Films on Whistleblowers

See also:

Films on Exposés

Films on Coverups

War on Whistleblowers:
Free Press and the National Security State

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr 6m. This documentary highlights four cases in which whistleblowers exposed government wrongdoing to the media and faced serious repercussions. Eye-opening, frank, and disturbing, this film is a must watch. This is a very good documentary and is a fraction of what is really going on in our government. The people of this country need to stand up and say NO MORE and start fighting for your rights before they are gone. See Full Review

United States of Secrets

Documentary Frontline 2014 TV-PG 2 Episodes. “Frontline” investigates the secret history of the unprecedented surveillance program that began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and continues today. Right after we were attacked by terrorists in 2001, these men in the government stole our civil liberties. The film’s focus is on the National Security Agency (NSA), and its surveillance programs that came to light with the Snowden Leaks. See Full Review

All the President’s Men

Docudrama 1976 PG 139 minutes. Probably the most infamous case of whistleblowing ever committed. The film that launched a thousand journalism school students, All the President’s Men chronicles how the work of reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) contributed to the public downfall of President Richard M. Nixon. The duo connected a Washington, D.C., hotel break-in with a Nixon “dirty tricks” team assigned to discredit Democratic rivals, launching a series of tense events that forced Nixon to resign. This story of the exposure of the Watergate break-in and subsequent coverup by two Washington Post reporters focuses attention on the inves­tigative journalism that has done so much to make Americans skeptical and even cynical about their nation’s institutions.

TWA: Flight 800

Documentary 2013 PG-13 1hr 31m. This provocative documentary examines the fate of TWA Flight 800 to Paris, France, which exploded in 1996 just minutes after takeoff from New York, and includes interviews with official investigators who claim that the catastrophe was no accident.  See Full Review


War, Lies & Videotape

Documentary 2011 NR 56m. This documentary is the story of Wikileaks and follows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, featuring an exclusive interview about his motives behind the controversial website. The thing I like most about “Wikileaks: Wars, Lies and Videotape” is that it shines the spot light on the fact that Wrong is Wrong. There is no such thing as a “Wrong” being “Right” when done by a certain country and not by another. Solid documentary about true heroes. People like Assange and Manning are the real heroes of the world. This documentary is much more unbiased than the other so-called documentary “We Steal Secrets.

We Steal Secrets:
The Story of WikiLeaks

Documentary 2013 R 2hr 9m. This documentary reveals how Julian Assange fired a global debate on secrecy when his web site, Wikileaks, published thousands of confidential documents. Taking no sides, Oscar winner Alex Gibney examines every aspect of the controversial event.


Documentary Frontline 2011 May24 NR. Intelligence analyst Bradley Manning set off a firestorm of controversy when he released millions of classified documents to the WikiLeaks Web site in 2010. “Frontline” investigates this enigmatic figure’s motives and the fallout of his actions. It’s the biggest intelligence breach in U.S. history-the leaking of more than half-a-million classified documents on the Wikileaks website in the spring of 2010. Behind it all, stand two very different men: Julian Assange, the Internet activist and hacker who published the documents, and an Army intelligence analyst named Bradley E. Manning, who’s currently charged with handing them over. Private Manning allegedly leaked the secret cables — along with a controversial video — in the hope of inciting “worldwide discussion, debates and reforms.” Assange’s stated mission has been to force the U.S. and other governments into maximum transparency through his whistle-blowing website. Through in-depth interviews with Manning’s father, Assange, and others close to the case, veteran Frontline correspondent Martin Smith tells the full story behind the leaks. He also reports on the U.S. government’s struggle to protect national security information in a post 9/11 world. Link to View This Frontline Story for Free (Listed by Date 2011 May24):

Julian Assange: A Modern Day Hero?
Inside the World of WikiLeaks

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 30m. Radical and unapologetic, Australian publisher and journalist Julian Assange created massive controversy in 2010 by making public a flood of secret correspondence among U.S. government agencies via the WikiLeaks internet whistleblower website. As this comprehensive and unbiased examination of Assange’s career illustrates, he was already engaged in distributing “secret” information in the public interest before the revelations that made him world famous. The repeated heading used in the film is “Courage is Contageous.”

