Newspaper and magazine journalists are often at the center of fictional stories as well as true ones. They certainly are at the heart of my novels. These are five of the best movies about print journalism with fictional stories, even if they resemble real people or events.
Next up will be movies about broadcaset journalism, then on to television.
1. Almost Famous
This is one of my favorite movies period. It follows Cameron Crowe … I mean, William Miller … as a really, really young rock journalist. He ends up writing a piece for Rolling Stone about the band Stillwater. From Crowe’s Oscar-winning screenplay and directing to a cast beyond compare — Hoffman, McDormand, Hudson, Crudup, etc. — this was an easy choice for No. 1.
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson’s original Millennium trilogy is one of the best crime thriller series ever, and this movie does the first novel of the same name justice. Daniel Craig is excellent as magazine journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara got an Oscar nom for her portrayal as the titular girl, researcher Lisbeth Salander.
A note about the Swedish-language film of the same name and its sequels: I have watched them and they are also excellent. I write for a primarily American audience, but if you prefer those films, feel free to substitute them here.
3. State of Play
This is a twisty political thriller that depicts the reporters well. The scenes where Russell Crowe as a gruff investigative journalist Cal McAffrey battles it out with young online reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) and editor Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren) are great. The rest of the cast is equally as talented, including Ben Affleck, Robin Wright, Jeff Daniels, and Jason Bateman.
4. The Paper
Though it depicts a day in the life of a tabloid newsroom, something I’m not as familiar with as traditional newspaper or magazine reporters, this is a fun movie that gets a lot right. Set in the mid-90s and featuring a superb cast, it depicts the frustration of cutbacks and insanely long hours for editors and a crusade to get the story right.
5. The Pelican Brief
Adapted from the John Grisham novel of the same name, this move features Denzel Washington as Gray Grantham, and let’s face it — every male newspaper reporter wishes he was as cool and smooth as Denzel. Julia Roberts as a Tulane law student also shines, and the other actors are well cast. It’s not the best Grisham adaptation out there, but they’ll get their own list soon.
HM. Citizen Kane
I couldn’t write a list like this without including Citizen Kane. I don’t find myself re-watching this movie like the others above, but its cultural significance can’t be overstated. It depicts a fictionalized version of the lives of American newspaper magnates such as William Randolph Hurst and Joseph Pulitzer.