Fight Club is a 1999 film based on the 1996 novel of the same name by
Chuck Palahniuk. The film was directed by David Fincher, and stars
Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter. Norton plays the
unnamed protagonist, referred to as the narrator, who is discontented
with his white-collar job. He forms a "fight club" with soap maker
Tyler Durden, played by Pitt, and they are joined by men who also want
to fight recreationally. The narrator becomes embroiled in a
relationship with Durden and a dissolute woman, Marla Singer, played
by Bonham Carter.
Palahniuk's novel was optioned by
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox producer Laura
Ziskin, who hired
Jim Uhls to write the film adaptation. Fincher was
one of four directors the producers considered, and was selected
because of his enthusiasm for the story. Fincher developed the script
with Uhls and sought screenwriting advice from the cast and others in
the film industry. The director and the cast compared the film to
Rebel Without a Cause
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and
The Graduate (1967). They said its
theme was the conflict between a generation of young people and the
value system of advertising. The director copied the homoerotic
overtones from Palahniuk's novel to make audiences uncomfortable and
keep them from anticipating the twist ending.
Studio executives did not like the film and restructured Fincher's
intended marketing campaign to try to reduce anticipated losses. Fight
Club failed to meet the studio's expectations at the box office and
initially received polarizing reactions from critics, becoming one of
the most controversial and talked-about films of the year. Critics
praised the acting, directing, themes and messages but debated the
explicit violence and moral ambiguity. Over time, however, reception
towards the film has become largely positive with critics and
audiences, finding critical and commercial success with its DVD
release, which established
Fight Club as a cult film. It is now
regarded by many as one of the greatest films of the 1990s.
4.6 Visual effects
4.7 Musical score
5.2 Theatrical run
5.3 Home media
6 Critical reception
7 Cultural impact
American Film Institute
American Film Institute nominations
8 See also
11 External links
The unnamed Narrator is a traveling automobile recall specialist who
suffers from insomnia. When he is unsuccessful at receiving medical
assistance for it, the admonishing doctor suggests he realize his
relatively small amount of suffering by visiting a support group for
testicular cancer victims. The group assumes that he, too, is affected
like they are, and he spontaneously weeps into the nurturing arms of
another man, finding a freedom from the catharsis that relieves his
insomnia. He decides to participate in support groups of various
kinds, always allowing the groups to assume that he suffers what they
do. However, he begins to notice another impostor, Marla Singer, whose
presence reminds him that he is attending these groups dishonestly,
and this disturbs his bliss. The two negotiate to avoid their
attending the same groups, but, before going their separate ways,
Marla gives him her phone number.
On a flight home from a business trip, the Narrator meets Tyler
Durden, a soap salesman with whom he begins to converse after noticing
the two share the same kind of briefcase. After the flight, the
Narrator returns home to find that his apartment has been destroyed by
an explosion. With no one else to contact, he calls Tyler, and they
meet at a bar. After a conversation about consumerism, outside the
bar, Tyler chastises the Narrator for his timidity about needing a
place to stay. Tyler requests that the Narrator hit him, which leads
the two to engage in a fistfight. The Narrator moves into Tyler's
home, a large dilapidated house in an industrial area of their city.
They have further fights outside the bar on subsequent nights, and
these fights attract growing crowds of men. The fighting eventually
moves to the bar's basement where the men form a club ("Fight Club")
which routinely meets only to provide an opportunity for the men to
Marla overdoses on pills and telephones the Narrator for help; he
eventually ignores her, leaving his phone receiver without
disconnecting. Tyler notices the phone soon after, talks to her and
goes to her apartment to save her. Tyler and Marla become sexually
involved. He warns the Narrator never to talk to Marla about him. More
fight clubs form across the country and, under Tyler's leadership (and
without the Narrator's knowledge), they become an anti-materialist and
anti-corporate organization, Project Mayhem, with many of the former
Fight Club members moving into the dilapidated house and
The Narrator complains to Tyler about Tyler excluding him from the
newer manifestation of the
Fight Club organization Project Mayhem.
Soon after, Tyler leaves the house without notice. When a member of
Project Mayhem is killed by the police during a botched sabotage
operation, the Narrator tries to shut down the project. Seeking Tyler,
he follows evidence of Tyler's national travels. In one city, a
Project Mayhem member greets the Narrator as Tyler Durden. The
Narrator calls Marla from his hotel room and discovers that Marla also
believes him to be Tyler. Tyler suddenly appears in his hotel room,
and reveals that they are dissociated personalities in the same body.
When the Narrator has believed himself to be asleep, Tyler has been
controlling his body and traveling to different locations.
The Narrator blacks out after the conversation, and when he awakes, he
uncovers Tyler's plans to erase debt by destroying buildings that
contain credit card companies' records. The Narrator tries to warn the
police, but he finds that these officers are members of the Project.
