With highly-anticipated WikiLeaks saga The Fifth Estate, hitting theaters this weekend, and news about Edward Snowden movie projects circulating, the discourse surrounding journalistic ethics has reached a fever pitch.
But when it comes to movies, the most compelling stories are rarely the ones that tell the story of the nicest guys in the room — they’re the ones about the biggest ball-busters, the dirtiest liars, the sleddingest millionaires, and the most devilish Prada-wearers.
To celebrate Julian Assange’s legacy of whistleblowing, we’re counting down the most badass journalists in movie history.
5. Robert Graysmith (Zodiac): For most journalists, catching a break about misappropriation of municipal funds or rumors of toxic mold at a local preschool are big wins, but for San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith, sticking to the Saturday funnies wasn’t cutting it. As portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal in David Fincher’s 2007 true crime hit, Graysmith decided that his expertise was better used chasing one of America’s most notorious serial killers than making people laugh. While his efforts may not have solved the crime, his relentless pursuit of justice, fame, and a terrifying life, prove that he’s more than just pretty linework.
4. David Frost (Frost/Nixon): Back before the Internet reduced the written word into blog posts like “17 Llamas with Skrillex’s Haircut,” men like David Frost were still performing extraordinary — some might even say heroic — acts of journalism. The British newsman, played by Michael Sheen in the 2008 film, spent a cool $600,000 to interview President Nixon over a 29-hour period, during which he made some startling discoveries: namely that Nixon was exactly the deceitful, justice obstructing scumbag the American public already believed him to be.
3. Charles Foster Kane (Citizen Kane): There may be no greater personification of the crushing weight of the American Dream on film than Orson Welles’ newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane. Hugely successful, but fundamentally lonely and loveless, constantly seeking that which he could not have, Kane is film’s Ozymandias — a relic, crushed by its own weight, left to gather dust.
2. Conrad Brean (Wag the Dog): Winston Churchill once said, “Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war,” but Wag’s Brean may be the only character in film history who ever kept the peace peace by creating a decent, albeit fictitious, approximation of a war. Robert De Niro’s take on the spin doctor, who wages a fake conflict between Albania and the U.S. to distract from the president’s naughty extracurriculars, certainly makes us pretty suspicious about this whole Iraq thing — we’re looking at you, Cheney.
1. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (All the President’s Men): While much of the practice of journalism takes place in three-to-a-desk newsrooms and suburban Starbucks sofas, once upon a time, journalists like Woodward and Bernstein (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) were still playing cops and robbers to get their stories, with clandestine meetings in parking lots, death threats, and the eventual resignation of the president based on their detective work. Of course, they get their man, get the story, and manage to maintain the kind of perfect ’70s hair reporters today can only dream of. And we thought blogging was a tough job.
Want to learn more about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks? Check out these videos on demand at FilmOn.com:
Julian Assange: A Modern Day Hero?
TechStuff: Why is WikiLeaks Important?
FrontLine: WikiSecrets Audiocast