Thursday, July 03, 2008

Journalism Movies Worth Your Time to Watch

I've been teaching a community journalism workshop this summer. Since class members are in high school they have requested a movie or two as part of the class. Well, we didn't have time for that but I did provide a list of great journalism-themed movies they can watch on their own time. Here is that list:

1. Shattered Glass - This is probably one of the best journalism movies ever made. It focuses on ethics and how easy it is to ignore the faults in the popular kid in the newsroom. PG-13

2. Good Night and Good Luck - This is of course the story of Edward R. Murrow and his fight against McCarthyism. Great journalism movie even if it doesn't get all of the history exactly right, or without bias. PG

3. The Pelican Brief - Denzel Washington plays a great newspaper reporter. There is a great scene in this movie where Denzel interviews her and reviews his notes. It is a great way to show great note taking. PG-13

4. The Killing Fields - Great true story of a photographer and a reporter during the fall of Laos and the aftermath. R

5. All The President’s Men - You just can’t escape this movie. for many, it is the benchmark for journalism movies. It is not my favorite but it is a must see for journalists. If you don't know much about Watergate you might want to check out a history book first. PG

6. Absence of Malice - Another good story about ethics and when you should print information that might be damaging. PG

7. The Truman Show - Not really about journalism, but about our television culture and how much we are invading into people’s personal space. PG-13

8. Broadcast News - Pretty good movie on what is fake in the news. Some good scenes you could actually use to show kids how a news interview is really done. R

9. The Paper - Micheal Keeton plays a great foul mouthed, deadline oriented, sensationalist editor. An often too realistic look at many daily newspapers. R

10. Deadline USA -- Bob Greene of the Chicago Tribune has called this the best journalism movie ever made. "If you are interested in art movies, see Citizen Kane. If you are interested in screwball comedy, check out His Girl Friday. If it's history you're after, watch All the Presidents Men. If you want to see a classic journalism movie, rent The Front Page. But if you want to see a movie that actually shows you what life is like inside a newsroom, how reporters work together to get a story, and how the story is not always about the big expose but sometimes just about getting the little details right, this is your movie," writes Greene.

11. -30- (also known as Deadline Midnight) -- "In just nine hours they put the world on your doorstep." This 1959 movie is a classic if you can find it.

12. The Front Page -- nominated for 3 Oscars this 1930 film was remade in 1970.

13. His Girl Friday -- A newspaper editor uses every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter ex-wife from remarrying. 1940

14. Switching Channels -- A television news chief courts his anchorwoman ex-wife with an eleventh-hour story. 1988

15. Blessed Event -- Here it is! The scandalous comedy of a scandal columnist who rose "from a keyhole to a national institution." 1932

16. The Big Clock -- A career oriented magazine editor finds himself on the run when he discovers his boss is framing him for murder. 1948

17. I Love Trouble -- Peter Brackett and Sabrina Peterson are two competing Chicago newspaper reporters who join forces to unravel the mystery behind a train derailment. 1994

18. Up Close and Personal -- An ambitious young woman, determined to build a career in TV journalism, gets good advice from her first boss, and they fall in love. 1996

19. The Insider -- A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a "60 Minutes" expose on Big Tobacco. I like this movie. I understand some if it plays fast and loose with the facts, but it is still good drama. 1996

20. S1M0NE -- A producer's film is endangered when his star walks off, so he decides to digitally create an actress to substitute for the star, becoming an overnight sensation that everyone thinks is a real person. 2002

21. Ace In The Hole -- A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus. 1951

22. Sweet Smell of Success -- They know him - and they shiver - the big names of Broadway, Hollywood and Capitol Hill. They know J.J.- the world-famed columnist whose gossip is gospel to sixty million readers! They know the venom that flickers in those eyes behind the glasses - and they fawn - like Sid Falco, the kid who wanted "in" so much, he'd sell out his own girl to stand up there with J.J., sucking in the sweet smell of success! This is J.J.'s story - but not the way he would have liked it told! 1957

23. Citizen Kane -- One of my personal favorites and often listed at the top of many "best movie" lists, this movie is more about the person than about the profession. 1941

24. Live from Baghdad -- A group of CNN reporters wrestle with journalistic ethics and the life-and-death perils of reporting during the Gulf War. 2004

25. "Under Fire" is a war movie staring Nick Nolte. I haven't seen it yet but another journalist recommended (see comments on this blog). "Three journalists in a romantic triangle are involved in political intrigue during the last days of the corrupt Somozoa regime in Nicaragua before it falls to a popular revolution in 1979." Released in 1983. It did get a couple of Oscar nominations.

26. "The Year of Living Dangerously" was also released in 1983. The IMDB website describes this movie in this way: "Guy Hamilton is a journalist on his first job as a foreign correspondent. His apparently humdrum assignment to Indonesia soon turns hot as President Sukarno electrifies the populace and frightens foreign powers. Guy soon is the hottest reporter on the story with the help of his photographer, half- Chinese dwarf Billy Kwan, who has gone native. Guy's affair with diplomat Jill Bryant also helps. Eventually Guy must face some major moral choices and the relationship between Billy and him reaches a crisis at the same time the politics of Indonesia does." This movie won an oscar.

27. Bonus -- Superman or Spiderman - Who doesn’t see journalists as superheros (especially journalism teachers)? Go rent almost any one of the movies featuring Peter Parker or Clark Kent.

Watching all of those movies may take you an entire year but it will be worth it!


Anonymous Mark Dodge Medlin said...

Lots of great and good movies on this list. I can't quite believe, however, that you left off "Under Fire" and "The Year of Living Dangerously."

"Under Fire," besides being a great movie all around, is a cautionary tale about getting so close to the story that you lose any sense of fairness.

"The Year of Living Dangerously" illustrates the problems reporters have always had in some countries where they become targets of dictators who don't like what they report. Also, come on, Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver.

And it looks as though you included "All the President's Men" mostly because you felt you had to. It's a terrific thriller that provides a realistic look at the work reporters do. Woodward and Bernstein spend hours digging fruitlessly through records at the Library of Congress, and (in what may be my favorite scene) Woodward makes huge progress early on just by making one phone call after another. Also, Jason Robards makes a great Ben Bradlee - he's fair, but scary as hell.

8:29 PM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger Ozarks Boy said...

Two I liked:

True Crime (Clint Eastwood)
Salvador (James Woods)

10:07 AM, November 30, 2008  
Blogger Ozarks Boy said...

Book bonus:

A novel (never made into a movie, as far as I know, but should've been) that I read back in the mid-80s and really liked was Panic on Page One. It's difficult to find nowadays.

10:26 AM, November 30, 2008  
Blogger Willis said...

The Killing Fields was based on the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge, not Laos.

5:26 PM, April 27, 2009  

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