He attempts to disarm the explosives in a building, but Tyler subdues
him and moves him to the uppermost floor. Held at gunpoint by Tyler,
the Narrator realizes that, in sharing the same body with Tyler, he
himself is actually in control holding "Tyler's" gun. The Narrator
fires it into his own mouth, shooting through the cheek without
killing himself. Tyler collapses with an exit wound to the back of his
head, and the Narrator stops mentally projecting him. Afterward,
Project Mayhem members bring a kidnapped Marla to him, believing him
to be Tyler, and leave them alone. Holding hands, the Narrator and
Marla watch as the explosives detonate, collapsing many buildings
A soap salesman that the Narrator meets on one of his business trips
A traveling automobile recall specialist who suffers from insomnia
Helena Bonham Carter
A woman whom the Narrator meets, who goes to support groups for
catharsis, notices also faking symptoms
A man whom the Narrator meets at the testicular cancer support group
A man whom Tyler Durden recruits into fight club and includes for
missions for Project Mayhem
For academic interpretations of the film, see Interpretations of Fight
We're designed to be hunters and we're in a society of shopping.
There's nothing to kill anymore, there's nothing to fight, nothing to
overcome, nothing to explore. In that societal emasculation this
everyman [the Narrator] is created.
Fight Club was a coming of age film, like the 1967 film
The Graduate but for people in their 30s. Fincher described the
Narrator as an "everyman"; the character is identified in the
script as "Jack", but left unnamed in the film. Fincher outlined
the Narrator's background: "He's tried to do everything he was taught
to do, tried to fit into the world by becoming the thing he isn't."
The Narrator cannot find happiness, so he travels on a path to
enlightenment in which he must "kill" his parents, his god, and his
teacher. At the start of the film, he has "killed off" his parents.
With Tyler Durden, he kills his god by doing things they are not
supposed to do. To complete the process of maturing, the Narrator has
to "kill off" his teacher, Tyler Durden.
The character is a 1990s inverse of
The Graduate archetype: "a guy who
does not have a world of possibilities in front of him, he has no
possibilities, he literally cannot imagine a way to change his life."
He is confused and enraged, so he responds to his environment by
creating Tyler Durden, a Nietzschean Übermensch, in his mind. While
Tyler is who the Narrator would want to be, he is not empathetic and
does not help the Narrator face decisions in his life "that are
complicated and have moral and ethical implications". Fincher
explained, "[Tyler] can deal with the concepts of our lives in an
idealistic fashion, but it doesn't have anything to do with the
compromises of real life as modern man knows it. Which is: You're not
really necessary to a lot of what's going on. It's built, it just
needs to run now." While studio executives worried that Fight Club
was going to be "sinister and seditious", Fincher sought to make it
"funny and seditious" by including humor to temper the sinister
Uhls described the film as a "romantic comedy", explaining, "It has to
do with the characters' attitudes toward a healthy relationship, which
is a lot of behavior which seems unhealthy and harsh to each other,
but in fact does work for them—because both characters are out on
the edge psychologically." The Narrator seeks intimacy, but he
avoids it with Marla Singer, seeing too much of himself in her.
While Marla is a seductive and negativist prospect for the Narrator,
he instead embraces the novelty and excitement that comes with
befriending Tyler Durden. The Narrator is comfortable being personally
connected to Tyler Durden, but he becomes jealous when Tyler becomes
sexually involved with Marla. When the Narrator argues with Tyler
about their friendship, Tyler tells him that being friends is
secondary to pursuing the philosophy they have been exploring.
Tyler also suggests doing something about Marla, implying that she is
a risk to be removed. When Tyler says this, the Narrator realizes that
his desires should have been focused on Marla and begins to diverge
from Tyler's path.
We decided early on that I would start to starve myself as the film
went on, while [Brad Pitt] would lift and go to tanning beds; he would
become more and more idealized as I wasted away.
The unreliable narrator is not immediately aware that Tyler Durden
originated in him and is being mentally projected. He also
mistakenly promotes the fight clubs as a way to feel powerful,
though the Narrator's physical condition worsens while Tyler Durden's
appearance improves. While Tyler desires "real experiences" of actual
fights like the Narrator at first, he manifests a nihilistic
attitude of rejecting and destroying institutions and value
systems. His impulsive nature, representing the id, conveys an
attitude that is seductive and liberating to the Narrator and the
members of Project Mayhem. Tyler's initiatives and methods become
dehumanizing; he orders around the members of Project Mayhem with
a megaphone similar to camp directors at Chinese re-education
camps. The Narrator pulls back from Tyler and in the end, he
arrives at a middle ground between his two conflicting selves.
Fight Club examines
Generation X angst as '"the middle children of
history". Norton said,
Fight Club examines the value conflicts of
Generation X, as the first generation raised on television "having its
value system largely dictated to it by advertising culture", including
values such as one could achieve "spiritual happiness through home
furnishing", later to wake up to the emptiness of this "received value
system." Pitt said, "
Fight Club is a metaphor for the need to
push through the walls we put around ourselves and just go for it, so
for the first time we can experience the pain."
