Michael Mann, through his expansive journey as a filmmaker, has earned the moniker of being one for best crime thriller directors, and ‘The Insider’ (1999) attests to his brilliance. Taking reference from the infamous “60 Minutes segment” about American biochemist Jeffrey Wigand, who was recognised as a “whistleblower” in the tobacco industry, the film is a fictionalized account of the entire investigation. With Al Pacino taking on the role of Lowell Bergman and Russell Crowe taking up the role of Jeffrey Wigand, ‘The Insider’ is built upon strong performances. Co-written by American screenwriter Eric Roth and Mann, the narrative is adapted from American author and investigative journalist Marie Brenner’s article ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, written for Vanity Fair. The crime drama showcases the procedures of the “whistleblower” and explores the paranoia, stress and alienation caused by it.
For this article, I have taken into account films whose plots are sparked by the concept of whistleblowing. All these movies have narrative traits that are similar to this classic Michael Mann flick. With all that said, here’s the list of best movies similar to ‘The Insider’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘The Insider’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. Breach (2007)
Directed by American filmmaker Billy Ray and co-written by Adam Mazer, William Rotko and Ray, ‘Breach’ follows Eric O’Neill, essayed by Ryan Phillippe, a young FBI employee who plots a game of power against his boss, Robert Hanssen, played by Chris Cooper, an agent who was put on trial for selling secrets to the Soviet Union. A spy thriller, ‘Breach’ fictionalized much of the characters’ story – which they did acknowledge – but received universal critical acclaim for its nifty direction and resonant performances. Though the film is not as famous as several other spy thriller classics, it is still quite an interesting watch.
9. The Constant Gardener (2005)
A political thriller, ‘The Constant Gardener’ follows Justin Quayle, essayed by English actor Ralph Fiennes, who after his wife is murdered takes up the challenge of uncovering the truth, invariably exposing a secret cover-up and a huge political corporate corruption. Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles and written by British screenwriter Jeffrey Caine, ‘The Constant Gardener’ is a well-adapted film, which is replete with glorious cinematography and well-designed social commentary. Nominated for a couple of awards, British actress Rachel Weisz stole the major spotlight with her wonderful performance as Tessa Abbott-Quayle, and she went on to bag wins for “Best Supporting Actress” at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, to name a few.
8. The China Syndrome (1979)
Directed by American filmmaker James Bridges and co-written by Mike Gray, T. S. Cook and Bridges, ‘The China Syndrome’ follows television reporter Kimberly Wells, essayed by Jane Fonda, as she finds a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant. The film chronicles her attempts to expose the truth. With Jane Fonda receiving a BAFTA for “Best Actress” and Jack Lemmon receiving one for “Best Actor”, it is established that the film is led by a powerhouse of acting performances. However, what makes ‘The China Syndrome’ such an engaging watch is the terrific elements of the genre of thriller, crafted wonderfully by the screenwriters and executed tautly by the director. ‘The China Syndrome’ went on to receive humongous critical praise and also scored high at the box office charts.
7. Michael Clayton (2007)
Categorised as a legal thriller, ‘Michael Clayton’ stars George Clooney as the titular character, who is an attorney, and follows his attempts to help a colleague who has had a mental breakdown while representing a chemical company that he knows is guilty in a multibillion-dollar class action suit. Written and directed American filmmaker Tony Gilroy, the film holds a strong ground in the department of the screenplay. The film is also ripe with narrative subversions which make the experience quite thrilling, thus delivering on the exciting premise. ‘Michael Clayton’ was met with an immensely positive response from critics, who commented upon the strong and exciting development. The film was also inducted in many “top 10 of the year” lists, making it a must watch.
