Did you think we were going to stop at 110?
When SPJ celebrated its 110th anniversary, one of the features included in Quill was a ranked guide to 110 journalism movies.
The popularity of that piece sparked us to continuing adding movie reviews, new and old, and adjusting our rankings accordingly. The ten recent additions, below, take our total to 134.
And stay tuned in a few months for more additions, including Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” and the star-packed “Don’t Look Up,” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and more.
For now, though, here are the new additions. To find out where they are ranked, you can check out the entire list here:
News of the World (2020). In this dry, dust-choked, Oscar-nominated bit of boredom for all involved, Tom Hanks is Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Confederate veteran roaming America in the thick of Reconstruction. Kidd’s post-war occupation is gathering newspapers from large cities and international editions, then reading them aloud for paying audiences. Most of 2020’s “World” is a lazily conceived save-the-girl action-Western, an anodyne anomaly for Hanks and director Paul Greengrass that plays like “Plains, Reins and Wagon Wheels.” It’s an oater offering little journalistic fat on which to chew outside of loud-shouting analogs to a divisive present day and eternally irreconcilable racial animosity. (NR)
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Ultimate Edition (2016). We’re not arguing that the 183-minute version of Zack Snyder’s infamous title bout between DC Comics’ biggest characters will change the hearts of viewers who found the 151-minute theatrical cut tedious. That would be impossible. However, the half-hour of restored content features one of the best on-screen depictions of Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, performing his duties as an investigative reporter for The Daily Planet. His topic? Batman’s violent war on crime. His real foe? A newspaper industry that doesn’t care about consequence, only “content.” Although this additional subplot still ends up lost in the bombastic third act, it reminds viewers why journalism is a profession worthy of Superman. (ED)
The Fifth Estate (2013). Despite being penned by Josh Singer, the screenwriter behind two of this list’s best journalism films (“The Post” and “Spotlight”), “The Fifth Estate” is a scattershot slog. A biographical thriller about the daring feats of the controversial news site WikiLeaks, it ironically grows less interesting as its subject, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), takes more risks. That’s because the bulk of the film boils down to him butting heads with co-founder Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl), who’s far more cautious. We get it, Julian, you live on the edge, and that’s why your hair’s lightning-white. Director Bill Condon brings some visual flair to the otherwise tiresome hyped-up letdown. (SW)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004). Nobody went to writer-director Kerry Conran’s visually groundbreaking homage to action serials (shot almost entirely in front of a greenscreen) to gauge Gwyneth Paltrow’s embodiment of reportage principles as Polly Perkins, a New York reporter circa 1939. Next to nobody went anyway, consigning this uniquely beautiful curio to cult status as “300” broke the bank with a similar scheme three years later. The only thing more supernatural than “Sky Captain’s” sinister plot hatched at the edge of Shangri-La is how miscast Paltrow is in the film. Angelina Jolie displays more pep, vim and verve in five minutes than Paltrow does in 105, and the extent of Polly’s professional vigor extends to her scolding of a source that she has a deadline to meet. Polly is, um, really good at discovering small, narratively convenient scraps of paper to propel “Sky Captain” to its next plot point. Otherwise, she’s constantly losing her camera, her film and our sympathies throughout. (NR)
The Front Page (1931). The original silver-screen adaptation of the iconic and arguably quintessential play about journalism, this pre-code screwball comedy features constant innuendo, a smidge of violence and constant energy from start to finish. It’s a stagey (again, 1931) telling of the story, which features ace reporter Hildy Johnson (Pat O’Brien) tempted away from retirement by the machinations of his editor, Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou), and one last juicy story — an escaped convict whom they hide from authorities in their office. In this version, the allure of the journalistic ideal (anything to get a story) doubles as a vehicle to show how men find meaning through their work, often at the expense of everyone else — in this case, Hildy’s sweet fiancée, Peggy (Mary Brian). “The Front Page” feels like an artifact in light of its superior remakes, 1940’s “His Girl Friday” and 1974’s “The Front Page” (which you’ll find at #3 and #67, respectively, on this list). Still, it’s not without its charms. (ED)
