A David Fincher movie marathon for social distancing

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This article contains spoilers for several of Fincher’s films.

On April 1, director David Fincher’s 2010 drama “The Social Network” made its way onto Netflix’s streaming catalog. Fans of the film — a tightly-paced, unforgiving look into the formation of the world’s largest social media company — were rewarded with the opportunity to watch and dissect it 10 years after its release. While “The Social Network” stands as the seminal entry in Fincher’s filmography, those looking for a refresher on the director’s work can find many of his films available to stream or rent online. Considering that many of us are now at home, starting our own lists of rewatches and first-time discoveries, what better way to pass the time than to marathon some of the director’s signature dark, gritty and suspenseful films? Here’s our guide to the David Fincher essentials.

“Panic Room”

Several critics pointed out the unending feeling of anxiety that defined A24’s 2019 hit “Uncut Gems.” But if there is any film that manages to capture this same sense of dread and unease throughout a tight run time, it is Fincher’s 2002 thriller “Panic Room.” Starring Jodie Foster, in one of her greatest roles, as Meg Altman — a recently divorced mother protecting her daughter from a group of burglars that breaks into their home — the film features stellar performances from its supporting cast and manages to be consistently riveting up until its final moments.

“Panic Room” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and merits a rewatch not only because of its influence on tone and visuals in its genre, but also because it’s an effective, engaging thriller in its own right.

“Zodiac”

While “Panic Room” may have a run time under two hours, “Zodiac” is nearly three hours long. Fincher and the film’s cast, however, soak up every minute of this mystery based on the search for the “Zodiac Killer” in the 1960s and 1970s. Featuring controlled and distinctive performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, “Zodiac” brings out the best in its cast. Each actor approaches pieces of the mystery by embodying the perspectives of their real-life characters, who all have different professions: political cartoonist, journalist and police inspector, respectively. The film’s screenplay, which gradually introduces pieces of the puzzle in unexpected and unsettling ways, ensures that the film maintains a riveting tone throughout.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Based on the 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is debatably the softest, most traditional entry in Fincher’s repertoire. Featuring earnest performances from Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, the film — and all of its romantic and dramatic moments — is played straightforwardly and sincerely, despite the absurdity of the film’s central storyline. The tale of a young boy who appears to age in reverse, “Benjamin Button” wasn’t necessarily a hit with critics when it released, although it managed to receive a staggering 13 nominations at the 2009 Academy Awards. While the film may have quickly turned into mere fodder for age-related memes and musings about pop culture, “Benjamin Button” is well worth viewers’ time, even if just to see Fincher take on an old-fashioned Hollywood romance.

“The Social Network”

2010’s “The Social Network” is perhaps the most important film of the last decade, detailing Facebook’s early transformation from a small campus website founded by young Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg into a full-fledged corporate enterprise. While Facebook’s transformation of modern politics and markets has made “The Social Network” all the more disturbingly prescient, Fincher’s direction, aided greatly by a top-notch cast and a biting screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, still allows the film to shine outside of its modern context.

On the surface, “The Social Network” appears to be Fincher’s most lighthearted, or least most grim, film. But make no mistake — there’s plenty of seediness and betrayal in this cynical tale, which posits that one person’s success is always at the expense of another’s. 

“Gone Girl”

If conveying the depth of characters is one of Fincher’s greatest strengths, nowhere does he exemplify it more than in 2014’s “Gone Girl.” An adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, “Gone Girl” features an exceptional performance from Rosamund Pike as Amy, whose quest to enact revenge on her unfaithful husband leads her to stage her own elaborate disappearance. As seamless as Pike’s performance is, she manages to come across as utterly unnerving even in her quiet stillness, in sharp contrast to the frantic behavior of her husband, played by a convincingly fraught Ben Affleck. While Pike’s performance is central to the film, Fincher’s complementary ability to build suspense through every moment comes across as effectively as ever.

“Streaming Diaries” articles are recommendations from Daily Cal staff members on underrated content available on streaming platforms.

Anagha Komaragiri covers film. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @aaanaghaaa.