Un classement exhaustif des journalistes du cinémadécembre 1, 2019
It’s not the best time to be a journalist right now. In fact, it sucks! But oddly enough, as the actual media workforce sputters, movies about journalists are in a boom time. This Thanksgiving, Matthew Rhys will play a reporter who befriends Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Earlier this fall, Julia Stiles played a journo based on the writer Jessica Pressler in Hustlers, and a Netflix series based on another Pressler story is in the works from Shonda Rhimes. Meanwhile, in recent years, prestige flicks like Spotlight and The Post have valorized real-life muckrakers, and comedies like Trainwreck and Someone Great have carried on the grand tradition of writerly rom-com protagonists. Hollywood still loves a newshound.
From comedies to historical dramas to biopics to thrillers, movies are lousy with media types. So it is time to decide, once and for all (or until the next batch of press-based films comes out): Who is the best movie journalist? And who is the worst?
For the purposes of this ranking, I’ve selected a wide sampling of slightly more than 50 performances from 45 films.
A few notes about the selection: In most cases, I restricted the number of journalists per movie to one performance, but with films like All the President’s Men to consider, I made exceptions for teamwork, because otherwise it’d be weird. Also, there are a number of excellent films, like When Harry Met Sally and Heartburn, in which characters work in media, but their job isn’t very important to the plot; I’ve chosen not to include this type of character on this list. And I definitely missed some movies, because it’s impossible to watch everything. Feel free to yell at me about this on Twitter, but I’ll probably ignore you because I tried my freaking best!
Now, on to the scoring system. There are four categories, rated, in most cases, on a scale from 1 to 10:
- Does the character get their story? This one is simple: Does the journalist ultimately write or broadcast what they set out to?
- Are they competent? Sometimes movie journalists get very lucky on one story. This question looks at their larger skill set. Do they know how to report, or do they simply stumble into everything?
- Are they ethical? Are they mindful of journalistic ethics? Do they follow a moral code or do they make up sources, sleep with their subjects, or, ya know, sometimes kill people? Those last few things are pretty frowned upon in the industry.
- How believable is the journalist? Can you imagine this journalist functioning in a newsroom during the time period this was set? Does the actor look … journalist-y enough?
Plus, bonus points and extra demerits will be available based entirely on my capricious whims and petty grudges. On to the rankings!
45. Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler (2014)
Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, a thriller about ambulance-chaser local news stringers, is both a nasty little caper and a movie that will make you seek a hug to assure yourself that the world isn’t actually as cold and sinister as it seemed for the 117-minute run time.
Does the character get their story? Yes, in a big way. Bloom is very adept at getting to crime scenes first and getting the footage out, it must be said. As the film progresses, he becomes unparalleled at what he does. 10/10, even though what he does is an eerie, voyeuristic distillation of humanity’s worst impulses.
Are they competent? Yes, Bloom is so successful at finding or creating compelling documentation for the masses that he becomes widely known as the most masterful reporter on his beat in the city. 10/10
Are they ethical? Bloom kills multiple people, including his protégé, to further his own career, in addition to committing a litany of smaller but still serious crimes including sexual coercion, vehicular assault, and theft. Minus-1,000/10 for all the murder.
How believable is the journalist? While all the murder stuff makes it pretty outlandish, the general amorality is, sadly, very plausible, and while the way the station Bloom caters to chases ratings feels exaggerated, it’s also convincing. 8/10
Total: minus-972/10 … once again, for all murder.
44. Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean in Adaptation (2002)
In real life, Orlean is a beloved magazine journalist and writer. In Adaptation, she is, too—but screenwriter Charlie Kaufman made some distinct choices to distinguish the character of Orlean from the real writer. And most of those choices turned fictional Orlean into one real piece of work.
Does the character get their story? Yes, she writes a well-received New Yorker article about orchids and then adapts it into a successful book called The Orchid Thief. 10/10
Are they competent? Her sparkling prose is recited by a fictionalized version of Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) as he struggles to adapt her book, so she’s proved to be an accomplished stylist. She is also clearly skilled at source-building and conducting interviews. 10/10
Are they ethical? She sleeps with her subject, takes illicit drugs from and with him, and then attempts to kill Kaufman and his brother after he discovers her misdeeds. She also leaves her sexual relationship and drug use out of the book, omitting the truth of her relationship with her source. minus-400/10
How believable is the journalist? Before she starts zooting flower powder and trying to murder, she’s extremely believable, and I’m pretty sure they actually filmed some of the scenes in the real New Yorker office! 10/10
43. Hayden Christensen as Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass (2003)
Glass was a real-life New Republic writer who got busted for fabricating stories and had to leave the profession in disgrace. Christensen plays him in this 2003 true-crime drama.