Fight Club also
parallels the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause; both probe the
frustrations of the people that live in the system. The
characters, having undergone societal emasculation, are reduced to "a
generation of spectators". A culture of advertising defines
society's "external signifiers of happiness", causing an unnecessary
chase for material goods that replaces the more essential pursuit of
spiritual happiness. The film references Gucci, Calvin Klein, and the
Volkswagen New Beetle. Norton said of the Beetle, "We smash
it ... because it seemed like the classic example of a Baby
Boomer generation marketing plan that sold culture back to us."
His character also walks through his apartment while visual effects
identify his many IKEA possessions. Fincher described the Narrator's
immersion, "It was just the idea of living in this fraudulent idea of
happiness." Pitt explained the dissonance, "I think there's a
self-defense mechanism that keeps my generation from having any real
honest connection or commitment with our true feelings. We're rooting
for ball teams, but we're not getting in there to play. We're so
concerned with failure and success—like these two things are all
that's going to sum you up at the end."
The violence of the fight clubs serves not to promote or glorify
physical combat, but for participants to experience feeling in a
society where they are otherwise numb. The fights tangibly
represent a resistance to the impulse to be "cocooned" in society.
Norton believed that the fighting between the men strips away the
"fear of pain" and "the reliance on material signifiers of their
self-worth", leaving them to experience something valuable. When
the fights evolve into revolutionary violence, the film only
half-accepts the revolutionary dialectic by Tyler Durden; the Narrator
pulls back and rejects Durden's ideas.
Fight Club purposely shapes
an ambiguous message, the interpretation of which is left to the
audience. Fincher elaborated, "I love this idea that you can have
fascism without offering any direction or solution. Isn't the point of
fascism to say, 'This is the way we should be going'? But this movie
couldn't be further from offering any kind of solution."
Fight Club by
Chuck Palahniuk was published in 1996. Before
its publication, a
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox book scout sent a galley proof of
the novel to creative executive Kevin McCormick. The executive
assigned a studio reader to review the proof as a candidate for a film
adaptation, but the reader discouraged it. McCormick then forwarded
the proof to producers
Lawrence Bender and Art Linson, who also
rejected it. Producers Josh Donen and Ross Bell saw potential and
expressed interest. They arranged unpaid screen readings with actors
to determine the script's length, and an initial reading lasted six
hours. The producers cut out sections to reduce the running time, and
they used the shorter script to record its dialogue. Bell sent the
recording to Laura Ziskin, head of the division Fox 2000, who listened
to the tape and purchased the rights to
Fight Club from Palahniuk for
Ziskin initially considered hiring
Buck Henry to write the adaptation,
Fight Club similar to the 1967 film The Graduate, which Henry
had adapted. When a new screenwriter, Jim Uhls, lobbied Donen and Bell
for the job, the producers chose him over Henry. Bell contacted four
directors to direct the film. He considered
Peter Jackson the best
choice, but Jackson was too busy filming the 1996 film The Frighteners
in New Zealand.
Bryan Singer received the book but did not read it.
Danny Boyle met with Bell and read the book, but he pursued another
film. David Fincher, who had read
Fight Club and had tried to buy the
rights himself, talked with Ziskin about directing the film. He
hesitated to accept the assignment with
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox at first
because he had an unpleasant experience directing the 1992 film Alien
3 for the studio. To repair his relationship with the studio, he met
with Ziskin and studio head Bill Mechanic. In August 1997, 20th
Century Fox announced that Fincher would direct the film adaptation of
Producer Ross Bell met with actor
Russell Crowe to discuss his
candidacy for the role of Tyler Durden. Producer Art Linson, who
joined the project late, met with Pitt regarding the same role. Linson
was the senior producer of the two, so the studio sought to cast Pitt
instead of Crowe. Pitt was looking for a new film after the
failure (in the US market) of his 1998 film Meet Joe Black, and the
Fight Club would be more commercially successful with
a major star. The studio signed Pitt and offered him a
US$17.5 million salary.
For the role of the unnamed Narrator, the studio desired a "sexier
marquee name" like
Matt Damon to increase the film's commercial
prospects; it also considered Sean Penn. Fincher instead considered
Norton a candidate for the role, based on the actor's performance in
the 1996 film The People vs. Larry Flynt. Other studios were
approaching Norton for leading roles in developing films like The
Talented Mr. Ripley and Man on the Moon. The actor was cast in Runaway
Jury, but the film did not reach production.
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox offered
Norton a $2.5 million salary to attract him to Fight Club. Norton
could not accept the offer immediately because he still owed Paramount
Pictures a film; he had signed a contractual obligation with Paramount
to appear in one of the studio's future films for a smaller salary
(Norton later satisfied the obligation with his role in the 2003 film
The Italian Job).
In January 1998,
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox announced that Pitt and Norton were
cast in the film. The actors prepared for their roles by taking
lessons in boxing, taekwondo, grappling, and soapmaking. Pitt
voluntarily visited a dentist to have pieces of his front teeth
chipped off so his character would not have perfect teeth. The pieces
were restored after filming concluded.
