55 must-see movies for journalists (and 3 series)


I recently watched State of Play, a movie about a grumpy old reporter who investigates a billion dollar scandal. He gets some help from a newspaper blogger. The funny situations – ‘I don’t have an opinion, maybe I should read some blogs’ – and the ‘damn fine reporting’ inspired me. They made me realize why I’ve chosen to become a journalist and gave me more energy.

That’s why I asked on Twitter which journalism movies my Twitter contacts liked. They came up with a great list, which I happily share here.In random order, descriptions by IMDB & trailers from YouTube. So next time you’re wondering which movie to see, get inspired by these great journalism movies.

I last updated this post on October 23rd, 2016. Do you miss a movie? Let me know through email (ernst-jan@pfauth.com) or Twitter (I’m @ejpfauth). Here they are, in random order!

1. Absence of Malice (1981)

In America can a man be guilty until proven innocent?

When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of an union head, the man’s life begins to unravel. (6.9 on imdb) – watch the trailer

2. True Crime (1999)

A nail-biting thriller

Can an over-the-hill journalist uncover the evidence that can prove a death row inmate’s innocence just hours before his execution? (6,6 on imdb) – watch the trailer

3. All The President’s Men (1976)

At times it looked like it might cost them their jobs, their reputations, and maybe even their lives.

Reporters Woodward and Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon’s resignation (8.0 on imdb) – watch the trailer
I started the discussion with this movie. 

4. Parallax View (1974)

There is no conspiracy. Just twelve people dead.

An ambitious reporter gets in way-over-his-head trouble while investigating a senator’s assassination which leads to a vast conspiracy involving a multinational corporation behind every event in the worlds headlines (7.4 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Albert Nijmeijer

5. Foreign Correspondent (1940)


On the eve of WW2, a young American reporter tries to expose enemy agents in London (7.7 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Albert Nijmeijer

6. Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

A Love Caught In The Fire Of Revolution

A young Australian reporter tries to navigate the political turmoil of Indonesia during the rule of President Sukarno with the help of a diminutive photographer (7.0 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Albert Nijmeijer

7. Killing Fields (1984)

He was a reporter for the New York Times whose coverage of the Cambodian War would win him a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. But the friend who made it possible was half the world away with his life in great danger… This is the story of war and friendship, the anguish of a country and of one man’s will to live.

A photographer is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot’s bloody “Year Zero” cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of two million “undesirable” civilians (8.0 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Albert Nijmeijer

8. Professione: reporter (1975)

I used to be somebody else…but I traded myself in.

A frustrated war correspondent, unable to find the war he’s been asked to cover, takes the risky path of co-opting the I.D. of a dead arms dealer acquaintance (7.7 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Albert Nijmeijer

9. Citizen Kane (1941)

365 days in the making – and every minute of it an exciting NEW thrill for you !

Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance (8.6 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Albert Nijmeijer & Jan-Albert Hootsen

10. The Insider (1999)

Warning: Exposing the Truth May Be Hazardous

A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a “60 Minutes” expose on Big Tobacco (8.0 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Jan-Albert Hootsen

11. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

We will not walk in fear of one another.

Broadcast journalist ‘Edward R. Murrow (I)’ looks to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy (7.7 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Arjo

12. Shattered Glass (2003)

Read between the lies.

The true story of a young journalist who fell from grace when it was found he had fabricated over half of his articles (7.5 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Arjo & Jan-Albert Hootsen

13. Infamous (2006)

There’s more to the story than you know

While researching his book In Cold Blood, writer Truman Capote develops a close relationship with convicted murderers Dick Hickock and Perry Smith (7.2 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Arjo

14. Control Room (2004)

Different channels. Different truths.

A documentary on perception of the United States’s war with Iraq, with an emphasis on Al Jazeera’s coverage (7.8 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Arjo

15. Runaway Jury (2003)

Trials are too important to be decided by juries.

A juror on the inside and a woman on the outside manipulate a court trial involving a major gun manufacturer (7.1 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Steven van Vessum

16. Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Based on a true story. You think we could make all this up?

A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson’s covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects (7.4 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Steven van Vessum

17. Final Edition (2007)

After 149 years and 311 days, the Rocky Mountain News published its final edition on February 27, 2009.