6. The Ghost Writer (2010)
Based on English journalist and novelist Robert Harris’ ‘The Ghost’, a contemporary political thriller novel published in 2007, ‘The Ghost Writer’ stars Scottish actor Ewan McGregor as an unnamed “ghost writer”, who is hired to complete the memoirs of Adam Peter Bennett Lang, essayed by Irish actor Pierce Brosnan, a former British Prime Minister. Things seem to go well until the writer uncovers some dark secrets of the prime minister that further put his own life in jeopardy. Directed by French-Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski, ‘The Ghost Writer’ is crafted with the archetypal narrative elements that the director is known for. The film, though not on the level of Polanski’s greatest works, is an engaging thriller which does not get the love and appreciation it deserves.
5. Donnie Brasco (1997)
Based on ex-FBI undercover agent Joseph D. Pistone and Richard Woodley’s autobiographical crime book ‘Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia’, published in 1988, ‘Donnie Brasco’ is the story of the titular agent, essayed by American actor Johnny Depp, who is chosen to infiltrate the mob to help the FBI expose and the catch the gangster. However, in an attempt to get into the depth of his new mafia life, Brasco goes through trauma and depression.
While Depp plays the titular character, Al Pacino shares the screen playing Lefty, an ageing gangster who takes him under his tutelage without the knowledge that Pistone, under the guise of Brasco is an agent. Directed by English filmmaker Mike Newell and written by American screenwriter Paul Attanasio, ‘Donnie Brasco’ was met with critical acclaim. Though the film is put under the genre crime and gangster, ‘Donnie Brasco’ inherently functions as a “whistle-blower” film. What makes the film such an enjoyable watch is its snappy dialogue and the great repartee and camaraderie between Depp and Pacino, who bring rather heart-warming moments in a strenuous thriller.
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4. All the President’s Men (1976)
Adapted from Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward ‘All the President’s Men’, published in 1974, the political thriller film of the same name is the story of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, two “The Washington Post” reporters who took up the task of uncovering the details of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. Directed by American filmmaker Alan J. Pakula and written by American novelist, playwright and screenwriter William Goldman, ‘All the President’s Men’ is an extremely detailed and patient study of the iconic scandal. With the performances of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the two reporters and the well-crafted direction by Pakula, ‘All the President’s Men’ went on to be nominated for multiple Awards and was later selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2010.
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3. The Post (2017)
A biographical historical political thriller, ‘The Post’, set in 1971, chronicles the efforts of journalists Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post to publish the “Pentagon Papers”, which were classified documents exposing the infamous 30-year involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War. Directed by multi-faceted director Stephen Spielberg, ‘The Post’ was led to massive critical success by the team of Spielberg, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Bob Odenkirk. The film went to receive immense praise and was included in many of year-end lists of best films – American Film Institute and National Board of Review, being one of them.
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2. On the Waterfront (1954)
Based on American investigative journalist Malcolm Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning article series ‘Crime on the Waterfront’, which were published in November and December in 1948, ‘On the Waterfront’ is a crime drama that centres around union violence and corruption amongst longshoremen, where ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman Terry Malloy, essayed by Marlon Brando, tries to find his voice and stand up against the corruption, extortion, and racketeering on the “waterfronts” of Hoboken, New Jersey. Directed by veteran Greek American filmmaker Elia Kazan and written by American screenwriter Budd Schulberg, ‘On the Waterfront’ is an extremely powerful that boasts of some of the finest acting performances you’ll ever see. A commercial success, the film swept the award functions, bagging eight Academy Award wins in a total of twelve nominations. The movie, since its release, has been regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.
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1. Serpico (1973)
Directed by American filmmaker Sidney Lumet and co-written by Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler, ‘Serpico’ is a neo-noir biographical crime film chronicling the life of New York cop Frank Serpico, essayed by Al Pacino, who uncovered and exposed the rampant corruption in the force only to realise that his cohorts have turned against him. ‘Serpico’ showcases the paranoia and alienation experience, credited to the awe-inspiring performance by a young Pacino. The film was a commercial success and was a critical darling too. Pacino’s performance, coupled with his venture with Francis Ford Coppola in ‘The Godfather’ (1972), helped the actor rise up the rank to become one of the most exciting talents in Hollywood at the time. The film was included in American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Cheers” and Frank Serpico’s character was inducted as a hero in “100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains”.
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