Fincher's first choice for the role of Marla Singer was Janeane
Garofalo, who objected to the film's sexual content. The
Courtney Love and
Winona Ryder as early
candidates. The studio wanted to cast Reese Witherspoon, but
Fincher objected that she was too young for the role. He chose to
cast Bonham Carter based on her performance in the 1997 film The Wings
of the Dove.
Uhls started working on an early draft of the adapted screenplay,
which excluded a voice-over because the industry perceived at the time
that the technique was "hackneyed and trite". When Fincher joined the
film, he thought that the film should have a voice-over, believing
that the film's humor came from the Narrator's voice. The director
described the film without a voice-over as seemingly "sad and
pathetic". Fincher and Uhls revised the script for six to seven
months and by 1997 had a third draft that reordered the story and left
out several major elements. When Pitt was cast, he was concerned that
his character, Tyler Durden, was too one-dimensional. Fincher sought
the advice of writer-director Cameron Crowe, who suggested giving the
character more ambiguity. Fincher also hired screenwriter Andrew Kevin
Walker for assistance. The director invited Pitt and Norton to help
revise the script, and the group drafted five revisions in the course
of a year.
Palahniuk praised the faithful film adaptation of his novel and
applauded how the film's plot was more streamlined than the book's.
Palahniuk recalled how the writers debated if film audiences would
believe the plot twist from the novel. Fincher supported including the
twist, arguing, "If they accept everything up to this point, they'll
accept the plot twist. If they're still in the theater, they'll stay
with it." Palahniuk's novel also contained homoerotic overtones,
which the director included in the film to make audiences
uncomfortable and accentuate the surprise of the film's twists. The
bathroom scene where Tyler Durden bathes next to the Narrator is an
example of the overtones; the line, "I'm wondering if another woman is
really the answer we need," was meant to suggest personal
responsibility rather than homosexuality. Another example is the
scene at the beginning of the film in which Tyler Durden puts a gun
barrel down the Narrator's mouth.
The Narrator finds redemption at the end of the film by rejecting
Tyler Durden's dialectic, a path that diverged from the novel's ending
in which the Narrator is placed in a mental institution. Norton
drew parallels between redemption in the film and redemption in The
Graduate, indicating that the protagonists of both films find a middle
ground between two divisions of self. Fincher considered the novel
too infatuated with Tyler Durden and changed the ending to move away
from him: "I wanted people to love Tyler, but I also wanted them to be
OK with his vanquishing."
Studio executives Mechanic and Ziskin planned an initial budget of
US$23 million to finance the film, but by the start of
production, the budget was increased to $50 million. Half was
paid by New Regency, but during filming, the projected budget
escalated to US$67 million. New Regency's head and Fight Club
Arnon Milchan petitioned Fincher to reduce costs by
at least US$5 million. The director refused, so Milchan
threatened Mechanic that
New Regency would withdraw financing.
Mechanic sought to restore Milchan's support by sending him tapes of
dailies from Fight Club. After seeing three weeks of filming, Milchan
reinstated New Regency's financial backing. The final production
budget was $63 million.
The fight scenes were heavily choreographed, but the actors were
required to "go full out" to capture realistic effects like having the
wind knocked out of them. Makeup artist Julie Pearce, who worked
for the director on the 1997 film The Game, studied mixed martial arts
and pay-per-view boxing to portray the fighters accurately. She
designed an extra's ear to have cartilage missing, citing as
inspiration the boxing match in which
Mike Tyson bit off part of
Evander Holyfield's ear. Makeup artists devised two methods to
create sweat on cue: spraying mineral water over a coat of Vaseline,
and using the unadulterated water for "wet sweat". Meat Loaf, who
plays a member of the fight club who has "bitch tits", wore a 90-pound
(40 kg) fat harness that gave him large breasts for the role.
He also wore eight-inch (20 cm) lifts in his scenes with Norton
to be taller than him.
Filming lasted 138 days, during which Fincher shot more than 1,500
rolls of film, three times the average for a Hollywood film. The
locations were in and around Los Angeles, including most notably: The
Promenade Towers, Melrose Avenue, St. Brendan's Catholic Church, and
Michael Heizer's public art sculpture "North, South East, West". Sets
were also built in Century City. Production designer Alex McDowell
constructed more than 70 sets. The exterior of Tyler Durden's
house was built in Wilmington, California, while the interior was
built on a sound stage at the studio's location. The interior was
given a decayed look to illustrate the deconstructed world of the
characters. Marla Singer's apartment was based on photographs of
apartments in downtown LA. Overall production included 300 scenes,
200 locations, and complex special effects. Fincher compared Fight
Club to his subsequent, less complex film Panic Room: "I felt like I
was spending all my time watching trucks being loaded and unloaded so
I could shoot three lines of dialogue. There was far too much
transportation going on."