Does the character get their story? Glass initially files stories reporters dream of writing, like tell-alls about teenage hackers. But all these splashy stories are debunked by the movie’s end as completely made up, so you can’t feel too good about that. We’ll give him a 1/10.
Are they competent? No, because instead of reporting he just makes the stuff up. You’re not allowed to do that. It’s actually the main rule of journalism. 0/10
Are they ethical? As you might imagine, the whole “made-it-all-up” situation really dings him here. Glass also doesn’t fess up until he is forced to, and screws over his editors and colleagues all while complaining that they’re not on his side. minus-100/10
How believable is the journalist? Stephen Glass was a baby-faced 20-something when he pulled his fabulist stunts, and Christensen embodies his sniveling entitlement well. He’s slightly too beautiful in the face to completely nail it, but he comes close. 9/10.
42. Sally Field as Megan Carter, Absence of Malice (1981)
Field stars as Carter, a Miami Standard reporter who reports a story on a liquor wholesaler named Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman) based on false information and then proceeds to date him.
Does the character get their story? Megan publishes a series of stories throughout the film, but the first one is based on fake documents she is fed by a prosecutor, which seriously damages an innocent man’s career. The second includes a detail about a religious woman getting an abortion that is not necessary to report for the public interest and results in the woman’s suicide. So, all of her stories are exclusively wrong or deeply flawed. 1/10
Are they competent? Oh my god, no—didn’t you read what I just wrote? She does admit to being incompetent, though, so we’ll give her a point for that. 1/10
Are they ethical? As the film’s title suggests, Carter isn’t malicious in her screwups, but that’s about all she has going for her as far as ethics are concerned. She writes a story based on false information, which she steals from a prosecutor’s office. Then she hooks up with the subject of her initial report. I do not know how Megan got hired by the Standard. minus-20/10
How believable is the journalist? Sally Field is definitely believable as a bad journalist. She looks the part in dowdy blouses and pencil skirts, and she’s perfectly fidgety and feckless. 8/10
41. Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter in the Harry Potter franchise (2005-11)
Skeeter is a sneaky gossip columnist who routinely pesters and defames Harry Potter throughout the books and movies.
Does the character get their story? Skeeter is often inaccurate and defamatory, but it must be said, she was the Daily Prophet’s most prominent war reporter for both the First and Second Wizarding Wars. And even though her biography of Dumbledore was nasty, it was based in many harsh truths. Say what you will about her, the woman can get a scoop. 7/10
Are they competent? Skeeter relies on her Quick-Quotes Quill—a very handy-seeming invention; good job, wizarding world—to do most of her work for her, and her stories are sensationalist. She is able to corner hostile sources, though, and she did publish a lot of information incredibly relevant to the wizarding world, so she’ll get a 7/10 despite her shortcuts.
Are they ethical? Not one bit. She forces answers out of people by using Veritaserum without consent, she spies on sources by transforming into a beetle, and her quill embellishes or straight-up fabricates quotes. Her interactions with Harry are also weirdly charged. Bad all around. minus-10/10
How believable is the journalist? Richardson embodies a malignant gossip columnist with believable, brittle bluster, although her hair is way too manicured for someone so harried. 8/10
Demerit: minus-10 for inadvertently furthering the agenda of the Dark Lord Voldemort!
40. Richard Gere as Ike Graham in Runaway Bride (1999)
Graham, a man known for his sexist USA Today newspaper columns who can also somehow afford to live on Central Park, writes a mean op-ed about Maggie Carpenter, a woman who repeatedly runs away from the altar. When Carpenter accuses him of slander and factual errors and Graham is fired, he goes to visit her.
Does the character get their story? No! He never writes the follow-up he comes to Maggie’s town to do. 0/10
Are they competent? No! He gets fired for failure to fact-check. 0/10
Are they ethical? No! He writes a cruel column about a private citizen in a national paper, then pays her to participate in a makeup story, then proposes to her. 0/10
How believable is the journalist? Even in the insular media universe concocted by this movie, it’s still odd that Ike’s ex-wife and her new husband are his bosses. But Gere nails the smarminess level of an op-ed columnist, so 4/10.
