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A news program shown in cinemas, typically. Pioneered by Pathé in France in 1908 (in the early films/silent era), these were almost always in black and white. Many of them had a propaganda element to them, subtle or blatant.

A fictional example of the former:

"Soviet troops enter Warsaw. The people of Warsaw cheer the end of Nazi tyranny and the restoration of freedom."

To give a fictional example of the latter:

"Comrades, the mighty Red Army continues to crush the evil fascists. The brave men of the Rodina have now taken Warsaw and liberated Poland from their evil grip. Casualties were heavy, but the Red Army prevailed."

Pretty notorious even in their own day for being flamboyantly censored and emotionally manipulative (edging dangerously close to Documentary of Lies territory in some cases), and for often outright ignoring "troubling" topics in favor of "cute" human-interest stories.

The footage recorded for these newsreels is one of the primary audio-visual records of the first half of The 20th Century, especially World War II; the Allies in particular would send each other footage to appear in their respective newsreels. As a result, it will often appear in documentaries (with their counterpart from Nazi Germany, the Wochenschau) and if you watch a lot of them, you will start seeing the same clips turn up a lot.

The newsreel faded away in The '50s and The '60s due to the rise of TV network news, and often mocked up in period pieces. The last documented newsreel in the Western world, Polygoon, was screened in The Netherlands in 1987, while Japan's Yomiuri International News ran as late as 1997.

Many newsreels archives, particularly from Europe, have been preserved and made publicly available online today. The largest such archive is likely British Pathé, who also preserve Reuters' own archive from the same era. Other good places to explore include British Movietone, the Irish Film Institute Archive, France's Gaumont and Pathé Archive, and Italy's Archivio Luce.

See also Propaganda Piece.


    open/close all folders 

  • Space Battle Ship Yamato 2199 has Captain Okita watching a newsreel about first contact during one episode. The official story does not quite match the memories of those who were present, especially on the question of who shot first.

    Comic Books 
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): The newsreel that plays before A Midsummer Night's Dream is what forces Diana to face the reality of the wider world she's in and ask about the war Etta has been trying to tell her about, and been furious with her for discrediting and not caring about.
  • The Tintin story The Blue Lotus has Tintin coincidentally find out about a man who might be able to cure his friend's son's madness, along with a Call-Back to a previous episode where he ruined a movie (a movie filmed by the leader of the drug ring Tintin is trying to break up.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Monty Python movie And Now For Something Completely Different, during the World's Funniest Joke sketch, a British newsreel introduction is briefly used, with John Cleese's narration leading to the military applications of the Killer Joke.
  • Bullets or Ballots: The film opens with a newsreel condemning gangster activity in New York. Fenner and Kruger, two gangsters, actually get to watch actors playing themselves in a newsreel scene where "Kruger" wins acquittal in a trial. Kruger isn't fussed but hot-tempered Fenner is enraged by the newsreel.
  • Citizen Kane has an early examples of an in-movie fake newsreel. Furthermore, Orson Welles had the company he worked for, RKO Pictures, use their own newsreel department to create it to make it look authentic.
  • In the 1966 film It Happened Here (in which Great Britain has been occupied by the Nazis), there is a newsreel showing a revisionist history of British/German relations. Chillingly, it is narrated by a well-known voice-over reader of the war years.
  • A League of Their Own uses the newsreel to promote the AAGPBL.
  • The 1978 Australian film Newsfront follows the workers of a fictional newsreel company during the late 1940s and early-mid 1950s as they deal with the challenges of their jobs, their own personal issues, and the political and social changes affecting the country (including the looming approach of Australian commercial television).
  • The movie Patton uses them as exposition. Although it was rather obvious that they were just there for exposition, it did fit the time period, as newsreels were common.
  • The Phenix City Story opens with a 13-minute prologue of real-life reporter Clete Roberts interviewing some of the real-life people portrayed in the film.
  • Used in the pre-title scene of Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981) to introduce the titular WW2 aircraft and its cargo (a shipment of medals, booze, and $50 million in gold). The B&W footage of the aircraft ends with smoke pouring from its engine and the pilot looking out the window in alarm, then it vanishes into the clouds, setting up the contemporary events of the film when the crashed plane is discovered.
  • The Return of Captain Invincible. Used to show the rise and fall of the eponymous Old Superhero. The first newsreels are blatant propaganda; showing Captain Invincible battling bootleggers, bringing down Nazi divebombers single-handed, and giving inspiring speeches at a Boy Scout camp. However he's then shown being questioned before HUAC and indited for supporting Communism (for fighting on the Russian front during WW2), impersonating a military captain, and wearing his underwear in public.
  • In The Rocketeer, Cliff and Jenny see a newsreel that talks about a German zeppelin on a tour of the continental US.
  • Parodied in Starship Troopers.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a newsreel provides Eddie Valiant with a crucial clue in solving the Acme murder.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Every episode of the 1970s World War II TV series Baa Baa Black Sheep (aka Black Sheep Squadron) opened with a faux newsreel. The images were authentic but the voiceover was modern, settting up the action for the episode.
  • Get Smart: In "The Secret of Sam Vittorio", Max and 99 must impersonate a notorious Outlaw Couple from The '30s, and are shown newsreel footage of their exploits.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "The Thing Lay Still", there's a scene in Dec. 1939 where Lestat, Claudia and Louis are at a movie theatre while a news update of Adolf Hitler is being projected on the screen.
  • JAG: The first 20 seconds of "Port Chicago" begins with an authentic Paramount News Reel.
  • Used occasionally in M*A*S*H, either to place an episode's plot during a specific historical event (clips of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics were used during one episode where the 4077th held their own Olympics) or to hammer home a point on how popular media tended to gloss over the ugliness of war (contrasting the harsh realities of life near the front line with footage of a dance contest or a cat who can play table tennis).
  • Private Schulz uses these for exposition purposes during the series, which takes place throughout and after World War II.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: As with It Happened Here, Part Two of "Storm Front", which takes place in an Alternate Timeline where Nazi Germany is winning World War II, begins with a fake newsreel showing Adolf Hitler touring an occupied New York City.
    • While most of the footage was digitally constructed or altered, there was a piece of actual historical footage included - the Nazi rally in front of a full-body portrait of George Washington uses seldom-seen images of a real rally in 1939 by the German-American Bund.
  • The Mickey Mouse Club had a newsreel that reported subjects about science, nature, culture and activities involving children, as well as showcasing material related to Disneyland and the Walt Disney Studios.