Fincher used the
Super 35 format to film
Fight Club since it gave him
maximum flexibility in composing shots. He hired
Jeff Cronenweth as
cinematographer; Cronenweth's father
Jordan Cronenweth was the
cinematographer who worked for Fincher on the 1992 film
Alien 3 but
left midway through its production due to Parkinson's disease. Fincher
explored visual styles in his previous films Seven and The Game, and
he and Cronenweth drew elements from these styles for Fight Club.
They applied a lurid style, choosing to make people "sort of
shiny". The appearance of the Narrator's scenes without Tyler
Durden were bland and realistic. The scenes with Tyler were described
by Fincher as "more hyper-real in a torn-down, deconstructed sense—a
visual metaphor of what [the Narrator is] heading into". The
filmmakers used heavily desaturated colors in the costuming, makeup,
and art direction. Bonham Carter wore opalescent makeup to portray
her romantic nihilistic character with a "smack-fiend patina". Fincher
and Cronenweth drew influences from the 1973 film American Graffiti,
which applied a mundane look to nighttime exteriors while
simultaneously including a variety of colors.
The crew took advantage of both natural and practical light at filming
locations. The director sought various approaches to the lighting
setups, for example choosing several urban locations for the city
lights' effects on the shots' backgrounds. He and the crew also
embraced fluorescent lighting at other practical locations to maintain
an element of reality and to light the prostheses depicting the
characters' injuries. On the other hand, Fincher also ensured that
scenes were not so strongly lit so the characters' eyes were less
visible, citing cinematographer Gordon Willis' technique as the
Fight Club was filmed mostly at night and Fincher purposely filmed the
daytime shots in shadowed locations. The crew equipped the bar's
basement with inexpensive work lamps to create a background glow.
Fincher avoided stylish camerawork when filming early fight scenes in
the basement and instead placed the camera in a fixed position. In
later fight scenes, Fincher moved the camera from the viewpoint of a
distant observer to that of the fighter.
The scenes with Tyler Durden were staged to conceal that the character
was a mental projection of the unnamed Narrator. The character was not
filmed in two shots with a group of people, nor was he shown in any
over the shoulder shots in scenes where Tyler gives the Narrator
specific ideas to manipulate him. In scenes before the Narrator meets
Tyler, the filmmakers inserted Tyler's presence in single frames for
subliminal effect. Tyler appears in the background and out of
focus, like a "little devil on the shoulder". Fincher explained
the subliminal frames: "Our hero is creating Tyler Durden in his own
mind, so at this point he exists only on the periphery of the
While Cronenweth generally rated and exposed the Kodak film stock
normally on Fight Club, several other techniques were applied to
change its appearance. Flashing was implemented on much of the
exterior night photography, the contrast was stretched to be purposely
ugly, the print was adjusted to be underexposed, Technicolor's ENR
silver retention was used on a select number of prints to increase the
density of the film's blacks, and high-contrast print stocks were
chosen to create a "stepped-on" look on the print with a dirty
Fincher hired visual effects supervisor Kevin Tod Haug, who worked for
him on The Game, to create visual effects for Fight Club. Haug
assigned the visual effects artists and experts to different
facilities that each addressed different types of visual effects: CG
modeling, animation, compositing, and scanning. Haug explained, "We
selected the best people for each aspect of the effects work, then
coordinated their efforts. In this way, we never had to play to a
facility's weakness." Fincher visualized the Narrator's perspective
through a "mind's eye" view and structured a myopic framework for the
film audiences. Fincher also used previsualized footage of challenging
main-unit and visual effects shots as a problem-solving tool to avoid
making mistakes during the actual filming.
The opening scene in
Fight Club that represents a brain's neural
network in which the thought processes are initiated by the Narrator's
fear impulse. The network was mapped using an
L-system and drawn out
by a medical illustrator.
The film's title sequence is a 90-second visual effects composition
that depicts the inside of the Narrator's brain at a microscopic
level; the camera pulls back to the outside, starting at his fear
center and following the thought processes initiated by his fear
impulse. The sequence, designed in part by Fincher, was budgeted
separately from the rest of the film at first, but the sequence was
awarded by the studio in January 1999. Fincher hired Digital
Domain and its visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack, who won an
Academy Award for Visual Effects for the 1998 film What Dreams May
Come, for the sequence. The company mapped the computer-generated
brain using an L-system, and the design was detailed using
renderings by medical illustrator Katherine Jones. The pullback
sequence from within the brain to the outside of the skull included
neurons, action potentials, and a hair follicle. Haug explained the
artistic license that Fincher took with the shot, "While he wanted to
keep the brain passage looking like electron microscope photography,
that look had to be coupled with the feel of a night dive—wet,
scary, and with a low depth of field." The shallow depth of field was
accomplished with the ray tracing process.
Other visual effects include an early scene in which the camera
flashes past city streets to survey Project Mayhem's destructive
equipment lying in underground parking lots; the sequence was a
three-dimensional composition of nearly 100 photographs of Los
Century City by photographer Michael Douglas Middleton.
