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Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2009)


Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 54
Fresh: 52
Rotten: 2

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 7.9/10
Reviews Counted: 20
Fresh: 20
Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 1,010


Movie Info

Daniel Ellsberg, a high-level Pentagon official and Vietnam War strategist, concludes that the war is based on decades of lies and leaks 7,000 pages of top secret documents to The New York Times, making headlines around the world. Ellsberg risks life in prison to stop a war he helped plan. This story of one man's profound change of heart is also a piercing look at the world of government secrecy as revealed by the ultimate insider. Marked by a landmark battle between America's greatest … More

Directed By:
In Theaters:
Jul 20, 2010
Box Office:
First Run Features - Official Site

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Critic Reviews for Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (21) | Fresh (52) | Rotten (2) | DVD (1)

For those who know the story, Most Dangerous Man puts it in fresh perspective. If you don't, there's probably not a better way to discover it.

Full Review… | April 23, 2010
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

This isn't a dusty chapter of ancient history, but a fresh, exciting story. Ellsberg, who worked as a defense analyst in the government-funded Rand Corp., emerges as a complex and contradictory character.

Full Review… | April 8, 2010
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

For those who lived through the turmoil of Vietnam, and for the generations that have come since, the film is an important document in its own right.

Full Review… | April 1, 2010
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

The film is also an exciting cloak-and-dagger thriller.

Full Review… | April 1, 2010
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

Ehrlich and Goldsmith carve out their own little place in the canon by focusing on the ethical journey of one man who refused to shrug off his own responsibility for the war and atoned for it with a seismic act of civil disobedience.

Full Review… | March 25, 2010
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

It is a skillful, well-made film, although, since Ellsberg is the narrator, it doesn't probe him very deeply. We see his version of himself.

Full Review… | March 25, 2010
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Daniel Ellsberg was the first insider to take his concerns outside. The results changed the course of the conversation, and a country.

Full Review… | July 18, 2010

But because "Dangerous Man" sees the era through Ellsberg's eyes, and we hear the disgust in his voice as he describes his younger, gung-ho self, the film becomes a fascinating and clear-eyed self-portrait.

Full Review… | June 4, 2010
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Stop me if you've heard this one, but sometimes politicians get us into wars that last forever and go nowhere under false pretenses.

Full Review… | June 2, 2010
Philadelphia Weekly

Much research went into compiling the archival black and white news footage and photos along with audio from the Nixon White House tapes. This compelling film takes a cloak-and-dagger approach and is full of landmark historical events

Full Review… | April 30, 2010
Entertainment Spectrum

This is such a gripping yarn it plays more like a thriller than a documentary.

Full Review… | April 30, 2010
Kansas City Star

It's a bit surprising that a documentary with such an unwieldy title offers such a streamlined and resonant account of history.

Full Review… | April 30, 2010
Austin Chronicle

The makers of the Oscar-nominated documentary feature simply set up their cameras, and then just let the subject tell his own story in his own words.

Full Review… | April 29, 2010
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Revealing and exciting, even for those oldsters who know perfectly well how it will turn out.

Full Review… | April 22, 2010
One Guy's Opinion

As a biography, it's sketchy (the impression we are left with is that Ellsberg is a near-saint). But as a personal take on a crucial chunk of American history, Dangerous is riveting.

Full Review… | April 9, 2010
St. Paul Pioneer Press

One man's journey to help end a war and topple Nixon

Full Review… | April 8, 2010
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

It's a surprise that such an incredible story hasn't been told before in cinema, and the film takes full advantage of the story imbuing it with all the suspense of a thriller and raises important moral questions for the audience to consider.

Full Review… | April 7, 2010
FILMINK (Australia)

There's reality and depth here, but a chill, too, that the filmmaking never quite manages to melt.

Full Review… | April 1, 2010

It's a story good enough to withstand the conventional documentary formula of archive footage and talking heads -- and maybe even good enough to withstand a few ill-advised sprinkles of hokey music, animation and re-enactments.

Full Review… | April 1, 2010
Sacramento News & Review

The enormity of the story juxtaposed with the notion of one man single-handedly changing history is irresistibly powerful

Full Review… | April 1, 2010
Urban Cinefile

The lessons of The Most Dangerous Man in America are not merely about war, they are about life and human behavior.

Full Review… | March 25, 2010
Movie Retriever

Audience Reviews for Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg released confidential Pentagon documents that led to a shift in the public's opinion about the Vietnam War.
This is most interesting question this film presents: when one chooses to fight injustice, is it best to do so from inside the ranks of an unjust body, or should one buck the system completely, going outside the organization? Many people I've encountered throughout my life have made the first argument, that one does more good inside an organization, attempting to change its operations from the inside out. Ellsberg takes the opposite point because he admits that being a part of the military-industrial complex caused him alter his conception of justice so that he wasn't changing the organization but the organization was changing him. I find that fascinating.
The rest of the film chronicles the fallout from Ellsberg releasing the Pentagon Papers and the ensuing legal battles. Ellsberg is the film's narrator, so we don't get to see much about his character except for cherry picked interviews that re-affirm Ellsberg's conception of himself. I would have preferred a most objective take on the subject.
Overall, the thematic element is intriguing to me, and the film is a strong chronicle of a tumultuous time.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

A stunning documentary of the man who helped launch and then bring an end to the Vietnam War. Not to mention bringing down Nixon and his clutch of horrible henchmen. A true American hero, Daniel Ellsberg is someone everyone should know about. You watch films like this in the hopes of preventing history from repeating itself. Sadly, it already has repeated itself in the form of BushCo, his gang of immoral entrepreneurs, and the lies that led America into Iraq. And so it goes . . . Watch this and All the President's Men on a movie night when you want to be inspired to do the right thing.

Lanning : )

Super Reviewer

This documentary is something of a mixed bag. Admittedly, I knew most of the facts surrounding the Pentagon Papers, having read Daniel Ellsberg's autobiography a few years before. While also paced like a fine spy thriller at times, the film also provides an outside perspective, making it relevant in this time of war without end.(Sorry, if I just ruined anybody's buzz.) Recently , Ellsberg has gotten heavily involved in the Wikileaks case.

At first, the documentary also succeeds by placing the story of the Pentagon Papers in the context of the American success story in that most analysts saw the Vietnam War in terms of success(by following this company line, they would be promoted by approving bosses), not in lives lost or from a Vietnamese perspective which is how Ellsberg and many other protesters saw it.(Why anybody thought the President of the Ford Motor Company would make a competent Secretary of Defense is beyond me.) In a crisis of conscience, Ellsberg performed an extraoardinary act by leaking the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, risking decades of jail. At which point, the documentary goes even beyond hagiography to beatification as the tone turns towards sanctimonious, attacking Senators Fulbright and McGovern for their more cautious approach in criticizing the war. Also, while it may make sense on the surface that the Pentagon Papers led directly to Watergate, the truth is probably more complex, as Hunter Thompson thought J. Edgar Hoover kicking the bucket in 1972 was also an important link in Nixon's downfall.

Walter M.

Super Reviewer


It explains the release of the Pentagon Papers well and the subsequent trials that occurred as a result, but I don't think we really get to know Ellsberg the man. Since he tells his own story here, it seems filtered. He did a great thing, I get it but you never really get a sense of him as a complex individual.

Alec Barniskis
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer

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