Journalism Movies Based on a True Story

These are stories that are based on real-life stories from the journalism field. These are mostly investigative journalist films that uncover something that changes the perspective of history or brings light to something.

Infamous (2006)

Truman Capote goes to a small town to write about a cold blooded murder for a book. The true crime classic book was In Cold Blood. Truman Capote and Harper lee develop an intense and complex relationship with convicted killer Perry Smith and Dick Hickock.

Frost/Nixon 2008

British reporter David Frost interviews former President Richard Nixon in a series of televised engagements. The movie is based on a play from 2006 about Richard Nixon’s make it or break it moments in 1977.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

A psychedelic drug-infused story of Hunter S. Thompson’s trip to cover the roadshow for Rolling Stone magazine in 1968. Most of the time Thompson and his colleague are high off of various drugs. The reporting he does about the roadshow is circumstanced by his delusions, his thoughts and feelings and what is happening to him under the influence. It’s a very trippy film reflecting on the counterculture movement in the 1960s.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

A bored 40’s something wants to change her journalistic career path by taking a job opportunity in Afghanistan during the war to report on the front lines in the 2000’s. This movie has a lot of flashbacks and back story. Even though it is a movie about a current event the filming style looks closer to a memoir which is where the story originates. The film has some cursing out of the lead that is funny, weird and coarse at times.

The Insider (1999)

The true story about the whistleblower who exposed information about the dangers of cigarettes to Congress. It’s one of Russell Crowe’s best performances in a feature film with Al Pacino has his antagonist fighting for the big tobacco companies like Camel Joe.

The Killing Fields (1984)

This film is based on two journalists, Amercian journalist Sydney Schanberg and Cambodian photojournalist Dith Pran, who were documenting the real events that happened in the Cambodian genocide, the refugee camps and the experiences under the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. The title of the film is based on biography of Dith Pran.  The title is based on Dith Pran forced into labourer under the Year Zero policy and from a daring escape he stumbles upon one of the infamous killing fields of murdered Cambodian citizens. In the leading role has Dith Pran was portrayed by first time actor Haing S. Ngor who also survived the Khmer Rouge.

Reds (1981)

This film was Warren Beatty’s debut directorial role which he won an Oscar for best director. This film was about the life and career of John Reed, a journalist and writer who chronicled the Russian Revolution in the book Ten Days That Shook The World in 1919. This movie almost three and a half hours.

Christine (2016)

This film is unfortunately based on a true story. This film is about local news reporter Christine Chubbuck, the reporter that accidentally killed herself live on the 1970’s television. The film is like a period piece from the 1970s that explores what her life was really like before her accident. It portrays her has a hardworking journalist who wanted more out of her career.

Zodiac (2007)

The investigation of the serial killings of the Zodiac killer from the late 1960s takes journalists, detectives and a cartoonist of the San Francisco Sun, Robert Graysmith, in the hunt of cyphering and decoding stories. The movie is based on the 1986 non-fiction true-crime thriller of the same name by Robert Graysmith.

All the Presidents Men (1977)

Two journalists investigate money laundry and dirty deals that led up to be the Watergate scandal. This film is based on the book about the Watergate burglaries in the summer of 1972. The investigation brought down President Richard Nixon.

The Post (2017)

This film is a story about journalism / political thriller based on historic accounts. This film is about the true story of attempts to publish the infamous “Pentagon Papers” regarding the 20-year involvement of the United States of America in the Vietnam war, French Indochina and the end of World War Two at The Washington Post in 1971.

Goodnight and Goodluck (2005)

A modern-day black and white film set during the beginning of the McCarthy witchhunt to root out racism in America. News anchor Edward G. Murrow dedicates himself to inform the American audience to the atrocities, lies and deceit from Senator John McCarthy’s “investigations” despite network heads of CBS to stop.

Shattered Glass (2003)

This film is based on the disgraced Richard Glass who plagiarized the majority of his stories for a newspaper throughout his career. This was one of Hayden Christensen’s better roles that were not only interesting in the story but character development.

Spotlight (2015)

A newly hired editor pushes four journalists to investigate a story involving a local Boston catholic church about child abuse. The team is called Spotlight. The film was praised for its historical accuracy and screenplay.

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

This film is based on an Australian reporter betraying his friend and his girlfriend during a volatile Indonesia in 1965. This film has Linda Hunt cast has Billy Chen, an activist against the Indonesian government and military force. The story through the eyes of the activist is complex.

Kill The Messenger (2014)

This film is based on Kill the Messenger by Nick Schou and Dark Alliance by Gary Webb. Investigative journalist Gary Webb discovers the CIA’s involvement in cocaine trafficking that funds Nicaraguan Contra rebels but has a hard time finding a newspaper willing to publish the story.

The End of the Tour (2015)

Based on the memoir Although Of Course You Become Yourself by David Lipsky, a journalist from Rolling Stone recalls a 12-year-old interview with acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace after hearing about his suicide. The movie is about the bond the two thirty-something writers have during the five-day meeting.

Richard Jewell (2019)

Based on the bombing at an outdoor concert during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta after a security guard finds a bomb underneath a bench. The security guard ends up being investigated by the FBI for the bombing after his boss discusses his problems and suspicions with the security guard. After the FBI determined that his “wanna-be cop” persona was a common stereotypical profile of criminals to similar crimes it has Richard Jewell in the hot seat with the FBI. But the FBI lead ends up drunk at a bar with a journalist from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution leaking the story which quickly becomes an international news story.

Run This Town (2019)

Based on three recent graduates from the University of Toronto, two aspiring young politicians and a newly hired journalist at a pop culture blog site that only focuses on lists, discover that Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, was smoking crack. This film follows the path how a young journalist finds out about the mayor on tape smoking crack with known criminals. It also shows the weight of the political job from the mayor’s right hand man. The film is mostly all style and no real focus on any particular character. It’s not that great. It’s too flashy and orange. But it does show a good portrayal of backdoor politics.

Bombshell (2019)

The harassment lawsuit that Gretchen Carlson, once an on-air female anchor at FOX News, files against Roger Ailes in the mid-2010’s which starts a snowball effect of multiple women coming forward with sexual abuse allegations. The makeup effects are very realistic to the people they are portraying. The film also has a showcase of male anchors portrayed cartoonishly by actors with their names on the screen or realistically by actors with their names on the screen. The female characters break the fourth wall when emphasizing something. Nonetheless, the film also has multiple narrators talking about life at FOX News, the conservative news bubble in one building and Roger Ailes. All of the characters are real but Kayla Pospisil who is a compilation of multiple women.

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