The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a Comparison of the 2009 and 2011 Films


I eagerly awaited the release of David Fincher’s Americanized film version of Stieg Larsson‘s posthumous best seller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In anticipation for the movie’s release, I decided to watch the original Swedish film adaption, directed by Niels Arden Oplev from 2009.

I should mention, I have never read the Steig Larsson’s trilogy. I will not give away too much for those who plan to watch either film or read the book. In fact, I will not give too much to story overview at all. These are simply my thoughts while watching Fincher’s version of the film, in comparison to Oplev’s.

I enjoyed the 2009 film greatly, watching the English dubbed version instead of the subtitled version, but dub vs. sub is a conversation for another day.

Leading up to viewing of Fincher’s re-make, I made three predictions of differences between the films:

  1. There would be at least one explosion: No American movie-maker can pass up the opportunity for an explosion, right? The 2009 film gave two opportunities for explosions.
  2. The “sex” scenes would be less graphic: American movies tend to cater to avoid many taboo topics of American society.
  3. The ending would be rushed or greatly sized down.


Fincher’s version of the film garnered a $100 million budget. My initial thought, it didn’t need even close to this large of a budget. The 2009 version had a budget of $13 million, and brought in over $104 million in box office receipts.

Quite honestly, I’m not sure where the difference in budget went into Fincher’s film.

Cast? Absolutely. Stars known in the US are going to cost more than relatively unknown actors.

Detail? Nope. The 2009 film set a much creepier tone with the detail put into the research done by characeters; Mikael Blomkvist ( Michael Nyqvist, 2009. Daniel Craig, 2011) and Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace, 2009. Rooney Mara, 2011), especially in reference to the evidence collected regarding the murders.

Intro sequencing? Probably part of it! The intro sequence to Fincher’s film, while very interesting and creepy, was completely void of relevance to the film. 100% unnecessary.

Trent Reznor joined Fincher once again (The Social Network) for the score to the film, however, it didn’t seem to improve the tone of the movie. Niels Arden Oplev’s movie score set a much more disturbing feel to the film.

Unnecessary additions? Absolutely! This also brings me to my first prediction. There will be at least one explosion – I said I will not give away too much, and I will not, but the explosion was completely unnecessary and the scene involving the explosion was addressed much better by the 2009 film, giving much more depth to Lisbeth’s character. There are also other changes from the 2009 version, which may or may not be more accurate to the book, since I have not read it, but many of these changes also created holes in the story, leaving any thriller lover asking, “Why the hell would he/she do…”

The “sex” scenes being less graphic really depends on which scene you are referencing. Some were more graphic, some less. Without giving away anything, the main scene I was thinking about when making my prediction was less graphic. This was mainly due to the way Lisbeth was portrayed during the scene. In case you’re wondering, Rooney Mara looks better naked than Noomi Rapace… I knew that question was on your mind.

I will get to the ending in a moment.

Overall, I really liked the Americanized Fincher re-make of the film. The downfall, for me, I watched Oplev’s version immediately prior. A big plus for both films, longer than two and a half hours each, neither movie felt too long. This says a lot about a film.

In Oplev’s film, Lisbeth seems much more emotionally disturbed and more intelligent, and more greatly controls each scene. Fincher’s portrayal is more of an emotionally confused girl who does what she must in a bad situation, rather than one who is seriously asocial and deserving of being placed in the care of a legal guardian. I believe this is because Fincher fails to set up the back story as to why Lisbeth has become a ward of the state. Story changes from the 2009 film, such as the manner in which Lisbeth and Mikael come to work together also aided in making me feel like Fincher’s Lisbeth is less intelligent than Oplev’s.

The ending of Fincher’s movie was completely different than the 2009 version. It was not shorter or more condensed, simply different.This has a lot to do with the differences in the results of the court case against Mikael at the beginning of each movie. Fincher’s ending was much more Americanized and lends greatly to my view in differences in the mental/emotional state of Lisbeth in the two movies.


I highly recommend David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, however, with that recommendation, I also recommend watching the Niels Arden Oplev version AFTERWARDS.

If I had to pick, I recommend Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 version over David Fincher’s.


There's always more to read

20 Replies to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a Comparison of the 2009 and 2011 Films”

    1. Same here, totally agree! Thx for this review watching 2009 right now with subtitles. Youd think id make it harder to understand but for from it! Lol after seeing the 2011 american english version, this one making me understand everything even more altho in another language lol. Thank you. I got the book here and found it hard to pursue…. but after watching the first movie im soooo gonna read it in full. Gurl… whoever u are that sent this review of your own u rock. Oxox

  1. Thanks for thee comparison, I saw the U.S. version today and I’m also thinking of going out to get the Swedish version and the books soon. I liked the movie very much, but I felt it was a bit dragged out.

