Study Guide

Seven Introduction

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Seven Introduction

Release Year: 1995

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker

Stars: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey

Sin is kind of the "it" thing these days.


... Clearly not enough people have seen Seven.

In the movie Seven (or Se7en, if you're feeling funky), a mysterious killer is murdering people in an increasingly brutal fashion, using the classic seven deadly sins—gluttony, envy, wrath, pride, lust, greed, and sloth—as his inspiration.

It's suspenseful. It's intense. It's gory.

It's David Fincher.

Seven is one of director Fincher's earliest films, based on an original screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker. Fincher would go on to direct some of the creepiest and weirdest movies out there (The Game, Panic Room) and plenty of movies based on disturbing bestsellers (Gone Girl, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). This guy is all about bringing depravity to the silver screen.

And, as we see in Seven, Fincher has always been depraved.

He's also always been attracted to big names. In Seven, the two detectives are played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. The actor playing the killer was kept a secret from filmgoers in 1995—back when secrets were still possible to keep—but we're here to spoil a two-decades-old film and tell you that it's Kevin Spacey at his creepiest. Finally, Pitt's wife is played by Pitt's then-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow, and even the delivery driver is related to Patricia Arquette.

With all of the big names and the twisty, shocking plot, Seven was a huge hit for New Line Cinema in 1995, redefining the word "gross" in a couple of different ways. It raked in a massive $327 million worldwide. Against a budget of $33 million, that's a hefty profit, which can finance a lot of vices for many producers and investors—not that they would indulge in any sinful activity, of course. Critically, it was also a huge smash, certified almost 80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and winning prestigious golden popcorn buckets from MTV for Best Movie and Most Desirable Male—Brad Pitt.


So grab your most sinful movie treats—popcorn with real butter, Milk Duds, a soda you can swim in—and sit down for one of the most twisted psychological thrillers ever.

If you can keep your appetite, that is.

What is Seven About and Why Should I Care?

Like one of the Seven Wonders of the Movie World, Seven is a landmark film. It's creepy as all get-out, for one thing, and it inspired a load of copycat films, each one trying to ratchet up the gore and the thrills, like The Bone Collector (1999), Kiss the Girls (1997) (also with Morgan Freeman), and Copycat (1995), which, to be fair, came out only a month after Seven but is definitely the poor man's Seven.

It's a three or a four at best.

The real reason for Seven's lasting popularity is that it emphasizes the psychological part of the psychological thriller. The serial creepers of The Silence of the Lambs kill because they like eating people (yum) or wearing people (how stylish). John Doe in Seven kills to make a statement, a statement about humanity's capacity for sin. Seven examines not just the psychology of the killer but the psychology of his victims and the detectives pursuing him.

Seven makes everyone—religious or not—think about sin ... and what it's doing to society.

It also forces people to examine their inaction, too. Perhaps the greatest sin is apathy, like sitting around and watching Seven for the 17th time instead of actually getting out and doing something. Seven suggests that apathy has gotten the world into the state it is in, but it punishes those who try to do something about it. It's quite the paradox, and one you can pick apart for hours. And, considering the film's continued popularity, you can talk about it for years.

So, you might as well sit down and watch it for the 18th time to refresh your memory.


Kevin Spacey's name is not in the opening credits to surprise audiences—at least in the '90s, before widespread Internet use—with the killer's identity. (Source)

Want to check out the place that Tracy and Detective Somerset have a cup of joe? It's the Quality Café in downtown L.A. It's been shut down and is only used for filming now, so you might recognize it from some other famous shots. (Source)

Could there be an eighth deadly sin? This blogger suggests the eighth deadly sin is being a workaholic. So stop what you're doing, read this article, and go nap for the rest of the day. (Don't do that.) (Source)

Seven Resources


Sins of the Filmmaker
This Seven movie fansite doesn't have too much content, but it does have a list of movie goofs.

Book or TV Adaptations

Seven Deadly Covers
Warning: the Seven comic-book adaptation might be more grotesque than the film itself.

Articles and Interviews

Penn to Paper
Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker tells Penn State that Seven is his personal favorite of the films he's written. We have to agree!

Two Thumbs Still Attached
Roger Ebert puts Seven on his great-movie list, even though it's Fincher's darkest—literally. Why are all the light bulbs so dim?

No Torture, Please
Hate "torture porn" films like Saw and Hostel? Don't blame David Fincher. He doesn't think Seven started the genre.

A Bloody Yarn
Fincher reveals why he made Seven in this interview. (Being a fan of Psycho had something to do with it.)


Seven Minutes With Brad
This interviewer asks Brad Pitt hard-hitting questions like, "What did you think of the editing?"

What's in the Trailer?!
An intense movie has an equally intense trailer.

Thoughts Versus Action
All of the cast members get to be talking heads here—heads still attached! And, for some reason, it's subtitled in French, so you get to know how to say the seven deadly sins en Francais.


In Your Imagination
David Fincher disputes Seven being "super grisly" because all of the actual violence takes place off-screen and, no, you don't see Gwyneth's head in the box.

Title Type
This cool commentary dissects the title sequence of the film.


Dear Diary
The film crew actually created many pages of John Doe's crazy notebooks. There's a gallery of the insanity on the DVD, but here's a preview.

Fires of Hell
This French DVD cover for Seven is very fire & brimstone & Brad Pitt.

Seven Hundred Deadly Sins
The Seven Blu-ray cover makes a bloody mess by listing the sins over and over again.

What's on the Poster?!
This Seven minimalist poster zeroes in on the horrifying package at the end but makes it look so unassuming. Special delivery!

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