Down 5,590 this week

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

Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.8/10 from 1,848 users   Metascore: 75/100
Reviews: 19 user | 38 critic | 18 from

"The Most Dangerous Man in America" is the story of what happens when a former Pentagon insider, armed only with his conscience, steadfast determination, and a file cabinet full of ... See full summary »

Watch Trailer
0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 34 titles
created 19 Apr 2012
a list of 35 titles
created 30 May 2012
a list of 32 titles
created 14 Feb 2013
a list of 44 titles
created 30 Apr 2013
a list of 30 titles
created 10 months ago

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

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

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2009) on IMDb 7.8/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

War Dance (2007)
Documentary | Music | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Three children living in a displacement camp in northern Uganda compete in their country's national music and dance festival.

Directors: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix
Stars: Dominic, Nancy, Rose
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A unique documentary about troops' experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, based on writings by soldiers, Marines, and air men. Some writings were published in the New Yorker in summer 2006. A... See full summary »

Director: Richard Robbins
Stars: Sharon D. Allen, Beau Bridges, Colby Buzzell
Street Fight (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

This documentary follows the 2002 mayoral campaign in Newark, New Jersey in which the Cory Booker attempted to unseat longtime mayor Sharpe James.

Director: Marshall Curry
Stars: Jen Bluestein, Cory Booker, Bill Bradley
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A comprehensive look at the Bush Administration's conduct of the Iraq war and its occupation of the country.

Director: Charles Ferguson
Stars: Campbell Scott, Gerald Burke, Ali Fadhil
The Pentagon Papers (TV Movie 2003)
Drama | History | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Defense worker Daniel Ellsberg seeks to publish a series of classified government documents detailing the true nature of America's involvement in the Vietnam War.

Director: Rod Holcomb
Stars: James Spader, Claire Forlani, Paul Giamatti
Certificate: M Action | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

An American scientist is sent to Red China to steal the formula for a newly developed agricultural enzyme. What he is not told by his bosses is that a micro-sized bomb has been planted in ... See full summary »

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Gregory Peck, Anne Heywood, Arthur Hill
Documentary | Biography | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A rare behind-the-curtain look at the Earth Liberation Front, the radical environmental group that the FBI calls America's 'number one domestic terrorist threat.'

Directors: Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman
Stars: Daniel McGowan, Lisa McGowan, Tim Lewis
Documentary | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

The remarkable story of The Weather Underground, radical activists of the 1970s, and of radical politics at its best and most disastrous.

Directors: Sam Green, Bill Siegel
Stars: Lili Taylor, Pamela Z, Jim Lange
Why We Fight (2005)
Documentary | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Is American foreign policy dominated by the idea of military supremacy? Has the military become too important in American life? Jarecki's shrewd and intelligent polemic would seem to give an affirmative answer to each of these questions.

Director: Eugene Jarecki
Stars: Gore Vidal, John McCain, Ken Adelman
Documentary | Action | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

What does it mean to lead men in war? What does it mean to come home? Hell and Back Again is a cinematically revolutionary film that asks and answers these questions with a power and ... See full summary »

Director: Danfung Dennis
Stars: Nathan Harris, Ashley Harris, The Marines of Echo Company
GasLand (2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

It is happening all across America-rural landowners wake up one day to find a lucrative offer from an energy company wanting to lease their property. Reason? The company hopes to tap into a... See full summary »

Director: Josh Fox
Stars: Josh Fox, Dick Cheney, Pete Seeger
Documentary | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

The story of the child refugees who were transported to Britain to escape the Nazi Holocaust.

Director: Mark Jonathan Harris
Stars: Judi Dench, Lory Cahn, Kurt Fuchel


Credited cast:
Peter Arnett ...
Himself - Associated Press Correspondent (archive footage)
Ben Bagdikian ...
Himself - Editor, Washington Post
Ann Beeson ...
Herself - Associate Legal Director, ACLU
John Dean ...
Himself - White House Counsel to President Nixon
Daniel Ellsberg ...
Patricia Ellsberg ...
Robert Ellsberg ...
Himself - Daniel's Son
Richard Falk ...
Himself - Professor of International Law
Max Frankel ...
Himself - Washington Bureau Chief, New York Times
J. William Fulbright ...
Himself - Chair Foreign Relations Committee (archive footage)
James Goodale ...
Himself - General Counsel, New York Times
Mike Gravel ...
Himself - Senator (D-Alaska)
Himself - Supervisor, Vietnam War Study (as Mort Halperin)
Himself - President (archive footage)
Randy Kehler ...
Himself - Draft Resister


"The Most Dangerous Man in America" is the story of what happens when a former Pentagon insider, armed only with his conscience, steadfast determination, and a file cabinet full of classified documents, decides to challenge an "Imperial" Presidency-answerable to neither Congress, the press, nor the people-in order to help end the Vietnam War. In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg shook America to its foundations when he smuggled a top-secret Pentagon study to the New York Times that showed how five Presidents consistently lied to the American people about the Vietnam War that was killing millions and tearing America apart. President Nixon's National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger called Ellsberg "the most dangerous man in America," who "had to be stopped at all costs." But Ellsberg wasn't stopped. Facing 115 years in prison on espionage and conspiracy charges, he fought back. Ensuing events surrounding the so-called Pentagon Papers led directly to Watergate and the downfall of President Nixon, ... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Official Sites:



Release Date:

17 October 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amerikas farligaste man  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$1,114 (USA) (29 January 2010)


$453,483 (USA) (30 July 2010)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



See  »

Did You Know?


