Before 'J. Edgar,' Catch Up With Films That Show How the FBI Really Works

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From Mulder and Scully to the man who caught John Dillinger, five flicks get the bureau right

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20th Century Fox

Clint Eastwood officially reopens the file on J. Edgar Hoover this week with his new biopic, starring a heavily made-up Leonardo DiCaprio as the founder and longtime director of the FBI. In so doing, man/myth/legend Eastwood also launches yet another major-motion-picture investigation into federal crime-busting arcana.

But while the majority of these bureau-centric films concern agents in the field—like Silence of the Lambs' Clarice Starling, to name just one very prominent example—fewer films have offered more expansive pictures of the organization's inner workings, or hinted at its internecine rivalries and the complicated structure of its bureaucracy. Below are five worthwhile films, all readily available for rental, that give a broader glimpse of FBI operations than does the typical federal-investigation procedural.

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Benjamin Mercer has written on film for The Village Voice, The New York Sun, The L Magazine, and Reverse Shot. He is a copy editor at Bookforum. More

He has also copyedited for two New York dailies: The New York Sun and amNewYork.

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