10 Journalism Movies To Share the ‘Spotlight’ With

From odes to investigative reporting to biting satires of mass media, journalism and the movies have a long history together

Rachel McAdams, MIchael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight

“All The President’s Men” is the film that many critics have compared “Spotlight” to, and there’s little wonder why. “Spotlight” follows the path blazed by the Robert Redford/Dustin Hoffman classic recounting the Watergate scandal, showing the investigative reporting process in great detail and exposing the roadblocks that reporters face when trying to uncover the truth.

It’s a shame the “Star Wars” prequels made many moviegoers cringe at the thought of Hayden Christensen, because his performance in “Shattered Glass” is a must-see. Christensen plays Stephen Glass, a reporter from The New Republic who was fired in 1998 for fabricating many of his stories.

Forty years after its release, “Network” remains one of the most potent satires not just in cinema, but in any medium. Paddy Chayefsky’s Oscar-winning script bitterly attacks broadcast media for sacrificing the public good for salacious stories that will get ratings. Today, as the media chases after Donald Trump for more and more scandalous quotes, “Network” has proven to be prophetic. Again.

In a similar vein as “Network,” but a generation earlier, there’s Billy Wilder’s “Ace In the Hole,” which stars Kirk Douglas as an opportunistic, down-on-his-luck reporter who discovers a man trapped in a collapsed cave in New Mexico and uses it as an opportunity to regain his former big-city glory. Even back in 1951, sensationalism in the press was being examined in film.

Back on the more idealistic side of journalism movies, there’s George Clooney’s “Good Night And Good Luck,” which features David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow as he takes on Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare. The concluding speech cautions about the potential and dangers of television that “Network” looks at more cynically.

From Australia, “Balibo” retells the true story of Roger East, a reporter who traveled to East Timor to investigate the disappearance of five other journalists just before the invasion of Indonesia in 1975. The film features “Ex Machina” star Oscar Isaac as Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta before his rise to the East Timor presidency.

The wittiest take on arts journalism is Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous,” a dramedy about an aspiring music journalist covering a rising band for Rolling Stone. The film is based on Crowe’s own experiences at Rolling Stone, and features Philip Seymour Hoffman as legendary rock writer Lester Bangs in one of the most famous “job warning” speeches ever.

The words of Hunter S. Thompson, patron saint of gonzo journalism, are captured brilliantly by Johnny Depp in “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.” Thompson’s writing crackles with life, and Depp’s narration sets it ablaze. Listen to his reading of the famous “Wave Speech,” which brings forth Thompson’s ability to find beauty even in the ugly side of America that he always reveled in.

“Broadcast News,” James L.Brooks’ rom-com drama, has been praised for its insightful look at the day-to-day life inside a broadcast newsroom. Featuring a love triangle between an unseasoned anchorman (William Hurt), a high-strung producer (Holly Hunter) and an ambitious reporter (Albert Brooks), this is a much lighter alternative to “The Newsroom.”

“Citizen Kane.” Come on, does this need further introduction? Orson Welles’ masterpiece is one of the heavyweight contenders in the Greatest Movie Ever debate, and a sobering look at the slow death of journalistic idealism at the hands of power and greed. Some 75 years later, that loss of faith in journalistic ideals seems to be more widespread in society. Maybe that’s why “Spotlight” won Best Picture: it reminds us that truth-seekers aren’t as extinct today as we sometimes may think.