1951 • Kirk Douglas stars in director Billy Wilder’s downbeat tale of a reporter who exploits a potential tragedy in his zeal to boost his career. A critical and commercial flop upon release, the film is now recognized as a classic. Also known as “The Big Carnival.”
Journalism is in the spotlight at the movies this holiday season with "Bombshell" (which depicts the culture of sexual harassment at Fox News) and "Richard Jewell" (which has come under fire for its unfounded depiction of a real reporter).
Only one of those is likely to join the ranks of the finest films about journalism and its impact on society. Following are 11 of the best — from the whimsical “His Girl Friday” to the unsettling “Zodiac.”
By Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
‘Ace in the Hole’
‘All the President’s Men’
1976 • The gold standard for films about journalism, director Alan J. Pakula’s political drama follows Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) as they investigate a break-in at the Watergate Hotel.
1987 • Shallow anchorman William Hurt and earnest news writer Albert Brooks compete for the affections of workaholic TV producer Holly Hunter in this tale of journalistic ethics and romantic frustration from director James L. Brooks (“As Good As It Gets”).
1941 • If Orson Welles had directed no other film, he’d still be remembered for this groundbreaking drama about a newspaper tycoon (played by Welles) whose limitless ambition and hunger for political power ultimately overshadow all the good he’s done.
‘Good Night, and Good Luck’
2005 • David Strathairn was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of legendary TV journalist Edward R. Murrow in this drama, directed by George Clooney, about the importance of a free press as a safeguard against duplicitous politicians.
‘His Girl Friday’
1940 • Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant trade witticisms at breakneck speed in this exhilarating take on “The Front Page” that adds a romantic angle to the newspaper yarn and allows director Howard Hawks to explore the sheer lunacy of screwball comedy.
1976 • Peter Finch won a posthumous Oscar for his performance as a “mad as hell” television anchorman in this prophetic look at the dumbing-down of news shows, co-starring Faye Dunaway, scripted by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet (“The Verdict”).
2018 • Director Steven Spielberg makes a timely case for the enduring virtues of journalism and the vital role of a free press in a democracy. Clearly, the story of the Washington Post and its 1971 battle with the Nixon Administration to publish the Pentagon Papers resonates in an era in which “fake news” has become a buzz phrase for politicians unwilling to be confronted with inconvenient truths. Leaked by former U.S. military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, the papers exposed government secrets about the Vietnam War.
“The Post” stars Meryl Streep as publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee. The film was nominated for six Golden Globes.
2003 • Hayden Christensen stars as a reporter whose tendency to fabricate stories gets him into trouble — and puts him at odds with his ethically upright editor (Peter Sarsgaard) — in director Billy Ray’s fact-based account of a scandal at the New Republic magazine.
2015 • Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo star in director Tom McCarthy’s outstanding drama about the Boston Globe’s investigation of pedophile priests and widespread child abuse in the Boston area. The film won the Academy Award for best picture.
2007 • Two journalists with the San Francisco Chronicle — political cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) — go looking for a serial killer in this brilliant, overlooked film from director David Fincher (“The Social Network”).
Also of note
“Absence of Malice” (1981)
“Deadline — U.S.A.” (1952)
“The Insider” (1999)
“The Killing Fields” (1984)
“The Paper” (1994)
“The Year of Living Dangerously” (1982)