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There are seven deadly sins, Captain. Gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, lust, and envy. Seven... You can expect five more of these.
William Somerset

Se7en (or Seven) is a 1995 American crime/horror/thriller film, directed by David Fincher of Fight Club fame and staring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as homicide detectives Somerset and Mills. Somerset is about to retire and be replaced by Mills in the department, but the two get caught up in a string of murders, each inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins and all caused by one intelligent and elusive Serial Killer. A distinctive dark atmosphere and a skillful balance of Gory Discretion Shots ends up creating a far more disturbing product than the Gorn films that try and emulate it. Often ranked with The Silence of the Lambs and Psycho as the pinnacle of serial killer fiction.


It provides examples of the following:

 Mills: Fucking Dante! Goddamn poetry-writing faggot, piece of shit! Fucker!

  • Cowboy Cop: David Mills. Subverted as Mills is obviously trying to be one but instead comes across as naive and impulsive.
  • Crapsack World: Detective Somerset and the villain seem to share this perspective on the world. At the end, Somerset states that the world is still worth fighting for, even if it is a shithole.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The grungy credits scroll down instead of up.
  • Creepy Monotone: John Doe, most of the time.
  • Death by Disfigurement: Invoked with the Pride victim, who killed herself. John Doe picked a very beautiful and vain woman and disfigured her, presumably to the point that plastic surgery would have been unable to restore her face. He then glued a phone into one hand (so she could call 911), and a bottle of sleeping pills into the other (so she could commit suicide). According to the villain, the woman was so full of pride that she swallowed the pills rather than go through the rest of her life with scars.

 Dr. O'Neill: He cut off her nose.

Somerset: To spite her face.

  • Death by Gluttony: Invoked with the Gluttony victim.
  • Death by Sex: Invoked with the Lust victim. A man was forced at gunpoint to wear a large razor-studded strap-on (strap-over?) with which he killed her by having sex with her.
  • Deadpan Snarker: David Mills, so very much.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Mills at the end of the film.
  • Detective Drama
  • Disposable Sex Worker: The Lust victim.
  • Dressed All in Rubber: Latex bodysuits were implemented by the killer for Lust.
  • Doing It for the Art: All of the books in John Doe's apartment? They're all real. One of the special effects companies hired for the film spent two months hand-writing every single one of them. Mostly by one guy who showed exceptional talent at writing journals like a crazy insane sociopath. He even included an authentic suicide note.
  • Empathic Environment: It's raining during most of the movie. The rain was meant to symbolize the third level of Hell, as described in Dante's Inferno. The idea is backed up by the numerous references to the work throughout the movie.
  • Eureka Moment: When Mills mentions that "just because the fucker's got a library card doesn't make him Yoda", Somerset realizes that the FBI is able to track the killer based on his reading habits.
  • Executive Meddling: David Fincher didn't want to do the voice-over of Somerset that appears at the end of the film (see Knight in Sour Armor; below), because he thought having a voice-over when there hadn't been one at any other point in the movie would be sloppy. The studio insisted, however, that the film end on a slightly more upbeat note then what was scripted.
    • And even that's debatable -- because it's the sigh of a tired old man who's seen too many horrors, but still keeps going out of what seems more like inertia than any actual belief that he can make anything better.
  • Fan Disservice: The Gluttony victim. He is naked on the autopsy table.
  • Fatal Flaw: Mills has a Hair-Trigger Temper, which John Doe exploits.
  • Faux Death: Sloth.
  • Film Noir
  • Finger in the Mail: A package is received from the captured Serial Killer containing the head of his latest victim — Mills' wife.
  • Follow the Leader: Compare it with later Theme Serial Killer flicks like Resurrection, Taking Lives, Anamorph, Horsemen, WΔZ, Suspect Zero or Saw. Of course that's not to say Se7en didn't borrow some elements from The Silence of the Lambs.
  • Force Feeding: Gluttony.
  • Freudian Excuse: Averted in the film; John Doe's actions are not attributed to a past since he never gives one. Played straight in the (non-canonical) comic books.
  • Gambit Roulette: Some of the murders are performed very impressively in terms of where and how they are discovered.
  • Giallo: It isn't one, but the film's visuals seem to be heavily influenced by the genre.
  • Gorn: Although it's mostly limited to Gory Discretion Shots. Most of the horrors are unfilmable and left to our imagination.
    • Which makes it even more terrifying. As an example, several people told Fincher that they couldn't believe he showed Mills' wife's head in the box. Fincher responded by pointing out that at no point in the movie is this actually shown; the image is all in the audience's mind.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: See Empathic Environment above.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: John Doe says he killed Mills's wife out of envy. Of course, given his agenda, he may have exaggerated his envy just for that purpose.
  • Hannibal Lecture: "It's more comfortable for you to label me insane."
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Toby from the West Wing, Dr Cox from Scrubs, John Shaft from Shaft, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, Funboy from The Crow (in his first acting role after his accidental involvement in the death of Brandon Lee) and some Hollywood star you may recognize. Oh, and God.
  • Implied Answer: How Mills finds out his wife's head is in the box

