The Social Network
The Social Network is a 2010 American biographical drama film directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin. Adapted from Ben Mezrich's 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires, it portrays the founding of social networking website Facebook and the resulting lawsuits. It stars Jesse Eisenberg as founder Mark Zuckerberg, along with Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, Armie Hammer as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and Max Minghella as Divya Narendra. Neither Zuckerberg nor any other Facebook staff were involved with the project, although Saverin was a consultant for Mezrich's book.
Production of the film began in 2009, when Eisenberg, Timberlake, and Garfield were all announced to star. Principal photography began that same year in October in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and lasted until November. Additional scenes were shot in California, in the cities of Los Angeles and Pasadena, as a portion of the film was set in Silicon Valley. In 2010, it was announced that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross would create the film's score, which was released on September 28, 2010.
The film was released in the United States by Columbia Pictures on October 1, 2010. A major critical and commercial success, the film grossed $224 million on a $40 million budget and was widely acclaimed by critics, who praised Fincher's direction, the performances (particularly that of Eisenberg and Garfield), screenplay, editing and score. It was named one of the best films of the year by 78 critics, and named the best by 22 critics, the most of any film that year. It was also chosen by the National Board of Review as the best film of 2010. At the 83rd Academy Awards, it received eight nominations, including for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Eisenberg, and won three: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing. It also received awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score at the 68th Golden Globe Awards. In 2016, it was voted 27th among 100 films considered the best of the 21st century by 117 international film critics.
In October 2003, 19-year-old Harvard University sophomore Mark Zuckerberg is dumped by his girlfriend Erica Albright. Returning to his dorm, Zuckerberg writes an insulting post about Albright on his LiveJournal blog. He creates a campus website called Facemash by hacking into college databases to steal photos of female students, then allowing site visitors to rate their attractiveness. After traffic to the site crashes parts of Harvard's computer network, Zuckerberg is given six months of academic probation. However, Facemash's popularity attracts the attention of twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and their business partner Divya Narendra. The trio invites Zuckerberg to work on Harvard Connection, a social network exclusive to Harvard students and aimed at dating.
Zuckerberg approaches his friend Eduardo Saverin with an idea for Thefacebook, a social networking website that would be exclusive to Ivy League students. Saverin provides $1,000 in seed funding, allowing Zuckerberg to build the website, which quickly becomes popular. When they learn of Thefacebook, the Winklevoss twins and Narendra are incensed, believing that Zuckerberg stole their idea while keeping them in the dark by stalling on developing the Harvard Connection website. They raise their complaint with Harvard President Larry Summers, who is dismissive and sees no value in either disciplinary action or Thefacebook.
Saverin and Zuckerberg meet fellow student Christy Lee, who asks them to "Facebook me", a phrase that impresses them. As Thefacebook grows in popularity, Zuckerberg extends the network to Yale University, Columbia University, and Stanford University. Lee arranges for Saverin and Zuckerberg to meet Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who presents a "billion-dollar" vision for the company that impresses Zuckerberg. He also suggests renaming the site Facebook. At Parker's suggestion, the company moves to Palo Alto, with Saverin remaining in New York to work on business development. After Parker promises to expand Facebook to two continents, Zuckerberg invites him to live at the house he is using as company headquarters.
While competing in the Henley Royal Regatta for Harvard against the Hollandia Roeiclub, the Winklevoss twins discover that Facebook has expanded to Europe with Oxford, Cambridge and LSE, and decide to sue the company for theft of intellectual property. Meanwhile, Saverin objects to Parker making business decisions for Facebook and freezes the company's bank account in the resulting dispute. He relents when Zuckerberg reveals that they have secured $500,000 from angel investor Peter Thiel. Saverin becomes enraged when he discovers that the new investment deal allows his share of Facebook to be diluted from 34% to 0.03% while maintaining the ownership percentage of all other parties. He confronts Zuckerberg and Parker, and Saverin vows to sue Zuckerberg before being ejected from the building. Saverin's name is removed from the masthead as co-founder. Later, Parker is apprehended for cocaine possession at a party celebrating the 1 millionth user. He attempts to blame Saverin, so Zuckerberg cuts ties with him.
In separate depositions, the Winklevoss twins claim that Zuckerberg stole their idea, while Saverin claims his shares of Facebook were unfairly diluted when the company was incorporated. Marylin Delpy, a junior lawyer for the defense, informs Zuckerberg that they will settle with Saverin since the sordid details of Facebook's founding and Zuckerberg's callous attitude will make him unsympathetic to a jury. Alone, Zuckerberg sends a Facebook friend request to Albright and repeatedly refreshes the page.
- Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg
- Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin
- Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker
- Armie Hammer as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss
- Max Minghella as Divya Narendra
- Brenda Song as Christy Lee
- Rashida Jones as Marylin Delpy
- John Getz as Sy
- David Selby as Gage
- Denise Grayson as Gretchen
- Douglas Urbanski as Larry Summers
- Rooney Mara as Erica Albright
- Joseph Mazzello as Dustin Moskovitz
- Dustin Fitzsimons as The Phoenix – S K Club President
- Wallace Langham as Peter Thiel
- Patrick Mapel as Chris Hughes
- Dakota Johnson as Amelia Ritter
- Malese Jow as Alice Cantwel
- Trevor Wright as B.U. Guy in Bra
- Shelby Young as K.C.
- Aaron Sorkin as Ad Executive
- Steve Sires as Bill Gates
- Caleb Landry Jones as a fraternity brother
Josh Pence is the body double for Hammer, playing both twins; he also appears in a cameo role as the man being detoured from the bathroom by Zuckerberg and Saverin.
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin said, "What attracted me to [the film project] had nothing to do with Facebook. The invention itself is as modern as it gets, but the story is as old as storytelling; the themes of friendship, loyalty, jealousy, class and power." He said he read an unfinished draft of The Accidental Billionaires when the publisher began "shopping it around" for a film adaptation. According to Sorkin, "I was reading it and somewhere on page three I said yes. It was the fastest I said yes to anything ... They wanted me to start right away. Ben and I were kind of doing our research at the same time, sort of along parallel lines."
According to Sorkin, Mezrich did not send him material from his book as he wrote it: "Two or three times we'd get together. I'd go to Boston, or we'd meet in New York and kind of compare notes and share information, but I didn't see the book until he was done with it. By the time I saw the book, I was probably 80 percent done with the screenplay." Sorkin elaborated:
Casting began in mid-2009, with Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, and Andrew Garfield announced to star. Jonah Hill was in contention for Timberlake's role, but director David Fincher passed on him. In October 2009, Brenda Song, Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer, Shelby Young, and Josh Pence were cast. Max Minghella and Dakota Johnson were also confirmed. In a 2009 interview with The Baltimore Sun, Eisenberg said, "Even though I've gotten to be in some wonderful movies, this character seems so much more overtly insensitive in so many ways that seem more real to me in the best way. I don't often get cast as insensitive people, so it feels very comfortable: fresh and exciting, as if you never have to worry about the audience. Not that I worry about the audience anyway – it should be just the furthest thing from your mind. The Social Network is the biggest relief I've ever had in a movie". In 2010, it was mentioned that Rashida Jones would appear as Marylin Delpy.
Principal photography began in October 2009 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Scenes were filmed around the campuses of two Massachusetts prep schools, Phillips Academy and Milton Academy. Additional scenes were filmed on the campus of Wheelock College, which was set up to be Harvard's campus. (Harvard has turned down most requests for on-location filming ever since the filming of Love Story (1970), which caused significant physical damage to trees on campus.) Filming took place on the Keyser and Wyman quadrangles in the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University from November 2–4, which also doubled for Harvard in the film. The first scene in the film, where Zuckerberg is with his girlfriend, took 99 takes to finish. The film was shot on the Red One digital cinema camera. The rowing scenes with the Winklevoss brothers were filmed at Community Rowing Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts and at the Henley Royal Regatta; miniature faking process was used in a sequence showing a rowing event at the latter. Although a significant portion of the latter half of the film is set in Silicon Valley, the filmmakers opted to shoot those scenes in Los Angeles and Pasadena.
Armie Hammer, who portrayed the Winklevoss twins, acted alongside body double Josh Pence while his scenes were filmed. His face was later digitally grafted onto Pence's face during post-production, while other scenes used split-screen photography. Pence was concerned about having no face time during the role, but after considerable musing thought of the role as a "no-brainer". He also appears in a cameo role elsewhere in the film. Hammer states that director David Fincher "likes to push himself and likes to push technology" and is "one of the most technologically minded guys I've ever seen." This included sending the actors to "twin boot camp" for 10 months to learn everything about the Winklevosses.
Community Rowing Inc. held a casting call and a tryout for 20 rowing extras; some were graduates from Harvard, Northeastern University, Boston University, George Washington University, and Trinity College, as well as local club rowers from Union Boat Club and Riverside Boat Club. None of the cast rowing extras for the Henley Royal Regatta racing scene appeared in the film; filming for the race was originally planned to take place in Los Angeles, but Fincher decided to film in New England during production.
