Top 10 Films to Restore Your Faith in Journalism

Phone hacking scandals. News of the World forced to shut down. Officials in the pockets of unscrupulous tabloid hacks. “Ouch” for journalism!

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It’s a pretty rough time for journalism, as the phone hacking scandal rumbles on, so why not look for some escapism in this list?

We’re looking for escapism (so no documentaries) and films where the reporter is the hero (so nothing like Shattered Glass, about a reporter who made up his sources, or The Sweet Smell of Success, in which Burt Lancaster plays a crooked columnist.)

Julia Kukiewicz takes a look at ten films where the journalist is king. From Grant Hezlov’s The Men Who Stare At Goats based on investigative journalist Jon Ronson’s experiences to the infamous Watergate scandal and the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in All The President’s Men.

10. The Men Who Stare at Goats (Hezlov, 2009)

george clooney,

Jon Ronson is an investigative journalist, whose book of the same name is a funny, fascinating look at bizarre techniques used by the US military. That accounts for the film’s big names – George Clooney and Ewan McGregor – and, perhaps, for the disappointingly meandering plot too. But the protagonist, apparently based on Ronson, remains a plucky reporter throughout.

9. How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days (Petrie, 2003)

how to lose a guy in ten days,

A reminder that digging dirt is just one aspect of journalism, this extremely questionable but very watchable rom-com is set in the kind of women’s magazine where everyone takes their shoes off at meetings. Kate Hudson spends an entire week being as irritating as possible for a feature. Only to accidentally fall for the guy she’s trying to drive away.

8. The Insider (Mann, 1999)

the insider, film, russell crowe,

Many desk-bashing speeches (“Who told you your incompetent little fingers had the requisite skills to edit me!?”) in this story of the attempt to get a tobacco industry whistleblower to appear on 60minutes which even managed to highlight the owner of CBS’ involvement in Big Tobacco in real life.

7. Deadline (Brooks, 1952)

deadline, film, humphrey bogart, journalism, newspapers, reporters,

Humphrey Bogart can’t stay away from a story, even when his paper The Day is just three days away from being shut down. With only a few days to go, he launches a crusade against a local gangster he believes is responsible for murder and gets to make plenty of desk-bashing speeches in the process (“as long as even one newspaper will print the truth – you’re finished!”).

6. Almost Famous (Crowe, 2000)

almost famous, film, journalism films, reporters, writers, newspapers,

You root for the teenage reporter and rock fan spouting off to Rolling Stone (“it’s a think-piece about a mid-level band…struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom”) and accidentally getting the front cover, if not the girl, in the process.

5. Frost/Nixon (Howard, 2008)

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The film version slightly mangles history a bit to wring the drama out of the Nixon interviews – David Frost, a successful interviewer both in the UK and abroad, is portrayed as a gutsy outsider on his last chance.

4. His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940)

cary grant, films about newspaper reporters,

When Cary Grant sets his mind to winning over a fellow reporter dead set on leaving her job to settle down with an insurance salesman, he does it by concocting a story she can’t resist. Soon, she can’t resist him either.

3. The Pelican Brief (Pakula, 1993)

julia roberts,

Denzel Washington plays a Washington Herald reporter protecting a law student who has uncovered an unsettling truth (Julia Roberts), in this high-stakes thriller based on a John Grisham novel.

2. State of Play (Yates, 2003 – six-part BBC television series)

state of play, bbc, journalism,

If possible, go with the original 2003 BBC TV series rather than the slightly dodgy remake with Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren. Either way, the reporters are the heroes – even as, in true British tradition, they’re also heroically boozed throughout.

1. All the President’s Men (Pakula, 1976)

all the president's men, best films about journalism,

Of course. This classic, focusing on Woodward and Bernstein’s attempts to uncover the Watergate scandal, does perhaps rely on slightly more knowledge of the crisis than can be assumed of modern audiences (by which I mean, I got a bit lost) but there’s no arguing that the reporters are the heroes here.
Read Top 10 Films editor Daniel Stephens’ review of All The President’s Men here.

Written and compiled by Julia Kukiewicz

Julia Kukiewicz is editor of Choose.net, a news and reviews site covering – among other things – DVD rental. The site covers big names like Lovefilm and ways for film-lovers to save money like blu ray rental.

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  1. Avatar
    Jake Moore @RiverCityOtter Reply

    Like most that you make this is a nice list.Very pleased you included the underrated Humphrey Bogart film ‘Deadline’. Also spot-on with #1 being ‘All the President’s Men’! Keep up that good work 10 at a time!

  2. Avatar
    tommy k Reply

    I’m a big fan of Journalist movies and All The Presidents Men is well deserving of the top spot. Here are a few others that I believe warrant inclusion:

    Good Night And Good Luck
    Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
    Fletch
    Salvador

    and how about Superman?

  3. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Jake: Cheers Jake, thanks for stopping by.

    @Tommy: Love Fletch! Great choice. And Superman surely has to be the best reporter to ever grace a cinema screen(he’s definitely the most heroic!).

  4. Avatar
    DEZMOND Reply

    What no Lois Lane on the list :PPPP

  5. Avatar
    Dan Heaton Reply

    Nice job putting the State of Play miniseries on there. The film version was okay, but it really had to condense an intriguing story. I’ve rarely seen a better look at investigative journalists than the BBC series. I’d actually put the Insider near the top, but I’m also a huge Mann fan.

