Journalists are often the unsung heroes of our society, tirelessly working to keep us informed about the world around us. From geopolitical conflicts to local government corruption, these dedicated professionals are always ready to answer the call, armed with their trusty notebooks and pens. Despite their crucial role, journalists are frequently maligned, and their profession is under constant attack by those in power who do not benefit from their work. Some of the most significant accomplishments of journalists have been immortalized in film, with Hollywood’s finest actors bringing their stories to life. If you’re a fan of gripping, edge-of-your-seat biopics that depict the real lives of some of history’s most notable journalists, look no further. Please note that we’re not including movies about fictional journalists, so don’t expect Citizen Kane to make an appearance. Without further ado, here are our top five recommendations for outstanding biopics about journalists.
First up is The Post, a star-studded blockbuster that tells the story of The Washington Post and its publication of the Pentagon Papers. The film, according to Rotten Tomatoes, follows Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, as she and editor Ben Bradlee race against time to expose a massive government cover-up spanning three decades and four U.S. presidents. Featuring powerhouse performances from Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and a stellar supporting cast, The Post masterfully captures the chaos that engulfed U.S. journalists during this tumultuous period. The film received numerous award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Meryl Streep at the 90th Academy Awards.
Spotlight is another riveting biopic that delves into the lives of real-life journalists. The film chronicles the Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight” team as they investigate reports of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area. Their groundbreaking work earned the team a Pulitzer Prize and led to further investigations into the Catholic Church’s systemic sexual abuse. The cast of the movie, according to Rotten Tomatoes, portray the real journalists who worked for the paper, including Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams. Spotlight garnered numerous awards, including the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
The Killing Fields
The Killing Fields tells the harrowing story of three journalists – Cambodian Dith Pran, Australian Sydney Schanberg, and American Al Rockoff – as they report on the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and their impending takeover of the country. Directed by Roland Joffe in his feature film directorial debut, The Killing Fields stars Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, and John Malkovich. Ngor, a non-actor and real survivor of the Cambodian genocide, won Best Supporting Actor for his role in the movie at the Oscars. A Vogue review praised the film as “one of the quietest ‘war’ movies ever made” and “an indelible portrait of the excitement, horror, and confusion with which journalists experience war.”
Zodiac is a mystery thriller that follows the work of Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle who becomes obsessed with decoding the cryptic messages of the infamous Zodiac killer. The film boasts an impressive cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., and Anthony Edwards. Roger Ebert praised Zodiac as “a police procedural crossed with a newspaper movie, but free of most of the cliches of either” and lauded its ability to create “frightening and suspenseful” journey through a “bewildering labyrinth of facts and suspicions.”
All The President’s Men
Rounding out our list is All The President’s Men, a film centered on the Watergate scandal, arguably the most notorious political scandal in U.S. history. The movie follows the story of the two journalists who broke the story, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and is based on their book of the same name. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, All The President’s Men received numerous Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. A Sight & Sound review described the film as a “story that has been marshalled with dazzling skill and precision” but noted that it lacked “the imaginative hooks that might have taken it even further in mood and meaning.”
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