In a world where the news cycle is
always running, with not enough Twitter refreshes or CNN updates to sustain the day's events, the media is constantly at a forefront of cultural conversation. It facilitates more drama than reality television, and can be just as cinematic. And amidst shrinking budgets and increased threat to democracy, now is a more prescient time than ever to dive into the stories behind the stories. The compelling characters, behind the scenes scoops, and overarching narratives that shape the way we consume breaking news events. Intersecting with age-old subjects of crime, politics, and sex, these nine documentaries about journalism deserve headlines of their own — and your attention.
If you've already re-watched
Spotlight, The Post, Broadcast News, and All the President's Men enough times to re-report the stories yourself, immerse yourself in the realities of the journalists who tell them. Understanding the work and passion that bleeds in to every lead, quote from a source, or interview with a subject can help give context to a media landscape that is under scrutiny over its role in democracy. There's no #FakeNews here, we promise — these nine documentaries are worth a watch next time you're in the mood for a movie.
'Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold'
Joan Didion is regarded as one of the most resonant voices in literary journalism of all time, thanks to her pieces in the pages of
Vogue and The New York Times and classic books including Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album, and The Year of Magical Thinking. This documentation of her life, directed by nephew Gregory Dunne, is a firsthand account of an extraordinary writer's life and loss. Available on Netflix
'Rolling Stone: Stories From the Edge'
This two-part documentary chronicles 50 years of
Rolling Stone magazine, all under the watchful eye of publisher Jann Wenner. The doc, narrated by Jeff Daniels, features interviews from some of the mag's most iconic contributors including Annie Leibowitz and Cameron Crowe, plus the musicians who were profiled inside. It also spotlights the way the magazine shifted away from counterculture and became more mainstream, providing insights into iconic covers such as the John Lennon and Yoko Ono edition that ran in the days after his death. Available on HBO Go
Steve James (director of
Hoop Dreams) profiles arguably the most famous film critic ever, Roger Ebert. The movie follows Ebert as he morphs from an outspoken film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times to a thumb-wielding co-host alongside Gene Siskel, before following the final months of his life. Even without the ability to vocally speak, Ebert never lost his voice. Available on Hulu
news of Beyonce's historical September Vogue cover hit the internet, it seems a better time than ever to check out The September Issue. This documentary follows Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington and co. as they finesse the all-important September issue of Vogue. It provides unprecedented access to the Conde title while also giving insights into why the world still watches to see what Wintour will do next. Available on Amazon Prime
'Page One: Inside The New York Times'
When fictionalized, the inner-workings of a major newsroom can be all sweeping scores and Sorkian monologues about truth. In reality, there are far more phone calls made at unremarkable desks and precise edits made quietly in conference rooms. But the importance and allure of quality journalism done before ones eyes doesn't lose its shine in this inside look at the reporting of
The New York Times. Available on Amazon Prime and Hulu
'The Newspaperman: The Life And Times Of Ben Bradlee'
Ben Bradlee will forever be associated with some of the biggest stories in American history from Watergate to the Pentagon papers. So it stands to reason that when Bradlee becomes the story himself, the final product would be just as thrilling. From blurring the lines between subject and journalist during his friendship with JFK, to balancing his family life with his days at the
Post, it's clear that Bradlee had as many layers as the stories he reported on. Available on HBO Go
Before becoming an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, director, and playwright, Nora Ephron was a master essayist providing her unique outlook on dating, feminism, and publishing itself in
The New York Post. According to the documentarian, Ephron's son Jacob, his mother lived by the principle that "everything is copy," pouring real-life events, including the infidelity in her marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, into iconic work. That is, until the end of her life, when in a fascinating move she kept her illness secret from those closest to her. Available on HBO Go
At times, journalism can be captured alongside a story as it happens, which was the case with
Citizenfour and Edward Snowden's whistleblower reveal about NSA surveillance. Both Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian and filmmaker Laura Poitras work together to deliver a story that changed the world and made clear how essential holding the powerful accountable through reporting is. Available on Amazon Prime and HBO
'Nobody Speak: Trials Of The Free Press'
The latest documentary about journalism's role in modern society follows the trial between Hulk Hogan and Gawker following the publishing of Hogan's sex tape on the site in 2012. It raises interesting questions about the roles privacy and a free press hold in relation to one another, and provides no easy answers for which should prevail.
Available on Netflix