Our list of recommended movies: documentaries and dramatizations of real whistleblowers and real corporate wrongdoing, and some all-too-plausible fiction. Watch the trailers, read the reviews, and in some cases, watch the complete movie online.
Some popular movies that have dramatized real-life champions of the public interest.
Fair Game (2010)
Valerie Plame's status as a CIA agent was revealed by White House officials allegedly out to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, after he wrote a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq.
The Most Dangerous Man In America (2009)
In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg shook America to its foundations when he smuggled a top-secret Pentagon study to the New York Times that showed how five Presidents consistently lied to the American people about the Vietnam War that was killing millions and tearing America apart. A documentary using original footage from the period.
- Serpico (1973) Al Pucino plays Officer Frank Serpico, in the true story about an honest New York cop who blew the whistle on rampant corruption in the force only to have his comrades turn against him. Tagline: many of his fellow officers considered him the most dangerous man alive – an honest cop.
The Insider (1999) Jeffrey Wigand is played by Russell Crowe
An Oscar-nominated thriller about Jeffrey Wigand's struggle to expose the tobacco industry's calculated deception of the public, and to thwart the industry's attempts to intimidate, discredit and silence him.
Another nail-biter, based on the true story of Karen Silkwood, who discovered that the nuclear fuel processing plant where she worked was routinely producing faulty products and falsifying quality control records to hide this. Karen Silkwood is played by Meryl Streep.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Law clerk Erin Brockovich played a key role in an epic legal battle to expose a California power company's illegal pollution of a community's water supply and to win compensation for the victims. Erin Brockovich is played by Julia Roberts.
All The President's Men (1976 )
Reporters Woodward and Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon's resignation. Dustin Hoffman plays Carl Bernstein and Robert Redford plays Bob Woodward.
Challenger: The Untold Story (1990)
The story of how engineers working for a NASA subcontractor tried desperately to prevent the ill-fated final launch of the Challenger shuttle. The engineers believed that rubber o-rings, critical components of the solid-fuel booster rockets, would likely fail at the very low temperatures forecast for the launch. However, management overruled them and the fatal launch went ahead. A Congressional enquiry later exposed the truth, assisted by one of its members, a Nobel prize-winning scientist.
An Unreasonable Man (2005)
Ralph Nader's 1966 book "Unsafe at Any Speed" exposed the auto industry's callous disregard for safety, and GM sent private investigators to dig up dirt on the young lawyer. However, the smear campaign was exposed and the resulting scandal made Nader a household name. This documentary is a look at Nader's career, from industry whistleblower to consumer advocate to wannabe presidential candidate to public pariah. Regardless of the final verdict on Nader's legacy, this is a must see documentary about an extraordinary man.
Recurring themes in these movies are: the extraordinary influence of large corporations; their frequent disregard for human life as they drive for increased profits; and the failure of governments and regulatory agencies to protect the public.
The Smartest Guys In The Room (2005)
A documentary about the Enron corporation, its faulty and corrupt business practices, and how they led to its fall from the seventh largest US company to bankruptcy in less than a year. Features whistleblower Sherron Watkins.
The World According to Monsanto (2008): Complete Movie
This documentary explores Monsanto's controversial history and its efforts to gain control of the food supply by marketing its patented genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Features the Health Canada whistleblower Dr. Shiv Chopra and his colleagues, who exposed Health Canada's attempts to approve inadequately tested drugs, including Monsanto's bovine growth hormone (rBGH).
The Corporation (2003): Complete Movie
A documentary about the dominance of corporations in today's world, and how their relentless drive for profit leads them to engage in immoral or illegal acts.
Prescription for Disaster (2006): Complete Movie
An in-depth investigation into the symbiotic relationships between the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA, lobbyists, lawmakers, medical schools, and researchers, and the impact this has on consumers and their health care. Featuring whistleblower David J. Graham's revelations about Vioxx. (1 hour 32 min)
Some movies about corporate wrongdoing that seem to contain more than a grain of truth.
The Constant Gardener (2006)
Based on the novel of the same name by John le Carré. Ralph Fiennes plays a quiet British diplomat who sets out to uncover the truth behind the brutal murder of his young wife in East Africa. He uncovers a web of intrigue involving a multinational pharmaceutical company responsible for botched trials of a new drug, conducted on unsuspecting African children. It is rumoured that le Carré's plot was influenced by the case of Canadian whistleblower Dr. Nancy Olivieri.
Michael Clayton (2007)
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. George Clooney plays Michael Clayton.
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