39. Dermot Mulroney as Michael O’Neal in My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
O’Neal is a sportswriter who is marrying a college student, whom he expects to forgo a career to accompany him to baseball games for work. I am not going to lie, I put him in this low position because expecting your 20-year-old bride to follow you around on sportswriting travels rather than getting a job is both a stunningly stupid plan for economic stability and pretty sexist.
Does the character get their story? He doesn’t really do much work in the movie but he does seem to regularly produce copy so 6/10, whatever.
Are they competent? No beat reporter at a midsized newspaper who demands to be the breadwinner in a single-income family could possibly be competent, sorry! Yes, even in the ’90s! 0/10.
Are they ethical? I don’t care. I’m not over the concept of a reporter insisting their spouse not have a job. Can we also talk about how this guy puts his ex-girlfriend’s finger in his mouth the night before his wedding? What is wrong with him? 5.5/10
How believable is the journalist? Again, no JOURNALIST would encourage their educated spouse (Michael seems to assume that his fiancé will simply drop out of college after the wedding) not to get a job so that they could travel with them on business, not even in 1997 when the industry was flush. There was no way Mulroney could salvage the madness. minus-10/10
38. Drew Barrymore as Josie Geller in Never Been Kissed (1999)
Barrymore plays a Chicago Sun-Times copy editor who is somehow assigned to go undercover at a high school for what appears to be an entire school year, at the direct behest of the paper’s publisher, a truly absurd allocation of resources and talent that defies all logic and the laws of the state of Illinois.
Does the character get their story? Geller initially gets scooped about an underage drinking scandal at the high school, even though her sole job as an undercover teenager was to get those kinds of stories. For some reason she doesn’t get pulled off the assignment and is given months to redeem herself, which she instead uses as an opportunity to write a personal essay about being a huge virgin. 0/10
Are they competent? Um, see above. 0/10
Are they ethical? Simply wanting to know what the teens are like these days doesn’t seem like a compelling excuse to commit what appears to be felony fraud. Catfishing a teacher by pretending to be jailbait was also a questionable move. 0/10.
How believable is the journalist? Nothing about this movie is even remotely believable, but I’ll give Barrymore a 2/10 for showcasing the deep social awkwardness many journalists are blighted with in our personal lives.
37. Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Hunsecker is a dastardly newspaper columnist covering Broadway in this 1957 noir.
Does the character get their story? Yes, Hunsecker regularly puts out popular and influential columns about theater. It’s remarkable how powerful he is in this movie. People are scared of him, including a publicist. As someone who has received phone calls from screaming publicists before, this dynamic is a sight to behold. 8/10
Are they competent? He’s good at what he does, but what he does is write sleazy takedowns or paid-for puff pieces, so 3/10.
Are they ethical? The film’s plot revolves around his attempts to use his column to destroy the life of his sister’s boyfriend, so minus-10/10, no. (Hollywood’s distrust of the media goes back decades!!!)
How believable is the journalist? Lancaster is very convincing as a conniving power broker, although his intimidating and cigar-chomping personality doesn’t lend itself to imagining him hunched over a typewriter. 2/10.
36. Amy Schumer as Amy Townsend in Trainwreck (2015)
Schumer’s Townsend is a hard-partying men’s magazine writer who falls in love with the subject of her story, a handsome sports doctor.
Does the character get their story? Yes, somehow it is published in Vanity Fair after Townsend is fired from her original job for almost sleeping with its 16-year-old intern. 10/10 I guess?
Are they competent? I repeat: Townsend is fired for almost sleeping with a 16-year-old intern. 0/10
Are they ethical? In addition to almost sleeping with said intern, Townsend sleeps with her story’s subject. minus-10/10
How believable is the journalist? I know a lot of journalists who live like Townsend—minus the sleeping with sources and nearly sleeping with 16-year-olds, thank God—so we’ll go with 4/10.
35. Meg Ryan as Annie Reed in Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Reed is a Baltimore Sun reporter who becomes obsessed with a Seattle-based widower (Tom Hanks) even though she is engaged to Walter (Bill Pullman), a kind man she actually knows.
