The November 10 release of Morning Glory is fast approaching.
In honor of this movie, which will undoubtedly find a way into my cynical-onetime-journalist’s heart, I’ve compiled a list of the movies all about journalism that journalists like.
1. Network (1976)
Howard Beale (Peter Finch), the longtime anchor UBS Evening News, learns he has two weeks left to host the program because of low ratings. The following night, he announces his plan to commit to suicide on air. Beale’s break down provokes the nation in this brilliantly acted satire that also stars William Holden, Faye Dunaway, and Robert Duvall. Network won three of four acting Academy Awards, the last film to do so. Finch was honored posthumously.
Is there a greater and more quoted scene than this? The iconic “Mad as Hell” speech seems to ring more true than ever these days.
2. Broadcast News (1987)
If Network is the pinnacle satirical film about broadcast news, then Broadcast News is the standard rom-com (and why my expectations for Morning Glory are so high). Some of the archetypes seen throughout journalism movies – the smart, headstrong female producer (Holly Hunter), the gifted writer longing for air time (Albert Brooks) and the charismatic anchor (William Hurt) – are more or less established here. These actors are three parts of a love triangle that goes horribly awry but under the guidance of writer-director James L. Brooks, Broadcast News is one of the funnier journalism movies around.
3. All the President’s Men (1974)
All the President’s Men is the kind of movie newsie’s salivate over. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein investigation of the Watergate scandal is the biggest journalism story, ever. More importantly, the movie reminds us of the time when print journalism still mattered and wasn’t becoming extinct by new media.
4. His Girl Friday (1940)
Smart dialogue and journalism movies go hand-in-hand(See above for Network and Broadcast News) and it all began in His Girl Friday. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell face off in this Howard Hawks screwball comedy. In typical screwball romantic comedies, this divorced couple is meant to be together. But one person (Russell’s Hildy Johnson) just refuses to accept it. Can you blame her? Walter Burns’ journalism career always mattered more than their marriage. Watching these two actors exchange dialogue only magnifies the sheer perfection that comes from this movie.
5. Sweet Smell of Success (1956)
Everyone wants to satisfy J.J. Hunsecker. The New York gossip columnist holds power over his readers, the celebrities he writes about, and his family. One press agent’s desire to challenge that power has dire consequences. Burt Lancaster plays Hunsecker, who is threatened by Tony Curtis’ Sidney Falco. Both actor’s are playing against type in this revealing expose of New York City’s corrupt underbelly.
6. Shattered Glass (2003)
Fabricating stories and falsifying information never looked so good. Stephen Glass was a star reporter for The New Republic when his editor, Charles Lane, discovered that Glass had invented most of his stories. The stylized film about the scandal brings to attention a darker side of journalism. What happens when those responsible for reporting the truth, don’t? Peter Saarsgaard steals the movie as Lane who handles the situation when those closest to Glass don’t believe it to true.
7. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
Where would journalism be today without Edward R. Murrow? If you believe Jon Stewart and think the media is to blame for the mess we are in now, the answer would be pretty bad. Good Night, and Good Luck, with its crisp black and white cinematography, follows Murrow (played by David Strathairn) and the staff of his nightly broadcast, See It Now, during the 1953 when they challenged corporate pressures to discredit Joseph McCarthy. Broadcast journalism was still in its early stages.
8. Frost/Nixon (2008)
About two years ago I became utterly fixated by the Frost/Nixon interviews. I’ve watched them in their entirety more than once and studied the Broadway play this Ron Howard movie is adapted from. Frost and Nixon (played by Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, reprising their Broadway roles) go head-to-head in a film that questions what is true and what is created, in both the Watergate scandal and what the filmmaker’s present on screen.
Peter Morgan, in his author’s note that prefaces the play, famously writes, “As an author, I feel most comfortable thinking of this as a fiction – a creation. [Frost/Nixon] is a play, not a historical document, and I have on occasion, perhaps inevitably, been unable to resist using my imagination…” For a historical moment such as Watergate, which was entrenched in lies and secrecy that the Frost/Nixon interviews seemed to unveil, the play and film only suggest that what we think we know may not be accurate. In so many ways, these artistic interpretations of a groundbreaking interview question what journalism is supposed to do: uncover the truth.
There are countless movies – Inherit the Wind, The Killing Fields, Almost Famous – and even television shows – Sports Night, Newsradio, The Wire – I could have included. Did I miss your favorite? Sound off below.