David Fincher, the film director and producer who was previously nominated for an Academy Award for his work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, is part of a rare group of filmmakers to begin a career in the field of visual effects.
Plotting his way through the industry from the world of animation, having worked with George Lucas on Twice Upon a Time in the early 1980s, Fincher went on to hone his cinematic skills as an assistant cameraman and matte photographer on the set of iconic films such as Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
From there, with his love for cinema growing to new lengths, Fincher made his move into directing by creating an advertisement for the American Cancer Society that depicted the harrowing scene of a foetus smoking a cigarette—a decision which matched the likes of Spike Jonze and Zack Snyder who also began their careers as a propaganda filmmaker.
Continually studying cinema while trying to make his breakthrough in the industry, Fincher created advertisements for major mainstream companies such as Levi’s, Nike, Sony, Coca-Cola, Chanel and more, while the budding filmmaker made the next step when he began working closely with Madonna in creating the popstar’s music videos for the majority of the 1980s. His big break, however, would come in 1992 when made his feature film directional debut with the big-budget 20th Century Fox effort Alien 3.
Fincher’s hands-on approach to filmmaking has led him to create a series of acclaimed pictures such as Seven, Fight Club, Gone Girl and, more recently, his major Netflix production Mank. By working his way through different aspects of cinema rather than taking a conventional approach to the studying of his craft, Fincher has gained an invaluable level of the film industry from the ground up. “Directing ain’t about drawing a neat little picture and showing it to the cameraman,” Fincher once said. “I didn’t want to go to film school. I didn’t know what the point was. The fact is, you don’t know what directing is until the sun is setting and you’ve got to get five shots and you’re only going to get two.”
He added: “Filmmaking isn’t if you can just strap on a camera onto an actor, and steadicam, and point it at their face, and follow them through the movie, that is not what moviemaking is, that is not what it’s about. It’s not just about getting a performance. It’s also about the psychology of the cinematic moment, and the psychology of the presentation of that, of that window.”
While being a self-confessed cinephile, Fincher has always paid homage to some of the iconic cinematic moments that have helped shape his vision and, a couple of years ago, created a handwritten selection of those films which can be seen below.
Interestingly, when including Jaws, Fincher once said: “I don’t know how much movies should entertain. To me I’m always interested in movies that scar. The thing I love about JAWS is that I’ve never gone swimming in the ocean again.”
See the full list, below.
David Fincher’s 26 favourite films:
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – George Roy Hill, 1969.
- Chinatown – Roman Polanski, 1974.
- Dr. Strangelove – Stanley Kubrick, 1964.
- The Godfather Part II – Francis Ford Coppola, 1974.
- Taxi Driver – Martin Scorsese, 1976.
- Being There – Hal Ashby, 1979.
- All That Jazz – Bob Fosse, 1979.
- Alien – Ridley Scott, 1979.
- Rear Window – Alfred Hitchcock, 1954.
- Zelig – Woody Allen, 1983.
- Cabaret – Bob Fosse, 1972.
- Paper Moon – Peter Bogdanovich, 1973.
- Jaws – Steven Spielberg, 1975.
- Lawrence of Arabia – David Lean, 1962.
- All the President’s Men – Alan J. Pakula, 1976.
- 8½ – Federico Fellini, 1963.
- Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941.
- Days of Heaven – Terrence Malick, 1978.
- Animal House – John Landis, 1978.
- Road Warrior – George Miller, 1981.
- The Year of Living Dangerously – Peter Weir, 1982.
- American Graffiti – George Lucas, 1973.
- Terminator – James Cameron, 1984.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail – Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, 1975.
- The Exorcist – William Friedkin, 1973.
- The Graduate – Mike Nicholls, 1967.