- Acceptable Ethnic Targets: When Beale's show is a ratings champion, and UBS is on the way to its most successful period, Beale delivers a powerful rant about the Arabs buying up land and businesses in America, particularly CCA, the parent company of UBS. And, in a break from previous speeches, he urges viewers to send complaints about this to the White House.
- Award Snub: A few critics considered it deserved Best Picture more than Rocky.
- Crazy Awesome:
Jensen: Good morning, Mr. Beale. They tell me you're a madman.
- "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
- The entire film. May also be Hilarious in Hindsight or Black Comedy or any number of other things. Given Peter Finch's death a few months after the film's release, his fainting at the end of his monologues and the ending are even more difficult to watch.
- One specific example: A fourth major television network, built upon content that's trashier than its rivals and who quickly cancels any shows that don't keep up in the ratings? This may as well have been a documentary on the rise of FOX, if it hadn't been made in 1976.
- A meta example. Peter Finch, an Australian previously Oscar-nominated for playing a homosexual man, died soon after playing the part of an anti-establishment nutcase and ended up winning a posthumous Oscar for the role. Who does that remind you of?
- In August 2012, CNN — a network originally dedicated solely to the news — was reported to now be looking into adding a late-night talk show and several reality shows to their programming to boost ratings.note
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- Beale's first remarks on the air after he learns he's fired is that he ran out of bullshit, which then turns his show into a rant program. Sounds much like You Know Whats Bullshit.
- At the beginning of the film, they mention a journalist named "Snowden" in conjunction with a story about the CIA.
- Magnificent Bastard: Arthur Jensen.
- Memetic Mutation: Beale's "mad as Hell" speech, both in-universe and in Real Life as well.
- Misaimed Fandom: It bears repeating that while the character of Howard Beale may appear to be a fiery crusader for the common man, he is also an individual undergoing a severe and prolonged mental breakdown, and the film makes clear his behavior is not to be emulated. This, however, doesn't seem to stop people (both fictional and non-fictional) from claiming him as an inspiration.
- No Ending: Or perhaps it was too abrupt... but the aftermath of Beale's planned assassination is never delved into, except that one of his killers, "the Great Ahmed Khan", escaped.
- No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: Invoked in-universe, after Hackett fires Schumacher and tells him he's following Diana Christensen's suggestion of merging the network's news and entertainment divisions:
Schumacher: I'm gonna spread this whole reeking business in every newspaper, on every network, group and affiliate in this country. I'm gonna make a lot of noise about this.Hackett: Great! We need all the press we can get!
- Not So Crazy Anymore
- One-Scene Wonder: Ned Beatty as Arthur Jensen.
- Beatrice Straight as Louise Schumacher. If you're watching this for the first time and know she won an Oscar for her role, you might wonder why, since she doesn't seem to be doing very much... until you get to that scene.
- Retroactive Recognition:
- Signature Scene: Beale's "mad as Hell" rant.
- Values Dissonance: Diana may be an enthusiastically amoral borderline sociopath, but this line is still disturbing on several different levels:
Max Schumacher: I love you. And that painful, decaying love is the only thing between you and the shrieking nothingness you live the rest of the day.
- To a modern audience, a paraphrased version of "You're so damaged only I can love you," sounds more like emotional abuse than an (anti)heroic Shut Up, Hannibal!. This turns into Fridge Horror when you remember Diana said she'd been seeing a psychologist for years and thinks she's inept at everything but her job, suggesting that her Card-Carrying Villain persona covers a lot of insecurity and self-loathing. It gets even worse when you realize much of that self-loathing is because Diana "apparently [has] a masculine temperament," so her emotional detachment may be an example of living down to expectations in a sexist society.
- Ironically, Diana was written to be as unsympathetic as possible, and Sidney Lumet strongly discouraged Faye Dunaway from adding any human goodness to the character.
- Values Resonance: This film's satirical take on news channels only grows more relevant with every passing year - still ringing every bit as true in the 21st century (if not moreso) as in 1976.
- Villain Has a Point: Arthur Jensen's speech where he converts Beale to his point of view is actually a fairly decent defense of financial globalism as a force for good.