Fight Club is a 1999 American film based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. The film was directed by David Fincher and stars Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter. Norton plays the unnamed protagonist, an “everyman” who is discontented with hiswhite-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 him and a dissolute woman, Marla Singer, played by Bonham Carter.
Palahniuk’s novel was optioned by 20th Century Fox producer Laura Ziskin, who hired Jim Uhls to write the film adaptation. Fincher was one of four directors the producers considered. They hired him because of his enthusiasm for the film. 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 (1955) andThe Graduate (1967). Fincher intended Fight Club‘s violence to serve as a metaphor for the conflict between a generation of young people and thevalue 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 they restructured Fincher’s intended marketing campaign to try to reduce anticipated losses. Fight Clubfailed to meet the studio’s expectations at the box office and received polarized reactions from critics. It was cited as one of the most controversial and talked-about films of 1999. However, the film later found commercial success with its DVD release, which established Fight Club as a cult film. Critical reception of Fight Club has since become more positive.
In 2008, Fight Club was named the 10th greatest movie of all time by Empire magazine in its issue of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
The unnamed narrator is a travelling automobile company employee who suffers from insomnia. His doctor refuses to give him medication and advises him to visit a support group to witness more severe suffering. The narrator attends a support group for testicular cancer victims and, after fooling them into thinking that he is a fellow victim, finds an emotional release that relieves his insomnia. He becomes addicted to attending support groups and pretending to be a victim, but the presence of another impostor, Marla Singer, disturbs him, so he negotiates with her to avoid their meeting at the same groups.
After a flight home from a business trip, the narrator finds his apartment destroyed by an explosion. He calls Tyler Durden, a soap salesman whom he befriended on the flight, and they meet at a bar. A conversation about consumerism leads to Tyler inviting the narrator to stay at his place; outside the bar he requests that the narrator hit him. The two engage in a fistfight, and the narrator later moves into Tyler’s dilapidated house. They have further fights outside the bar, and these attract a crowd of men. The fighting moves to the bar’s basement where the men form a “fight club”, a routine opportunity to fight recreationally.
Marla overdoses on pills and telephones the narrator for help; he ignores her, but Tyler answers the call and saves her. Tyler and Marla become sexually involved, and Tyler warns the narrator never to talk to Marla about him. More fight clubs form across the country, and under Tyler’s leadership, they become the anti-materialist and anti-corporate organization called “Project Mayhem”. The narrator complains to Tyler that he wants to be more involved in the organization, but Tyler suddenly disappears. When a member of Project Mayhem is killed by the police during a botched sabotage operation, the narrator tries to shut down the project, and follows evidence of Tyler’s national travels to track him down. In one city, a Project 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. He suddenly sees Tyler in his room, and Tyler explains that they are dissociated personalitiesin the same body. When the narrator has believed himself to be asleep, Tyler has in fact been controlling his body.
The narrator blacks out after the conversation. When he wakes, he discovers from his telephone log that Tyler made calls during his blackout. He uncovers Tyler’s plans to erase debt by destroying buildings that contain credit card companies’ records. The narrator tries to contact the police but finds that the officers are members of the Project. He attempts to disarm explosives in a building, but Tyler subdues him and moves to a safe building to watch the destruction. The narrator, held by Tyler at gunpoint, realizes that in sharing the same body with Tyler, he himself is actually holding the gun. He fires it into his 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. The explosives detonate, collapsing the buildings, and the narrator and Marla watch the scene, holding hands.