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

An act of conscience that shocked the world
by
Year Released
2009
Film Length(s)
94 mins
Closed captioning available
Remote video URL

Introduction

In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a high-level Pentagon official and Vietnam War strategist, concludes that the war is based on decades of lies and leaks 7,000 pages of top secret documents to The New York Times, making headlines around the world.The Most Dangerous Man in America is a riveting story of how one man’s profound change of heart created a landmark struggle involving America’s newspapers, president and Supreme Court-- a political thriller whose events led directly to Watergate, Nixon’s resignation and the end of the Vietnam War.

Featured review

Detailed, clearly told, persuasive
Mike Hale
The New York Times

Reviews

A great teaching tool! The Pentagon Papers controversy remains the key test of press freedom vs. national security and this film brilliantly lays out the competing claims with a rare combination of objectivity and passion.
Robert Scheer
Journalist and Professor of Communications, University of Southern California
Earnest, smart documentary.... the filmmakers do an astounding job relating how Ellsberg brought the Pentagon Papers (which laid out in plain language how the Pentagon and White House had been lying through their teeth to the public about the war) to light...a thrilling journalistic drama, easily the equal of Deep Throat.
Chris Barsanti
Film Journal International
A Must-See! Crams a wealth of material into 90 minutes without losing clarity or momentum... A unique fusion of personal and social drama.
Ronnie Scheib
Variety
A riveting history of one man's mission to expose the misdeeds of five U.S. Presidents.
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
The gripping story of how hawk-turned-dove Ellsberg's explosive actions circuitously led to the impeachment of Richard Nixon and, in turn, an end to the Vietnam War is comprehensively detailed in Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith's evocative documentary..
Gary Goldstein
Los Angeles Times
The most exciting thriller I've seen in a while.... as powerful as anything Hollywood can throw at us.
V.A. Musetto
New York Post
Riveting! A straight-ahead, enthralling story of moral courage. This story changed the world. The movie offers one revelatory interview after another. CRITICS' PICK!
David Edelstein
New York Magazine
When I screened the film in my freshman seminar last year, I could almost actually see the scales falling from the eyes of several students. Some students audibly gasped during the Nixon scenes. After the film, at least a couple of speechless souls appeared to be in a state of shock. One of the more dismaying aspects of contemporary higher education in the United States is the increasing conformity of curricula to the pressures of US empire and neoliberalism. One of the valuable services provided by Ehrlich and Goldsmith is the support they give to critically-minded educators who wish to undo the baleful effects of these ideologies. The film gets students to think with increasing disillusionment about the most important questions of the day: What is power and how is it exercised? How do the representations in popular culture and political discourse of other cultures and other places relate to power? Is there a difference between official US rhetorics of freedom, democracy, and stability, on the one side, and the effects on the ground of US hegemony? What is our responsibility as citizens?
Ahmed Kanna
Jadaliyya

Awards and Screenings

Academy Award nomination, 2009
Freedom of Expression Award - National Board of Review, 2009
Special Jury Award - International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam (IDFA) , 2009
John O'Connor Film Award - American Historical Association , 2010
History Makers Award - nextMEDIA, 2010
Tikkum Olam ("Heal the World") Award - Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, 2010
Audience Award, Best Documentary - It's All True Film Festival, 2010
Best Documentary - Sydney Film Festival, 2010
Audience Award, Best Documentary - Traverse City Film Festival, 2010
Erik Barnouw Award - Organization of American Historians, 2011
Emmy Award Nomination, Exceptional Merit in nonfiction filmmaking, 2011
Official selection, US State Department, "Documentary Showcase", 2011
George Foster Peabody Award, 2011

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Closed Captioning
  • DVD Extras
  • Subtitles
  • Resources for Educators

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • Spanish

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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