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14 Movies Every Journalism Major Must See

Posted on Tuesday July 19, 2011 by Staff Writers

Journalists end up as common protagonists in fiction and nonfiction alike for thoroughly understandable reasons. Their education and careers often (but not always!) revolve around dredging up or reporting on conflict, which, of course, makes for great story starters. While the field’s reality won’t usually prove as interesting or farfetched as the movies listed here, that doesn’t make them any less valuable viewing.

  1. Citizen Kane

    All movie buffs need to watch Orson Welles’ legendary classic, not just those majoring or working in journalism. The auteur himself produced, wrote, directed and starred in this fictionalization of media magnate William Randolph Hearst — famously piquing his ire to the point his newspapers never even ran stories about Citizen Kane!

  2. Network

    Journalism students, anyone with a particular affinity for satire and, of course, any crossovers will likely enjoy Network‘s scathing portrayal of news teams. Things grow progressively more absurd and cynical once the Union Broadcasting System decides to exploit one of its ranting journalists for better ratings.

  3. Almost Famous

    Based on director Cameron Crowe’s extraordinary real-life experiences, this contemporary classic chronicles the story of a talented teen music journalist who lands an enviable Rolling Stone gig after lying about his age. Behind the glitz and glamour, however, the free-flowing sex and drugs end up instigating more problems than the band at the center — Stillwater — can handle.

  4. All the President’s Men

    Though All the President’s Men takes liberties with reality (like pretty much every movie), it still provides a thrilling, shocking and frequently freaky look at the volatile Watergate scandal. The book of the same name, which inspired the acclaimed film adaptation, relays the narrative of two journalists tasked with uncovering President Richard Nixon’s horrifying little secret.

  5. Good Night, and Good Luck

    In one of the most arresting and memorable performances of his career, David Strathairn stars as the very real Edward R. Murrow, one of the first and most historically significant American broadcast journalists. His interviews with Senator Joseph McCarthy — presented here via archived footage — perfectly summarize the wide-eyed paranoia characterizing those early Cold War years.

  6. Ace in the Hole

    This tense film noir follows a shady reporter trying to rebuild his career far away from the New York journalism scene that rightfully kicked him out. In Albuquerque, new opportunities eventually arise, which he ends up exploiting and manipulating to his advantage until such wanton deception finally catches up to him.

  7. Ringu

    One of the quintessential examples of J-horror, the intense, deeply psychological Ringu contains some of cinema’s most visually disturbing imagery this side of David Lynch. Here, a reporter investigating some mysterious deaths and a popular urban legend encounters a cursed video tape that spreads like a virus and eventually kills off (almost!) everyone who pops it into the VCR.

  8. Zodiac

    Step inside the San Francisco Chronicle offices and watch as the Zodiac killer continues to elude reporters and law enforcement officials through a series of painstakingly encoded letters. Inspired by a real life unsolved mystery, it takes viewers on a white-knuckled exploration of a deeply twisted mind and the experts finding it baffling.

  9. The Paper

    In the span of one day, newspaper editors and reporters alike deal with zany and not-so-zany antics from coworkers, family and nemeses. All the major and minor anxieties of life in the newsroom eventually culminate in a violent, alcohol-soaked showdown with a local politician.

  10. Broadcast News :

    Personal and professional drama pockmark the lives of a producer, reporter and news anchor, whose emotions begin intertwining until they eventually boil over. Journalism students will appreciate how it humanizes oft-caricatured media archetypes, revealing some of the complexities that may lurk beneath their frustrated (and occasionally frustrating!) demeanors.

  11. His Girl Friday

    His Girl Friday exists as one of the best American screwball comedies ever committed to celluloid, merging comedy and romance in a manner far more compelling than today’s ho-hum fare. An ex-husband and wife wind up working together on one last case — thanks to the former’s machinations — and find themselves embroiled in some wacky misadventures.

  12. La Dolce Vita

    Director Frederico Fellini’s heavily influential masterpiece follows a reporter around Rome as he longs for a life more meaningful than the fluff his superiors assign. Whether or not he ultimately succeeds amidst the swarms of love, lust and hedonism, however, is open to debate.

  13. It Happened One Night :

    When a runaway socialite and unemployed reporter meet by happenstance, a classic, heavily decorated screwball romance eventually emerges. Directed by Frank Capra and starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, this memorable story of finding love in strange, unexpected scenarios became the first film to ever win all five of the most sought-after Academy Awards (Best Picture, Screenplay, Director, Actor and Actress) in one go.

  14. Reds

    Warren Beatty brought the true tale of Ten Days that Shook the World author and journalist John Reed, a communist revolutionary who went deep inside the Russian Revolution. His unwavering idealism drives serious wedges between him, his wife and his native America, but nevertheless reflects a particularly significant, bloody and wholly influential historical era.