The Julian Assange Story

Docudrama 2012 NR 1hr 34m. Before becoming the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange was a hacker, one of a group that broke into the networks of some powerful organizations.  This is an immensely interesting look at the controversial computer hacker that presents a very compelling case for the appropriateness of his actions in exposing the US military to public scrutiny. Young Assange’s hacking resulted in discoveries that developed into a quest to reveal the truth about otherwise clandestine actions of the US military. I have been familiar with Wikileaks and the name Julian Assange for years but after seeing Julian’s story, his level of dedication to TRUTH and the peoples’ right to know it, Julian Assange became a genuine hero figure to me and is someone worthy of respect. His dedication and single mindedness is admirable as he has applied this toward positive change. I happen to agree with his philosophy regarding transparency. I’d say we all and especially those who believe in the truth movement owe him a great deal.  It is interesting to see his metamorphosis from a teenager to an adult, how the ideological and technical concept of Wikileaks emerged, and that ultimately Julian Assange has idealistic virtues influencing his actions, regardless of if those actions are legal or morally “right” (depending on who is judging). The most significant drama in the film is the birth of the internet and the battles, legal and ethical, between law enforcement and a new form of protest and rebellion carried out not in the streets but in bedrooms lit only by the glow from a monitor. Assange and his hacking buddies serve as catalysts that ignite the warfare and in doing so begin a long and still unresolved debate regarding the rightness of hacking and leaking information.

Addiction Incorporated

Documentary 2011 PG-13. This biographical film follows tobacco company scientist Victor DeNoble’s efforts to prove that his employers knew that cigarettes were addictive. As a dedicated whistle-blower, DeNoble tirelessly carries his evidence to the FDA and Congress.

The Big Fix

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 30m. This turns cameras on the devastating 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, where two filmmakers unearth a stunning stream of corruption. If you think you know the story of the Gulf spill, take the time to watch this brilliant film that not only re-tells that story with details that have been purposely hidden, but also helps connect the dots between how and why we are consistently lied to and our health compromised in the name of corporate profits. It features investigative reporting in the Gulf and interviews ranging from the Gulf to Washington DC in an attempt to understand how this disaster could have been allowed to happen. This film presents some important on-the-ground journalism about the BP spill that is not being done by many others.  See Full Review

Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Documentary 2011 NR 76 minutes. This wrenching documentary follows Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who lost his daughter to a rare leukemia, as he reveals how the Marine Corps has betrayed its soldiers and their families by exposing them to toxic water at a base in North Carolina.

Chasing Madoff

Documentary 2010 NR 91 mins.  This eye-opening documentary chronicles the long and often frustrating campaign of financial analyst Harry Markopolos to bring federal regulators’ attention to the brazen investment scams engineered by now-convicted felon Bernie Madoff.  This is an in-depth exposé of how one man saw thru a fraud of huge magnitude and chose to do something about it — when others including the SEC did not.  A lot can be learned from this film about what really happened — the stuff we never saw or heard about in the media.  The movie unfolds like a thriller–but it is all true.  See Full Review

Fair Game

Docudrama 2010 PG-13 108 minutes. After her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn), writes op-ed columns accusing the Bush administration of misleading the public to justify invading Iraq, Valerie Plame Wilson’s (Naomi Watts) status as a covert CIA agent is leaked by administration officials. Based on events described in Plame Wilson’s memoir, this drama explores the political scandal that led to the conviction of Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

The Whistleblower  (2010)

Docudrama Thriller 2010 R 112 minutes. Sent to Bosnia to train cops in the aftermath of that country’s brutal civil war, American policewoman Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz) uncovers evidence that U.N. peacekeepers are complicit in a flourishing sex-trafficking trade. But when she brings her allegations to light, she discovers that her foes are more powerful than the law. Based on a true story, this thriller from director Larysa Kondracki co-stars Monica Bellucci and David Strathairn.See Full Review

