Newspapers themselves have been making headlines lately, with the British tabloid News of the World collapsing amid allegations of phone hacking and police bribery and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch testifying before Parliament — and being attacked by a protestor with a shaving-cream pie in the process.
But the Fourth Estate has long been an inspiration for filmmakers who've depicted reporters as both seekers of truth and unscrupulous diggers of scoops.
Here's a look at five films that are worth stopping the presses to watch:
— "Citizen Kane" (1941): All these years later, Charles Foster Kane's shadow is inescapable when considering any modern-day media empire. The larger-than-life character, which Orson Welles loosely based on the life of publisher William Randolph Hearst, was full of the same kinds of ego, drive and greed that we see among the powerful today. The words and imagery are iconic; one friend joked on Twitter that he hoped Murdoch would utter the word "Rosebud" at the end of his Parliament testimony this week. But Kane knew then what the reality would become for those of us working in this field now: "The news goes on for 24 hours a day."
— "All the President's Men" (1976): The story — and the movie — that launched a generation of journalism careers, with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman starring as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal. Alan J. Pakula's film quietly builds to a boil, all the while meticulously depicting the nuts and bolts of what it takes to report a big story. Its obsession with accurate detail, especially in its portrayal of the tedious inner workings of a newsroom, might make it seem dry at times. But given the constant pressures that come today with online journalism and a 24-hour television news cycle, "All the President's Men" feels like a quaint time capsule in which there was time to dig and check and recheck.
— "His Girl Friday" (1940): The definition of snappy banter and a prime example of the great screwball comedies of the era. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell are at their best here as exes who flirt, bicker and (naturally) fall in love with each other again. Grant plays hard-driving newspaper editor Walter Burns, who will do whatever he must to get former wife Hildy Johnson (Russell) — the paper's former star reporter — back on the staff and into his life, rather than letting her settle down with a new husband. Howard Hawks' film builds to a mad crescendo of lies, schemes and cover-ups, all of it expertly timed and fluidly choreographed. When you're in a crummy mood, this is the movie to pop into the DVD player.
— "Ace in the Hole" (1951): Decades before Baby Jessica tumbled down a Texas well or 19 men were trapped in a mine in Chile, Billy Wilder's film was eerily prescient in depicting the kind of giddy hoopla that can surround such a tragic event. Kirk Douglas is riveting as Chuck Tatum, an amoral newsman who's been bounced out of nearly every major paper in the country. But when he stumbles on the story of a man who's stuck in a mountain tunnel in small-town New Mexico, he shamelessly manipulates it, figuring this is his way back into the big time. It's a showy role, full of swagger and bravado, and Wilder's vision of the circus that literally crops up around the rescue effort is full of dark insight and biting wit.
— "Fletch" (1985): Between this, "Caddyshack" and "Vacation," Chevy Chase was at the height of his game. But playing wisecracking undercover investigative reporter Irwin M. "Fletch" Fletcher provided him with perhaps his most identifying role, and gave the world some of the most enjoyable lines to quote. Fletch misses deadlines and frustrates his editor, he assumes false identities and sneaks into offices to get the information he needs. He's fearless in a way most of us in this business only wish we could be, and utters the quips we wish we could come up with at just the right moment. Can he borrow your towel for a sec? His car just hit a water buffalo.