The newspaper business has inspired classic movies such as Citizen Kane and His Girl Friday, and later films spotlighting real journalists and the world-changing stories they cracked through dogged determination and intrepid reporting, from Watergate to sexual abuse scandals. Joining their ranks is the hot Oscar best picture contender She Said, which follows New York Times reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) as they uncover Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades of abuse — and become the #MeToo era’s answer to Woodward and Bernstein.
If you still spread out a print newspaper on your breakfast table every morning, these six films will make for an informative, and often thrilling, window into how the journalistic sausage is made. And no ink on your fingers!
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.
The movie: The Killing Fields (1984)
The premise: Set during the bloody 1970s Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia, this harrowing drama follows the intertwined fates of Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston, now 82) and his Cambodian interpreter, photojournalist Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor). After U.S. forces evacuate and Schanberg returns to New York, he spends almost five years trying to help Pran escape from the country and the forced reeducation camps of Pol Pot’s genocidal Year Zero campaign. First-time actor Ngor, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge himself, won the best supporting actor Oscar, marking only the second time a nonprofessional took home the trophy, after WWII veteran and The Best Years of Our Lives star Harold Russell in 1946.
Read more: The film is based on Schanberg’s book The Death and Life of Dith Pran, which began as a 1980 New York Times Magazine article. He describes Cambodia as “a nation pushed into the war by other powers, not in control of its destiny, being used callously as battle fodder, its agonies largely ignored as the world focused its attention on neighboring Vietnam.”
The movie: All the President’s Men (1976)
The premise: Released just a few short years after Watergate, this thriller sees Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford, now 86) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman, 85) almost single-handedly — or double-handedly — take down the Nixon presidency through their fierce commitment to uncovering the truth about the break-in at Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate complex. Suffused with paranoia and a palpable sense of danger, the film popularized the phrase “follow the money,” and you’ll be wildly impressed by the lengths the reporter duo took to crack the case, from secret coded signals to parking garage meetings with Deep Throat (who turned out to be FBI man Mark Felt). It picked up four Oscars but lost the big prize to Rocky.
Read more: Check out Woodward and Bernstein’s 1974 book of the same name, the basis of the script, which former New York Times managing editor Gene Roberts has called “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time.”