(at around 1h 19 mins) Three Black Hawk helicopters are shown disembarking combat-equipped soldiers, ostensibly in Viet Nam. While the first YUH-60 did in fact fly before the fall of Saigon, it was 1976 before three of them had been produced. Production aircraft were not delivered until 1978. See more »


References Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

The anti-war activist par excellence
4 April 2010 | by (Berkeley, California) – See all my reviews

This documentary lets its subject (and hero) speak for himself: Ellsberg is the narrator. You may feel that it can hardly be taken in fully at one go -- that you ought to sneak back to see it more, maybe look up some of the history involved. The twists and turns of events, the turbulent full political context, are complicated indeed. But maybe what you really cannot assimilate is the complexity of the man himself, and the feeling contemplating that complexity gives you of being very small in comparison.

It still seems hard to understand the Pentagon Papers story. 7,000 pages, finally published or written about at the time by a dozen or more big city papers, so it became impossible to suppress them: what are the Pentagon Papers? I was around then, but I never read them. Who did? Why did they turn the tide against the Vietnam War? Did they do that? Ultimately the Nixon administration's "dirty tricks" men, the "plumbers," brought down Nixon for their mission in California of breaking into Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office. It was the last straw. And why was that? Coming after the exposure of the Watergate break-ins, this clumsy, stupid act further showed Nixon's henchmen for for the Keystone-Cop thugs they were, and the game was up for Nixon, though the war was to be pursued by Lyndon B. Johnson, and ultimately take him down, though more honorably.

Ellsberg was one of those at the Rand Corporation in 1967-68 who contributed to a top-secret study of classified documents related to the conduct of the Vietnam War commissioned by Defense Secretary McNamara, later known as "the Pentagon Papers." Perusing these documents, Ellsberg discovered total cynicism about the war at the highest level all along. Officials knew the war would lead to heavy casualties and not be won, and expressed an indifference to loss of human life and to the outcome of the conflict that totally shocked him. Eventually this shock led to his decision that he couldn't be silent about this, could not be a good soldier and play the game any more; that the only course was ultimately to expose what he had learned.

This came, of course, in the context of a growing anti-war movement at home and abroad and of the post-1968 revolutionary spirit of the times. But Sixties hippies and anti-war activists were one thing, and Ellsberg was another. Ellsberg was an insider. His voice carried a special conviction. A year or so after his initial discovery of the import of the Papers, Ellsberg tried to get them released on the Senate floor, preferably by Senator William Fulbright or George McGovern. When this failed he turned to the New York Times. This led eventually to the Supreme Court case, and to the Nixon effort to block and discredit Ellsberg. Ellsberg, who was on the brink of going to jail for many years, needed enormous courage through all this, and he not only marshaled that courage, but has gone on tirelessly using the moral capital he he earned at the time of the Pentagon papers to oppose illegal and immoral wars in the decades since.

In this documentary, Nixon White House tape excerpts are heard, Nixon with Kissinger especially, the most damning, foul, small-town mafioso voice of evil: "get the son-of-a-bitch!" Nixon cries. These voices are surprising, even now. We have heard such voices in other documentaries, but perhaps never as naked and crude as here.

Ellsberg and his Rand Corporation cohort Anthony Russo, who photocopied the Papers, were absolved by a judge in California who declared a mistrial because of administration misconduct in persecuting the two men. That was nearly forty years ago and Ellsberg, as late, great liberal-left American historian Howard Zinn declares here, has lived his Iife in keeping with the principles he followed in exposing the Pentagon Papers ever since. But only a few visuals in this film cover that life of anti-war activism.

Part of what may move us about him and what may make him important is that Ellsberg's is a conversion story. Elssberg was far inside the establishment in what he originally did, a researcher for the Pentagon and a man who worked for the ultra-right-wing West-Coast-based Rand Corporation. Thus his later-to-be wife of many years Patricia, an anti-war activist when they met, broke off their engagement after he went on a paid trip to Vietnam. On that trip, Ellsberg learned how the Vietcong operated by leading a military operation himself; he was a former Marine. He married another woman. But when he got his teenage son and ten-year-old daughter to help photocopy the Papers, she broke with him, and he married Patricia, after all.

The most powerful sequence is between Ellsberg today and a pacifist of those days among those whose willingness to go to jail to fight the war convinced Ellsberg to become willing to do the same. This man was a turning point in Ellsberg's life, and his voice breaks with emotion sitting with him today and remembering that.

What makes this story so powerful is that it's not only about a First Amendment battle that went to the top -- the resulting Supreme Court decision remains essential in protecting the press from outside pressure -- but about the total transformation of a man from a liberal establishment figure into a voice for independent activism. And the information Ellsberg brought out is a magnifying glass through which to view the post-9/11 world and American hubris as characterized by Chalmers Johnson in his 'Blowback Trilogy.' We might consider the inevitable possibility that there are other Pentagon Papers, millions of pages, about America's other wars and occupations, that similarly expose their futility, brutality, and cynicism.

'The Most Dangerous Man in America' carries off the difficult task of sketching a portrait of a key figure of modern US political history without slighting either him or the complicated context in which he rose to fame.


13 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Ellberg + Randy Keller 2-shot profebc
new Ellsberg profebc
Ellsberg at Goucher futureprez2

Contribute to This Page