The indoor rowing scene was filmed at Boston University's indoor rowing tanks. All of BU's blue oars in the scene were repainted to Harvard's crimson color for filming. Dan Boyne was the official rowing consultant in the US and the UK.
On June 1, 2010, it was announced that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross would score the film. The soundtrack was released September 28 in various formats under the Null Corporation label. Leading up to the release of the soundtrack, a free five-track EP was made available for download. The White Stripes' song "Ball and Biscuit" can be heard in the opening of the film and The Beatles' song "Baby, You're a Rich Man" concludes the film. Neither song appears on the soundtrack album.
The first theatrical poster, designed by Neil Kellerhouse, was released on June 18, 2010. As Kellerhouse previously designed posters for the films of Steven Soderbergh, director David Fincher's friend, he was contacted by Ceán Chaffin in late 2009 to work on the key art for The Social Network, which had to make sole use of one approved photograph, that of Eisenberg's head. As he wanted to highlight the tremendous drama that went with Mark Zuckerberg's success, Kellerhouse thought of the tagline "You don’t get to 300 million friends without making a few enemies"; he would later adjust the line to "500 million friends" in anticipation of Facebook reaching 500 million users by the film's release date. Kellerhouse's poster has been praised for its unique and "striking" design, and alongside his work for the film I'm Still Here, has since become highly influential in film marketing; posters for The King's Speech and The Armstrong Lie strongly evoked the poster's design format.
The film's first teaser trailer was released on June 25, 2010. The second teaser was released on July 8. The full length theatrical trailer debuted on July 16, 2010, which plays an edited version of the song "Creep", originally by Radiohead, covered by the Belgian choir group Scala & Kolacny Brothers. The trailer was then shown in theaters, prior to the films Inception, Dinner for Schmucks, Salt, Easy A, The Virginity Hit, and The Other Guys. The theatrical trailer, put together by Mark Woollen & Associates, won the Grand Key Art award at the 2011 Key Art Awards, sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter, and was also featured on The Film Informant's Perfect 10 Trailers in 2010.
The Social Network had its first screening at the New York Film Festival on September 24, 2010.
The film was released in theaters in the United States on the weekend of October 1–3, 2010. It debuted at No. 1, grossing $22.4 million in 2,771 theaters. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale. The film retained the top spot in its second weekend, dropping only 31.2%, breaking Inception's 32.0% record as the smallest second weekend drop for any number-one film of 2010, while being the third-smallest overall behind Secretariat's 25.1% drop and Tooth Fairy's 28.6% drop. At the end of its theatrical run, the film grossed $97 million in the United States and $128 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $224.9 million.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 96% based on 322 reviews, with an average rating of 9.01/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Impeccably scripted, beautifully directed, and filled with fine performances, The Social Network is a riveting, ambitious example of modern filmmaking at its finest." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 95 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
From TheGuardian.com, Peter Bradshaw gave the film four stars, praising David Fincher's directing as the "right intensity and claustrophobia for a story that takes place largely in a stupefyingly male environment at Harvard University in 2003". In her review for The Verge, Kaitlyn Tiffany wrote positive comments on Aaron Sorkin's screenplay, writing that his "reflex for writing witty, whiny men with outsized intellect and poorly disguised narcissism serves as an advantage instead of a handicap." The film's editing by Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall was also lauded by critics, leading to their win of the Academy Award for Best Film Editing. Additionally, the film's score received positive commentary, with some reviewers stating that it was "a persistent source of simmering tension in the movie", and a "masterpiece".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, giving it four stars and naming it the best film of the year, wrote: "David Fincher's film has the rare quality of being not only as smart as its brilliant hero, but in the same way. It is cocksure, impatient, cold, exciting and instinctively perceptive." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film his first full four-star rating of the year and said: "The Social Network is the movie of the year. But Fincher and Sorkin triumph by taking it further. Lacing their scathing wit with an aching sadness, they define the dark irony of the past decade." The Harvard Crimson review called it "flawless" and gave it five stars.
Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal praised the film as exhilarating but noted: "The biographical part takes liberties with its subject. Aaron Sorkin based his screenplay on [...] The Accidental Billionaires, so everything that's seen isn't necessarily to be believed." Among the film's very few negative reviewers were Nathan Heller of Slate.com, who described it as "rote and deeply mediocre" as well as "maddeningly generic", and was of the opinion that, "Sorkin and Fincher's 2003 Harvard is a citadel of old money, regatta blazers, and (if I am not misreading the implication here) a Jewish underclass striving beneath the heel of a WASP-centric, socially draconian culture. To get the university this wrong in this movie is no small matter."
