Houston Matters

The Bigger Picture: All the President’s Men and the politics of paranoia

Examining how films of the 1970s were influenced by the politics of the era.


A scene from All the President’s Men.


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Fifty years ago this month, a group of burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C. in an attempt to wiretap the building.

This was the inciting incident for what ultimately became the Watergate Scandal, resulting in the resignation of Pres. Richard Nixon in 1974.

Two of the men responsible for reporting on the initial story about the break-in and its ties to the Nixon administration were Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. And in 1976 their efforts were adapted into a feature film: All the President’s Men.

Starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein, the film came during a period in American cinema that was heavily influenced by the politics of the day. After the revelations of Watergate, filmgoing audiences were introduced to a new genre of thrillers focused on conspiracies and political secrets, with examples like The Parallax View from 1974 and Three Days of the Condor in 1975, also starring Redford.

In this month’s installment of The Bigger Picture, where Houston Matters examines social and cultural issues in film, we consider the effect politics have on cinema and how that relates to today’s political climate.

In the audio above, producer Joshua Zinn talks with Rice University film professor Charles Dove.

Joshua Zinn

Joshua Zinn

Producer, Houston Matters

Joshua is a producer for Houston Matters on News 88.7 as well as the host of Encore Houston on Houston Public Media Classical. He joined Houston Public Media as a radio intern in 2014 and became a full-time announcer the following year. Now he prepares segments and occasionally records interviews...

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