The Public Eye (1992). Joe Pesci is no pugnacious, profane pipsqueak in writer-director Howard Franklin’s drama about Leon “Bernzy” Bernstein, a freelance tabloid shutterbug in 1940s New York whose pictorial prowess on the mean streets sweeps him up in scandal. (Bernzy is based on Arthur “Weegee” Fellig, so nicknamed for seeming powers of premonition to get the best pictures.) Besides Bernzy impersonating a priest to sneak inside a meat wagon, there are no comic moments; even in Pesci’s infrequent bluster, there’s a sense that Bernzy more deeply communes with the dead than the living. Unsurprisingly, this was the lowest-grossing film of the era’s Pescimania, even if the actor was never better until 2019’s “The Irishman.” Instead of a cautionary abyss-staring precursor to “Nightcrawler” (which you can find at #15) “The Public Eye” blends evocative noir with melancholy character study; even the mobsters are sad. Ethics? Bernzy would wave off that notion while dropping the “H” for good measure. “You can’t turn it off,” he says later — specifically about the police-band radio in his car but existentially about the constantly revolving rot at the center of it all. (NR)
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020). Sacha Baron Cohen brought new meaning to “October surprise” with the fall 2020 release of this well-layered, well-lawyered sequel to a film you can find at #32. Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev returns to America with teenage daughter Tutar (Oscar nominee Maria Bakalova) in tow to curry favor with a previous president. The hook? Borat is now too ubiquitous in the United States for blindsiding interviews; he’s even been immortalized in an unlicensed costume called “Stupid Foreign Reporter.” Cohen and crew smartly shift entire segments to Tutar, who’s swiftly bombarded with bad and barbaric ideas from America’s patriarchy about her body and career opportunities in journalism. It builds to an instant-legend climactic sequence with Rudy Giuliani that proved as effective at generating real headlines as “oh-dear-lord-no” laughter. Thankfully Cohen isn’t so naïve to believe cheekiness alone would cut through with any clarity these days. By focusing on Tutar’s pursuit of journalistic values and independence, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” reminds us that strong women are the future we need and will get if we don’t mess it up. (NR)
A Thousand Times Good Night (2013). Juliette Binoche anchors this harrowing, heartfelt film with her poignant performance as Rebecca, a photojournalist dedicated to documenting dangerous war zones. After a near-death experience in Afghanistan, she returns to Ireland, where she’s forced to choose between her family and the journalistic missions from which she may not come home alive again. Fortunately, the film neither condemns Rebecca’s perilous profession nor goes out of its way to glorify the risks she takes. It ultimately shows how, like the best photojournalists, she wields her camera as a weapon for justice, capturing conflicts in the hopes of creating a safer world. The film is a bit clichéd in its depiction of Rebecca’s struggle with adjusting to “normal life,” but that’s a minor nit to pick in an otherwise powerful portrait of a journalist. (SW)
Interview (2007). Steve Buscemi co-writes, directs and stars in this remake of the late Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh’s 2003 film of the same name. Buscemi plays Pierre Peders, a political correspondent tasked with a puff-piece profile of paparazzi target Katya (Sienna Miller), a popular actress. The interview moves from a posh restaurant back to her place, where the conversation grows more intimate and confessional. The pleasure of “Interview” lies in watching Katya punish the prying Pierre by turning the questioning toward him. The film ultimately offers biting commentary on how journalists can be just as vulnerable as the subjects of their interviews. (SW)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). David Fincher’s remake of the 2009 Swedish film (based on former journalist Stieg Larsson’s bestselling book) opens with the fall of a reporter. Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) finds himself embroiled in a libel suit after writing a dodgy, damaging exposé on the expenditures of billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. Another wealthy businessman, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), whisks Mikael away to Stockholm, where he offers the disgraced journalist the proper evidence he needs against Wennerström in exchange for investigating his grand-niece’s 40-year-old disappearance and presumed murder. Despite the libel case, Vanger has faith in Mikael and his “keen investigative mind.” But Mikael’s mind isn’t nearly as sharp as that of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the titular young woman who becomes his partner. The two couldn’t be more different; Mikael is buttoned up while Lisbeth is tatted out. But they share endearing chemistry, emerging as one of the most engaging journalistic teams in cinematic memory. The film ultimately shows the importance of teamwork in any journalistic endeavor, especially one as dangerous as Mikael and Lisbeth’s thrilling investigation. (SW)