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It seems movies about whistleblowers are more relevant than ever — indeed, three such movies hit screens in — but this particular subgenre has a rich, storied tradition, stretching all the way back to the days of classic Hollywood. With The Report and Dark Waters arriving in theaters this month, here are 20 whistleblower-themed films worth exposing for the powerful watches they are.
On the Waterfront tells the tale of Terry Malloy Marlon Brandoa boxer-turned-longshoreman whose guilty conscience slowly turns him against the mob-connected union leader who rules the docks. The Oscar-winning classic also had its roots in a different sort of whistleblowing: At the height of the McCarthy era, Waterfront director Elia Kazan became a pariah in Hollywood for naming former Communists to the House Un-American Activities Committee.
This film is often viewed as Kazan's response to his detractors, and the parallels aren't hard to spot. In between playing a mafia boss in The Godfather and its sequel, Al Pacino took on the role of Frank Serpico, a real-life NYPD officer who became determined to expose the widespread corruption within the force. The film remains widely regarded as a classic today, anchored by Pacino's typically fierce performance and Sidney Lumet's sterling direction and use of New York City.
Still the journalism movie all others aspire toward, All the President's Men tracks Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward Robert Redford and Carl Bernstein Dustin Hoffman as their diligent work steadily uncovers the full breadth and depth of the Watergate scandal with the help of an anonymous source, Deep Throat.
Legendary director Mike Nichols The Graduate helmed this drama based on the life of Karen Silkwood played by Meryl Streepwho died in a mysterious car crash while investigating harmful practices at the nuclear plant where she worked. Kurt Russell and Cher co-star as Woman want nsa Clayton New York boyfriend and housemate — which, on paper, sounds like the setup for the world's best sitcom.
But in practice, Silkwood is a powerful slow burn, deep-diving into its subject's everyday life and burgeoning crusade.
Pacino picked up the whistle again, alongside Russell Crowein The Insiderplaying a 60 Minutes producer who pushes to bring Jeffrey Wigand's Crowe damning of the tobacco industry's practices to light. The Constant Gardener stars Ralph Fiennes as a Kenya-stationed British diplomat who, while investigating the murder of his wife Rachel Weiszin an Oscar-winning performanceuncovers the malicious conduct of a pharmaceutical company that she had been investigating. Somewhat tepidly received upon release EW called it "the right movie at the wrong time"North Country may be primed for rediscovery in the MeToo era.
If you like your whistleblower dramas a little more heightened, Michael Claytonwritten and directed by Bourne writer Tony Gilroy, is the movie for you. George Clooney plays the title character, a fixer for a high-profile law firm who falls into a web of intense corporate espionage involving one of the firm's clients. Also featured: Tilda Swinton as the client's ruthless lawyer and some tense sequences that validate the paranoia at the heart of all great whistleblower films.
Almost a decade after Erin BrockovichSoderbergh delivered a more askew take on the whistleblower tale with The Informant!
The film stands out for its eccentric approach: Soderbergh packed the cast with comedians — Joel McHalePatton Oswalteven the Smothers Brothers — and adopted an arch tone that bugged as many critics as it impressed. A few real-life whistleblowers have had their stories told onscreen through both documentary and dramatization. One such example: Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers and exposed secret U.
If The Report leaves you wanting to relive more Bush administration-era outrages, allow us to recommend Fair Gamebased on the Plame affair. That scandal revolved around the administration's outing of Valerie Plame played by Naomi Watts as a CIA operative, ostensibly in retaliation for her diplomat husband's Sean Penn criticism of the Iraq War. Remember when WikiLeaks was better known for whistleblowing than for helping interfere in U. Edward Snowden may be the most ificant, and is certainly the most famous, whistleblower of the last decade, with his revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance Woman want nsa Clayton New York reshaping our views on technology, privacy, and intelligence.
Laura Poitras ' Oscar-winning Citizenfour is an essential document, chronicling the days Snowden spent in Hong Kong making his initial disclosures to Poitras and two other journalists. Oliver Stone 's Snowdenwith Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the title character, is less essential, but helps illuminate the man himself and boasts a solid performance from Gordon-Levitt. Official Secrets dramatizes a lesser-known at least Stateside but no less vital whistleblower story: That of Katharine Gun played by Keira Knightley.
The injustices of the War on Terror hang heavily over the movies this year. A star-studded cast playing a roster of familiar government figures surround Driver, including Annette Bening as Sen. Wonder why. Do themes of speaking truth to power seem especially relevant now? Dark Waters shines a spotlight on Robert Bilott played by Mark Ruffaloa lawyer who undertook a decades-long battle with DuPont over the company's environmental contamination and cover-up.
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