Through these difficult times for journalism we could all use a little inspiration and a little fun. How about a movie? Whether through a contemporary investigative thriller, like State of Play, or a portrayal of the tenacity and integrity that permeated those smoke-filled newsrooms in the Golden Age of broadcast news, like Good Night and Good Luck, we hope you enjoy these recommendations from CJR’s Summer Movie Club. Several weeks ago, we asked our readers to suggest movies that encompass the best, worst, and most entertaining of the reporting, editing, publishing, and broadcasting fields. Following is a compilation of those suggestions, which we hope you enjoy. Also, be sure to check out our staff’s reviews of a different movie every Friday this summer.
Absence of Malice
Paul Newman and Sally Field, 1981.
Reporter is protected by absence of malice doctrine in a slander/libel case.
Ace in the Hole (aka The Big Carnival)
Directed by Billy Wilder, 1951.
Discontented Albuquerque journalist distorts story for his own gain.
All the President’s Men
Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, 1976.
Follows reporters Woodward and Bernstein as they uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that destroyed Richard Nixon.
Written/Directed by Cameron Crowe, 2000.
A high school boy scores a dream opportunity to write a piece for Rolling Stone Magazine about a rock band, with which he goes on tour.
Directed by Robert Connolly, 2009.
A war correspondent travels to East Timor in 1975 to investigate the disappearances of five journalists and develops a friendship with the man who would become president.
Between the Lines
John Heard and Lindsey Crouse, 1977.
Chronicles the struggle of an underground newspaper in Boston about to be taken over by big business.
Bill Cunningham New York
Directed by Richard Press, 2010.
A documentary portrait of the stalwart New York fashion photographer Bill Cunningham.
Directed by Edward Zwick, 2006.
Chronicles the stories of those wrapped up in the conflict diamond industry in politically unstable Sierra Leone.
Written/Directed by Tim Robbins, 1992.
A conservative folk singer runs a sleazy election campaign while an independent muckraking reporter tries to bring it down.
Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas, 2006.
A Chicago reporter investigates the mysterious deaths of factory workers in Juarez, a Mexican border town.
William Hurt and Holly Hunter, 1987.
A love triangle between two rival male reporters, one flashy and one substantive, and a female producer represents the larger dilemma between these two styles of news.
Call Northside 777
Directed by Henry Hathaway, 1948.
A Chicago reporter revisits an old murder trial because of a newspaper ad put out by the alleged murderer’s mother and is met with resistance when he discovers that the man might be innocent.
The China Syndrome
Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon, 1979.
A reporter witnesses an accident at a nuclear power plant, which she plans to write about despite the threat from a conspiracy to keep the incident quiet.
Directed by Orson Welles, 1941.
Reporters investigate the life of a deceased newspaper tycoon in order to discover the meaning of the last word he spoke.
The Day the Earth Caught Fire
Edward Judd, Janet Munro, and Leo McKern, 1961.
British reporters discover an impending disaster for Earth, which is on track to collide with the sun, despite an international cover-up attempt.
Humphrey Bogart and Kim Hunter, 1952.
An editor tries to take a last stand as his newspaper is up for sale by exposing a gangster in the paper’s final three issues.
The Devil Came on Horseback
Written/Directed by Anne Sundberg and Ricki Stern, 2007.
A documentary on the genocide in Darfur from the perspective of a US marine.
The Devil Wears Prada
Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, 2006.
An aspiring journalist settles for a job as assistant to one of the fashion world’s most powerful editors and faces difficult decisions after she gets wrapped up in the fashion world.
Chevy Chase and Joe Don Baker, 1985.
A Los Angeles journalist goes undercover to investigate the drug trade on the beach, but discovers even more sinister goings-on.
Directed by Michael Oblowitz, 2003.
A freelance agent becomes embroiled in political corruption and violent conflict when he agrees to transport an unknown package from France to Germany.
The Front Page
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, 1974.
An editor convinces a top Chicago reporter ready to leave the profession for a quieter life to stay on and write about an insane murderer set to go to the gallows.
Good Night and Good Luck
George Clooney wrote, directed and starred, 2005.
The story of CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow’s crusade to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.
The Green Hornet
Directed by Michel Gondry, 2011.
A playboy who inherits the position of LA Times publisher from his recently deceased father starts a crime-fighting duo with his driver.
His Girl Friday
Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, 1940.
A newspaper editor tries to frame his ex-wife’s new fiancée in order to prevent her from remarrying and convince her to return to his paper’s staff.
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
Simon Pegg and Megan Fox, 2008.
Based on Toby Young’s memoir about a British writer trying to fit in at a high-profile New York magazine.
The Hunting Party
Richard Gere and Terrence Howard, 2007.
A contingent of journalists endanger themselves when they search for Bosnia’s number one war criminal, but they are mistaken for CIA operatives.
I Love Trouble
Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte, 1994.
Two rival Chicago reporters team up to investigate the real story behind a train derailment and fall for each other despite the ongoing competition.
