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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a 2011 mystery thriller directed by David Fincher, based on the novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson. An English-language adaptation of the book, it follows an earlier trilogy of Swedish films (based on Millennium series) that were released throughout 2009. Steven Zallan wrote the screenplay, Tim Miller designed the opening credits and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, returning Fincher collaborators, handled the music.

Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a Swedish journalist investigating the disappearance of a woman from a wealthy family four decades earlier. When he recruits young hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) to the case, things get decidedly more complicated. Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Joely Richardson and Robin Wright also star.

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While the film was a critical hit and received five Oscar nominations (including a Best Actress nod for Mara and a win for Best Film Editing), it stalled at the international box office, only barely making back its $90 million dollar budget. Because of this, the continuation of a Fincher series has remained in development hell for close to a decade, and looks very unlikely.

A sequel, The Girl in the Spider's Web (based on the fourth book in the Millennium series), was finally released in 2018. This new film is a soft reboot, featuring none of the original cast or creative personnel, but retaining the same continuity of its predecessor.


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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
    • In both other mediums, Lisbeth leaves Mikael and Sweden on good terms, only after realising that she is in love with Mikael (and, in at least one example, because he's in prison). In this film, she is about to give him an elaborate Christmas present when she sees him with Erika, which leads to her believing he devalued their relationship and doesn't care about her. She takes off devastated.
    • Interesting example. Harriet manages to Earn Your Happy Ending in the book and film, as she has a family. In this film, she has no-one and seems extremely isolated and unhappy.
  • Adaptational Dye Job: It follows the Swedish films as Harriet has blonde hair, which she never dyes. Harriet of the book had dark hair that she dyed blonde.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Joel Kinnaman has a cameo that was supposed to be this for The Girl who Played With Fire, but it never came about.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Lisbeth's hostility towards Harriet is not explained in this film, nor is her motivation for setting her father on fire. That was probably a Sequel Hook for The Girl who Played With Fire, which didn't happen.
  • Age Lift: Upon her casting, Rooney Mara was older than Lisbeth is in the first book.
  • Alone with the Psycho: The American movie plays the scene almost exactly as in the book, then making it even worse when Mikael actually manages to get out of the house, then comes back in when Martin offers him a drink. Martin himself points out Mikael's foolishness.
  • Ass Shove: Lisbeth does this to her social worker when she rapes him, as payback for what he did to her. She even kicks the toy up there.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Lisbeth's rescue of Mikael at the hands of Martin Vanger.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Vanger dynasty. Most of them were either corrupt executives, Nazis, perverts or serial killers.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lisbeth realizes she's fallen in love with Mikael, and decides to tell him. She buys him a beautiful leather jacket as a Christmas present, and on the way to give it to him, sees him leaving his apartment with his part-time lover Erika. She then tosses the present in a dumpster and rides away. On the other hand, a horrible serial murderer and rapist has been brought to justice and a long-suffering uncle has been reunited with the niece he thought was dead for thirty years. Also, Wennerström will never be a threat to anyone else again and Lisbeth is now a billionaire.
  • Blinding Camera Flash: Several in the flashbacks of Harriet at the Children's Day parade, and in the trailer.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: The reason Harriet ran away was to get away from her brother Martin, who was raping her.
  • Casting Gag:
    • David Fincher cast Daniel Craig (perhaps best known for being James Bond at that point) as Mikael. The gag would have paid off in the third film, when Mikael spends the entire novel playing spy games vs. "The Section."
    • This trope is subverted in the movie adaptation. In the books, Mikael's sex life is no big deal. In the films, it is apparently front page material for not only tabloids but rival newspapers.
  • Cat Scare: Very subtly done. Upon returning to the cottage after spending the weekend back in Stockholm, Mikael finds the stray cat he's been feeding wandering around and wonders aloud how it got into the house, seeing as he left all the doors and windows locked, thus implying that someone's been snooping around. Later, when the cat is brutally killed and left outside the house, it's clearly meant as a warning to him
  • Clear My Name: Mikael's reason for taking the Vanger job; Henrik claims he'll give Mikael evidence that proves his innocence if he does. Too bad it's a bluff, which Mikael finds out after finding Harriet. The good news is that Lisbeth is able to pick up Henrik's slack with her hacking skills.
