It takes a very special person to direct a film. But for a director to reach auteur status, they must display a deeply rooted obsession with film. The word auteur brings many great filmmakers to mind, such as Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, and Alfred Hitchcock, but no auteur captures the theme of obsession on film better than David Fincher.
Fincher’s 2007 sleeper hit Zodiac, which follows a cartoonist’s spiraling descent into obsession after the newspaper he works for receives a cipher from the most notoriously elusive serial killer of the 20th century, epitomizes obsession in both the film’s theme and Fincher’s attention to detail. The film is a thrilling mystery/police procedural that grabs the audience from the opening scene and never lets go; even the film’s slower moments have you sitting on the edge of your seat. With every viewing there is something new to discover within the film, making it easy to become obsessed with rewatching it and finding new clues along the way. In cases like this though, it is important to recognize when to take a break and come back with fresh eyes. But don’t worry, this list contains nine films and two shows for obsessive fans to watch in between viewings of Zodiac.
This list wouldn’t be complete without containing at least one of David Fincher’s other films and Se7en seems to be the most fitting. Se7en follows a soon-to-be-retired homicide detective and his naive replacement as they hunt for a serial killer who murders based on the seven deadly sins. Se7en is a much darker and grittier film, but Fincher’s attention to detail is still apparent making it a complimentary feature to Zodiac.
Memories of Murder
Between the late 1980’s and early 1990’s South Korea had its own serial killer, and similar to the Zodiac Killer, the killer was never caught. Bong Joon-Ho’s Memories of Murder tells the story with such prowess and care as it follows detectives Park Doo-man, Cho Yong-koo, and Seo Tae-yoon on their desperate search for a serial killer. Fincher and Joon-Ho both have a distinct style. While both films share similar stories, they each are told from unique perspectives by two of the greatest directors of the last two decades.
Fritz Lang’s 1931 cinematic masterpiece M, which follows a morally-divided city that must come together in order to catch a child abductor, has had an enormous influence on crime thrillers over the past ninety years. Watching M and Zodiac as a double feature would make for a great history lesson as to the evolution of the crime-thriller genre.
Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners flexes an all-star cast including Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Viola Davis to tell a story about a father who pushes his moral limits in order to capture the person who kidnapped his daughter. Although Prisoners’ story pushes the line of morality with more aggression, both Prisoners and Zodiac show how far people are willing to go in search of the truth.
Silence of the Lambs
Heralded as one of the greatest horror films of all time, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs follows a female FBI agent who is assigned to interview an extremely clever and manipulative cannibalistic serial killer with hopes he will have insights on a serial killer who is currently at large. Anthony Hopkins gave arguably his most iconic performance in Silence of the Lambs as the cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (not to mention Ted Levine’s disturbing performance as Buffalo Bill). Zodiac also boasts its own creepy performance thanks to the great character actor John Carroll Lynch, who steals the few scenes he is in as Arthur Leigh Allen.
George Sluizer’s The Vanishing is a Dutch film that takes everything about the thriller genre and flips it on its head as it follows a man searching to find his girlfriend, who disappeared from a rest area three years earlier. It is best to go into this film cold and let the story play out before you. Like Zodiac, the ending of this film will stick with you long after the credits roll.
Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler dons yet another great performance by Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a sociopath with a drive to become the top stringer in Los Angeles by any means necessary. While Zodiac takes place when California was coming off the high of being the epicenter of 1960’s counterculture, Nightcrawler drops the viewer into the seedy underground nightlife of modern Los Angeles.
Brian DePalma’s unique directing style is in full swing in his 1981 classic Blow Out, which follows a sound effects technician who accidentally captures an assasination while recording sounds for a horror film. It is safe to say that both DePalma and Fincher are true masters of the filmmaking craft, and it is fascinating to see how each directs scenes of suspense.
The Zodiac Killer
Tom Hanson, who owned a chain of pizza restaurants, produced and directed a film titled The Zodiac Killer as an attempt to lure out and capture the real-life Zodiac Killer in 1971. Although the film is far from being considered a cinematic masterpiece, it is a bizarre little film that has a unique piece of Zodiac history behind it. The film also makes for a great watch with a group of friends.
Based on the book Mindhunter: Inside The FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, the Netflix original series Mindhunter takes a dark dive into the FBI’s early days of criminal psychology and criminal profiling. Mindhunter gives the audience a fascinating look inside the minds of infamous serial killers and the dangers of what one might find. Fincher is an executive producer for the show and also directs a few of the episodes.
The Most Dangerous Animal of All
In 2014, Gary L. Stewart published a book titled The Most Dangerous Animal Of All: Searching For My Father And Finding The Zodiac Killer, where he claimed that his father, who abandoned him, was the Zodiac Killer. FX released a documentary on the book titled The Most Dangerous Animal of All which not only follows Stewart’s journey for the truth, but also the aftermath of the book’s publication. This is a modern look at one’s obsession with the Zodiac case and how it is still able to drag people down the dark and twisted rabbit hole over half a century after the Zodiac’s first killing.
The list of films and shows for Zodiac lovers to watch could go on for a very long time, but the films and shows on this list are the essential ones to start with. They are not only entertaining, but rich with history and film knowledge. Plus, they may give obsessed fans new perspectives for which to view Zodiac on their umpteenth viewing.