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My Favourite "Journalism" Movies

Hot off the press!

I re-watched a couple of these recently, and realized just how little journalism-based movies I've seen! Here's a few that I love.

(Also- if you're looking for "Anchorman" or "Almost Famous", well.. you'll be disappointed. )

(I've never actually seen "Anchorman", so I can't comment on that. Although I HAVE seen "Almost Famous".. and I'm not a fan. Yes, I know it's a cardinal sin to be a music journalist and hate "Almost Famous", but I find it so irritatingly cheesy, and honestly, creepy. There are way too many underage characters being taken advantage of by grown adults, but shot in a "fun, 70s romp" type of way. At the end of the day, I think it's more style over actual substance.)

(Also- these are fictionalized movies. I didn't include documentaries because, well, those are actual journalism. I wanted to compile a list of movies that portray journalism, not the actual craft.)


#1. Zodiac

(Thriller, Crime/Mystery, Based on a True Story.)

Director: David Fincher

"Zodiac" is based on the true story of The Zodiac Killer, a serial killer who terrorized the American state of California in the 60s and 70s. He was confirmed to have murdered five people, injured two, possibly responsible for 20-28 murders, and claimed to have killed 37.

An infamously mysterious case, the story follows journalists from The San Francisco Chronicle as the anonymous killer plays a game of cat and mouse with the media, writing coded letters to the staff. To this day, the killer has never been identified.

Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Jake Gyllenhaal play their strengths in "Zodiac". Downey Jr. as the cheeky reporter, Ruffalo as the moody investigator, and Gyllenhaal as the geeky cartoonist.

Each work together in an attempt to un-mask the killer, but as time goes by, de-coding the letters, keeping evidence fresh, and solving the Zodiac's twisted puzzle proves too difficult, and ultimately changes the journalists' lives for the worse. Based on the book by Robert Graysmith, this is one of my favourite true crime movies ever.


#2. Christine

(Drama, Based on a True Story, Biopic.)

Director: Antonio Campos

Sorry guys, there are no uplifting movies here.

"Christine" stars Rebecca Hall as the American 70s TV reporter Christine Chubbuck, the first person to ever commit suicide on live television.

"Christine" offers an empathetic and complicated look into the last few months of Chubbuck's life. An ambitious, highly intelligent, socially awkward young woman who suffered from bouts of depression- Chubbuck felt her life was becoming stagnant.

She was dealing with a belittling, misogynistic boss who pulled her away from the feel-good people-focused stories that she mastered, and pushed her into the "if it bleeds it leads" type of exploitative coverage to up the station's ratings. She moved in with her mother after an especially bad depressive episode, pays their bills, and hasn't been able to pick herself up and move out- and at the beginning of the movie, she discovers that she has an ovarian cyst that once removed, would most likely leave her infertile.

The movie makes it clear that although she was going through a particularly rough period, Chubbuck had a long, bright life ahead of her. The film made sure to portray Christine's life as one with complications and opportunity, instead of a film about a laundry list of reasons why she ended it. It's a tragic story, with a character you have no choice but to empathize with.


#3. Spotlight

(Drama, History, Based on a True Story.)

Director: Tom McCarthy

Mark Ruffalo appears again- I guess he's got a real "face for print".

This is one powerful movie. "Spotlight" is based on the early 2000s Boston area child molestation accusations against numerous Roman Catholic priests, reported by the Spotlight team at The Boston Globe.

The story follows the five Spotlight journalists who at first believe they're following the story of one priest who's been moved around several times due to multiple assault allegations, to uncovering a web of pedophile priests who have been shielded by the Boston Archdiocese for decades.

The original series of stories by The Globe's Spotlight team describing the widespread pedophilia accusations and cover-ups, was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. According to the blog Information Is Beautiful, this award-winning film is 76.2% accurate when compared to real-life events.

I've seen this movie three times, and I'd watch it again. This is a story that is everything but atypical within Catholicism and most other organized religions, and should be spoken about more often.


#4. Nightcrawler

(Thriller, Drama, Crime/Mystery.)

Director: Dan Gilroy

And.. There's Jake again, (the geeky cartoonist in "Zodiac"). What is it that screams 'journalism' about these guys?

Now, normally I have a gigantic crush on Gyllenhaal. His character in Nightcrawler however, isn't exactly cute.

Sunny California is home to Gyllenhaal's socially obtuse and consistently greasy Louis Bloom. The unemployed sketch-bag is looking for a job that best suits his strengths, and as the film blossoms, we learn that he's willing to go to nefarious lengths to secure his career, and that his socially obtuse ways may be less reflective of awkwardness, and more of underlying sociopathy.

The film follows Lou as he begins working as a video journalist for a local news station. His job is to arrive at the scene of the crime, the more violent the better, and as early as possible, to secure a juicy shot.

Nightcrawler explores a similar theme to Christine, that the "if it bleeds it leads" culture of TV journalism is often times apathetic and predatory to it's subjects.

Looking for something that'll creep you out? This is it.

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