The final scene of the demolition of the credit card office buildings
was designed by Richard Baily of Image Savant; Baily worked on the
scene for over fourteen months.
Midway through the film, Tyler Durden points out the cue
mark—nicknamed "cigarette burn" in the film—to the audience. The
scene represents a turning point that foreshadows the coming rupture
and inversion of the "fairly subjective reality" that existed earlier
in the film. The director explained, "Suddenly it's as though the
projectionist missed the changeover, the viewers have to start looking
at the movie in a whole new way."
Fincher was concerned that bands experienced in writing film scores
would be unable to tie the movie's themes together, so he sought a
band which had never recorded for film. He pursued Radiohead, but
ultimately chose the breakbeat producing duo
Dust Brothers to score
the film. The duo created a post-modern score that included drum
loops, electronic scratches, and computerized samples. Dust Brothers
performer Michael Simpson explained the setup: "Fincher wanted to
break new ground with everything about the movie, and a nontraditional
score helped achieve that." The film's climax and end credits
feature the song "Where Is My Mind?" by the Pixies.
Filming concluded in December 1998, and Fincher edited the footage in
early 1999 to prepare
Fight Club for a screening with senior
executives. They did not receive the film positively and were
concerned that there would not be an audience for the film.
Executive producer Art Linson, who supported the film, recalled the
response: "So many incidences of
Fight Club were alarming, no group of
executives could narrow them down." Nevertheless,
Fight Club was
originally slated to be released in July 1999 but was later
changed to August 6, 1999. The studio further delayed the film's
release, this time to autumn, citing a crowded summer schedule and a
hurried post-production process. Outsiders attributed the delays
Columbine High School massacre
Columbine High School massacre earlier in the year.
Marketing executives at
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox faced difficulties in
Fight Club and at one point considered marketing it as an
art film. They considered that the film was primarily geared toward
male audiences because of its violence and believed that not even Pitt
would attract female filmgoers. Research testing showed that the film
appealed to teenagers. Fincher refused to let the posters and trailers
focus on Pitt and encouraged the studio to hire the advertising firm
Wieden+Kennedy to devise a marketing plan. The firm proposed a bar of
pink soap with the title "Fight Club" embossed on it as the film's
main marketing image; the proposal was considered "a bad joke" by Fox
executives. Fincher also released two early trailers in the form of
fake public service announcements presented by Pitt and Norton; the
studio did not think the trailers marketed the film appropriately.
Instead, the studio financed a $20 million large-scale campaign
to provide a press junket, posters, billboards, and trailers for TV
that highlighted the film's fight scenes. The studio advertised Fight
Club on cable during World Wrestling Entertainment broadcasts, which
Fincher protested, believing that the placement created the wrong
context for the film. Linson believed that the "ill-conceived
one-dimensional" marketing by marketing executive Robert Harper
largely contributed to Fight Club's lukewarm box office performance in
the United States.
The studio held Fight Club's world premiere at the 56th Venice
International Film Festival on September 10, 1999. For the
American theatrical release, the studio hired the National Research
Group to test screen the film; the group predicted the film would
gross between US$13 million and US$15 million in its opening
Fight Club opened commercially in the United States and
Canada on October 15, 1999 and earned US$11,035,485 in 1,963
theaters over the opening weekend. The film ranked first at the
weekend box office, defeating Double Jeopardy and The Story of Us, a
fellow weekend opener. The gender mix of audiences for Fight Club,
argued to be "the ultimate anti-date flick", was 61% male and 39%
female; 58% of audiences were below the age of 21. Despite the film's
top placement, its opening gross fell short of the studio's
expectations. Over the second weekend,
Fight Club dropped 42.6% in
revenue, earning US$6,335,870. Against its production budget of
US$63 million, the film grossed US$37 million from its theatrical run
in the United States and Canada and earned US$100.9 million in
theaters worldwide. The underwhelming North American performance of
Fight Club soured the relationship between 20th Century Fox's studio
Bill Mechanic and media executive Rupert Murdoch, which
contributed to Mechanic's resignation in June 2000.
British Board of Film Classification
British Board of Film Classification reviewed
Fight Club for its
November 12, 1999 release in the United Kingdom and removed two
scenes involving "an indulgence in the excitement of beating a
(defenseless) man's face into a pulp". The board assigned the film an
18 certificate, limiting the release to adult-only audiences in the
UK. The BBFC did not censor any further, considering and dismissing
Fight Club contained "dangerously instructive information"
and could "encourage anti-social (behavior)". The board decided, "The
film as a whole is—quite clearly—critical and sharply parodic of
the amateur fascism which in part it portrays. Its central theme of
male machismo (and the anti-social behaviour that flows from it) is
emphatically rejected by the central character in the concluding
reels." The scenes were restored in a two-disc DVD edition
released in the UK in March 2007.
