More than two decades have passed since the release of Fight Club and it’s still hailed as the gold standard of a taut thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end. David Fincher toys with our expectations while holding his trump card close to his chest. Just when you thought you had it all figured out, he lays down his cards and you’re left stumped while grasping to rearrange the pieces in the puzzle. So, if you’re on the lookout for movies like Fight Club, here’s a list of gritty thrillers that we’ve curated for you:
1. The Game (1997)
A filthy rich businessman gets a strange gift from his distant brother on his 48th birthday. This leads to eerie events that suddenly turn his entire life topsy-turvy. Utterly paranoid, he starts to suspect that there are people out to get him. Can he find a way out in time?
As the story prods along, we’re in for a shock. It becomes apparent that the plot may not be as straightforward as it seems. Fincher in typical fashion throws in a couple of mind-bending twists that make you question the goings-on. Eventually, it all boils down to a satisfying conclusion as all the pieces begin to fall into place.
A large part of why we’re able to partake in this far-fetched story is Michael Douglas’ earnest performance as the leading man. We’re processing the information along with him and the way he reacts mirrors how we feel at that moment. Fincher takes an audacious risk with a convoluted storyline, but it pays off big-time here.
2. Shutter Island (2010)
Martin Scorsese’s moody thriller follows two U.S. Marshals, Chuck Aule, and Ted Daniels, investigating the disappearance of one of the patients on a mental asylum. Ted knows that something’s wrong with the place but can’t quite put his finger on what it is. He suspects that a conspiracy may be afoot and tries to get to the bottom of it. At the same time, he seems to be getting haunting dreams about his dead wife. This leads him to believe that the two events may be linked somehow.
As the plot begins to thicken, the secrets unbeknownst to anyone else until then start to resurface. We’re in for a shock of a lifetime which reveals the troubled past of a beloved character. Shutter Island is the kind of film that demands multiple viewings to fully grasp the overwhelming potential of this splendid masterpiece. It’s also fun to undo the film piece by piece and examine the hidden subtext about mental health.
3. Inception (2010)
The granddaddy of all open endings, Inception is one of Nolan’s best releases to date. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a thief who uses a one-of-a-kind modern contraption to steal valuable ideas from people’s minds. A risky mission from an esteemed client forces him to bring back the entire gang for one last heist. The proposition is to plant an idea instead of stealing it. This would require them to delve deeper into the dark corners of the brain. One wrong move and they could be trapped in limbo forever. With all those risks, can Leo’s team power through the task? Will they make it out in one piece?
Inception’s the kind of movie that manages to surprise you with a new angle every time you watch it. Even if you did know every single detail of the plot, Christopher Nolan still has something up his sleeve to blow your mind away. Watch it for the superlative acting and the ingenious screenplay.
4. Being John Malkovich (1999)
A struggling entertainer decides to take up a job at an awfully strange place. His boring life continues until a fateful day when he discovers a secret passageway. He comes to discover that the long path leads to the body of the acclaimed actor, John Malkovich. His unhealthy obsession with it leads to one disaster after another.
If the plot sounds extremely far-fetched, well that’s Charlie Kaufman for you. He creates a wildly imaginative world that takes you in and enthralls you when you agree to suspend your disbelief. Spike Jonze impresses in his debut feature as a director. He even makes a surprise cameo in the film as Derek Martini’s assistant. The acting is top-notch with John Malkovich welcoming the opportunity to play himself on screen with open arms. He’s joined by John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, and Catherine Keener, all of whom leave a lasting impression. Give Being John Malkovich a chance for its unique storyline and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Where to watch: YouTube
5. The Machinist (2004)
If there’s any character in recent movie history that comes close to the inherent craziness of Tyler Durden, it has to be The Machinist’s, Trevor Reznik. Trevor played by the tenacious Christian Bale is an industrial worker who’s teetering on the edge of death due to malnutrition. He hasn’t slept in days and is inching closer and closer to insanity. Paranoia threatens to eclipse him as he feels that a stranger is tracking his every move. Is this a mysterious man or just a figment of his imagination?
Bale inhabits the soul of the character to give a flawless performance. He had to undergo a drastic physical transformation, losing more than 40 pounds in the process.
The Machinist is a dark, twisted tale of guilt and suppressed personalities. The ending, like all other movies on this list, pulls the rug from under your floor.
6. Office Space (1999)
From the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head, Office Space is a social satire that explores the lives of three workers in a software company. They hate the work environment and decide to make amends. The three of them join hands to come up with an ingenious plan to extort money from their own company. But, things go awry and they only land up in more trouble.
Starring Ron Livingstone, Jennifer Aniston and Stephen Root in the lead, Office Space is a severely underrated dark comedy. It may have been a box office disaster when it released, but thanks to repeat telecasts of the film on Comedy Central, it’s gained somewhat of a cult status.
Very few movies spoke to an entire generation like Office Space did, addressing the grievances of the workforce. Several scenes from the film are now Internet memes. The printer scene was so influential that senator Ted Cruz ran a political advertisement parodying the scene. It demonstrated a certain Democratic candidate and her two assistants destroying an email server with a baseball bat.
7. Se7en (1995)
David Fincher’s neo-noir thriller follows two detectives, played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, and their hunt for a dangerous serial killer. Kevin Spacey delivers a bone-chilling performance as the killer who uses the seven daily sins as a motif in all of his murders. He’s always a step ahead of the cops and his reckless attitude leaves you concerned about what he might do next.
Both Pitt and Freeman are great in their respective roles. It’s inspired casting as the contrast between the ages and the acting styles add more layers. Given the star prowess, it’s no surprise that Se7en was the highest-grossing film of the year. Kevin Spacey’s John Doe was featured in the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest villains of the millennia.
This might be one of Fincher’s grittiest works yet. It’s dark, brutal, and definitely not for the faint-hearted. The ending is absolutely devastating and is sure to haunt you for days.
There you go. These are films we think you might like, if you’ve loved Fight Club. We also recommend Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko and Jacob’s Ladder, a psychological horror film. Movies like Fight Club always get better on a second viewing offering a fresh perspective. Also, you might end up noticing the Starbucks cup that’s rumored to be conveniently hidden in a lot of frames across the film.