Editor’s note: On his blog Journalistics, PR professional Jeremy Porter compiled a hefty list of films about journalism that he (and others) recommends everyone working in journalism or public relations watch. Here are the first 10 movies from his list. To learn how he selected the movies, and to see the full list, click here.
A Mighty Heart (2007)
Wall Street Journal
reporter Daniel Pearl went missing in Pakistan after he was supposed to interview an Islamic fundamentalist. His pregnant wife, Mariane Pearl, also a journalist, embarks on a search to find her husband.
The story is sensationalized in film, but it’s a great reminder of the risks and sacrifices some brave journalists face to bring us the news. Although there was no Oscar love for this film, Angelina Jolie was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her role as Mariane Pearl.
Ace in the Hole (1951)
I wouldn’t have thought of this one, but I’m glad the people who follow @Journalistics on Twitter delivered. “Ace in the Hole” stars Kirk Douglas as a down and out reporter at an Albuquerque newspaper who finally gets his big chance to report on a story for national newspapers. Things get out of control as Douglas’ character works to restart his career around this once-in-a-lifetime story. This film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay in 1952.
• From Twitter: Martin Kohler, Berlin (@martinko58) says, “‘Ace in the Hole’ – Kirk Douglas: so incredible!”
Absence of Malice (1981)
This film has a pretty cool plot as far as journalism story lines go. A frustrated prosecutor falsely accuses a mafia boss’s son of murder. That prosecutor leaks the bogus information to reporter Megan Carter, who covers the story.
The reporter is cleared of libel under the absence of malice rule in slander and libel cases. It also makes a great title for the film. The rest of the film deals with the accused trying to move on with his life, but it’s an interesting plot about the implications of false accusations that get play in mainstream media. Something that’s probably more of an issue today than in 1981, when news spreads faster.
The film has a great cast that includes Paul Newman, who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, Melinda Dillon, a nominee for Best Supporting Actress, and Sally Field. The film was also nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay.
All The President’s Men (1976)
If any of you made a list of “journalism” movies, it would include this classic tale of the Watergate scandal. I remember reading the book and watching the movie in my Interviewing & Reporting class in college. It’s the definitive film on investigative journalism, and the film most responsible for students wanting to major in journalism in the ‘80s.
I had the opportunity to meet Bob Woodward and hear him speak at a Public Relations Society of America conference in the ‘90s. It was incredibly motivating to me as a journalism student at the time. There’s a lot to learn from this film (and not simply that Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford are amazing actors): Protect your sources and be deliberate and fearless in pursuit of the truth, and you too can make a difference.
If you haven’t seen this one, put it at the top of your queue on Netflix. “All The President’s Men” won four Oscars, including Best Actor (Jason Robards) and Best Writing, Screenplay. It was nominated for four others, too.
• From Twitter: Riya V. Anandwala, Communications Specialist at Waldorf College (@riyavanandwala): “All The President’s Men! Hands Down.”
Almost Famous (2000)
This is one of those movies that purists would say doesn’t belong on the list. I beg to differ. It’s the story of director Cameron Crowe’s early luck landing a dream job reporting for Rolling Stone
. Crowe quickly learns that covering the rock ‘n’ roll scene isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, as he travels the country writing about one of the hot bands of the time.
The writing for the film was fantastic, but don’t take my word for it—it won an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay. It was also nominated for two Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscars (Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand) and Best Film Editing. A word of caution if you do decide to watch this one, you’ll be singing Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” for days.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
“I’m Ron Burgundy?” Yes, you are Will Ferrell.
Ferrell plays a television anchorman in this parody of the broadcast news business in the 1970s. He faces some steep competition from a woman (Christina Applegate), who is quickly proving she’s better at the job than the men in the newsroom.
Last week, rumors surfaced
that there’s a sequel in the works. While this isn’t one of the best films about journalism, it’s certainly one of the funnier ones. I own a copy; you should, too.
• From Twitter: Evan Floyd, Public Relations Graduate, Georgia Southern (@evoyd) – “Anchorman has to be the top journalist movie. I’m Ron Burgundy?”
I had never heard of this film about war correspondent Roger East and Nobel Prize winner Jose Romos-Horta covering the murders of five journalists that went missing as Indonesia prepared to invade East Timor in 1975.
It’s one of the films I discovered through my informal poll on Twitter. Hat tip to Hilton Thom for bringing this one to my attention. I’d love to get some reader feedback on this one, since I’m clearly not the best endorser for the film.
• From Twitter: Hilton Thom, Student at University of Pretoria, South Africa (@schalkie_thom) – “Balibo. Definitely inspired me to study journalism.”
Broadcast News (1987)
Part comedy, part drama, and a wee bit of romance makes “Broadcast News” a perennial favorite among journalists I polled for this post. This one was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (William Hunt), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Albert Brooks), and Best Actress (Holly Hunter).
This is on the “must watch” list if you haven’t seen it. Even if you have, it’s worth watching again. I’m adding it to my growing library of journalism-related films.
• Michelle Garrett, PR Consultant & Technology Specialist, Columbus, OH (@PRisUS) – “Easy – Broadcast News! Love that one!”
• Rachel Moore (@rachel_really – “”Broadcast News!” Holly Hunter & Albert Brooks were incredible.”
This is one of those films that doesn’t fit the typical definition of a “journalism movie.” The movie is based on the research Truman Capote did for his book “In Cold Blood”—about the brutal murder of a Kansas family—which is classified as a work of journalism.
To get the facts straight, Capote wrote “In Cold Blood” with help from Harper Lee, who wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Oscar for Best Actor, and the film was nominated for four others in 2006, including Best Picture.
Citizen Kane (1941)
A group of reporters scramble to figure out the last word spoken by newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane: “Rosebud.” Through flashbacks, the film reveals how Kane rose to fame—and how he eventually fell from glory. Do we ever find out what Kane meant with his dying word “Rosebud”? You’ll have to watch it, if you don’t already know the answer.
Directed by and starring Orson Welles, the film won an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay and was nominated for eight others, including Best Actor (Orson Welles) and Best Picture.
To see even more films about journalism, visit Journalistics.