I will be the first to admit that I have not seen the most movies about journalism, especially ones made before the 21st century. But, it is without a doubt one of my favorite genres to watch, especially when done well. Well-crafted dialogue, a sharp attention to detail and charming characters are hallmarks of the genre.
We all know the recent success films about journalism have experienced, but what about some of the classics you missed because they came before your time?
“All the President’s Men” (1976)
Have you ever seen one of those balls of rubber bands, laced on top each other in a seemingly endless spherical mess of rubber? That’s like “All the President’s Men.” Two reporters played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman research the burglary of the DNC at Watergate in 1972.
What starts out as a single thread leads to a scandal, which undoes the entire government and ends at the top with Nixon. This is perhaps the most restrained film on the list but is thoroughly gripping.
There is no action, but the investigative journey, strong script and incredible performances by Redford and Hoffman make the film one of the best in its genre. No doubt, the film influenced both “Zodiac” and “Spotlight” in nearly every way.
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“Almost Famous” (2000)
“Almost Famous” is a bit unlike the other two films. Whereas “All the President’s Men” and “Zodiac” are textbook dramas, “Almost Famous” leans heavier into the comedy and music genres. For starters, this has one of my favorite soundtracks of all time, comprised of classic rock hit after hit.
The movie is set in 1973 and follows William, a teenager passionate about classic rock and writing, who travels the road with a new band while conducting a Rolling Stone interview. What shocked me most about the film was the heart at its core.
You really fall in love with the characters as they make their tour around the country. By the end, you just want everyone to sing Kumbaya on the bus as it drives off into the sunset.
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“Zodiac” follows investigators and reporters alike as they attempt to catch the infamous Zodiac Killer who ravaged San Francisco for over a decade.
Director David Fincher is notorious for his scrupulous attention to detail. “Zodiac” exemplifies his meticulousness to a degree unlike any of his other films.
If you have not seen the film, you must. It is difficult to comprehend the amount of research and dedication that went into every aspect of this movie, from well-developed characters to exact recreations of the crime scenes — not to mention the entire atmosphere of 1970s San Francisco, which was a character in itself. “Zodiac” is deeply unsettling, and is compounded by the fact that the Zodiac Killer was never caught.
The biggest takeaway from this movie is how masterful Fincher is at depicting obsession, especially with Jake Gyllenhaal’s character.