Journalists in Film: 8 Great Movies About the Reporters Behind the News
Journalism as a career is a favorite subject for filmmakers. The job involves investigating, traveling, and creativity, all in the name of finding “the truth,” whatever that may be. This list includes a wide variety of movies all about journalists. Whether they’re interning for a local magazine, inventing a new style of journalism, busting political scandals, or traveling with rock and roll bands, these characters show us various depictions of what it’s like to be a journalist. So if you’re an aspiring reporter or you just find the career interesting, here’s a list of movies about the writers behind the news.
1. All the President’s Men
All the President’s Men is perhaps the seminal film about the seminal journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who broke the Watergate scandal while working for the Washington Post. Woodward and Bernstein are played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, respectively, in the political thriller directed by Alan J. Pakula, which is based on the nonfiction book of the same name written by Woodward and Bernstein about the incident. Woodward is a new reporter first assigned to cover a minor break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters and — with the help of partner Bernstein and an anonymous government source named “Deep Throat” — unfurls the case into the huge scandal that lead to the first presidential resignation. Thanks to the work of Woodward and Bernstein, President Richard Nixon was revealed as a paranoid criminal and now is known as one of the most hated presidents ever to serve in the Oval Office.
2. Almost Famous
Almost Famous was written and directed by Cameron Crowe and is about his experiences as a young Rolling Stone reporter covering the tours of iconic groups like the Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles. The movie stars Patrick Fugit as the young Crowe and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as senior Rolling Stone writer Lester Bangs, who takes Fugit’s character under his wing and encourages him to be “honest and unmerciful” in his writing. The band in the film, Stillwater, is fictional, but Crowe has said that the majority of the film was based on his real experiences as a teenager and aspiring journalist on the road with rock and roll bands.
3. Good Night, and Good Luck
Good Night, and Good Luck depicts the real-life story of the battle between the television and radio journalist Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who headed the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the Communist witch hunt of the 1950s that ruined the lives of countless people falsely accused of having Communist sympathies. The movie was co-written by and stars George Clooney, and it was nominated for six Academy Awards. The film tells the tale of Murrow and the CBS newsroom where he worked. That group of journalists risked everything to tell the truth about McCarthy and discredit his strategies used to root out suspected Communists. Of course Murrow ended up being accused of being a Communist himself, but even that didn’t stop the journalists at CBS from pursuing the case, a tenacity that resulted in a historic blow against McCarthy’s career.
4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
This film, directed by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam, stars Johnny Depp portraying one of the most famous journalists of all time, Rolling Stone’s Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson covered culture, sports, and politics for Rolling Stone and other major publications, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is considered to be his best work. A brutal examination of the counterculture’s crash and burn at the end of the 1960s and a drug-addled quest to see just how far Thompson could push the limits, the story is funny and thought-provoking, beautiful and repulsive. Gilliam was able to remain loyal to the work by having Johnny Depp narrate large portions of it, keeping Thompson’s inimitable language present. The director’s infatuation with the bizarre lent itself perfectly to the trippier scenes. Thompson’s frail attempts to continue covering the motorcycle rally for which he was assigned to cover in Vegas gradually falls away as the real story — which was eventually run in installments in Rolling Stone and published in book form — pours out.
5. Safety Not Guaranteed
This quirky indie comedy stars Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza and New Girl’s Jake Johnson as employees at a local magazine in Seattle. If you enjoy the actors’ work on the aforementioned TV shows, then you’ll like watching them interact in this movie. Plaza plays a disillusioned intern and recent college graduate named Darius whose usual tasks are to get coffee for the writers and replace the toilet paper in the office bathrooms.
Johnson’s character, the reporter Jeff, comes across a strange classified ad asking for someone to accompany a man on a trip back in time. “Wanted: somebody to go back in time with me … safety not guaranteed,” the ad reads. Darius accompanies Jeff on the trip to Ocean View, Washington, to cover the story. She ends up doing most of the work investigating the reclusive man who put out the ad and built the supposed time machine by pretending she’s interested in going back in time with him, eventually realizing that the man is not as crazy as she thought.
6. His Girl Friday
This beloved 1940 screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawkes stars Cary Grant as the editor of The Morning Post and Rosalind Russell as his ex-wife and ex-star reporter who wants to leave the newspaper business behind in order to start a family with her new beau. Grant’s character, Walter, is still in love with Hildy and undertakes a series of schemes to convince her to cover one final story for the Post about a suspected murderer who’s about to be executed. The greatest thing about this film is the fast-paced, witty dialogue, particularly between Hildy and Walter. The movie is also a commentary on the addicting, fast-paced life of a reporter, a life that Hildy discovers she doesn’t want to leave behind.
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Fans of this book series clash over whether they prefer the American or Swedish film versions, but in both, the central male character, Mikael Blomkvist, is a Swedish journalist and co-owner of Millennium magazine. At the start of the story Blomkvist is undergoing a libel suit based on an article he wrote about corrupt businessman Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Blomkvist becomes involved with the protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, when a reclusive billionaire named Henrik Vanger hires the journalist and the brilliant hacker to investigate the disappearance of his grandniece Harriet. The book’s feminist message and thrilling plot twists made it an international sensation.
8. Full Metal Jacket
Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film about the Vietnam War and the dehumanization that takes place during military training follows the character Pvt. Joker, who eventually rises to become a sergeant and a war correspondent for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. Joker is able to avoid gaining the “thousand-yard stare,” a characteristic blank stare that is exhibited by soldiers and other victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, through his work as a reporter. Joker manages to retain a semblance of humanity that the other characters lack through much of the film. He helps the struggling soldier nicknamed “Pyle” until Pyle has a mental breakdown from the constant humiliation suffered at the hands of the other soldiers in training. But once Joker is sent to Vietnam, he experiences a series of horrors that eventually break him. The film is often cited as one of the greatest war movies of all time.
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