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All the President’s Men (1976). Through investigative journalism, two Washington Post reporters uncover the Watergate affair and bring down President Nixon’s men. Based on their book.
Battleship Potemkin (1925). Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein’s stirring tale of an incident in the abortive 1905 Russian revolution, a brilliant illustration of how to make a film with collective protagonists (notably, the people of Odessa).
Citizen Kane (1941). Orson Welles’s investigation of the life of a media mogul is matchless moviemaking.
Duck Soup (1933). The Marx Brothers’ anarchic send-up of the incompetence and hypocrisy of governments and of the folly of war. Groucho becomes leader of the country of Freedonia and leads it into a comedic war.
Good Night and Good Luck (2005). Based on the real-life conflict in the 1950s in which television newsman Edward R. Murrow defied corporate pressure and brought down demagogic senator Joseph McCarthy.
His Girl Friday (1939). In this wise-cracking comedy, cynical editor (Cary Grant) uses his wiles to keep his star reporter and ex-wife (Rosalind Russell) from leaving the newspaper.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Director John Ford’s meditative western in which the news makes the myth that establishes the wrong man as the hero and successful politician.
Network (1976). Television company executives exploit an anchorman’s madness on the air to boost ratings.
The Player (1992). Robert Altman’s delightful satire of Hollywood, its filmmakers, and its films.
Rashomon (1950). Four versions of an ambush, rape, and murder are shown in Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s famous exploration of the elusive nature of truth.
Shattered Glass (2003). Fictionalized version of the true story of a journalist who is fired from The New Republic magazine when it is discovered that he has fabricated many of his stories.
The Social Network (2010). A fascinating account, partly factual and partly fictional, of the founding of Facebook.
Star Wars (1977). The first of the multipart saga applies themes from the American Revolution to planetary political systems.
Sullivan’s Travels (1941). Director Preston Sturges’s tale of a director of mindless Hollywood studio films who wants to make films of social commentary but discovers the value of comedy.
Triumph of the Will (1935). Hitler’s favorite filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, made this propaganda documentary of the 1934 Nazi party rally in Nuremberg, a celebration of the fascist state.