Investigative Journalism in Films: Six Filmmaking Masterpieces Based on True Events


Investigative journalism—the term sounds as lustrous as a James Bond movie, but it is mostly about meticulous cross-referencing of facts. However, in cinema, investigative journalism can establish that the world is made of a faction of good people and another faction of bad people.

Here is a list of six excellent films based on true events of investigative journalism.

All The President’s Men (1976)


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This film depicts a historical event that is considered to be the pioneer of investigative journalism.

The film tells the story of how “The Washington Post” reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein unearth the information of the Watergate scandal.

The expose led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, says The Guardian.

The Killing Fields (1984)

The film talks about the genocide that took place in Democratic Kampuchea and the story of two journalists: Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg.

(ALSO READ: Four Corners Crew: Australian Journalists Avoid Charges, Leaves Malaysia)

The film follows the two journalists who are trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot’s bloody “Year Zero” cleansing crusade. The crusade killed two million “undesirable” civilians, says Roger Ebert.

The Insider (1999)

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The film stars Al Pacino as Lowell Bergman, the veteran producer of the “60 Minutes” TV show, and Russell Crowe as a whistleblower. The film explores the relationship between a journalist and his source, says Rotten Tomatoes.

The Insider details the story of a research chemist played by Crowe. He comes under harassment when he chooses to come forward in a “60 Minutes” expose on Big Tobacco

The Fifth Estate (2013)

This film establishes how the press evolved into a fifth estate. It is a dramatic thriller based on actual events that show the pursuit to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power of capitalist nations and off-shore banks.

The film deals with the Internet uprising, 21st-century investigative journalism and the most severely debated organization: Wikileaks, says Hollywood Reporter.

Kill The Messenger (2014)

This movie is based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb. The film takes place in the mid-1990s, when Webb uncovered the CIA’s past role in importing huge amounts of cocaine into the U.S.

He exposed that the cocaine was forcefully sold in ghettos across the country to get money for the Nicaraguan Contras rebel army.

At a point, Webb found himself defending his integrity, his family, and his life. Webb apparently committed suicide in 2004, says Metacritic.

Spotlight (2015)

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This is the true story of how the Boston Globe’s longest-running investigative journalism unit, “Spotlight” revealed the enormous scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese.

(ALSO READ: ‘Spotlight’ Michael Keaton Joins ‘American Assassin’ as Stan Hurley; Who Should Play Mitch Rapp?)

The revelations shook the entire Catholic Church to its core, says Spotlight The Film. Directed by Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight” won two Academy Awards and was nominated in six categories.

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