Read the story on the website of The Rocky Mountain News. Below is the whole (!) movie.
Suggestion by Joris van Meel

18. Wag the Dog (1997)

A Hollywood producer. A Washington spin-doctor. When they get together, they can make you believe anything.

Before elections, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to “fabricate” a war in order to cover-up a presidential sex scandal (7.0 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by @jack_nl

19. Frost/ Nixon (2008)

400 million people were waiting for the truth.

A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon (8.0 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by: Jelte Nieuwenhuis & David Noël

20. A Mighty Heart (2007)

It was an event that shocked the world. This is the story you haven’t heard.

Mariane Pearl embarks on a frantic search to locate her journalist husband, Daniel, when he goes missing in Pakistan (6.8 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Jan-Albert Hootsen

21. État de Siège (1972)

A film about a journalist’s inquiry into the Uruguayan junta

In Uruguay in the early 1970s, an official of the US Agency for International Development (a group used as a front for training foreign police in counterinsurgency methods) is kidnapped by a group of urban guerillas (7.7 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Jan-Albert Hootsen

22. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Give us your brain for two hours and you will never be the same again…..(Icelandic)

An oddball journalist and his psychopathic lawyer travel to Las Vegas for a series of psychadelic escapades (7.6 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Henriëtte Klijnstra & Arjo

23. Syriana (2005)

Everything is connected

A politically-charged epic about the state of the oil industry in the hands of those personally involved and affected by it (7.1 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by David Veneman

24. Capote (2005)

Truman Capote (Hoffman), during his research for his book In Cold Blood, an account of the murder of a Kansas family, the writer develops a close relationship with Perry Smith, one of the killers (7.6 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Jan-Albert Hootsen & Arjo

25. State of Play (2009)

Find The Truth

A team of investigative reporters work alongside a police detective to try to solve the murder of a congressman’s mistress (7.6 on imdb) – watch the trailer
This movie gave me the idea of making this list

26. Almost famous (2000)

Experience it. Enjoy it. Just don’t fall for it.

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 it on their concert tour (8.0 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggestion by Albert Nijmeijer

27. Live from Baghdad (2002)

The Gulf War, 1991. No story is worth dying for – but this was the story of a lifetime

A group of CNN reporters wrestle with journalistic ethics and the life-and-death perils of reporting during the Gulf War (7.3 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Jan-Albert Hootsen

28. The Hunting Party (2007)

How can they find the world’s most wanted war criminal when the C.I.A. can’t? [by actually looking]

A young journalist, a seasoned cameraman and a discredited war correspondent embark on an unauthorized mission to find the no. 1 war criminal in Bosnia; they find themselves in serious jeopardy when they are mistaken as a CIA hit squad and their target decides to come after them. (7.0 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Antonie

29. Harrison’s Flowers (2000)

Sometimes love is the only proof you need.

When a Newsweek photojournalist disappears in war-torn Yugoslavia, his wife travels to Europe to find him. (7.2 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Alec

30. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Meet New James Bond

James Bond heads to stop a media mogul’s plan to induce war between China and the UK in order to obtain exclusive global media coverage. (6.4 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Lorenz

31. Nothing But the Truth (2008)

Don’t Reveal the Source

In Washington, D.C., a female reporter faces a possible jail sentence for outing a CIA agent and refusing to reveal her source. (7.5 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Claire

32. His Girl Friday (1940)

She learned about men from him!

A newspaper editor uses every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter ex-wife from remarrying. (8.1 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Boy van Dijk

33. Brüno (2009)

Borat was so 2006

Flamboyant Austrian fashionista Brüno takes his show to America. (6.7 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Thomas

34. The Constant Gardener (2005)

Love. At any cost.

A widower is determined to get to the bottom of a potentially explosive secret involving his wife’s murder, big business, and corporate corruption. (7.6 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by eyewhypee

35. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

His news is bigger than your news

Ron Burgundy is San Diego’s top rated newsman in the male dominated broadcasting of the 1970’s, but that’s all about to change when a new female employee with ambition to burn arrives in his office. (7.0 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Zoe

36. Salvador (1986)

Based on a true story

A journalist, down on his luck in the US, drives to El Salvador to chronicle the events of the 1980 military dictatorship, including the assasination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. (7.5 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Peter

37. Zodiac (2007)

There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer

A San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac killer. (7.9 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by joscha & kamisir

38. La Dolce Vita (1960)

The Sweet Life

Journalist and man-about-town Marcello struggles to find his place in the world, torn between the allure of Rome’s elite social scene and the stifling domesticity offered by his girlfriend, all the while searching for a way to become a serious writer. (8.1 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by joscha

39. Under Fire (1983)

This wasn’t their war but it was their story…and they wouldn’t let it go!

