By Christian Holub
December 03, 2020 at 10:57 AM EST
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Credit: Merrick Morton/20th Century Studios; Netflix; Everett Collection

David Fincher movies feel like events — or maybe it's just that his newest one does, since he's spent the past half-decade producing TV shows like House of Cards and Mindhunter. Mank, which hits Netflix this Friday, is also personal: The screenplay for the biopic of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz was written by the director's late father, Jack Fincher.

Mank is the latest installment in Fincher's acclaimed but divisive filmography. From the eternally controversial Fight Club to the expectation-subverting Zodiac, Fincher's films have inspired a wide spectrum of reactions over the years. Here, we've ranked his filmography according to the letter grades they received in their EW reviews. You can see that some of them received glowing praise, while others got harsh takedowns. He probably wouldn't have it any other way.

Zodiac (2007): A 

"Zodiac never veers from its stoically gripping, police-blotter tone, yet it begins to take on the quality of a dream. It’s an analogue of the post-9/11 world, where the enemy is specific yet, by virtue of his self-projection, omnipresent, and therefore impossible to pin down. As the ’70s roll forward, the investigators move on to other cases, but Graysmith, the amateur, can’t, and Gyllenhaal, who marinates his boyishness in quivery tension, makes that obsession ours. Slithering into police libraries, interviewing suspects, tearing his family life apart, he’s eaten up by the need to know, and he makes connections no one else does, but does he solve the case? By the time he fastens on to a monster, maybe the monster (and maybe not), Zodiac leaves us haunted by the knowledge that he’s looking for something that can’t be found: a way to make the monsters go away." —Owen Gleiberman (read more)

The Social Network (2010): A

"It’s hard to recall the last serious movie built around a character who was this much of an intellectual scoundrel. Yet the creators of The Social Network — screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), whose dialogue here is so sharp it could slice ribbons, and director David Fincher (Zodiac) — have something tricky and emotionally complex up their sleeves. The story of how Zuckerberg put Facebook together, one Silicon Valley bong bash and venture-capitalist powwow at a time, is intercut with a pair of deposition hearings in which he faces down the two parties he ostensibly screwed over... The sizzling ethical-dramatic question that drives The Social Network is: Why did Zuckerberg betray these people? Or, in fact, did he really?" —O.G. (read more)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): A

"Directed by the high-grunge master David Fincher (ZodiacSe7enThe Social Network), the new Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sticks close to the spirit and most of the details of Stieg Larsson’s Swedish serial-killer novel, in which an officially disgraced left-wing journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), is hired to investigate a homicide that has haunted an aristocratic family for 40 years. Larsson’s plot is nothing more (or less) than a clever conventional whodunit festooned with glimmers of depravity. Fincher, however, teases out the full mythological grandeur of the material. He’s not just a great director — he’s an artist with the eyes of a voyeur, and he has made The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo into an electrifying movie by turning the audience into addicts of the forbidden, looking for the sick and twisted things we can’t see." —O.G. (read more)

Gone Girl (2014): A 

"Two summers ago, you couldn’t walk through an airport or ride the subway without spotting half-devoured copies of Gillian Flynn’s bruise-black thriller Gone Girl everywhere you looked. And for good reason. It was the rare page-turner that balanced beautiful writing, breathless pacing, and booby-trap plot twists that landed with the brass-knuckle force of a sucker-punch. Not surprisingly, it was quickly optioned and fast-tracked into one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the fall, with David Fincher behind the camera and Flynn (a former EW colleague of mine) adapting her own story for the screen. There were reasons to be wary, of course. Was Ben Affleck too smug — and let’s face it, too on-the-nose — to play the callow Nick Dunne? Was Rosamund Pike too icily ethereal and untested to play his missing wife, Amy? And how would the film handle the novel’s just-short-of-preposterous Big Reveal? Well, the answers are no, no, and…masterfully. Fincher and Flynn’s film gets just about everything right." —Chris Nashawaty (read more)