 Mills: Tell me she's alriiiiight!

Somerset: ...if you murder a suspect, David-

Mills: Noooo!

 Doe: And after him I took the lawyer, and both of you must have secretly thanking me for that one. This is a man who dedicated his life to making money by lying, with every breath that he could muster to keeping murderers and rapists on the streets—

Mills: "Murderers."

Doe: A woman—

Mills: "Murderers", John. Like yourse—

Doe: A WOMAN! So ugly on the inside...

 Doe: Don't ask me to pity those people. I don't mourn them any more than I do the thousands that died at Sodom and Gomorrah.

Somerset: Is that to say, John, that what you were doing was God's good work?

[Beat]

Doe: The Lord works In Mysterious Ways.

   John Doe: What I've done is going to be puzzled over... and studied... and followed... forever.

 Somerset: Well, in any major city, minding your own business is a science. First thing they teach women in rape prevention is never cry for help. Always yell "fire." Nobody answers to "help." You holler "fire," they come running.

  • Spoiler Opening: Averted. The actor playing John Doe is missing from the opening credits instead receiving the first credit at the ending.
    • However, we do see John Doe's removal of fingerprints.
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred
  • Stuffed Into the Fridge: Mills' wife Tracy.
  • Suicide by Cop: John Doe's death.
  • Suspect Is Hatless: How John Doe is described by his neighbours.
  • Tear Off Your Face: The Pride victim has her face mutilated and nose cut off by John Doe.
  • Thanatos Gambit: John Doe dies for his cause.
  • Theme Serial Killer
  • The Scourge of God: John Doe.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else: John Doe.
  • Throw It In: Brad Pitt broke his arm filming the scene he chases John Doe. Although the script required a (probably minor) injury, the cast and such were written into the film.
  • Vomiting Cop: One of the SWAT team members is about to throw up when they find Victor's (the Sloth victim) decayed corpse.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Andrew Kevin Walker wrote the screenplay with William Hurt as Somerset in mind. Denzel Washington, Kevin Costner, Sylvester Stallone and Nicolas Cage were all considered to play David Mills. R. Lee Ermey originally auditioned for the part of John Doe and R.E.M.'s frontman Michael Stipe was also considered for the role.
    • An alternate ending revealed that John Doe did not murder Mills' wife, only substituting a lookalike. Mills then has no justification for killing an unarmed man, and will spend the rest of his life in jail. Somerset decides not to retire, and instead gives his country house to Mills' wife and her unborn baby.
      • Another alternate ending features a dramatic shootout in a burning, dilapidated church in which Mills dies, and yet another had Somerset killing John Doe in order to save Mills from becoming "Wrath." In the finished film, the foreshadowing that Somerset will have to actually shoot his gun (or use his knife) is kept, but nothing comes out of it with the ending changed.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The name of the city is never specified. Tracy at one point mentions that she and David used to live "upstate", presumably referring to upstate New York, and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker said that the screenplay was heavily inspired by his time spent in New York, but that's about it.
    • In the novelization, Mills and his wife lived in a town named Springfield (probably Springfield, New York) before they moved to the city.
  • Wicked Cultured: John Doe. He uses the works of William Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, Dante, the Marquis de Sade and St. Thomas Aquinas, among others, as inspirations for his crimes.
  • Wretched Hive: The massive unnamed city where it takes place is a rainswept hell of apathy and suffering. Writer Andrew Kevin Walker describes the script as his "love letter to New York."
  • Written in Infirmity: After Brad Pitt severed a tendon in his hand, scenes were added to show why his character was wearing a cast.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: John Doe didn't anticipate Somerset and Mills discovering where he lived, which necessitated him stepping up his schedule.
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