Big Boys Gone Bananas!*

Documentary 2011 NR. 1hr 42m. Big Boys Gone Bananas!* is the follow-up to the 2009 film titled simply BANANAS!*, the true story about a Swedish filmmaker and a banana corporation. This fascinating new documentary follows the battle between the Swedish filmmakers and the fruit giant Dole Food Company, which conducted a legal and publicity campaign against the filmmakers to prevent the showing of their first film about a lawsuit won in Los Angeles against the company for its use of banned pesticides in Nicaragua that make field workers sterile. What is a big corporation capable of in order to protect its brand? Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten’s experienced this recently: dirty tricks, lawsuits, manipulation, at the price of free speech.  This film is a must-watch (even if you haven’t seen the original film BANANAS!*) about just how powerful multi-national corporations are, and how the media continues to fail the public or worse than that, deceive and lull us into complacency. American media has been corrupted by corporate power through corporate ownership, corporate advertising, and global corporations who threaten to pull advertising if investigative journalism displeases them. In 1998 the Cincinatti Enquirer did an expose of hometown Chiquita Corp. similar to Gertten’s BANANAS!*, but Chiquita forced them to scrub the story, fire the two reporters, pay $15 million to Chiquita, and run a headline apologizing to Chiquita. Shame on you Dole. This Big Boys Gone Bananas!* is a David vs. Goliath, showing filmmaker Gertten fighting for the right of documentary filmmakers to do what they feel is right, and that is to expose bad practices of big corporations. Unfortunately Goliath always has more money because the big corporations targeted have deep pockets to file lawsuits, in this case to sue to keep the film from being seen. Dole has 75,000 employees in 90 countries, and earns seven billion dollars a year, making them the biggest food company in the world. “So the stage is set. In one corner, Dole the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, fortified with high-priced attorneys and spin-doctors. In the other corner, a Swedish independent filmmaker, armed with his conviction of what is right. What are the odds he’ll win?”  See Full Review


Documentary 2009 NR 87 minutes. Nicaraguan laborers are paying a high price health-wise while working to get cheap bananas onto the world’s tables, and Southern California personal injury lawyer Juan Dominguez has decided to do something about it. This film tells his story. Swedish director Fredrik Gertten follows Dominguez as he takes on corporate giants Dole Food and Dow Chemical on behalf of 10,000 banana workers made ill by a pesticide used in Nicaraguan plantations years after it was banned in the States. This 2009 film titled BANANAS!* was followed by a sequel film two years later in 2011 titled Big Boys Gone Bananas!*

Please Remove Your Shoes

Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 33m. This troubling documentary examines the Transportation Security Administration’s role as protector of the American skies, raising questions about the disturbing gap between the federal agency’s avowed purpose and actual airport safety since 9/11.  See Full Review

The Informant!

Docudrama 2009 R 108 minutes. While gathering evidence against his institutional employer to help the FBI build a price-fixing conspiracy case, affable agribusiness executive Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) begins to piece together a fantasy world of his own. Scott Bakula, Joel McHale and Melanie Lynskey co-star in Steven Soderbergh’s dark comedy, which is based on Kurt Eichenwald’s acclaimed nonfiction book about the true-life Corporate America whistle-blower.

Michael Clayton

Thriller 2007 R 120 minutes. A law firm brings in its “fixer” to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company that he knows is guilty in a multi-billion dollar class action suit.

The Constant Gardener

Thriller 2005 R 129 minutes. Adaptation of a John LeCarre novel. Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a member of the British High Commission based in Africa, launches a quest for the truth and begins his own international investigation when his wife (Rachel Weisz, in an Oscar-winning turn) is murdered. Not even the rumors of his wife’s infidelity will stop him from uncovering what really happened to her — a conspiracy that’s much more dangerous than he ever imagined.

North Country

Docudrama 2005 R 126 minutes. Based on an inspiring real-life event that took place in the 1970s, North Country stars Charlize Theron in another low-glamour but high-impact role as Josey Aimes, one of only a handful of women working in the Minnesota iron mines. Forced to labor under sexist conditions, she and her female colleagues decide to stand up against the unrelenting harassment from their male counterparts. Frances McDormand, Sissy Spacek and Woody Harrelson co-star.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

Docudrama 2005 NR 117 minutes. Arrested for participating in the White Rose resistance movement, anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch) is subjected to a highly charged interrogation by the Gestapo, testing her loyalty to her cause, her family and her convictions. Based on true events, director Marc Rothemund’s absorbing Oscar-nominated drama explores maintaining human resolve in the face of intense pressure from a system determined to silence whistle-blowers.