The Social Network appeared on 78 film critics' top-ten lists of the best films of 2010, based on Metacritic's aggregation. Out of the critics, 22 ranked the film first, and 12 ranked the film second. Out of the films of 2010, The Social Network appeared on the most top-ten lists. In 2016, The Social Network was voted the 27th-best film of the 21st century by the BBC, as voted on by 177 film critics from around the world.
In 2018, IndieWire writers ranked the script the fourth best American screenplay of the 21st century, with Michael Nordine arguing that "everything came together nearly perfectly on the film, thanks in large part to Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-winning screenplay. Its finds the loquacious scribe at his best, with all the verbal takedowns [...] and rapid-fire back-and-forths we’ve come to expect (and, more often than not, love) from him. Sorkin’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg was hardly flattering, but recent headlines suggest it may have been too sympathetic."
The Social Network was released on DVD and Blu-ray January 11, 2011. In its first week of release, DVD sales totaled $13,470,305 and it was the number-one-sold DVD of the week. The DVD includes an audio commentary with director David Fincher, and a second commentary with writer Aaron Sorkin and the cast. The Blu-ray and two-disc DVD releases include the commentaries, along with a feature-length documentary, How Did They Ever Make a Movie of Facebook?, featurettes, Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter and Ren Klyce on Post, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and David Fincher on the Score, In the Hall of the Mountain King: Reznor's First Draft, Swarmatron, Jeff Cronenweth and David Fincher on the Visuals, and a Ruby Skye VIP Room: Multi-Angle Scene Breakdown feature.
The Social Network won the Best Motion Picture – Drama Golden Globe at the 68th Golden Globe Awards on January 16, 2011. The film also won the awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score, making it the film with the most wins of the night.
The film was nominated for seven British Academy Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jesse Eisenberg), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Andrew Garfield), and Rising Star Award (Andrew Garfield). It won three for Best Editing, Adapted Screenplay, and Best Direction on February 13, 2011.
The Social Network received nominations for eight Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It won three for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing at the 83rd Academy Awards on February 27, 2011.
The film won Best Picture from the National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, and Los Angeles Film Critics Association, making it only the third film in history—after Schindler's List (1993) and L.A. Confidential (1997)—to sweep the "Big Four" critics awards. The film also won the "Hollywood Ensemble Award" from the Hollywood Film Awards.
The script was leaked online in July 2009. In November 2009, executive producer Kevin Spacey said, "The Social Network is probably going to be a lot funnier than people might expect it to be." The Cardinal Courier stated that the film was about "greed, obsession, unpredictability and sex" and asked, "Although there are over 500 million Facebook users, does this mean Facebook can become a profitable blockbuster movie?"
At the D8 conference hosted by D: All Things Digital on June 2, 2010, host Kara Swisher told Zuckerberg she knew he was not happy with The Social Network being based on him, to which he replied, "I just wished that nobody made a movie of me while I was still alive." Zuckerberg stated to Oprah Winfrey that the drama and partying of the film is mostly fiction, and that he had spent most of the past six years focusing, working hard, and coding Facebook. Speaking to an audience at Stanford University, Zuckerberg said that instead of making Facebook to "get girls", he made it because he enjoyed "building things". He added that the film accurately depicted his wardrobe, saying, "It's interesting the stuff that they focused on getting right—like every single shirt and fleece they had in that movie is actually a shirt or fleece that I own."
Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz called the film a "dramatization of history ... it is interesting to see my past rewritten in a way that emphasizes things that didn't matter, (like the Winklevosses, who I've still never even met and had no part in the work we did to create the site over the past 6 years) and leaves out things that really did (like the many other people in our lives at the time, who supported us in innumerable ways)". According to Moskovitz:
Co-founder Eduardo Saverin said "the movie was clearly intended to be entertainment and not a fact-based documentary". Sorkin said: "I don't want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to storytelling. What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy's sake, and can we not have the true be the enemy of the good?"
Journalist Jeff Jarvis acknowledged the film was "well-crafted" but called it "the anti-social movie", objecting to Sorkin's decision to change various events and characters for dramatic effect, and dismissing it as "the story that those who resist the change society is undergoing want to see". Technology broadcaster Leo Laporte concurred, calling the film "anti-geek and misogynistic". Sorkin responded to these allegations by saying, "I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people".
Andrew Clark of The Guardian wrote that "there's something insidious about this genre of [docudrama] scriptwriting", wondering if "a 26-year-old businessman really deserves to have his name dragged through the mud in a murky mixture of fact and imagination for the general entertainment of the movie-viewing public?". Clark added, "I'm not sure whether Mark Zuckerberg is a punk, a genius or both. But I won't be seeing The Social Network to find out."