Three journalists in a romantic triangle are involved in political intrigue during the last days of the corrupt Somozoa regime in Nicaragua before it falls to a popular revolution in 1979. (7.0 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Michiel Frackers

40. The Pelican Brief (1993)

Two Supreme Court Justices have been assassinated. One lone law student has stumbled upon the truth. An investigative journalist wants her story. Everybody else wants her dead. Two Supreme Court Justices have been assassinated. One lone law student has stumbled upon the truth.

An investigative journalist wants her story. Everybody else wants her dead. (6.3 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Renato Valdés Olmos

41. Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)

Swedish thriller based on Stieg Larsson’s novel about a journalist and a young female hacker. (7.6 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Pawelotti

42. Network (1976)

Not since the dawn of time has America experienced a man like Howard Beale!

A TV network cynically exploits a deranged ex-TV anchor’s ravings and revelations about the media for their own profit (8.1 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by davidus

43. Lions for Lambs (2007)

If you don’t STAND for something, you might FALL for anything

Injuries sustained by two Army ranger behind enemy lines in Afghanistan set off a sequence of events involving a congressman, a journalist and a professor (6.2 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Peter Engel

44. Page One (2011)

Inside the New York Times

Unprecedented access to the New York Times newsroom yields a complex view of the transformation of a media landscape fraught with both peril and opportunity (6.9 on imdb) – watch the trailer

45. Call Northside 77 (1948)

Chicago reporter P.J. McNeal re-opens a ten year old murder case.

(7,4 on imdb) – watch the trailer

46. Ace in the Hole (1951)

Treasure seeker trapped in burial vault

A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus. (8,2 on imdb) – watch the trailer

47. The Front Page (1974)

A Billy Wilder Film

As a tabloid newspaper editor tries to prevent his top reporter from retiring, an escaped death row convict shows up at the office trying to convey his innocence. (7,3 on imdb) – watch the trailer

48. Deadline USA (1952)

A tough newspaperman who fights organized crime

With his newspaper about to be sold, crusading editor Ed Hutcheson tries to complete an exposé on gangster Rienzi. (7,2 on imdb) – watch the trailer

49. Broadcast News (1987)

It’s the story of their lives

Take two rival TV reporters: one handsome, one talented, both male. Add one producer, female. Mix well and watch the sparks fly. (7,2 on imdb) – watch the trailer

50. Newsies (1992)

They found the courage to challenge the powerful!

A musical based on the New York City newsboy strike of 1899. When young newspaper sellers are exploited beyond reason by their bosses they set out to enact change and are met by the ruthlessness of big business. (6,9 on imdb) – watch the trailer

51. The Paper (1994)

A behind-the-lines look at work, marriage and other forms of combat.

Henry Hackett is the editor of a New York City tabloid. He is a workaholic who loves his job, but the long hours and low pay are leading to discontent. Also, publisher Bernie White faces financial straits, and has hatchetman Alicia Clark, Henry’s nemesis, impose unpopular cutbacks. Henry’s wife Martha, a hugely pregnant former reporter of his, is fed up because he has so little time for his family. He is therefore considering an offer from Paul Bladden to edit a paper like the New York Times, which would mean more money, shorter hours, more respectability…but might also be a bit boring for his tastes. But a hot story soon confronts Henry with tough decisions. (6,5 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by downtownjoe in the comments

52. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

The motion picture that will never be forgiven – or forgotten!

Powerful but unethical Broadway columnist J.J. Hunsecker coerces unscrupulous press agent Sidney Falco into breaking up his sister’s romance with a jazz musician. (8,2 on imdb) – watch the trailer

53. How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008)

The most hilarious comedy of the year

A British writer struggles to fit in at a high-profile magazine in New York City. (6,5 on imdb) – watch the trailer

54. Welcome to Sarajevo (1997)

To get the story, they’ll risk everything!