Erin Brockovich

Docudrama 2000 R 131 minutes. Julia Roberts earned an Oscar in this unconventional drama based on actual events for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich, a twice-divorced mother of three who sees an injustice, takes on the bad guy and wins — with a little help from her push-up bra. She develops a case against PG&E; for poisoning the water of the community of Hinkley, CA, with the carcinogen, hexavalent chromium.See Full Review

The Most Dangerous Man in America
Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Documentary 2009 NR 94 minutes. Revisiting a pivotal point in American history, this documentary chronicles Pentagon insider Daniel Ellsberg’s daring endeavor to leak top-secret government papers that disclosed shocking truths about the Vietnam War and Nixon’s presidency.

The Pentagon Papers

Docudrama 2003 R 92 minutes. This compelling political drama is based on the true story of high-ranking Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg (James Spader), who, during the Nixon era, strove to preserve American democracy by leaking top-secret documents to the New York Times and Washington Post. The documents in question would eventually become famous as the Pentagon Papers, which revealed the true reasons for U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Alan Arkin and Paul Giamatti co-star.

The Insider

Docudrama 1999 R 157 minutes. When a TV producer coaxes a researcher to speak about his former employer’s knowledge of tobacco’s dangers, the corporations try to silence them in this Oscar-nominated drama based on a true story. The Insider dramatizes an American tragedy. We have become a nation of people who willfully allow those in power to tell us lies. The government lies to us and the press lies to us, and more often than not we are lied to in order to protect the financial interests of big business. The second tragedy of this film is that so few people have seen it. A cynical person might say that we just don’t want to know. This is one of those films you should see (maybe along with Wall Street, Thirteen Days, All the President’s Men) if you want a (dramatized) picture of how the power-centers in America really operate under extraordinary circumstances – scandal and massive threats, in this case. Michael Mann shows us the forces that impact people when billions of dollars and entire corporations (hence thousands of jobs) are at stake – not to mention the millions of lives perhaps cut short by not understanding the full disclosure behind using a product that kills. To take on a multi-billion dollar industry almost single-handedly, you have to be more than a little nuts – and Russell Crowe does an excellent job of portraying a guy who has the right combination of traits: principled, pissed off, brilliant, and emotionally unstable. Al Pacino also is stellar in his role; he can yell at people like almost nobody else, and you get a full sense of the pressures on his character too, as he stands up to fight for Crowe’s scientist and his own journalistic integrity. Beyond these characters, you also get a flavor for the often-conflicted people who “matter” in the media – the star correspondents, the corporate bigwigs, the legal departments whose job it is to protect the company from disaster, and the tight-knit, first-name-basis web of people at the various publications who really have the power to channel (and spin) stories to millions.

Dick (1999)

Satire 1999 PG-13 90 minutes.  After 15-year-old best friends Betsy Jobs and Arlene Lorenzo inadvertently witness the Watergate burglary, President Richard Nixon takes an interest in them and hires them as “official White House dog walkers” to keep them under surveillance.

The Nasty Girl

Satire 1990 PG-13 94 minutes. German high schooler Sonya (Lena Stolze) decides to write an essay about her town’s history during the Third Reich and its heroic resistance to Nazi tyranny. To her (and the town’s) dismay, she instead uncovers evidence of collaboration with the regime. As she digs deeper, she must struggle against the vocal and violent opposition to her search for the truth. This provocative satire won a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language.

The Whistle Blower  (1987)

Drama  1987 PG 104 minutes. Frank Jones (Michael Caine) is a distinguished army veteran; his son, Robert (Nigel Havers), is a talented linguist who translates wiretapped Russian phone conversations for the British government. But when his mysterious death is called an accident, Frank begins to investigate. What he finds leads him into the depths of the intelligence community and to sinister, covert dealings at the highest level — and the information could get him killed.


Docudrama 1983 R 131 minutes. While working at an Oklahoma nuclear power plant, Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep) becomes exposed to radiation. When the official investigation is tampered with, Karen conducts her own inquiry, but she disappears under suspicious circumstances before its completion. Kurt Russell co-stars in this fact-based drama, which was nominated for multiple Oscars and earned Cher a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for her minimalist performance.

