Most Accurate Films About Professions

Perhaps hoping to supplement the IMDb “Goofs” section, the folks at The Washington Post assembled 24 experts and asked them to pick the most accurate portrayals of professionals on film. The results may surprise you, because more often than night, astronauts, farmers, firefighters and more seem to zero in not on the most popular films, but those which are sticklers for details. The list of most accurate movies about professions is below.

When it comes to movies about professionals, you can either suspend your disbelief and assume the film knows what it’s talking about, or you can obsess over accuracy. The Washington Post has assembled a team of 24 professionals and asked them to identify the one film that most accurately represents their profession.

Take films about astronauts, for instance. What do you, a non-astronaut, think the best representation of space travel on film might be? The Right StuffApollo 13Spaceballs? The correct answer, at least according to Charles F. Bolden, former administrator of NASA, is Ridley Scott‘s The Martian, adapted from the book by Andy Weir. “Most people think about astronaut movies, and they want to talk about The Right Stuff,” Bolden says. “But The Martian is just so scientifically accurate, and it tells this story of what we’re on the cusp of — not just Americans, humanity. We’re not growing potatoes yet on the International Space Station like in the movie, but we’re growing lettuce and cherry tomatoes; we’re learning how to get to a place and use what’s there. The scene where the young kid comes walking into the office of the NASA administrator with a wild and crazy idea that turns out to be the idea that saves Mark Watney — I love that scene.”

Jumping from one far end of the spectrum to another, here’s what Shon Hopwood, a former bank robber turned Georgetown law professor, thinks is the best bank robbery movie: Heat. I can’t say I’m surprised with that selection since Heat is an all-time classic, but Hopwood also stresses that while Heat is mostly accurate, no heist movies are 100% on-the-nose. “No heist movies are like real life,” says the robber turned professor. “They glamorize robbing banks and then 20-year-olds like me in the 1990s watch and think it’s a glamorous lifestyle.”

What about the best movie representing the wild, illusion-filled lives of magicians? If you had asked me to take a guess at what film would make the cut, I probably would’ve gone with Christopher Nolan‘s The Prestige, about two warring magicians constantly trying to one-up each other. But the real answer is a completely different Nolan movie: The Dark Knight. Magician Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller fame, picked Nolan’s superhero flick as the film that most accurately portrays a magician’s livelihood. “You have to be careful when you use the word ‘magic,'” says Jillette. “The word has two very strong meanings. The meaning I don’t care about is anything to do with the supernatural — so I don’t care for movies like The Illusionist, or The Prestige, or Harry Potter. The magic I think is beautiful is the magic of trickery. What I love about Batman is he doesn’t have any supernatural powers.”

Jillette then adds:

“In The Dark Knight, with the Joker and Batman, you really have two magicians running scams. I love the intellectual interest of the boat scene [where there are two boats laden with explosives, and a philosophical debate about who should survive]. When you talk about modern American magic, it’s not supernatural, it’s the playful study of epistemology. It’s how we attain information, and how we attain what is true. In the boat scene, it’s: How people perceive morality, coupled with an impossible trick…The ultimate American magician is Batman.”

Here’s the full list of professions and respective movies that most accurately represent them. Some of these are pretty surprising, particularly Joy, the terrible Jennifer Lawrence movie that apparently accurate represents what it means to be an inventor. A pleasant surprise is the inclusion of the hilarious Joe Pesci comedy My Cousin Vinny, which does a good job revealing the lifestyle of a lawyer.

Astronaut: “The Martian”

Attorney: “My Cousin Vinny”

Bank Robber: “Heat”

Baseball Player: “Bill Durham”

Chef: “Eat Drink Man Woman”

Chess Player: “Queen of Katwe”

Cable Guy: “The Cable Guy”

Doctor: “Something the Lord Made”

Engineer: “No Highway in the Sky”

Farmer: “Charlotte’s Web”

Firefighter: “Ladder 49”

Hairstylist: “The Man Who Wasn’t There”

Inventer: “Joy”

Law Enforcement: “Donnie Brasco”

Librarian: “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Magician: “The Dark Knight”

Military: “The Best Years of Our Lives”

Miner: “Matewan”

Nun: “The Trouble With Angels”

Politician: “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Schoolteacher: “The Emperors Club”

Trucker: “Smokey and the Bandit”

Union Rep: “Hoffa”

Head on over to The Washington Post to read detailed breakdowns from each expert as to why they picked each individual film.


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