  • Composite Character: Interestingly intentional and plot-relevant case. When we meet Harriet's cousin Anita in London, it's not much of a surprise, as that's where she lives in the book, too, before it's revealed that she's covering for Harriet, who is living out in Australia. Then it's revealed that not only did Harriet assume Anita's identity but, as in the Swedish film, Anita has actually died beforehand. Fincher melded the position of book-Anita with that of the Swedish film's Harriet in his Harriet.
  • Creepy Basement: Martin's kill room, so, so much.
  • Dead Animal Warning: Mikael Blomquist bonds with a cat while staying at the Vanger estate. He wakes up one morning to find the villain has killed the cat and left its mutilated remains on his doorstep.
  • Death by Adaptation: As in the Swedish film, Anita is killed off before the events of the film.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Happens to Lisbeth toward the end. At least until the Ship Sinking moment.
  • Depraved Bisexual: This film retains the book's plot point that Martin planned to rape Mikael after abducting him, though he admits it's not his usual type, so it may be he's not actually bisexual.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The opening credits. So, so much.
  • Distressed Dude: Mikael Blomkvist is captured by the mass murderer, locked in an underground torture room, chained, stripped naked, humiliated and explicitly threatened with rape, when Salander breaks in to save him, chase and destroy the villain. A precise gender mirror image of the classic Distressed Damsel tropes.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: David Fincher confirmed that Joel Kinnaman was meant to come back for the sequel. (His character, Christer Malm, is in the first book, but has almost no plot relevance to it and is appropriately reduced to about one line when compressing 672 pages into 153 minutes.note ) Likewise, Bengt Carlsson (Holder Palmgren), Embeth Davidtz (Annika Blomkvist Giannini) and Élodie Yung (Miriam Wu) appear in this film so that their importance in the next two isn't a case of Remember the New Guy?.
  • Exact Words: Henrik Vanger promised he could disclose Wennerström's past deeds for Mikael to publish. He kept his word, only that everything happened decades before and can't be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations.
  • Eye Scream: The opening credits include a lit match falling onto Daniel Craig's eye, and later a fly hatching out of it.
  • Fat Bastard: Extremely obvious example as Bjurman is thin or at least average build in every other version, but very overweight here, and treated as disgusting even before he violently rapes Lisbeth.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Lisbeth dismisses Mikael's sympathy towards Martin Vanger, a Serial Rapist and Killer, saying that even though Martin was also raped by his father, he had every opportunity to choose a different path, and did what he did because he enjoyed it. She compares this to her own background: she was abused by her father as well, and is raped by her court-appointed guardian in the book, but she fought back against her abusersnote  instead of lashing out at innocent bystanders.
    Lisbeth: Gottfried isn't the only kid who was ever mistreated. That doesn't give him the right to murder women. He made that choice himself. And the same is true of Martin.
  • Friendly Enemies: Like every good murder-mystery villain, the Big Bad comes across as affable by helping Mikael hunt down Harriet's killer. This is because, though the character is the Big Bad, they didn't kill Harriet, and are genuinely hoping Blomkvist can figure out what happened to her. Only when it becomes clear that Mikael has 1) not cracked her murder and 2) has cracked the villain's murders does the villain decide to off our hero.
  • Glasses Pull: Mikael does a pretty good one in the American version of the film, when looking at the parade photos and realizing that Harriet saw something that frightened her.
  • Golf Clubbing: Lisbeth attacks Martin with one of his golf clubs, whereas in every other medium she uses a different weapon.
  • Goth Spirals: This Lisbeth wears spiral earrings and jewellery all the time.
  • Guile Heroes: Lisbeth is good at getting ridiculous amounts of info and getting the drop on people. Mikael is good at organizing and has his own respected media outlet to put her info in. When they team up to expose Wennerström, the combination proves unbeatable.
  • Hackette: Lisbeth.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Blomkvist becomes this due to retribution from Wennestrom.
  • Hidden Villain: The serial killer Martin Vanger.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. That poor kitty. . .
  • In-Joke: All the characters say Lisbeth's name with English pronunciation, "Liz-bith" or "Liz-beth". But toward the end of the movie when Martin learns her name, he says it with Swedish pronunciation as "Leez-bet," which makes sense seeing as Martin is played by Stellan Skarsgård, the only actual Swede to have a major role in the movie.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Gottfried Vanger, drowned by Harriet, the girl he'd been raping for several years.
    • Martin gets this in the movie, when Lisbeth walks away and leaves him to burn. This ties into his comment about how all his victims thought he would spare them, only to have their hopes brutally crushed. In short, he's denied the same mercy he denied his victims.
  • Kick the Dog: Blomkvist's pet cat is discarded at his front door by the killer, beheaded and dismembered.
  • Lonely at the Top: How Lisbeth ends the film. She's brought Wennerström to justice, and has siphoned two billion euros from his accounts to become the richest woman in Sweden, but the last note of her character is the heartbreak she feels from seeing Mikael back together with Erika, after which she drives off into the night, completely alone.