    Video Games 
  • StarCraft concludes the Brood War Terran campaign with a newsreel, with all the propaganda elements they could fit in.
    • Before all that there was the UNN which was used by the Confederacy/Dominion as a propaganda machine to promote pro-faction news, and to label Sons of Korhal/Raynor as terrorists.
  • Zork: Grand Inquisitor starts with a mock newsreel of the propaganda-heavy variety. (It's entitled "Propaganda on Parade". Subtle.)

    Western Animation 
  • The first few episodes of Animaniacs began with a newsreel setting up the Back Story of the Warners.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has two newsreels in the episode "Meet Captain America". The first shows how Captain America became a Super-Soldier, then a hero for the Allies. The second plays after Cap becomes a Human Popsicle, and announces that he has fallen in battle.
  • Old-timey newsreels are apparently still attached to films in the 31st century of Futurama.
    Fry: Ooh, this is real futuristic!
  • The Legend of Korra begins every episode with a newsreel recap of the previous events.
  • In the The Scooby-Doo Show episode "The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller", the gang watches a newsreel at the Milo Booth film festival.
  • The Simpsons: Decades ago, Abe Simpson and one of his friends watched one showing Springfield as a "City on the Grow". Flash forward to the present time, showing those days of prosperity are over.
  • Used as the intro for Star Wars: The Clone Wars as well as the TV series, sometimes overlapping with Previously on…. It also has a "Thought for the Day", which is related to the episode's Aesop. It actually helps set the tone quite nicely in the case of the TV shows, more so than it does for the movie.
  • TaleSpin:
    • There's one in "From Here to Machinery" showing Shere Khan signing a contract buying new pilot robots.
    • "Whistlestop Jackson, Legend" also features Khan in a newsreel to set up his relationship with the titular character.

    Real Life 
  • Nazi Germany had Die Deutsche Wochenschau ("The German Weekly Review"), which ran from from 1940 until very near the end of World War II in March 1945 by which point most German cinemas had closed and transport links had collapsed; most often narrated by announcer Harry Giese (who had quite the Motor Mouth). It was a vital instrument for the mass distribution of the Wehrmacht's war propaganda, and the preserved Wochenschau short films actually make up a significant part of the audiovisual records of the armed forces of Nazi Germany you'll see in virtually every documentary about it.
  • Pathé News in the UK, which produced newsreels from 1910 i.e. (in the silent era) until 1970. Its archive can be found online here.
  • Movietone News in the US, which ran from 1928 to 1963 and produced by Fox; a British spinoff ran until 1979.
  • The USSR had several of these. Much of the footage of Nazi mass graves and concentration camps found as the Red Army advanced westwards was originally recorded for Soviet newsreels to be used to motivate their citizens to keep fighting, showing civilian dead in a way that British newsreels would not. There was a fair degree of manipulation in the Soviet films with the bodies moved around to create more of an aesthetic effect and people shown identifying their loved ones for maximum emotional impact. Also, references to the fact that many of the victims were Jewish was omitted - Soviet propaganda was that these people were murdered for being Soviet citizens, not for being Jews - with significantly a shot of prayer shawls found at Auschwitz cut out.note  The off-cuts survived and have since seen the light of day as Russian archives have opened up.
    • Because of their provenance that made them seem dodgy in the Cold War world and the fact most were only shown in the USSR, the footage was largely not seen by Western historians, something that has since changed.


Video Example(s):


Newsreel of the Stars

In this news story, we learn how the Warners were created back in the 30s, but unfortunately were so zany that they were locked in the studio water tower and their existence was disavowed...until present time when they escaped.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / Backstory

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