Does the character get their story? Even though Reed flies to Seattle to write about Sad Tom Hanks for the Sun, she never actually files anything about him. 0/10
Are they competent? Reed is good at navigating the internet for a person from the 1990s and is able to track down the identities of Sad Tom Hanks and his son shockingly quickly, so she does get 1/10 for investigation skills, but no other points because she clearly can’t hit deadlines.
Are they ethical? She hires a private investigator to trail the subjects of a personal interest story, which seems like overkill and also something you need to get permission from editors to do? She also thinks her story subject is her soulmate. So I suppose it’s best she never filed. minus-5/10
How believable is the journalist? Reed is a neurotic stress case who loves to snoop and make bad choices. Yes. 9/10
34. Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Duke (Depp), a magazine writer, is sent to cover a motorcycle race in Las Vegas and does an absolutely inadvisable variety and quantity of drugs.
Does the character get their story? Duke does finally write up his adventures, and it is implied that the narration during the movie is excerpted from the story he files. It’s definitely not what he was assigned, though, so 5/10.
Are they competent? Considering he spends almost every waking moment drifting in and out of a hallucinatory, ranting state, no. 0/10
Are they ethical? Duke doesn’t appear to fabricate anything in his stories, but the gleeful and terrifying crime spree he goes on while ostensibly reporting gets him a minus-5/10.
How believable is the journalist? Duke would be impossible to believe, except that he was Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego, and this is a dramatization of a thinly veiled memoir, so: 5.5/10
33. Katie Holmes as Heather Holloway in Thank You for Smoking (2005)
Holloway is a doe-eyed reporter for the fictional Washington Probe, working on a profile of tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) whilst sleeping with him.
Does the character get their story? She gets the juicy front-page profile she sets out to write. 10/10
Are they competent? Holloway is a great interviewer, but her primary reporting strategy appears to be seducing sources. 5/10
Are they ethical? Absolutely not; she immediately sleeps with the subject of her piece. minus-5/10
How believable is the journalist? Female journalists don’t sleep with their profile subjects! 0/10
32. Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello Rubini in La Dolce Vita (1960)
Gossip columnist Rubini spends his days and nights doing plenty to gossip about but not much actual writing. As a character, Rubini is iconic. As a fictional journalist, he’s remarkably bad at his job.
Does the character get their story? At one point, Rubini tells a friend he is “gathering material,” and at another he is working on a novel, but he is never shown publishing much of anything. 2/10
Are they competent? Rubini is not the most focused journalist, taking phone calls during a press junket and spending most of his time on various misadventures, so … no, not really. 3/10
Are they ethical? He pays his sources and (at least) attempts to sleep with a subject. (It’s ambiguous whether he succeeds.) 4/10
How believable is the journalist? Again, journalists don’t sleep with their subjects—I don’t know what we need to do to get screenwriters to realize this. But the opening scene when he stops his news helicopter to flirt feels all too real, and if a journalist were to sleep with a story subject … it would be this guy. 5/10
31. William Alland as Jerry Thompson in Citizen Kane (1941)
After newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) dies, Thompson goes looking for the meaning of his final word, “Rosebud.”
Wz5 « > Le personnage a-t-il son histoire? Strong> Nope. Thompson ne s’en rend pas compte. Considérant que Kane n’a parlé à personne de Rosebud, ce n’est pas vraiment la faute de Thompson, mais le mec a encore le flair. fort> 0/10 strong> p>
Sont-ils compétents? strong> Il fait beaucoup de bons reportages sur la vie de Kane. S’il avait été chargé d’une mission moins détaillée, il aurait probablement réussi. Ainsi: 5/10 strong>. p> >
Sont-ils éthiques? strong> Il n’enfreint pas les règles principales, mais il ne fait pas grand-chose du tout, alors réglons-nous au milieu: 5/10 strong> p>
Le journaliste est-il crédible? strong> Thompson est tellement un appareil d’encadrement dans ce film que vous ne pouvez même pas vraiment voir son visage. Il est un formidable pont entre les retours en arrière, mais trop indéfinissable pour être crédible ou non. 5/10 strong> p>
Total: 15/40 strong> p>
30. Will Ferrell dans Ron Burgundy et Christina Applegate dans Veronica Corningstone dans Anchorman: La légende de Ron Burgundy em> (2004) h4>