Fincher supervised the composition of the DVD packaging and was one of
the first directors to participate in a film's transition to home
media. The film was released in two DVD editions. The single-disc
edition included a commentary track, while the two-disc special
edition included the commentary track, behind-the-scenes clips,
deleted scenes, trailers, fake public service announcements, the
promotional music video "This is Your Life", Internet spots, still
galleries, cast biographies, storyboards, and publicity materials.
The director worked on the DVD as a way to finish his vision for the
film. Julie Markell, 20th Century Fox's senior vice president of
creative development, said the DVD packaging complemented the
director's vision: "The film is meant to make you question. The
package, by extension, tries to reflect an experience that you must
experience for yourself. The more you look at it, the more you'll get
out of it." The studio developed the packaging for two months. The
two-disc special edition DVD was packaged to look covered in brown
cardboard wrapper. The title "Fight Club" was labeled diagonally
across the front, and packaging appeared tied with twine. Markell
said, "We wanted the package to be simple on the outside, so that
there would be a dichotomy between the simplicity of brown paper
wrapping and the intensity and chaos of what's inside." Deborah
Mitchell, 20th Century Fox's vice president of marketing, described
the design: "From a retail standpoint, [the DVD case] has incredible
Fight Club won the 2000
Online Film Critics Society Awards for Best
DVD, Best DVD Commentary, and Best DVD
Entertainment Weekly ranked the film's two-disc edition in first place
on its 2001 list of "The 50 Essential DVDs", giving top ratings to the
DVD's content and technical picture-and-audio quality. When the
two-disc edition went out of print, the studio re-released it in 2004
because of fans' requests. The film sold more than 6 million
copies on DVD and video within the first ten years, making it one
of the largest-selling home media items in the studio's history,
in addition to grossing over $55 million in video and DVD rentals.
With a weak box office performance in the United States and Canada, a
better performance in other territories, and the highly successful DVD
Fight Club generated a US$10 million profit for the
The Laserdisc edition was only released in Japan on May 26, 2000
and features a different cover art, as well as one of the very few
Dolby EX soundtracks released on LD.
The VHS edition was released on October 31, 2000, as a part of 20th
Century Fox's "Premiere Series" line. It includes a featurette after
the film, entitled "Behind the Brawl".
Fight Club was released in the
Blu-ray Disc format in the United
States on November 17, 2009. Fox Creative chose Neuron
Syndicate to design the art for the format's packaging, and Neuron
commissioned five graffiti artists to create 30 pieces of art. The art
encompasses urban aesthetics found on the East Coast and West Coast of
the United States as well as influences from European street art.
The Blu-ray edition opens with a menu screen for the romantic comedy
Never Been Kissed
Never Been Kissed starring
Drew Barrymore before leading into the
Fight Club menu screen.
David Fincher got permission from
Barrymore to include the fake menu screen.
Fight Club premiered at the 56th Venice International Film
Festival, the film was fiercely debated by critics. A newspaper
reported, "Many loved and hated it in equal measures." Some critics
expressed concern that the film would incite copycat behavior, such as
that seen after A Clockwork Orange debuted in Britain nearly three
decades previously. Upon the film's theatrical release, The Times
reported the reaction: "It touched a nerve in the male psyche that was
debated in newspapers across the world." Although the film's
Fight Club "an accurate portrayal of men in the 1990s,"
some critics called it "irresponsible and appalling". Writing for the
Australian newspaper, Christopher Goodwin stated: "
Fight Club is
shaping up to be the most contentious mainstream Hollywood meditation
on violence since Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange."
Janet Maslin, reviewing for The New York Times, praised Fincher's
direction and editing of the film. She wrote that
Fight Club carried a
message of "contemporary manhood", and that, if not watched closely,
the film could be misconstrued as an endorsement of violence and
nihilism. Roger Ebert, reviewing for the Chicago Sun-Times, called
Fight Club "visceral and hard-edged", but also "a thrill ride
masquerading as philosophy", whose promising first act is followed by
a second that panders to macho sensibilities and a third he dismissed
as "trickery". Ebert later acknowledged that the film was "beloved
by most, not by me". He was later requested to have a shot-by-shot
Fight Club at the Conference on World Affairs; he stated
that "[s]eeing it over the course of a week, I admired its skill even
more, and its thought even less." Jay Carr of The Boston Globe
opined that the film began with an "invigoratingly nervy and
imaginative buzz", but that it eventually became "explosively
silly". Newsweek's David Ansen described
Fight Club as "an
outrageous mixture of brilliant technique, puerile philosophizing,
trenchant satire and sensory overload" and thought that the ending was
too pretentious. Richard Schickel of Time described the director's
mise en scène as dark and damp: "It enforces the contrast between the
sterilities of his characters' aboveground life and their underground
one. Water, even when it's polluted, is the source of life; blood,
even when it's carelessly spilled, is the symbol of life being fully
lived. To put his point simply: it's better to be wet than dry."
Schickel applauded the performances of
Brad Pitt and Edward Norton,
but he criticized the film's "conventionally gimmicky" unfolding and
the failure to make Helena Bonham Carter's character interesting.
