1. His Girl Friday (1940)
Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell butt heads in this story of an ex-husband and editor trying to win back his star reporter and ex-wife, whom he still loves. But it’s about more than that. It’s about the dehumanization of their subjects. There’s one bleak exchange about changing the time of a hanging to make the evening edition. It’s cutthroat. Russell’s character laments that she doesn’t want to be a reporter, she just wants to be a woman. It’s a bit dated, but the ethical dilemmas are devastating. And in the end, Hildy is more journalist than lady.
2. All The President’s Men (1976)
There’s three types of freshman journalism majors: ones who want to be Carrie Bradshaw, ones who want to write for Rolling Stone, and ones who want to be Woodward and Bernstein. I was the last one. All The President’s Men follows the Watergate scandal and features Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as sexier versions of Woodward and Bernstein. Nice.
3. Ace In The Hole (1951)
Kirk Douglas plays a disgraced reporter who’ll stop at nothing to get his job back. It’s directed by Billy Wilder who pretty much directed everything in the 1950s. Legit everything. Have you guys ever seen young Kirk Douglas? It’s wild. He looks like…well, Michael Douglas.
4. Capote (2005)
I LOVE THIS MOVIE. Though not technically a journalism film, it is about Truman Capote’s research for the best journalistic book I’ve ever read “In Cold Blood.” If you have not read “In Cold Blood,” you are making a mistake. It’s freaking fantastic. Anyway, Philip Seymour Hoffman is his usual flawless self and this film is great and twisted.
5. Network (1976)
A total journalism classic. Peter Finch plays Howard Beale, anchor for the fictional UBS Evening News, who announces he is planning on committing suicide on air. What follows is PERFECT satire. Plus you get this:
6. Deadline USA (1952)
The title of this movie is a bit Miley Cyrus-esque, but it’s a good one. Humphrey Bogart stars in this gangster noir film as a crusading newspaper editor. Love me some Bogie.
7. Broadcast News (1987)
James L. Brooks at his finest, brings us this romantic comedy about three people working in television news. Holly Hunter kicks ass as Jane, Albert Brooks is endearing as fast-talking Aaron, and the movie was wildly praised for being very accurate about the newsroom, broadcasting and the news gathering process. So it’s like Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom but you know, not like that.
8. Frost/Nixon (2008)
Michael Sheen and Frank Langella give OUTSTANDING performances in this adaptation of the 2006 play about the infamous interviews between British journalist David Frost and disgraced President Richard Nixon in 1977. Both actors freaking nail it so hard. Though there’s been some criticism for historical inaccuracy, Frost/Nixon is a stellar movie. And oh man: “When the President does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Journalistic gold.
9. Page One (2011)
This documentary follows a year in the life of the New York Times. It was super entertaining, not only as a great look into the goings-on of the world’s most respected paper. (Full disclosure: I freelance for them!) But it introduced us to the rogue David Carr and showed us Brian Stetler handling Julian Assange when Wikileaks was breaking. All in all, fascinating stuff. A riveting must-see for anyone in journalism.
10. Good Night, Good Luck (2005)
Like the conflict of Frost/Nixon, this George Clooney-directed black and white film pits newsman Edward R. Murrow against anti-Communist Senator Joseph McCarthy. The focus is on the theme of media responsibility and juxtaposes modern day with the newsroom of the 1950s. In the end, Murrow admonishes his audience for squandering the potential of broadcast news to educate and inform, instead using it for fear-mongering and scandal. A relevant message.
11. Newsies (1992)
A movie musical that basically made my childhood. Newsies follows the turn of the century newspaper boys as they fight against the big newspaper magnate’s trying to get them to work for less pay. With the help of a reporter (Bill Pullman), they decide to protest in hopes of a better life. Christian Bale does a dance with a lasso and it’s all real homoerotic. SEIZE THE DAY!
12. Shattered Glass (2003)
Hayden Christensen plays Stephen Glass, a journalist accused of making up stories for The New Republic as his lies become unraveled. His rapid rise to journalistic fame caused too much pressure and Glass’s interview subjects were fictional, and his stories never happened. He also takes his editor, who stands by his reporter, down with him. It’s not unlike the cringe-worthy Jayson Blair or Jonah Lehrer stories. All too common in journalism.
13. Citizen Kane (1941)
Arguably the best movie ever made, Citizen Kane is about a wealthy media proprietor/newspaper publisher and recluse (Orson Welles) and the ambitious young reporter who wants to find out everything about the now-dead man’s private life. The story takes place through the writer’s interviews with Kane’s family and friends. So not only is it the best movie, but it’s also one of the best about newspapers and journalism.
14. Anchorman (2004)
Oh come on. It’s about broadcast news! This Will Ferrell comedy is a pretty spot-on satire of 1970s local news channels and the feminist movement. A group of local TV personalities go crazy when a woman joins the staff as a reporter and news anchor. Is it weird that I totally related to Christina Applegate’s desire for respect from her colleagues? Plus, whatever Anchorman is super funny. I love lamp!
15. Almost Famous (2000)
This is more of a rock n’ roll movie but it does follow a young boy who wants to write about music for Rolling Stone. When William gets too close to his subjects and too immersed in his story, his small-town life changes into a big-time show biz mess. All those freshman year journalism majors who wanted to be music journalists? This movie made them think they were golden gods.