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David Fincher's dark films are what Hollywood movies aspire to be. In tribute to the auteur, we're looking back at some of his most beloved films.

Why David Fincher is one of the most influential talents in Hollywood

When observing any swath of today’s commercial Hollywood films, it’s clear the technique of these films is to deliver information to the audience in the most refined manner possible. This kind of filmmaking is more often found in genre or franchise works than it is in films from name directors.

But the most notable of filmmakers who have worked in this manner is David Fincher (Zodiac). In fact, Fincher has – more than any other filmmaker of his generation – helped pave the way for the refined technique that is at the center of modern Hollywood films.

As a young filmmaker, Fincher shunned the notion of crafting ponderous think pieces that his peers were creating. Instead, he honed his style by working in the flashy world of music videos before moving on to feature films. He has since worked on a long line of films with aesthetics that are built around stark shadows that overlay his deceitful characters.

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Over twenty years, Fincher has continued on the same road of exploring stories of mistrust through his stark cinematography. In fact, the visuals of his films are as dark as ever, but they no longer have a look of grit.

Since he started working with digital cinematography, Fincher’s textures are virtually smooth and marble looking. But for the cinema of Fincher, this is the essential part of his filmic evolution. For his filmography is not concentrated on the evolution of style or craft, but refining one’s technique.

It is by advancing this view of filmmaking that David Fincher has influenced this generation of Hollywood filmmakers. For his filmography is acclaimed, exhilarating, and increasingly refined. Despite their dark stories, his films are what Hollywood movies aspire to be. It isn’t just Fincher who’s trying to refine his technique – it’s all of Hollywood. In tribute to the auteur, find Fincher’s three best works below.

Fight Club (1999)

The first rule of Fight Club is: we will forever talk about how great a film Fight Club is. While the mind-bending adaptation has been criticized for being a men’s-only film filled with gratuitous violence, there’s no denying the story is a masterful reimagining of Chuck Palahniuk’s psychological drama about an unnamed protagonist struggling with insomnia.

Gripping, thought-provoking, and a truly iconic piece of cinema, the mesmerizing story is held together by the fascinating central character and his arc, played by Edward Norton (Birdman) and Brad Pitt (Fury) respectively.

Mindhunter (2017 – )

A controversial choice we know, as there are arguably far better standalone movies from Fincher’s canon to mention on a top three list. However, as a TV show with Fincher at the helm, we think Mindhunter is nothing short of a work of art.

Based in reality about the man who pioneered the science of profiling serial killers, Jonathan Groff (Taking Woodstock) and Holt McCallany (The Losers) give stunning performances as Holden Ford and Bill Tench – two FBI agents who expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and get worryingly close to all-too-real monsters.

Se7en (1995)

“What’s in the box?” A question we were all screaming at the screen the first time we saw Fincher’s neo-noir crime saga . . . that is, until we found out. The director’s dark, stylish thriller ranks as one of the decade’s most iconic, original blockbusters, in which two detectives (a rookie and a veteran played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman respectively) hunt a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.

It’s sinister, gripping, and a true masterclass in creating a distinct cinematic aesthetic, something Fincher has taught us about time and time again.

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