"The Post" Film Renews Interest in the Pentagon Papers

Steve Ladd's picture

Steven Spielberg’s latest film, The Post, has generated renewed interest in the history surrounding the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg’s role, only briefly highlighted in the film.

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers presents the full backstory of the man who started it all, the Vietnam War, and the top-secret papers he revealed. Ellsberg was a high-level government insider who risked life in prison to leak the Pentagon study to The New York Times and later the Washington Post in order to reveal government lying about the Vietnam War. The Times’ and Post’s decisions to publish the Papers in the face of government censorship and prosecution led to a landmark First Amendment victory, expanding freedom of the press, and eventually leading to the Watergate scandal and President Nixon's downfall. 

The Most Dangerous Man in America was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Peabody Award for its original national PBS broadcast and is currently being rebroadcast on MSNBC. A recent article in The Guardian confirmed that the film influenced a more recent whistleblower, Edward Snowden.

The film is available on DVD or streaming for college classrooms. More information can be found on the film's website.

A free, downloadable 99-page teaching and resource guide is also available as a companion to the film, developed by the Zinn Education Project in collaboration with filmmakers Rick Goldsmith and Judith Ehrlich.