    And I’ll second the comment about Good Night and Good Luck. That’s one of the great looks at brave journalists and the clash between commerce and taking a stand.

    Good list.

  6. Avatar
    CitizenScreen Reply

    Very nice list and mostly great movies and reasoning as to why they are key journalism stories. Some MUST -SEES included. But a few come to mind that, to me, are worthy of note. I’d include these to any recommended list for journalist interests:

    -The Story of G.I. Joe – although the film is not great, it’s subject, Ernie Pyle, is perhaps the most important war correspondent of WWII. His writings are still moving today.
    -Absence of Malice – great story and film about ethics in print journalism
    -Good Night and Good Luck – because brining any attention to Edward R. Murrow is key
    -The Killing Fields
    -The Paper – starring Michael Keaton – overlooked but good film about the newspaper business

    just my two cents – enjoyed reading this!

    Aurora

  7. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Dezzy: She’s got to be a contender but surely Superman wins out of those two with his ability to fly to the scene of a breaking story? 😉

    @Dan: Interesting thoughts Dan. I thought the film version of State of Play was excellent but then again it is perhaps a more compelling story in the miniseries where the additional depth is available over the six episodes.

  8. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @CitizenScreen: Thanks for visiting Aurora. Some really good suggestions, especially The Story of G.I. Joe. If audiences don’t watch the film (which is definitely worth checking out), his pieces written during the war are must-reads for budding journalists.

  9. Avatar
    ruth Reply

    There are a few I haven’t seen but I LOVE the inclusion of The Insider. It’s such a compelling film that boast a fantastic performance from Russell Crowe, I also like the State of Play remake starring Crowe as well. I know it’s not the best film about journalism but I think Up Close & Personal is pretty sweet where Michelle Pfeiffer played a TV reporter who ended up falling for her boss, Robert Redford.

  10. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Seen all bar Frost/Nixon (don’t ask) and The Men Who Stare At Goats. great list, Julia. I agree with your top three choices wholeheartedly. I second the notion that The Killing Fields could have been included, perhaps at the expense of How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days. I mean, a Kate Hudson rom-com as a prime example of successful journalism? Puh-lease!

  11. Avatar
    Tyler Reply

    Good work on this list! Nice to see The Pelican Brief here, haven’t seen that one in a while. And Frost/Nixon, a film I actually didn’t think was half bad.

  12. Avatar
    Shubhajit Lahiri Reply

    I was expecting All the President’s Men to top the last. Great that my prediction turned out to be correct as it sure deserves that top spot! I think Good Night and Good Luck could have made the list. Even Pakula’s The Parallax View perhaps.

    I personally prefer the darker and edgier movies on journalism though – be it Ace in the Hole or Sweet Smell of Success. Interestingly, a number of noirs, like The Big Clock, had journos playing key parts in the films without them really being about journalism.

  13. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Tyler: Which half Tyler – Frost or Nixon?! 🙂

    @Shubhajit: Ace In the Hole is a brilliant film, good call!

  14. Avatar
    Custard Reply

    Brilliant as ever Dan.

    I loved Almost Famous. Maybe a little too much at the time!!

    Thanks for putting this together you are the master of the Top 10!!

  15. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Custard: Thanks Scott but I can’t take any credit as Julia put this one together. Although I did click “Publish” so my part in this list was not completely void of worth! 😉

  16. Avatar
    Castor Reply

    Ahaha you cheated, that 6-part BBC series shouldn’t count as a film! Maybe include the Russell Crowe film instead 😀 Great list though!

  17. Avatar
    max Reply

    Not that I think it belongs in a top ten list like this…could Broadcast News be considered?

    I had to click on this article because of ‘Almost Famous’. I wanted to get into music journalism because of that film (never did). It’s one of my favorite films.

    I was wondering where ‘All The President’s Men’ was. Good place for it.

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  19. Avatar
    Raghav Reply

    Great to see Almost Famous in the list. I love that movie. Have to still watch Deadline/FrostNixon/State of Play, but from your list I’m going to bump the State of Play series right up my watch list. Good stuff!

  20. Avatar
    Michele Reply

    Love reading this list & thanks for reminding me of a few I forgot. I also wanted to share with you a great new independent film starring Eric Roberts & Steve Talley called Deadline coming out in Feb 2012. This is an awesome movie for those investigative journalism fans & is based on a true Southern story. The story centers around the murder of an African American youth in rural Alabama that has gone uninvestigated, unsolved and unpunished for almost 20 years. But things take a turn when Nashville Times reporter Matt Harper meets a young blueblood determined on discovering the truth. I guarantee it won’t disappoint & encourage you to go to deadlinefilm.com for more details & info!

  21. Avatar
    themovieblogger Reply

    I disagree with your decision to make Shattered Glass ineligible. The end scene (I won’t spoil it) restores my faith in them and journalism. Can’t disagree with #1, though.

  22. Avatar
    Will Reply

    You should definitely check out Sam Fuller’s Park Row. To me it is the ultimate film about journalism.

  23. Avatar
    mark Reply

    And what about Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent?

    Admittedly I haven’t seen the whole film (stupid me – they were playing a 16mm film version at uni circa 1985 and I walked out to drink cheap beer), but when Joel McCrae sez something like: “What about this Hitler guy – maybe we can tee up an interview with him?” it succinctly sums everything up about the ignorance of air headed trainee journalists.

  24. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    Nice list Julia…….however I definitely would of included Shattered Glass on this list. The movie really showed inner workings of print journalism. It is such an engaging film.

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