5 Most Important Movies about Journalism
It’s been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Words have power —we know this to be true. Sticks and stones do break bones, but words can still hurt people. Words can also heal people. Words can offer people hope. They can inspire and redeem. In the best cases, words even can save lives. The power of the written word is astounding, but with great power comes great responsibility. Journalists have been prosecuted, persecuted, and even murdered due to the stories they were determined to tell. Most journalists know the responsibility they take on when they decide to get involved in the field. Some even salivate for it. The best journalists will look at a story, from all angles, and then tell it with an objective pen.
The point is, journalism is an extremely important career and only the strongest among us can handle it. Writers risk everything on their journey to seek the truth. Sometimes that risk pays off and lives are saved or, at least, vindicated. The world of journalism is a fascinating one, and it has sometimes made for a better story than what is printed. Because of this, numerous films have been made that focus on the world of journalism. The majority of the films focusing on journalism are, in fact, true stories. Truth is much stranger than fiction.
5) Shattered Glass (2003)
Shattered Glass is one of the best movies about one of the worst men to call himself a journalist. Stephen Glass was a reporter for The New Republic during the mid-1990s and he was quickly proving himself to be a force to be reckoned with. His stories were intriguing, powerful and almost too good to be true. That’s because they were. Glass became infamous in the world of journalism because of his propensity for just making stuff up. Many of the stories he wrote for The New Republic were partially, or even sometimes fully fabricated. While Glass claims he had no malicious intent in doing this, he almost single-handedly cost the integrity of journalism as a whole.
The 2003 feature film Shattered Glass documented the steady rise and vast fall of Glass. It starred Hayden Christensen as the titular star and he did a phenomenal job portraying Glass. Stephen Glass wasn’t a bad guy, necessarily. His ambition just outweighed his ethics. This is an important movie because it shows just how important using sources, photos and other forms of proof are to the publishing of a story. It also shows the power journalists have and how, sometimes, that power is not used responsibly.
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4) Almost Famous (2000)
Not all movies about journalism focus on politics, however. Rolling Stone Magazine has become one of the most culturally-significant tomes in the history of journalism. It offers real-life glimpses into the lives of the celebrities that we worship. Almost Famous was a 2000 film starring Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and more. It tells the story of a teenage journalist who was selected by the magazine to follow fictitious band Stillwater in the early 1970s and document his experiences. While the film was not a “true story,” it was based on the experiences of writer/director Cameron Crowe who, himself, wrote for Rolling Stone as a young man. Those experiences included Crowe falling in love, experimenting with drugs for the first time, losing his virginity and more.
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3) All the President’s Men (1976)
When it comes to the importance of journalism and the effect it can have on the world, there is one word that encompasses it all: Watergate. The Watergate Scandal is one of the most important events in the history of journalism and even of America itself. Watergate was the name given to the major political scandal involving Richard Nixon. Nixon was the President of the United States at the time. Following the break-in of five men at the Democratic National Convention headquarters, a few journalists delved deeper into the story. They discovered a vast conspiracy, headed by Nixon, which included bugging political oppositions, as well as investigations of activist and political figures with whom Nixon disagreed. The entire Watergate Scandal, as it came to be known, would result in the call for impeachment and the actual resignation of President Nixon. It also resulted in the indictment of 69 people, many of whom were Nixon’s close advisors.
All the President’s Men is a 1976 political thriller starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. It was based on the book written by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Bernstein and Woodward were two of the reporters that uncovered Watergate for their newspaper, The Washington Post. Their story was an incredible one, made even more incredible by the performances of Redford and Hoffman in this film. It came out only 4 years after the original scandal. The wounds were still real and the effects of Watergate were still being felt. All the President’s Men was nominated for multiple Oscar and Golden Globe categories. It was also selected for preservation in the United States Film Registry by the Library of Congress. All the President’s Men was, by far, the most important political journalist film of all time and it showed just how vital reporters are to the world.
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2) The Post (2017)
Speaking of The Washington Post, it was the subject of much debate in 1971. The Post opted to publish the Pentagon Papers, a series of classified documents detailing the involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War. In 1966, then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was telling the press that everything was going well in Vietnam. Privately, he knew the war was a lost cause for America. This fact, as well as a host of others that connected four different presidents to a decades-long scandal, was published in the Washing Post. It was directly responsible for the upcoming Watergate Scandal.
The Post tells the story of publisher Katherine Graham (played by the always-perfect Meryl Streep). Graham must decide whether to publish a story that possibly implicates many of her friends (including president JFK, President Truman, and Secretary McNamara) in a HUGE government conspiracy. Editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks) doesn’t hesitate in expressing his desire to publish the story. Graham, on the other hand, has A LOT to lose — including her newspaper, her friendships, and even her freedom. It’s a story about doing the right thing and sacrificing everything for something you believe in. The Post is an important film because of the publication of the Pentagon Papers. But it’s also an important film because it shows that the world of journalism is not just a Boys Club. When it comes to writing stories, it doesn’t matter if a journalist is a man or a woman, as long as they tell the truth. Sometimes journalists have to sacrifice everything if a story needs to be told. Katherine Graham sacrificed everything and, in doing so, she changed the face of the nation forever.
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1) Spotlight (2015)
Sometimes, there are things more important than politics. The lives affected by the scandalous world of the Catholic Church are just some of them. The Catholic Church has long covered up the misdeeds of some of its priests. Many of those misdeeds involved the molestation of young boys. Spotlight is a film that tells the story of The Boston Globe and its decision to publish stories that implicate the Catholic Church in the rape and molestation of countless young men. Like the Washington Post, the Boston Globe had a lot to lose by pursuing that story. The Catholic Church was literally thousands of years old. It has spent many of those years covering up the behavior of their priests. What the reporters of the Boston Globe did was akin to David taking on Goliath. Fortunately, the Globe did publish their stories. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of a look into the scandalous world of the Roman Catholic Church.
Spotlight featured an ensemble cast, including Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber and more. Their performances were real and believable. The actors believed in the story they were telling, just like the reporters of The Globe believed in the story they told. Spotlight shows just how important journalism is to the world and how much responsibility journalists take on in their effort to tell stories. If it wasn’t for the reporters at the Boston Globe, many young men would continue to live in fear, in silence and in shame of what happened to them.
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