Planet Princeton Picks: Top 20 Movies About Journalists

Your support for Planet Princeton’s crowdsourcing campaign will help ensure that we continue to publish Planet Princeton, and will strengthen our reporting and news gathering abilities in service of the community’s interest.  Less than 72 hours remain for our campaign, which ends Wednesday night.  The campaign will fund technology upgrades, a phone app, a public records fund, a half a dozen investigative stories, and a community forum on suicide. For more information about our campaign visit our Indiegogo page.

In honor of our campaign, we thought our readers might enjoy a list of our top 20 favorite movies (in alphabetical order) about reporters.

Thanks for your support!

Absence of Malice – Paul Newman plays Michael Gallagher, an honest businessman who is the son of a dead mobster. A federal investigator is out to get him, and leaks false information to reporter Megan Carter (Sally Field). She writes a story linking Gallagher to the disappearance of a labor leader. Carter’s questionable ethics continue when she gets involved with Gallagher. Gallagher later plots his revenge. 1981

All The President’s Men – All The President’s Men features Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as sexier versions of Woodward and Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who uncovered the details of the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resignation. 1976

Almost Famous – A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies the band on their concert tour. He ends up getting too close to his subjects and too immersed in his story. 2000

Anchorman – A group of local TV personalities go crazy when a woman joins the staff as a reporter and news anchor in this Will Ferrell comedy that is a satire of 1970s local news channels. 2004

Broadcast News – A romantic comedy about three people working in television news starring Holly Hunter and Albert Brook. The movie is an accurate about the newsroom, broadcasting, and the news gathering process. 1987

The China Syndrome –  TV reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) wants to get away from doing corny lifestyle segments and cover a serious story. She inadvertently finds her story when she and cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) cover a day in the life of a nearby power plant, and witness some frightening irregularities. Senior plant official Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) bravely attempts to get the story out  with the reporter’s help. 1979

Citizen Kane – Considered one of the best movies ever made, the classic is about a wealthy newspaper publisher and recluse played by Orson Welles. Following the death of the publishing tycoon, reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance, “Rosebud.” 1941

Deadline USA –  Humphrey Bogart is a crusading newspaper editor who tries to bring down a mob boss and save his marriage at the same time. The paper he works for  is about to be sold by the greedy daughters of the newspaper’s founder. 1952

Good Night, Good Luck – The George Clooney film pits newsman Edward R. Murrow against anti-Communist Senator Joseph McCarthy. The focus is on the theme of media responsibility and juxtaposes the modern day with the newsroom of the 1950s.  2005

His Girl Friday – Editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) finds out that his ex-wife, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), is going to quit her job as a reporter and get married to lead a normal life. When a convicted killer escapes the night before he is to hang, Burns convinces Johnson that she can get one last scoop before it’s over. He also hopes to win her back. 1940

The Insider – Based on a  true story, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), an embittered tobacco company employee, decides to blow the whistle on mammoth employer Brown & Williamson’s deceptive practices. He enlists the help of Lowell Bergman, senior producer on 60 Minutes (Al Pacino), to get the story out. 1999

The Killing Fields – The story of a reporter for the New York Times whose coverage of the Cambodian War wins him a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. His photographer friend who made it possible is trapped in Cambodia during Pol Pot’s bloody “Year Zero” cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of two million civilians. 1984

Network  – Peter Finch plays Howard Beale, anchor for the fictional UBS Evening News, who announces he is planning on committing suicide on air. His TV network cynically exploits his ravings and revelations about the media for their own profit. 1976

Newsies – The movie musical follows turn of the century newspaper boys as they fight against the big newspaper magnate’s attempts to get them to work for less pay. 1992.

The Paper – Twenty-four hours in the life of a New York tabloid staffed by colorful newspaper characters who deliver the daily miracle. Henry Hackett (Michael Keaton) is the city editor who’s at odds with Alicia Clark (Glenn Close), the managing editor. After two white businessmen are slain, two young black men are arrested. Hackett thinks they were set up. The film does a good job capturing the hectic pace of a newsroom. 1994

The Pelican Brief –  Denzel Washington plays Gray Grantham, a reporter at the fictitious Washington Herald. After two U.S. Supreme Court justices are murdered, law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) comes up with a theory about their deaths and writes it in a brief. Her boyfriend and professor, Thomas Callahan (Sam Shepherd), shows the brief to a friend, who is an FBI legal analyst. Callahan is then killed with a car bomb meant for Shaw. With help from the FBI director, Shaw and Grantham uncover evidence to prove her brief to be true. 1994

Shattered Glass – Hayden Christensen plays Stephen Glass, a journalist accused of making up stories for The New Republic. Based on a true story. Many of Glass’s interview subjects were fictional, and his stories never happened. 2003

State of Play – A team of investigative reporters works to try to solve the murder of a congressman’s mistress. Russell Crowe stars in the movie that exaggerates how journalists source stories. But the movie is an accurate depiction of the lifestyle of reporters (old, messy car and messy desk, lack of a much of a personal life because of the job, tension between traditional reporters and emerging online reporters). 2009

The Wire – The cable series depicts the Baltimore crime scene, seen through the eyes of reporters and editors at the Baltimore Sun, drug dealers, and law enforcement. Even though it is a tv series and not a movie, we had to include it because it is one of the most accurate depictions of newsrooms ever. 2002-2008

The Year of Living Dangerously –  A young Australian reporter tries to navigate the political turmoil of Indonesia during the rule of President Sukarno with the help of a photographer. 1982

What movies do you think should make the list? Which films did we forget?


  1. Two:

    “The Last American Hero” based on Tom Wolfe’s “Jr. Johnson (VROOM VROOM) Is the Last American Hero starring Jeff Bridges.

    “Where the Buffalo Roam” with Bill Murray and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” with Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson, the sole reason I got into this mess.

    OK three.

  2. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s turn as the wisecracking post-WWII (female) reporter in “Hudsucker Proxy” is a Coen Brothers gem. And I’d stake my Pulitzer on it!

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