Cineaste's Gary Crowdus reviewed the critical reception in retrospect:
"Many critics praised Fight Club, hailing it as one of the most
exciting, original, and thought-provoking films of the year." He wrote
of the negative opinion, "While
Fight Club had numerous critical
champions, the film's critical attackers were far more vocal, a
negative chorus which became hysterical about what they felt to be the
excessively graphic scenes of fisticuffs ... They felt such
scenes served only as a mindless glamorization of brutality, a morally
irresponsible portrayal, which they feared might encourage
impressionable young male viewers to set up their own real-life fight
clubs in order to beat each other senseless."
Fight Club was nominated for the 2000 Academy Award for Best Sound
Editing, but it lost to The Matrix. Bonham Carter won the 2000
Empire Award for Best British Actress. The Online Film Critics
Society also nominated
Fight Club for Best Film, Best Director, Best
Actor (Norton), Best Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay (Uhls).
Though the film won none of the awards, the organization listed Fight
Club as one of the top ten films of 1999. The soundtrack was
nominated for a BRIT Award, losing to Notting Hill.
On Rotten Tomatoes,
Fight Club holds a rating of 79%, based on 165
reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's consensus reads,
"Solid acting, amazing direction, and elaborate production design make
Fight Club a wild ride." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 66
out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable
Fight Club was one of the most controversial and talked-about films of
the 1990s. Like other films released that year, including
Being John Malkovich
Being John Malkovich and Three Kings,
Fight Club was
recognized as an innovator in cinematic form and style since it
exploited new developments in filmmaking technology. After Fight
Club's theatrical release, it became more popular via word of
mouth, and the positive reception of the DVD established it as a
cult film that David Ansen of
Newsweek conjectured would enjoy
"perennial" fame. The film's success also heightened
Palahniuk's profile to global renown.
Following Fight Club's release, several fight clubs were reported to
have started in the United States. A "Gentleman's Fight Club" was
Menlo Park, California
Menlo Park, California in 2000 and had members mostly from
the tech industry. Teens and preteens in Texas, New Jersey,
Washington state, and Alaska also initiated fight clubs and posted
videos of their fights online, leading authorities to break up the
clubs. In 2006, an unwilling participant from a local high school was
injured at a fight club in Arlington, Texas, and the DVD sales of the
fight led to the arrest of six teenagers. An unsanctioned fight
club was also started at Princeton University, where matches were held
on campus. The film was suspected of influencing Luke Helder, a
college student who planted pipe bombs in mailboxes in 2002. Helder's
goal was to create a smiley pattern on the map of the United States,
similar to the scene in
Fight Club in which a building is vandalized
to have a smiley on its exterior. On July 16, 2009, a 17-year-old
who had formed his own fight club in
Manhattan was charged with
detonating a homemade bomb outside a
Starbucks Coffee shop in the
Upper East Side. The
New York City Police Department
New York City Police Department reported the
suspect was trying to emulate "Project Mayhem". In September
2015, two employees at Lightbridge Academy, a
New Jersey daycare
center, were charged with instigating "Fight Club–style" brawls
between children aged four to six years of age. The fights were
reportedly filmed and uploaded to Snapchat, a video messaging
application, and involved approximately a "dozen boys and girls". In
the videos, one of the perpetrators, Erica Kenny, can be heard making
references to Fight Club. The charges stem from an incident that
occurred on August 13, 2015, but investigators are looking into
whether the fights were ongoing.
A video game adaptation of the film, titled Fight Club, was released
Vivendi in 2004 for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and for mobile phones.
The game was a critical and commercial failure, and was panned by such
publications and websites as GameSpot, Game Informer, and
Fight Club was listed as one of the "50 Best Guy Movies of
All Time" by Men's Journal. In 2006 and 2008,
Fight Club was
voted by Empire readers as the eighth and tenth greatest film of all
Total Film ranked
Fight Club as "The
Greatest Film of our Lifetime" in 2007 during the magazine's tenth
anniversary. In 2007, Premiere selected Tyler Durden's line, "The
first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club," as the
27th greatest movie line of all time. In 2008, readers of Empire
ranked Tyler Durden eighth on a list of the 100 Greatest Movie
Characters. Empire also identified
Fight Club as the 10th
greatest movie of all time in its 2008 issue The 500 Greatest Movies
of All Time.
In 2010, two viral mash-up videos featuring
Fight Club were released.
Ferris Club was a mash-up of
Fight Club and the 1986 film Ferris
Bueller's Day Off. It portrayed Ferris as Tyler Durden and Cameron as
the narrator, "claiming to see the real psychological truth behind the
John Hughes classic". The second video Jane Austen's Fight Club
also gained popularity online as a mash-up of Fight Club's fighting
rules and the characters created by 19th century novelist Jane
American Film Institute
American Film Institute nominations
AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes: "First rule of
Fight Club is—you
do not talk about Fight Club."
AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)
United States portal
List of American films of 1999
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