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Best Movies About Journalism, Ranked

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Orson Welles as Kane in Citizen Kane

A long staple of Hollywood, since the days of the silent film, movies about journalism have always been an important function of storytelling. The journalist plays a great posit in moral and ethical storytelling, digging deep into what drives America. What entertains us, what informs us, and most importantly, who do we go to for truth. Journalism is now often the vehicle for telling real-life stories, especially revolving around true crime.

Before that, however, they were also great films about how journalists would use the newspaper as an engine for fame. Films like His Girl Friday, Ace In The Hole, and more recently, Shattered Glass. At times, the old style of newspaper journalism is now a dying modicum of the corporatized media machine. That said, these films set the bar high for why they’re essential to society and film itself.

An immense work that shows the nuts and bolts of investigative journalism, from the editors to the reporters, and what it takes to publish a story. Not only how painstaking the work is, but the length journalists go to abide by an ethical code while balancing the morals of doing what’s right. The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Liev Schrieber as a team of Boston Globe journalists who uncover the horrific child abuse scandal that had been ongoing for decades at the Catholic Church across multiple dioceses. A landmark case highlighting institutional violence and the framework it takes to cover the trauma imposed upon young kids, Spotlight

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is a riveting true story.

Related: Best Movies Based on Magazine and Newspaper Articles, Ranked

What’s essential to Michael Mann’s films is essential to how he goes about business: a dedicated craftsman who loves to show men at work, doing what they do best. Naturally, his uncanny ability to bring an aesthetic to blue-collar heroism made him a perfect fit to tackle the realm of journalism. The Insider is the true story about the tobacco industry’s stranglehold on the public conscious. It stars Al Pacino as journalist Lowell Bergman who worked with Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) to expose the capitalist greed running amok inside a popular industry, and how the tobacco executives have been long overdue to be ousted on all the lies they sold about cigarettes. The film is an epic sprawl of how America has corporatized nearly everything and the dangers it poses to the public.

Cameron Crowe’s loving opus Almost Famous is an autobiographical tale of journalism and the obscure path to rock and roll stardom colliding. Based loosely on his life as a young teen covering music for Rolling Stone, Patrick Fugit plays the surrogate Crowe as a wide-eyed kid taken under the guise of a rising band. Billy Crudup and Jason Lee lead the way as they embody — or so they think — the music dream and attempt to win the kid over so that they can be painted as rock gods. As Crowe uses the prism of journalism to show how he came of age, getting his heart broken and his illusions about rock stars shattered, on his way to becoming a successful writer.

There are so many great films about the pivotal role investigative journalists play in molding public perception, but there’s also a flip side to having the ability to reach so many people. Ace in the Hole shows Kirk Douglas in all his smarmy, muscular charm as journalist Chuck Tatum chasing fame in the big city. After getting sent to a small town, he creates a story about a man getting trapped in a cave. Creating a literal carnival out of one man’s tragic situation, Tatum fights for his soul as the lies he begins to spin crumble around him. The film shows how the media can feed on spectacle as do the people, where the inherent truth of a story does not matter. One of the finest films the immaculate Billy Wilder has made and ends the story on a chaotic, cynical note as only Wilder could.

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