ByJancy Richardson, writer at
To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie...It's only a movie...'
Jancy Richardson

Whistleblowers don't have an easy time. The moment you single yourself out as one lone voice of dissent within a powerful framework, you're on your own - especially if that system is your own government.

From On The Waterfront to Enron, the heroic whistleblower has loomed large on the big screen. Check out some movies that showed us what it takes to blow the whistle...and change history.

All The President's Men (1976)

Who: Mark Felt a.k.a. Hal Holbrook, High-ranking government informant

Exposed: Corruption within the Nixon Administration

Consequences: Under the alias 'Deep Throat', Felt gave details about unethical covert activities to Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

The Movie Adaptation: Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford star in two of their most iconic roles, cementing another sin of the Nixon Administration within the public consciousness forever.

The Whistleblower (2010)

Who: Kathryn Bolkovac, peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina

Exposed: a sex-trafficking ring run by her employers, DynCorp International

Consequences: Bolkovac was fired for investigating the ring, but later won her unfair dismissal case after taking her story to the BBC.

The Movie Adaptation: Rachel Weisz gives a solid lead performance in The Whistleblower, and the movie was a real labor of love for director Larysa Kondracki: the project took over eight years to secure funding.

The Fifth Estate (2013)

Who: Julian Assange, Australian Hacker

Exposed: From illegal activities in Swiss banking to Iraq war logs, Assange and his colleagues caused ripples across the world

Consequences: Assange achieved global notoriety, and the knock-on effects of his Wikileaks exposure saw a bitter falling-out with his colleague, Daniel Domscheidt-Berg, and imprisonment for Bradley Manning, who was responsible for releasing the Army documents.

The Movie Adaptation: Benedict Cumberbatch, looking like a long lost cousin of Draco Malfoy, delivered a critically acclaimed performance as Assange.

Serpico (1973)

Who: Frank Serpico, NYPD officer

Exposed: corruption within New York's Police Department

Consequences: Serpico, an honest cop, suffered harassment from colleagues after reporting drug use, violence and bribes in the NYPD. He eventually resigned and emigrated to Switzerland.

The Movie Adaptation: Al Pacino gives an all-time great performance as the righteously angry Serpico, leaving an indelible mark on whistleblower cinema.

Erin Brockovich (1993)

Who: Erin Brockovich, single mother

Exposed: Pacific Gas & Electric's knowing poisoning of residents of Hinkley, California by leaking chromium effluent into the water supply

Consequences: Brockovich almost single-handedly filed a ground-breaking class-action lawsuit against PG&E, winning over $300,000 in compensation for affected Hinkley residents.

The Movie Adaptation: Julia Roberts won the Best Actress Oscar for her titular role, even though she was up against Ellen Burstyn in Requiem For A Dream: now that's impressive.

Kill The Messenger (2014)

Who: Gary Webb, reporter

Exposed: CIA involvement in importing Nicaraguan cocaine

Consequences: after publishing his findings, Webb was victimized by a merciless smear campaign by the CIA. Sadly, this led to Webb taking his own life.

The Movie Adaptation: a strong cast including Ray Liotta, Michael Sheen and Jeremy Renner (in the lead role) ensures that this fast-paced thriller conveys the weight of this massive real life CIA drugs scandal.

The Informant! (2009)

Who: Mark Whitacre, ADM executive

Exposed: lysine price fixing at Archer Daniels Midland, early 1990s

Consequences: as an ADM employee, Whitacre's whistleblowing also incriminated himself. This, added to false assault allegations he fabricated in an attempt to avoid prison, earned him a longer jail term than the colleagues he informed on.

The Movie Adaptation: Star Matt Damon and director Steven Soderbergh brought a touch of comedy to this real-life crime drama, focusing as much on Whitacre and his personal quirks as the scandal he brought down.

Sometimes you have to speak up, even if it's going to change your life - and the lives of everyone around you - irreparably. If it came to it, would you have what it takes to blow the whistle?


Which Real Life Whistleblower Do You Most Admire?


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