‘She Said’ and 24 More Movies About Journalism, From the Heroic to the Dark
The new movie "She Said" traces how reporters for The New York Times documented and exposed pervasive sexual harassment and assaults by disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein. The reporting was a signature moment in the #MeToo movement.
"She Said" also is the latest addition to a long list of journalism movies that provide an inside look at the challenges and dangers that journalists face when pursuing important, sometimes society-altering stories.
Many fictionalized journalism movies - intentionally or not - also expose journalism's shortcomings, from a lack of diversity in newsroom staffing to inequitable treatment of women and people of color, for example.
"Spotlight" (2015) showed how The Boston Globe exposed widespread and systemic child sex abuse by numerous Roman Catholic priests and the church's longtime cover-up of those crimes.
"The Insider" (1999) provided moviegoers with the backstory about a "60 Minutes" segment featuring a tobacco industry whistleblower, the struggle inside CBS over the segment and attempts to discredit it.
"Good Night, and Good Luck" (2005) dramatized broadcast journalism icon Edward R. Murrow, his 1950s landmark program "See It Now" and his classic clash with U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy.
In 1976, "All the President's Men," the cinematic account of how Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post traced a break-in at the Watergate Office Building to the Oval Office, made the pair household names and inspired a generation of journalists.
"The Post," first screened in 2017, showed The Washington Post's courageous fight to publish the Pentagon Papers even as the White House threatened retaliation.
Some journalism movies also showed us the sometimes mundane, sometimes terrifying work that journalists do. "Salvador" in 1986 and "Under Fire" in 1983 took the gloss off earlier romanticized tales of a glamorous life of a foreign correspondent, showing how the threat of death lurks constantly.
While "All the President's Men" and "Spotlight" provided a glimpse of the sometimes tedious and always demanding job of finding sources, tracking down documents and verifying information, the 2007 film "Zodiac" traces not only the still-unsolved crimes of a serial killer but also the personal toll on journalists who pursued the story.
"Absence of Malice" (1981) dramatically showed the real-life impact of news outlets that expose personal information. "Shattered Glass" (2003) traced the rise and fall of a magazine journalist found to have fabricated his stories.
Big journalism movies like "Network," "The China Syndrome" and "Broadcast News" showed fictionalized accounts of how TV journalism works, though many critics at the time said those films were closer to truth than the profession might want to admit.
The demands of daily journalism regardless of era may not have a better account than 1959's "-30-" - journalism slang for "end of story" - which traces nine hours in a major newspaper's life, with the pressures of gathering, reporting and presenting the news.
There are many more noteworthy journalism movies and films involving journalism, from the serious themes of the classic "Citizen Kane" and the little-known "Ace in the Hole" to insider stories like "Frost/Nixon" and "The Paper."
With the caveats that many of these films were made in the pre-internet era and would be quite different culturally if made today, here's an alphabetized list of movies involving journalism:
Discover 25 of the most noteworthy journalism movies of all-time
- -30- (1959)
- Absence of Malice (1981)
- Ace in the Hole (1951)
- All The President's Men (1976)
- Almost Famous (2000)
- Broadcast News (1987)
- The China Syndrome (1979)
- Citizen Kane (1941)
- The Front Page (1974)
- Frost/Nixon (2008)
- Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
- The Insider (1999)
- Kill the Messenger (2014)
- The Killing Fields (1984)
- Network (1976)
- The Paper (1994)
- The Post (2017)
- Salvador (1986)
- Shattered Glass (2003)
- She Said (2022)
- Spotlight (2015)
- Under Fire (1983)
- Wag The Dog (1997)
- The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
- Zodiac (2007)
Here are Gene's top picks:
Gene Policinski is a senior fellow for the First Amendment at the Freedom Forum. He can be reached at [email protected].
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