Documentary Films About Journalism

Documentary Films About Journalism

Our complicated political climate is just one more reason to keep in mind how important journalists are for the survival of our democratic process. For many, freedom of speech is often taken for granted. The films on today’s list will highlight how vital journalism truly is, and the many times in our history it has managed to bring accountability to power.

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

The tradition of American journalism lies somewhere between literature and classic reporting. One of the prime examples of this tradition is undoubtedly Joan Didion. Her work throughout the 1960s became a chronicling of the ever-changing times, showcasing how one republican became radicalized by the growing hippie movement. The film was produced by her nephew and paints an intimate, flattering portrait of Didion and her work.

Rolling Stone: Stories From the Edge

Rolling Stone is one of America’s most important publications in terms of public and journalistic society. This two-part documentary came about for the magazine’s 50th anniversary. Narrated by Jeff Daniels, it features interviews with some of the zine’s most iconic contributors, including Annie Leibowitz and Cameron Crowe. Musicians featured in the magazine come together to share how the experience shaped them, and how their career paths were ultimately changed.

Life Itself

Roger Ebert left a mark not only on American journalism but the film industry as a whole. His reviews and honest appreciation of film as an art form have long been recognized as both authentic and insightful. Life Itself is a film about his life and work. It features Ebert in one of the most troubling periods of his life, as he battled throat cancer and was unable to speak. Even then, he continued to watch movies and write about them: a true testament to his persevering spirit. 

‘Page One: Inside The New York Times’

Many films have been made about the work of a major newspaper. This particular documentary portrays the real stories of those who run the NYT newsroom. The film isn’t about any one particular event but goes along through a typical day in one of the most important and famous newsrooms in the world. It’s a unique and thrilling look into how the famous New York Times is produced.

Nobody Speak: Trials Of The Free Press

This Netflix documentary covers one of the most interesting legal cases of the recent past: the trial of Gawker and Hulk Logan who sued a publication and eventually brought it down. The process concluded with Thiel and Logan’s victory, effectively shutting down the Gawker: a tabloid publication of questionable morality. Still, many see the case as an attempt to stop the free press from reporting on one powerful individual.

Citizen Four

Citizen Four is perhaps the most probably the most dramatic film on our list but is just as educational as the rest. It tells the story of Edward Snowden and his attempts to convey his story to the press. The story was written by Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, produced with filmmaker Laura Poitras: both of whom have worked with Snowden, witnessing firsthand how hard it is to deal with a state bent on keeping you quiet. 

The Newspaperman: The Life And Times Of Ben Bradlee

 Ben Bradlee was one of America’s most trusted journalists, whose work was associated with some of the most important news stories in the country’s history. In The Newspaperman, Bradlee’s story proves to be every bit as exciting as his work.

Which of these films you plan to see first, and why?