    1. Let me know what you think after you watch the Swedish film. I’m curious what others think. A lot of what I have read like the American film better, but I think that is because Hollywood has programmed most movie goers as to what they SHOULD want to happen in a movie.

  2. We’re about to see the Finchner version…but as “Americans”…we were not used to the Swedish actors or cinematography…we found the Oplev version captivating…even superb. The English dubbing was quite well done.

  3. Ok, you said you did not read the book but Fincher’s ‘excuse’ for making the movie was authenticity. Funny enough for example the scene that was not authentic as it was not in a book where Lisbeth had her computer broken by being attacked on a subway does not exist in a book, and yet Fincher copied that. Secondly the characters were not supposed to be black and white as European culture has no tolerance for meek women and macho men. Fincher played to that and failed. The ending in Fincher is just as the book finishes, and it was the onlyl window of emotion that Lisbeth has ever shown. She has Asperger syndromme (functional autism) and she overreacts.
    If you look at pure looks, Mara does not come close as Rampace grew on you though the movie that in the end you thought she is very appealing and attrractive. Mara was highly diluted version and did not pull this role off.
    I am very surprised you watched a dubbed version and then compared the movies as you lost over half of a movie dimension. Please do not do that anymore.
    In any case, the original version is 10, the follow up made onlly for the reasons of making money, in spite of Daniel Craig is at the best 5.

  4. I just viewed both movies but did not read the books and I will say I enjoyed the beginning of the American version and the ending of the swedish version..I did not really understand the Harriet ending of the American version, and they also rushed through the investigating. The swedish version made more since as far as Lisbeths character being more useful and actually belonging in the film, Daniel Craig is awesome in this movie.

  5. I saw the American Version first, and just recently watched the Swedish version (dubs and subs at the same time..I like to compare). I personally was more moved by the American version, though I enjoyed the Swedish version as well. People who enjoy a movie’s entire self-contained universe/reality would benefit from watching both versions, as there are details added exclusively in each. From what I’ve read, whichever people saw first heavily influences the one that they are preferring in a vast majority of the cases. It is because people cannot detach what they’ve previously experienced from the first and inevitably judge the second based off of the first one they saw, instead of its own merits. Kind of like people who only read the KJV Bible. I think its just human nature when you have two things that are good, but different, such as Sean Connery vs Roger Moore as James Bond. My first couple of Bond films were with Roger Moore, so when I saw Sean Connery, he just didn’t appeal to me as much. The older generations felt the exact opposite. In an off note, I just can’t see Daniel Craig as being Bond either…Pierce Brosnan was the only other acceptable Bond IMO, lol!

  6. These two films are adaptations of the same book. Having read other comparisons of these two films, yours seems the least informed because you did not take the time to read the book.

    1. “Did not take the time to read the book.”

      This is a comparison of the movies, as stated in the title… Not of each movies to the book… Did you read the book in English? If so, I understand you miss out on a lot of the subtleties in character development as well… Sorry, since you want to nit-pick, I will too…

  7. It’s modern society to waste $100 million on a remake of an already great movie! I’m from the netherlands, so I probably feel less distance to the swedish language/acting, but still $100 million is a lot to waste.

  8. I’m not fooled by the glitter of Hollywood. I reaalllyyy hate how Hollywood picks ultra-famous expensive actors to play parts that really don’t suit them at all. Ex. Daniel Craig. I was also not fooled by the explosions. I watched the american one first then the swedish one. What ‘lifefordeath2’ is saying is bullsh!t. Afterwards I thought wow the american one was just a vastly inferior copy-cat of the swedish one. Real fans of the series should watch the swedish one, hollywood worshippers should watch the american one.

    1. I just watched the American version of Dragon Tattoo and the Swedish version of Fire, so my comparison in not direct, but I certainly liked the Swedish version MUCH better. Have to agree that Daniel Craig was not at all suited to the role, and I also found the main character worked much better without the over-the-top hollywood persona projected by Rooney

  9. Though it was fun seeing Daniel Craig playing a gun shy, klutzy character. I’ll take the original with subtitles any day. Much more cold and raw in secondary characters and surroundings. Along with higher quality shadow work.

    Noomi Rapace plays with the subtleties of damage with a more deft touch than Rooney Mara. And holds the attention of the camera more easily.

  10. I enjoyed the 2009 version better but the book was way better……. i did enjoy the 2011 version also but the 2009 version was better to me. all in all a good movie hope they do another one of these great stories…..

Let me know what you think