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David Fincher’s movies that induce fear in the mind of the audience

Harshita Alok Sharma

Harshita Alok Sharma
May 23, 2021

David Fincher is nothing short of a genius - his layered films require acute attention to detail, the ability to keep up with a complicated plot and preparation for a surprise revelation in the end. He has garnered the reputation of being one of Hollywood’s few directors who always end up making something that is almost perfect. From making his directorial debut with Alien 3 to being a critics favourite at the 93rd Academy Awards with Mank, Fincher has come a long way. He has evolved to become even more nuanced and sophisticated in his filmmaking over the years.

There are certain themes that are always omnipresent in Fincher’s works - sometimes it’s disillusionment, other times its mystery. But, a significant aspect of his films has always been fear. The filmmaker has carefully curated a filmography where each of his projects has subtly played on different kinds of fear that a human being exhibits in the journey of life and this is what makes his movies extraordinary. Here are eight Fincher directorials that feature fear as an intrinsic theme of the film:

The Game
7.9OTTplay Rating
One of Fincher’s biggest psychological thriller entertainers, The Game is the tale of a wealthy banker named Nicholas Van Orton who gets a special gift from his brother on his birthday. Soon, he finds himself in the midst of a mysterious game that turns out to be the gift. The Fincher twist on this story is that Orton must attempt to survive and protect that which he holds dear. Where fear creeps in: Orton’s fear of getting killed overshadows his entire thought process. Ultimately, the fear of death - especially when it is brutal and untimely - is the biggest fear of all for most.
7.2OTTplay Rating
The plot of this Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman-starrer follows two detectives who are on the trail of a serial killer. The murderer, who is on a killing spree inspired by the seven deadly sins, gets entangled in the detectives’ chase and the film leads to an explosive finale. Where fear creeps in: Echoing the panic of the general public when violent murders by a serial killer are on the rise, Se7en will leave you feeling vulnerable and second guessing everything - exactly how the characters in the film feel.
Fight Club
9.1OTTplay Rating
Fight Club is one of Fincher’s best known films and rightly so. A nameless narrator (Edward Norton) joins hands with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) to form a fight club where all members revel in their pain and forget their worldly issues, until things start to spiral and get out of the Narrator’s hand. Where fear creeps in: The sight of blood, violent punches being thrown and intense wrestling scares a significant population but this is the fear of pain that the characters of the film don’t feel anymore. They have transcended onto a whole new level where pain does not scare them.
7.9OTTplay Rating
Zodiac is a perplexing but skilled tale - it is a newspaper drama on one hand and a police procedural drama on the other. The plot of the film follows an unsolved set of crimes that must be unraveled before further harm is caused. The film stars Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo and Jake Gyllenhaal. Where fear creeps in: The normalcy of horrendous crimes happening right under the nose of people and the frequency of serial killers taking the police for a ride but consistently leaving false trails is a scary thought in itself. Add to the mix a story inspired by real events, and you have Zodiac on your hands.
7.2OTTplay Rating
Gary Oldman is essentially the Midas of Hollywood and he proves himself to be exceptional once again in Fincher’s Mank. He plays the role of screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz who is struggling to finish Citizen Kane in the midst of his alcoholism, waning brilliance and ebbing motivation. Where fear creeps in: Mank’s silent regret of having squandered his best years away in a drunken stupor without having completed his Magnum Opus is reflected in every individual’s fear of failing in life. The importance of being recognised in your field is heightened in Mank’s character.
Gone Girl
8.3OTTplay Rating
Based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, Gone Girl revolves around Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) that goes missing overnight, leaving her husband in the shadow of overwhelming doubt. A riveting thriller, the film keeps the audience guessing till the very end. Where fear creeps in: Pike’s character portrays the extent to which a failing marriage can affect an individual and completely ruin lives. The fear of legal implications when a bonds-once-cherished falls apart due to adultery and lies is taken to another level in the film.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
8.2OTTplay Rating
This fantasy romance film presents the peculiar nature of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) who ages backwards as time moves on. As he becomes younger, he witnesses all who he loves slowly getting old. Based on a short story by F Scott Fitzgerald, the film is extremely inventive. Where fear creeps in: Though Button’s situation is the opposite of what a normal individual would experience, his fear of being forgotten by his loved ones due to his changing age is real. He wonders if he will outlive his beloved and if he will ever father a child that he can raise. The fear of losing out on big moments in life and the uncertainty of growing older (which everyone other than Benjamin seems to be doing) is what makes this film become a part of this list.
The Social Network
8OTTplay Rating
This biographical drama is based on the life of Mark Zuckerberg and his journey of founding Facebook. He faces multiple lawsuits, fails in his love life and is left friendless on his entrepreneurial journey to create something revolutionary in the world of social media. Where fear creeps in: The fear of uncertainty, of being left behind and of an idea failing for an entrepreneur is grave. The Social Network embodies these fears through Jesse Eisenberg who puts his work above all and suffers because of it, even if it takes him to the top.
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