Mashable founder and CEO Pete Cashmore, blogging for CNN, said: "If the Facebook founder [Zuckerberg] is concerned about being represented as anything but a genius with an industrious work ethic, he can breathe a sigh of relief." Jessi Hempel, a technology writer for Fortune who says she's known Zuckerberg "for a long time", wrote of the film:
In an onstage discussion with The Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington, during Advertising Week 2010 in New York, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said she had seen the film and it was "very Hollywood" and mainly "fiction". "In real life, he [Zuckerberg] was just sitting around with his friends in front of his computer, ordering pizza", she declared. "Who wants to go see that for two hours?".
Divya Narendra said that he was "initially surprised" to see himself portrayed by the non-Indian actor Max Minghella, but also admitted that the actor did a "good job in pushing the dialogue forward and creating a sense of urgency in what was a very frustrating period".
Since its release, The Social Network has been cited as inspiring involvement in start-ups and social media. Bob Lefsetz has stated that: "watching this movie makes you want to run from the theatre, grab your laptop and build your own empire," noting that The Social Network has helped fuel an emerging perception that "techies have become the new rock stars." This has led Dave Knox to comment that: "fifteen years from now we might just look back and realize this movie inspired our next great generation of entrepreneurs." After seeing the movie, Zuckerberg was quoted as saying he is "interested to see what effect The Social Network has on entrepreneurship", noting that he gets "lots of messages from people who claim that they have been very much inspired... to start their own company." Saverin echoed these sentiments, stating that the film may inspire "countless others to create and take that leap to start a new business." In one such instance, the co-founders of Wall Street Magnate confirmed that they were inspired to create the fantasy trading community after watching The Social Network.
Following his success with the film, Sorkin became attached to another project about a technology company, writing the script for the 2015 biopic Steve Jobs, which used a similar format. Another Facebook film may be produced, as Sheryl Sandberg has signed a deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment to develop her 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, into a movie.
Following the close of the decade, The Social Network was recognized as one of the best films of the 2010s. Esquire named the film the best of the 2010s, calling it Citizen Kane "for the Internet age" and dubbing it "the movie of our new millennium". With Facebook going "from a utopian, world-shrinking force of good to a potential threat to democracy", Esquire wrote, "Fincher seemed to sense all of this and more long before anyone else. And his brilliant, troubling film bristles with that queasy sense of prophecy and prescience." Polygon, calling The Social Network the best film of the decade, wrote, "The Social Network, by chance or by design, has become one of the most immensely relevant movies of this decade... But after nearly a decade of watching Facebook 'move fast and break things,' including news websites, social video, politics, etc., the movie's tangible sense of tension can easily be reinterpreted as foreboding for what comes after you make a billion friends." Director Quentin Tarantino called the film the best of the 2010s, singling out the script by Aaron Sorkin, whom he described as "the greatest active dialogist".
Rolling Stone ranked The Social Network second after Moonlight (2016) on its end-of-decade list, describing it as "one deliciously re-watchable preview of the apocalypse, as entertaining and cheeky as it is troubling and startlingly prescient". Time Out named it the fourth-best of the decade, "Powered by a relentless, clinical Aaron Sorkin script, directed with sinuous grace by David Fincher and loaded with smirking, smart-ass central performances, The Social Network is arguably the most important and prophetic film of our era, itself a depressing thought." ScreenCrush ranked The Social Network eighth, referring to it as "[Fincher's] spiritual sequel to Fight Club, another story of a embittered, lonely man who discovers unleashing his rage at society has unexpected consequences". Mashable, listing The Social Network among the top 15 films of the 2010s, said of the story, "It was everything young people could be and everything older generations feared in us before a decade of blaming [us for] problems we didn't create and can't solve." IndieWire ranked The Social Network sixteenth among the decade's films, writing, "The Social Network is both a thrilling, queasy exploration of how Facebook came to be and a searing indictment of what it would inevitably become." Inverse listed the film among those defining "class rage" in the 2010s, "As a gently prodding diagnosis of class conflict, The Social Network is a logical place to start."
In January 2019, Sorkin revealed that Rudin has suggested the development of a screenplay for a sequel, noting, "A lot of very interesting, dramatic stuff has happened since the movie ends." Sorkin also mentioned that there was indeed enough material to create a sequel. On July 18, 2019, Eisenberg expressed his interests in starring in the proposed sequel, stating that "Sorkin is a genius, and if he chooses to write about something, I'll obviously be interested". In October 2020, Sorkin announced that he would write the sequel's script on one condition, stating that he will only write the script if David Fincher returns as director.