The Best Journalism Movies

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

In honor of the 2023 Academy Awards, the Landis team couldn’t resist picking our favorite movies about journalism to be nominated for or win an Oscar. Whether it’s “All the President’s Men” or “The Devil Wears Prada,” these films capture the behind-the-scenes tenacity, courage and talent required to work in the ever-changing world of the media. Read on and hit play on any of these gems when you have the chance.


All the President’s Men (1976)

1977 Academy Award Winner

I was in grade school on summer break in 1973, which is when the Watergate hearings were televised.  I’m not sure if my afternoon sitcoms were pre-empted or what, but I was riveted by the cast of characters.  Being the daughter of a reporter, I was also a news junkie—even at a young age.  I was really excited when the movie “All the President’s Men” hit my local theater in 1976. The film depicts Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovering what seemed to be a minor break-in at the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex. They find the criminal trail leading higher and higher in the White House. Watergate was a game changer in American politics, and “All the President’s Men” is considered one of the best movies of all time that features reporters, journalism, and the media. (By Robin Carr)


Network (1976)

1977 Academy Award Winner

Another 1976 film, “Network,” is a fictional satire about a veteran news anchorman, Howard Beale (Peter Finch), who discovers that he’s being put out to pasture, and he’s none too happy about it.  The movie tackles broadcast ratings, ageism, and mental health, among other issues that resonate today.

Decades later, the prescient film’s premise held up so well that it was made into a stage production starring Bryan Cranston. I was lucky enough to catch “Network” on Broadway in 2019.  The New York Times wrote, “what’s scary is how Howard’s rage taps into an age of anger and confusion — the mid-1970s in the show, but also of 2018. And an aging madman with a podium and sense of betrayal is perceived as a savior for a troubled nation. Draw what parallels you choose.”  Cranston had the audience yell along with him the iconic line, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” It felt cathartic.  (By Robin Carr)


Broadcast News (1987)

1988 Academy Award Nominee

When the film debuted in 1987, I’d already worked at CBS in New York and it rang so true to me – how those who work on the front lines of news each day become their own microcosm of a (dysfunctional) family. There are long hours, stress, and constant reporting on (literal) life and death. Everything happens to the main characters in the universe of their jobs…which is a lesson on life/work balance that was being taught waaaay before recent trends. (By Brianne Murphy Miller)


Almost Famous (2000)

2001 Academy Award Winner

Based in the 1970s, “Almost Famous” follows William, a high-school-aged, aspiring rock journalist writing freelance articles for underground papers in San Diego. While on assignment to write a review of a Black Sabbath concert, William befriends the lead guitarist of the opening band, Stillwater. Rolling Stone, impressed with William’s work, offers him an opportunity to write a piece about Stillwater and sends him on the road with the band.

While the film is largely fictional, there are some autobiographical elements to the story. Cameron Crowe, writer and director of the film, modeled the main character after his own experience working for Rolling Stone as a teenager in the 1970s, and he based the character Penny Lane on Pennie Lane Trumbull and her group of female promoters who called themselves the “Flying Garter Girls Group.”

I appreciate that “Almost Famous” highlights the ups, downs and in-betweens of journalism as William navigates his relationships with the band while trying to produce ethical and honest work. As a young PR professional, I can relate to William’s journey to carve his own path in his desired field. If you love a good coming-of-age story, this is a great movie to watch. Not to mention that you’ll want to go out and buy a Penny Lane coat after you finish – I did! (By Andie Davis)


Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

 2006 Academy Award Nominee

“Good Night, and Good Luck.” is a great black and white feature film that has a strong and very compelling noir mood. The outstanding cast performances and intelligent scene progressions include musical interludes by one of my favorite jazz singers, Dianne Reeves.  The gripping plot centers on the post-World War II combatting forces of journalism and political extremism. The protagonist is one of America’s top journalists, Edward R. Murrow, during the peak of his career during the early days of televised news.  Senator Joseph McCarthy’s inquisition and defamation of accused Communists throughout American society is the driving force that Murrow presses to expose as wildly false and un-American. The booster to the drama is that one of Murrow’s colleagues is a McCarthy target – bringing the need for truth to protect people you know and don’t know. The movie’s title is Murrow’s sign-off from his show, which is as apropos today as in the 1950s. The film is a great example displaying the magic of moviemaking and the influential role Hollywood had and still has in propelling freedom of the press and freedom for Americans. (By Sean Dowdall)


The Devil Wears Prada (2007)

2007 Academy Award Nominee

“The Devil Wears Prada” highlights the image of media, as seen in Meryl Streep’s character, Miranda Priestly, and the ethical dilemmas journalists often face, as seen in Anne Hathaway’s character, Andy Sachs.  Andy is an aspiring young journalist who lands a job as the executive assistant to Runway magazine’s editor-in-chief, Miranda Priestly. Miranda’s obsession with maintaining a positive self-image, even at the expense of others, is something we often see in the media industry. Similarly, Andy’s desire to build relationships and network is relatable to journalists and public relations professionals. The dissonance between Andy’s ethical principles and the need to conform to the cutthroat fashion world is a common experience among journalists in their day-to-day lives. This award-winning film shares many common attributes to our roles as public relations professionals.  (By Makenzi Jordan Rodriguez)


Spotlight (2015)

2016 Academy Award Winner

The riveting film “Spotlight” follows the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team of investigative reporters – the oldest continuously operating investigative team in the U.S. – as they uncover a disturbing decades-long cover-up of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Boston. In real life, the Spotlight reporters won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their series of articles. What I found most compelling about this excellent film is how the movie focuses on the personal impact of this assignment for each member of the reporting team. Their assignment is grim, and it plays out over time. The more they “succeed” in their reporting, the heavier the emotional weight on each of them. While the screenplay has fictionalized much of the detail of these personal stories, I appreciate how “Spotlight” illuminates (if you’ll pardon the pun!) the humanity of the reporters themselves. Their work is challenging, messy, rarely glamorous, and ultimately changes everyone involved, including themselves. It’s not an easy film to watch, given the subject matter of their reporting, but it’s really compelling and beautifully acted. (By Polly Winograd Ikonen)


The Post (2017)

2018 Academy Award Nominee

On the surface, “The Post” can be seen as a kind of prequel to “All the President’s Men,” made 40 years earlier. “The Post” follows the reporting, political and legal wrangling by The Washington Post that led to the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, barely two years before exposing the Watergate cover-up chronicled in “All the President’s Men.” “The Post” focuses primarily on Katherine Graham, who inherited leadership of The Washington Post from her father and late husband. Graham has always been a figure of fascination for me (her Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Personal History is an excellent read). She was an intelligent woman of high society, who – not entirely by choice – became a shrewd and influential leader in the male-dominated business of journalism. In the film, Meryl Streep does an amazing job (natch!) capturing the beginnings of Graham’s evolution into the powerhouse she would become, transforming The Washington Post from a one-city paper into a national newspaper of record. The Post has a terrific all-star cast and succeeds as a legal thriller, much like “All the President’s Men” but with better clothes and decor. (By Polly Winograd Ikonen)