Journalist Floyd from US, Michael Henderson from UK and their teams meet the beginning of Bosnian war in Sarajevo. During their reports they find an orphanage run by devoted Mrs. Savic near the front line. Henderson gets so involved in kids’ problems that he decides to take on the children, Emira, illegally back to England. He is assisted by American aid worker Nina. (6,9 on imdb) – watch the trailer

55. Spotlight (2015)

Break the story. Break the silence

Journalism movies: Spotlight
The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core. (8,1 on imdb) – watch the trailer

And 3 series about journalism

1. The Wire, season 5 (2007)

Read between the lines

Baltimore drug scene, seen through the eyes of drug dealers, and law enforcement (9.7 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Alper Çuğun: ‘In season 5 the focus is on the inner workings and cutbacks at the Baltimore Sun.’

2. State of Play (2003)

Sometimes you have to read between the lines

A thriller set in London, in which a politician’s life becomes increasingly complex as his research assistant is found dead on the London Underground and, in a seemingly unrelated incident, a teenage drug dealer is shot dead (8.7 on imdb) – watch the trailer
Suggested by Tijs Teulings

3. The Newsroom (2012)

Every story needs a final word

A newsroom undergoes some changes in its workings and morals as a new team is brought in, bringing unexpected results for its existing news anchor. (8.6 on imdb) – watch the trailer

Do you miss a movie? Let me know through email (ernst-jan@pfauth.com) or Twitter (I’m @ejpfauth).

Author: Ernst-Jan Pfauth

Ernst-Jan Pfauth (1986) is mede-oprichter en uitgever van De Correspondent. Hij is geobsedeerd door innovatie in media en journalistiek. Daar schrijft hij elke zaterdagmorgen een nieuwsbrief over, waar ruim 1.700 vakgenoten op geabonneerd zijn.

62 thoughts on “55 must-see movies for journalists (and 3 series)”

  1. What about Harrison’s Flowers? Great movie about a woman trying to find her missing husband during the war in Bosnia. She travels with a group of war correspondents.

  2. I would recommend a Canadian series called “ENG” (for “electronic news gathering”) that originally aired from 1989 to 1994 (and showed up on some U.S. cable systems earlier this decade). The show is set at news operation somewhat like CNN (but unbelievably smaller, in the way that Seattle Grace Hospital in “Grey’s Anatomy” weirdly has only about 10 doctors). Features, as a pompous anchor, Tim Matheson, who later played Vice President John Hoynes on “The West Wing.”

  3. Great list, I’m a hack and a movie-lover and still there are quite a few films on your list that I hadn’t even heard of.
    But you didn’t include ‘Anchor Man’. True, it probably won’t inspire you (unless you’re a raging egomaniac) but having worked in network news I think it gives a pretty good insight…

  4. What about James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies?
    It follows Bond as he tries to stop a media mogul from engineering world events and starting World War III. The movie shows us the dangers of media concentration. There’s a big reference to Rupert Murdoch.

  5. In the same category as Syriana: ‘The Constant Gardener’. Diplomat’s wife and leftist activist (Rachel Weisz) tries to uncover the truth behind a big multinational’s drug trials in Kenya. It’s journalism meets NGO world meets diplomacy meets dirty business. I’m sure you’ve seen it!

  6. Deadline is, I think, an underrated series about a NY Post style tabloid. Really good cast, Oliver Platt, Lili Taylor, Bebe Neuwirth.

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  8. I wrote the script of the only Portuguese film about contemporary TV journalism. Well, I can’t put in a “best ever list of films”, but in case you are preparing a list of ALL films on journalism…
    It is called Debaixo da Cama (Under the Bed), produced by Paulo Branco, directed by Bruno Neil, made for TV in 2004, presented by the Portuguese channel RTP.


  10. Tons of thank you for top 24, but could you please add some new films too.. After 2010?
    Also some from Asian countries.. Like ‘No one killed Jessica’, ‘Page 3’, ‘Madaras cafe’.. Etc

  11. Little late to the party, but perhaps The Ides of March would be a good addition to this already excellent list. A movie about the dirty tricks played with the media during a presidential campaign, starring Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney.
    Also, what about House of Cards (both BBC and Netflix-reiterations). Especially the first season focus on the roll of the media in covering polititcs and it paints an (overly exaggerated) picture of how politics work.

  12. You should add the recent release Spotlight to the list. As much as this will sound like blasphemy as a prospective journalist and film buff, I thought it portrays the journalistic profession slightly more honestly than ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN.

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