You Are Who You Choose To Be: ‘Fight Club’ Represents the Best and Worst of 1999

Every so often a film hits the zeitgeist so hard, the zeitgeist can’t get back up. Fight Club, directed by David Fincher and based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk, got about as destructive as you can get. The fight-the-system snarkiness with which it approaches the world is both positive and negative. Yet it’s a picture of toxic masculinity and frustration at the turn of the century might be the most insightful piece of art written about the world today. It’s impossible to discuss this year at the movies without the considerable influence this one left on a generation of dorm rooms across America.

BEST QUOTE #1 – “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.”

The Moment I Fell in Love With Fight Club

Like most teenage boys, it’s tough to pick the exact moment you fall in love with everything about this movie. Maybe it’s the first time you hear the quippy dialogue. Maybe it’s the big twist at the end that solidifies it. Maybe it’s even Meat Loaf weeping over Edward Norton at the first grief counseling session. The arrival of Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) contextualized the actress in a new way for the young generation that would watch her become one of the great franchise-spanning villains.

For me, the movie only really takes its shape once Brad Pitt enters the frame for the first time (in earnest). Once Tyler sits next to our narrator on the plane, the movie really takes off in a new way. Pitt dominates the screen every second he’s on it, and it simultaneously represents his weirdest, funniest and most charismatic role of his career. You either fall in love with Pitt or the movie does not work. It’s as simple as that. Coming off an Oscar nomination 12 Monkeys, Pitt hit his stride as a leading man. In the years to follow, he not only delivers the definitive performance of his career, but also tacks on SnatchOcean’s Eleven, Troy, Babel, and meets Angelina Jolie on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. A good five years that he then spun into a production company, Plan B. That company has gone on to produce Moonlight, Twelve Years a Slave (earning Pitt his Oscar as a producer), and The Departed. Fight Club marked the official rise of Pitt as a Hollywood powerhouse.

BEST QUOTE #2 – “The first rule of Fight Club is…you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is…you do not talk about Fight Club. 

Most Rewatchable Moment

Fight Club builds momentum through the first half of the film before launching itself into full-on domestic terrorism. But there’s only answer. Laying out the rules of Fight Club remains one of the most famous sequences in the film and with good reason. It’s shot to perfection, with the shadows and literal journey underground showing the direction of where the film is heading. Fincher really gets to showcase an aesthetic that would go on to define his career. He’s always worked best in the dark, and while Seven had already established him as a filmmaker to watch, Fight Club gets him the keys to an extremely dark second act of his career. The visual stylings of Gone GirlZodiac and more are all present in this sequence, and Fincher crushes the moment.

BEST QUOTE #3 – “His name was Robert Paulson.”

Best Moment in the Film

The reveal of Fight Club remains the signature scene in the film. I’ve already been accused of spoiling it for too many people, namely Rachel, so I will not go any further.

BEST QUOTE #4 – “I felt like destroying something beautiful.” 

Why You Should Watch It Again

In the age of social media, Fight Club needs to be understood more than ever. It’s simple to watch the movie and say that society sucks and the world is broken. That idea is simple and easy to grasp but ignores the message underlying the story. The movie and the novel function as parody, warning that this kind of man would exist one day. Domestic terrorism by misguided white men has become an epidemic in America since the film’s release. Columbine had occurred just six months earlier. Even in the past weeks, the type of masculinity depicted in this film has been responsible for more shootings in America than we would care to admit. The violence depicted in this film, and the misinterpreting of this film, has affected a generation of viewers.

Yet despite this, it remains one of the most essential films of the year and of the past twenty years as a result. It is at once an extremely insightful film and one that may have helped shaped the culture to resemble the world it depicts. The chicken or the egg debate can go on ad nauseam, but the artistic and performative achievement of the film is never in doubt.

Fincher becomes one of the definitive filmmakers of his generation after this film. Pitt becomes a full-blown superstar. Norton continued an extremely successful run as one of the great American actors. Carter begins a new era in her career. This movie represents a group of creative Hollywood legends coming together at the perfect moment with the perfect story to boot. For these reasons, and the ultimate sacrifice that Norton makes to stop his Id gone wild, Fight Club should inspire its audience to save the world, not destroy it. Fight Club is a beautiful act of creation, and it belongs in the conversation of the very best films of the 1990s.

What do you think of Fight Club? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments below! 

Check out “You Are Who You Choose To Be: The Films of 1999” Series running for the next three weeks at We Bought a Blog. Check back for a new film every day!

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