  • May–December Romance: Mikael and Lisbeth's short-lived relationship.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Investigating the disappearance of one rich heiress -> family of serial killers
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Daniel Craig is the only actor to make no attempt at a Swedish accent, instead retaining his natural English one.
  • Oh, Crap!: Lisbeth's reaction after seeing Mikael, who knows that she hacked his computer, at her house. However, Mikael isn't looking for any kind of payback, but for her help instead.
  • Parental Incest: Gottfried to Martin and Harriet.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Arguably the thesis of the film, down to one of its taglines being "Evil shall with evil be expelled."
    • Lisbeth's treatment of Bjurman is so harsh that it borders on Moral Event Horizon. But it was so precise and ingenious that it could qualify as a Moment of Awesome: rather than killing the man, Lisbeth opted to make Bjurman suffer the exact same abuse he put her through, up to every little detail, including the rape and the blackmail, just to make him realize how it felt. However, leaving Bjurman alive left him free to make new plans against her, which might have ended very badly.
  • Pet the Dog: Lisbeth visits her previous social worker throughout the film and is shown taking care of him.
  • Plot-Based Photograph Obfuscation: The photograph of the Children's Day parade that shows a blurred-out face watching Harriet.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: A much stronger example of this than the Swedish one, retaining much more of the novel's depth and detail while running only six minutes longer than the latter. Notably included in this version but cut from the previous one are the bulk of the Wennerström subplot, Blomkvist's daughter, the original Vanger family configuration, and a fair amount of screen time for Erika Berger. Anita's still dead though.
  • Precision F-Strike: Mikael in the 2011 film does one when he goes outside for a cigarette and sees the dead cat on the doorstep, it broken limbs shaped like a swastika. A later shot shows him trying not to be sick.
  • Pretending to Be One's Own Relative: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) reveals that Anita Vanger is actually Harriet Vanger, who ran away from home with her cousin Anita's help forty years ago. While Anita went under her married name, Harriet used Anita's maiden name to start a new life. When Mikael came looking for her to help her find Harriet, real Harriet pretended to be the only Anita.
  • Product Placement:
    • The film features the characters' MacBooks quite prominently — though really it would feature whichever brand of computer they used prominently given the nature of the story.
    • For the nerdier types, the actual placement of Macs in the film is rather strange. The exact timeline of the film isn't clear, but it's either a present-day OS (Tiger, circa 2005) running on computers from the future (the unibody MacBook Pros from 2008, which came with Leopard), or computers of today running an OS from several years before they came out.
    • McDonald's is also plainly visible, as Lisbeth enjoys chowing down on Happy Meals, even while staying at a posh luxury hotel.
  • Promotion to Parent: Lisbeth's kind social worker has very little of a role in every other adaptation except this one, where he appears to be her surrogate father.
  • Rape and Revenge: Lisbeth's advocate Nils Bjurman lures her to his apartment, where he sodomizes her with a sex toy, rapes and tortures her, then orders her to come back a week later. She does so, but stunguns, ties up and sodomizes him, then tattoos "I am a rapist" on his chest and stomach. She also tells him that she recorded his assault on her, and that he will be doing exactly what she says from now on, or he'll be going to jail for a very long time.
  • Rape as Drama: It happens to both Harriet Vanger and Lisbeth.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: Although Lisbeth does respond aggressively to being raped, this trope is most evident in this film for Martin, as the script maintains that he was also raped by his father, which leads him to being unsure about raping Mikael in the basement.
  • The Rich Have White Stuff: Although subverted by every other Vanger, CEO Martin has a very beautiful white house full of minimalistic white possessions. And a white torture cellar.
  • Red Herring: When it's discovered that Harriet was keeping notes on the deaths of other young women, it's assumed that whoever killed the other women killed Harriet to keep her silent. Once it's discovered Martin was the killer, Mikael confronts him about Harriet, but he had no idea what happened to her either. Turns out Harriet was still alive, going into hiding to keep Martin from killing her.
  • The Reveal: Anita Cochran, CEO of a large Australian conglomerate, is actually Harriet Vanger under an assumed identity.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: When Lisbeth rescues Mikael from Martin.
  • Serial Killer: Martin Vanger.
  • Softer and Slower Cover: It would probably not apply in most other contexts, but Karen O's version of "Immigrant Song" over the opening credits is slower and softer than Led Zeppelin's original.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In-universe, as Martin likes putting on Enya during his murders — reportedly, on Daniel Craig's suggestion.
    "Sail away, sail away, sail awaaaay..."
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Unlike the Swedish films, this one keeps its two protagonists on a more equal footing.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The second trailer is a loose summary of the entire story with the exception of the two really big plot twists ( Martin and Harriet.)

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