence to a frenzied media. 

Pike is in the form of her life here as Amy, but Fincher handles the material brilliantly and delivers an incredible thriller. 

1. The Social Network

The Social Network

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

In the build-up to the release of The Social Network, a movie which saw Fincher team up with writer Aaron Sorkin to adapt Ben Mezrich's 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires about the founding of Facebook, the talk was all about how the only thing more boring than Facebook itself was the prospect of a movie about it. How wrong they were. 

The movie plots the founding of Facebook while Mark Zuckerberg is still a student at Harvard, following the lawsuits that resulted from its launches, first from the Winkelvoss twins, who claim that Zuckerberg stole their idea, and by Eduardo Saverin, the co-founder who was later squeezed out of the business.

Superbly cast, especially with Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as Saverin and Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker, who would play a key role in steering Zuckerberg's early decisions, the movie sizzles and crackles from minute-one. 

A searing, punchy and emotionally-charged drama, it is, for us anyway, Fincher's finest work, in what, as you can see, is a list of winners. 

In the mood for another ranking? We've run the rule over all of Martin Scorsese's movies, 25 films ranked from worst to best. 

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…