Russell Crowe and Al Pacino, 1999.
A research chemist risks his career and his personal life when he appears on 60 Minutes to talk about Big Tobacco.
Journeys with George
Directed by Alexandra Pelosi and Aaron Lubarsky, 2002.
Documentary that follows reporters covering George W. Bush on the campaign trail.
The Killing Fields
Sam Waterson and Haing S. Ngor, 1984.
A New York Times journalist covers the Civil War in Cambodia with help from a local photographer who risks his life to stay and cover the war.
The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
Angela Winkler and Mario Adorf, 1975.
German film about a young maid who is slandered by the press after being involved with a man whom she didn’t know was a terrorist.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
John Wayne and James Stewart, 1962.
A senator who had supposedly killed an outlaw reveals the truth to a local newspaper in this Western.
The Mean Season
Kurt Russell and Mariel Hemingway, 1985.
A murderer tips off a Miami reporter who covered his trial that he is going to kill again, putting a wedge in the reporter’s plans to leave Miami.
Meet John Doe
Directed by Frank Capra, 1941.
A disgruntled, fired reporter fabricates the story of a man threatening to commit suicide as a protest of social ills and unwittingly begins a political movement.
Never Been Kissed
Drew Barrymore and David Arquette, 1999.
A young journalist goes undercover at her old high school, but must make difficult decisions about her career and her cover when she falls for a teacher.
Directed by Sidney Lumet, 1976.
A lagging network fires a news anchor and goes on to exploit his descent into madness for its own ratings and profit.
Nothing But the Truth
Written/Directed by Rod Lurie, 2008.
A Washington, D.C. columnist publishes a story about the president ignoring CIA findings, but she faces arrest when she refuses to reveal her source.
Directed by William A. Wellman, 1937.
After discovering her deadly case of radium poisoning was misdiagnosed, a factory worker travels to New York where a reporter decides that he can use her story to turn his career around.
Michael Keaton and Glenn Close, 1994.
A New York tabloid editor considers leaving his tabloid for a quieter paper, but a juicy story complicates the decision.
The Parallax View
Warren Beatty and Paula Prentiss, 1977.
A reporter discovers a multinational company’s far-reaching conspiracy as he investigates the assassination of a senator and resulting deaths of reporters present during the assassination.
Written/directed by Samuel Fuller, 1952.
Set in 1880s New York, a journalist successfully sets up his own newspaper, drawing the ire of a larger paper’s owner.
The Pelican Brief
Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, 1993.
A law student finds out the truth about who killed two supreme court justices, which makes her a target for some who want to truth covered up, but an investigative journalist wants to publish her story.
A River Runs Through It
Directed by Robert Redford, 1992.
Brad Pitt plays a journalist as the movie follows the story of two brothers growing up in Montana with their minister father.
Directed by Oliver Stone, 1986.
A journalist covering the military dictatorship in El Salvador allies with both countryside guerillas and the right-wing military.
Hayden Christensen, 2003.
Based on the true story of a prodigious young journalist whose career is ended when his articles are found to be false.
J.K Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, 2002.
The comic book classic featuring nerd-turned-super hero, Peter Parker, against the evil Green Goblin involves a tenacious newspaper editor in Jameson.
State of Play
Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams, 2009.
Investigative reporters work with a detective to solve the mystery of how a congresswoman’s mistress was murdered.
Christopher Reeve and Kathy Baker, 1987.
A magazine reporter finds himself at the center of a scandal when the police think that the pimp he described in a fake story is a real pimp suspected of murder.
Demi Moore and Burt Reynolds, 1996.
A single mother dancing at a nightclub for money tries to blackmail a congressman in order to regain custody of her daughter.
Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman, 1978.
Journalist by day and superhero by night, Clark Kent must defeat Lex Luthor and his evil schemes.
Sweet Smell of Success
Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, 1957.
A powerful newspaper columnist convinces a seedy press agent to break off his sister’s engagement to a jazz musician.
Clark Gable and Doris Day, 1958.
The city editor of a newspaper balks at first when he is instructed to help a college journalism professor with her class, but he masquerades as a student when he finds himself attracted to her.
Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press
Directed by Rick Goldsmith, 1996.
Documentary about the American investigative journalist and media critic who published In Fact.
Nick Nolte and Gene Hackman, 1983.
Three journalists entwined in a romantic triangle get drawn into the political intrigue of the Somoza regime, which soon falls to a popular revolt.
Directed by Oliver Stone, 2008.
Josh Brolin plays the former president in this account of his life and presidency.
Welcome to Sarajevo
Stephen Dillane, Woody Harrelson, and Marisa Tomei, 1997.
While reporting on the Bosnian war in Sarajevo, two teams of journalists from the US and the UK get involved with an orphanage near the front line.
The Year of Living Dangerously
Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver, 1982.
An Australian journalist tries to navigate the political landscape of Indonesia as a foreign correspondent.