Alien 3 (1992): A—

"Alien 3 is a grimly seductive end-of-the-world thriller, with pop-tragic overtones that build in resonance as the movie goes on. Directed by David Fincher, a 28-year-old graduate of rock videos, the movie resurrects both the fear-sick mood and squishy-obsidian look — water dripping down dank walls, mysterious dark coils illuminated by shafts of light — that made Alien such a sci-fi mindbender. Alien 3, though, is quieter, more languid." —O.G. (read more)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): A—

"At any moment in this singular Hollywood spectacle, two marvels predominate, one technical and the other…Bradical. The movie has been in the works for years, pored over by Fincher like a favorite fairytale from his childhood. But only now has computer-driven wizardry matured enough to meet the story’s challenges so unobtrusively. Likewise, Pitt, a comely actor, is no longer the golden surprise he was 18 years ago in Thelma & Louise. What he is, though, is a phenomenon of heightened celebrity. And that rarified status, combined with good grooming and exquisite digital effects care, produces the exact force field of fame needed to take our breath away in that first moment on screen when, rid of gray hair, Benjamin is bathed in light that honors the movie-star beauty Pitt is. Was. Is." —Lisa Schwarzbaum (read more)

Mank (2020): B+

"Oldman, who picked up an Oscar nearly three years ago for his turn as Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour, leans gleefully into Mankiewicz's messy joie de vivre; a figure far too clever for his own good, and too self-aware not to know it. Fincher also seems to revel in his telling, faithfully recreating the ring-a-ding speech rhythms and lush scene setting of Hollywood's Golden Age (while also managing to slip in a surprising amount about regional California politics circa the tail end of the Great Depression). What the script — penned by Fincher's late father, Jack, who passed away in 2003 — never quite cracks is the machinery of the creative process." —Leah Greenblatt (read more)

The Game (1997): B+

"The Game has the ingeniously unfolding, Chinese-box structure of something like Deathtrap (as well as a genre-teasing 'postmodernism' that reminded me of Scream), yet it’s also infused with a chic aura of yuppie dread. A fantasy-nightmare of giving up control and plunging through the safety net of your own perceptions, the movie is an elegant piece of pop paranoia — Kafka as roller-coaster ride." —O.G. (read more)

Seven (1995): B

"Seven is a heebie-jeebies thriller, the kind people will go to for a good, cathartic creep-out. The credits sequence, with its jumpy frames and near-subliminal flashes of psycho paraphernalia, is a small masterpiece of dementia — the film itself seems to be breaking down in terror. Fincher has lifted a lot of tricks from Manhunter, but the canniest was to reveal just enough clinical carnage so that we re-create the details of the killings in our heads. Balancing out the sleek horror are Freeman and Pitt, who, within a stock old cop-young cop routine, spark each other." —O.G. (read more)

Panic Room (2002): C+ 

"Soon enough in Panic Room (the title divested, like Fincher’s Fight Club, of ”The”), real trouble does arrive from outside, in the form of three expert trespassers intent on retrieving something that is, to everyone’s misfortune, interred in the very shelter in which mother and daughter secrete themselves. And soon enough a pointed ode to New York City nerve-rack and survival skills dissolves into a far more average, less compelling, and sometimes just slapdash-vicious cat-and-mouse game as the intruded-upon battle intruders whose various personalities are as broad as vaudeville." —L.S. (read more)

Fight Club (1999): D

"Pitt and Norton enthusiastically throw their all into their unattractive roles, yet an inextinguishable flame of self-satisfaction burns in these vibrant young stars even when they’re painted and greased to look their worst. (Vanity be damned, Pitt revels in dental imperfections!) Meanwhile, Fincher, more obsessed than ever with atmospheric ugliness, never settles for the suggestion of pain when a loving, lingering display of it will do. I thought Seven pretty much enumerated all the grotesque torture fantasies on the director’s wish list, but that was before I watched Tyler initiate his new friend into the porno-Zen of pain management by pouring corrosive lye on the poor jerk’s hand and watching the flesh bubble and curl." —L.S. (read more)

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