7 Essential Investigative Journalism Films - Raindance

The number of media outlets that are willing to report news on corruption with the largest establishments is few and far between. It is not easy for journalists to report the truth. In the age of Trump and fake news, here are the films that bring to the screen the experiences of the whistleblowers and investigative jounralists who risked everything to share stories in the public interest.

All the President’s Men (1976)

The President of the United States is elected with the confidence that they will use the power given to them to protect and serve, to only do what they were appointed to do. A break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate apartments using professional recording devices reveal that the orders for this crime have come from a higher source. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, respectively, are the two young Washington Post reporters who unmask the truth concerning a conspiracy theory to cover up a political burglary. Based on the real-life Watergate Scandal in the 1970s and directed by Alan J. Pakula the film retells what it took for the two reporters to unveil the truth regardless of whom it exposed. The script and direction of this film are brilliant and the film does not waste any time with heavy exposition. Although you will still be entertained it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on your U.S history, in order to give this film the respect it deserves as a historical piece and not just a drama.

Goodnight and Goodluck (2005)

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the whole speech that parents and teachers give claiming bullies won’t make it far and that later in life the bully won’t be the boss, is not actually true. A bully only has as much power as you allow them. It doesn’t matter the position, you are sure to find at least one bully. When Senator Joseph McCarthy begins a campaign to rid the U.S of “communists,” CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, played by David Strathairn decides to reveal the horrors associated with McCarthy’s “communist investigations.” With the help of Murrow’s friend and producer Fred Friendly played by George Clooney, and the rest of his news team they are able to bring McCarthy down. The film doesn’t allow itself to get distracted trying to embellish the story, instead, it focuses the events leading up to his fall. The entire film is shot in black and white adding another layer of authenticity as Murrow’s broadcast’s would be in black and white, and the film had also made use of the original McCarthy footage which was in black and white as well.

Frost/Nixon (2008)

Breaking the law is illegal but is it still illegal when the president of the United States is the one doing the law breaking? David Frost, the British TV personality played by Michael Sheen conducts a one-on-one interview with former President Richard Nixon three years after his involvement with covering up the political burglary that occurred at the Watergate apartments. Nixon believes he can outsmart Frost and gain the respect he had lost when it was discovered that he was involved in one of the largest political crimes in U.S history. Even Frost’s own team believes that he will fall victim to Nixon’s crafty nature. Once in the interview room, what seemed to be a game for Nixon turns into a hunt for the truth. The acting in this film makes everything feel as real as it had been at the time, especially Frank Langella, who plays Nixon is able to capture the essence of the former president himself.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013)

Is the government just keeping secrets from the public because they can, or is it for our own protection? Before the creation of WikiLeaks the website that reveals the government’s secrets, these questions were just a discussion among friends. This documentary looks at the polarising of opinions that formed with the launch of the website. The little debates around the dinner table became a much larger and more real debate as some people feel that the release of classified information is not only risky but dangerous and others admire what Julian Assange, founder of the website, and his collaborators have created. The documentary centres around how the public views the way democratic societies handle the right to information. Is it necessary or are we better off not knowing? How do people really feel when they learn the truth about the way their government operates? Can they handle the truth?

Citizenfour (2014)

“Freedom from damaging publicity, public scrutiny, secret surveillance, or unauthorised disclosure of one’s personal data or information, as by a government, corporation, or individual.” This is the dictionary.com definition of the word privacy. The overall point of privacy is the idea of others staying out of one’s personal affairs unless they are invited into it. No matter which definition you use the government does not feel the same. In 2013, Director Laura Poitras received encrypted messages by a Citizenfour, later revealed as Edward Snowden, about government surveillance programs. Poitras and reporter Glen Greenwald fly to Hong Kong to meet with Edward Snowden a former Central Intelligence agency employee. This film will make you second-guess the way you use your computer or smartphone because you never know when the government is watching.

Truth (2015)

The news industry is a very demanding business, not only does the news team have to find a story but they have to cover that story in a short amount of time before anyone else does and there is definitely no room for error. When CBS producer Mary Mapes and anchor Dan Rather release a story questioning whether President George W. Bush fulfilled his service in the U.S military. What seems like a successful newscast quickly takes a turn for the worst when the focus turns from the President to Mapes and Rather. A question of their source puts their credibility and careers on the line. The film portrays Mary Mapes, played by Cate Blanchett and Dan Rather, played by Robert Redford as both professional and as humans, something that tends to be forgotten when it comes to people in the media.

Spotlight (2015)

The church is meant to be a safe place. For years, people would go to the church to claim sanctuary, as to not be punished for whatever unlawful thing they have done. Even though the legal status of sanctuary has been abolished, there are churches that have housed some of the worst criminals, the ones that you would never expect. Even Satan masquerades as an angel of light, and in this case, the “angels” are clergy in the Catholic Churches in Boston. Accusations that John Geoghan had sexually abused more than 80 boys lead to more investigations of child molestation within the churches in Boston. Spotlight is the story of the Boston news team that was assigned to drag the darkness that was hiding in the Catholic Churches into the light. Regardless of the way you feel about religion, this film will have you applauding the team that made it okay for the victims to come forward and receive justice for the crimes committed against them.