Prince of the City

Docudrama 1981 R 167 minutes. Based on a true story, this gritty police drama from director Sidney Lumet stars Treat Williams as Daniel Ciello, a New York cop who agrees to help the feds expose corruption within the department. Overcome with guilt, Ciello struggles with his betrayal and, before too long, begins to crack under the pressure. Filled with impressive performances, this thriller also stars Bob Balaban, Jerry Orbach and Lance Henriksen.


Docudrama 1973 R 130 minutes. Based on the real-life story of New York City undercover cop Frank Serpico (an honest man who was grievously wounded for refusing to take part in the corruption forced upon him by his peers), this movie ranks among Al Pacino’s greatest film roles. Directed by Sidney Lumet, Serpico is at once an indictment of corrupted authority and a shining testament to one man’s effort to reform the New York City Police Department.

Biography: Frank Serpico

Documentary 2000 NR 50 minutes. An honest cop who slammed into the “Blue Wall of Silence” when he complained of police corruption, Frank Serpico became famous for his integrity — a quality he maintained in the face of great personal danger. This engrossing program chronicles the bravery and perseverance of the remarkable New York officer who risked alienation — and his life — in his dogged efforts to blow the whistle on and clean up corruption within the force.

The China Syndrome

Thriller 1979 PG 122 minutes. TV reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) yearns to do hard news and suddenly gets her wish while she and cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) are covering a routine story at the local nuclear plant. As they’re escorted through the power station, they observe (and covertly film) a near-meltdown. Working with a whistleblower (Jack Lemmon), Wells and Adams try to get the truth out, but corporate interests behind the scenes have other ideas. The plot suggests that corporate greed and cost-cutting “have led to potentially deadly faults in the plant’s construction” This drama about the dangers of nuclear power had an extra impact when the real-life accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant occurred several weeks after the film opened.

The Harder They Fall

Drama 1956 NR. Humphrey Bogart makes his final screen appearance as cynical sportswriter Eddie Willis, who teams up with crooked boxing manager Nick Benko (Rod Steiger) to fix the career of up-and-coming fighter Toro (Mike Lane) through a carefully arranged series of fixed fights. Toro is duped into believing that he is a capable contender, and when the whole truth comes out, Eddie must decide where his loyalties — and his integrity — lie.

On The Waterfront

Drama 1954 NR 108 minutes. Winner of eight Oscars, director Elia Kazan’s classic morality tale stars Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, a has-been boxer who experiences a crisis of conscience while working for mobbed-up union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). Terry turns a blind eye when Friendly’s thugs kill a fellow dockworker to keep him from testifying in a corruption case, but he has second thoughts when the victim’s sister (Eva Marie Saint) urges him to take a stand.



Inside the Tobacco Deal

Documentary Frontline 1998. Frontline goes inside the tobacco deal, telling the intriguing tale of how a group of small-town lawyers from the nation’s poorest state brought Big Tobacco to the bargaining table. Frontline correspondent Lowell Bergman follows the trail of confidential Brown & Williamson DOCUMENTS THAT WERE LEAKED, examines the role of former presidential adviser Dick Morris in shaping Clinton’s stance on tobacco, and reveals new information about the government’s criminal case against the tobacco industry.

Smoke in the Eye

Documentary Frontline 1996. Frontline investigates the war between network news and the tobacco industry in the wake of the $10 billion libel suit against ABC and the controversial decision by CBS not to allow 60 Minutes to air an explosive interview with a tobacco company whistle-blower. As media companies increasingly come under the control of large corporations, will their newsrooms continue to aggressively report on corporate America?

Secrets of a Bomb Factory

Documentary Frontline 1993. Wes McKinley didn’t know what he was getting into when, in 1990, he was chosen as foreman of a special grand jury investigating potential crimes at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado. But what McKinley and the other grand jurors learned in their two-and-one-half years of listening to testimony and examining other evidence disturbed them enough to risk prosecution themselves by going public. Frontline, in co-production with Oregon Public Broadcasting, examines what the grand jury learned and what led to their rebellion.

See also:

Films on Exposés

Films on Coverups


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