Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Network (1976)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Network (1976)

In Sidney Lumet's brilliant satire on TV and the media (based on Oscar-winning Paddy Chayefsky's script) - a pitch-black criticism of the hollow, lurid wasteland of television journalism:

  • the character of smart, ambitiously-driven, new VP of programming Diana Christensen's (Oscar-winning Faye Dunaway) rant to her various program directors, to do anything to improve network ratings, including having a show based upon a real-life terrorist group: ("So this concept analysis report concludes: 'The American people want somebody to articulate their rage for them.' I've been telling you people since I took this job six months ago that I want angry shows. I don't want conventional programming on this network. I want counter-culture. I want anti-establishment....We better start putting together one winner for next September. I want a show developed, based on the activities of a terrorist group. 'Joseph Stalin and his Merry Band of Bolsheviks.' I want ideas from you people. That is what you're paid for. And, by the way, the next time I send an audience research report around, you'd all better read it or I'll sack the f--king lot of you, is that clear?")
Diana Christensen: "I Want Angry Shows!"
  • the Messianic, raging figure of maniacal veteran TV anchorman Howard Beale (posthumous Oscar-winning Peter Finch) who during his evening news broadcast told his viewers, off from his script, that he had been fired and would commit suicide during his final broadcast a week later: "I have decided to kill myself. I'm gonna blow my brains out right on this program a week from today. Tune in next Tuesday. That should give the public relations people a week to promote the show. We ought to get a hell of a rating out of that - a fifty share, easy"; during his next broadcast, he used shocking four letter words to tell his viewing audience that he had intended to commit suicide because he "ran out of bulls--t"
  • although there were worries and threats to fire Beale, Diana Christensen was visibly turned-on by media ratings during the Beale controversy; and during this time, she started a sexual affair with veteran network news boss Max Schumacher (William Holden), a married man 25 years her elder; on their first dinner date, she coldly told him: "I can't tell you how many men have told me what a lousy lay I am. I apparently have a masculine temperament. I arouse quickly, consummate prematurely, and can't wait to get my clothes back on and get out of that bedroom. I seem to be inept at everything except my work. I'm good at my work. So I confine myself to that. All I want out of life is a 30 share and a 20 rating"; during a weekend tryst in the Hamptons, without hardly pausing, she orgasmed during an intense ranting about programming challenges regarding "The Mao Tse-tung Hour"
  • Howard Beale (dubbed an "angry prophet") announced on the air that he believed he had been inspired by a "shrill, sibilant, faceless Voice" that had awakened him from sleep; he believed that he had been given a mission on television "to tell the people the truth - not an easy thing to do because the people don't want to know the truth"
Howard Beale's Description of Himself as Inspired by a "Voice"
  • and later, Beale's rousing, rallying battle cry challenge to listeners: ("We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD!" - then, he delivered an on-air rant directive to defiantly yell out from New York City windows: ("So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!'")
  • Howard's next major speech - the so-called "We Deal in Illusions" speech, attacked television itself; Howard appeared on-stage (wearing a black suit, white shirt and black tie) as a messianic figure in front of one colorful stained glass window: "So, you listen to me. Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television's a god-damned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We're in the boredom-killing business. So if you want the Truth, go to God! Go to your gurus. Go to yourselves! Because that's the only place you're ever gonna find any real truth. But, man, you're never gonna get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you wanna hear....You maniacs. In God's name, you people are the real thing. We are the illusion. So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off. Turn them off right in the middle of this sentence I am speaking to you now. Turn them off!" - as he exorted his audience, his eyes circled around and he collapsed to the onstage floor in a swoon - a show-stopping seizure
"We Deal In Illusions" Speech - An Attack on Television Itself
  • the superb sequence in which Max divulged his month-long, obsessive affair with Diana (he called the relationship "a transient thing" and "a menopausal infatuation") to his wife of twenty-five years, Louise Schumacher (Oscar-winning Beatrice Straight); after his confession, his long-suffering wife berated him in a moving monologue for his unfaithfulness and "love" for Diana ("She gets the winter passion, and I get the dotage? What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to sit home knitting and purling while you slink back like some penitent drunk? I'm your wife, damn it! And, if you can't work up a winter passion for me, the least I require is respect and allegiance! (She sobbed) I'm hurt! Don't you understand that? I'm hurt badly!")
  • then, Schumacher put-down Diana for her soullessness, amorality, and heartlessness: ("I'm not sure she's capable of any real feelings. She's television generation. She learned life from Bugs Bunny. The only reality she knows comes to her from over the TV set")
  • the scene of Beale's chastisement by angered UBS Chairman of the Board, corporate pitchman and powerful business magnate and conglomerate head Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty): ("You have meddled with the primal forces of nature")
  • the scene of Max Schumacher's angry denouncement of the emotionless and cold Diana, his guilt about the pain and suffering he had caused, and his description of his own impending mortality: ("I feel guilty and conscience-stricken and all of those things that you think sentimental but which my generation called simple human decency. And I miss my home because I'm beginning to get scared s--tless. Because all of a sudden, it's closer to the end than it is to the beginning, and death is suddenly a perceptible thing to me - with definable features....everything that you and the institution of television touch is destroyed. You're television incarnate, Diana, indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality"
  • the film's climactic ending when, during the start of his TV show, Howard Beale was murdered by two revolutionary radicals or assassins who had been hired by the network to do away with him; Beale pitched backwards from the impact of multiple bullet wounds - bloodied; another newsman announced his epitaph - the film's last narrated line: "This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings"

Max Schumacher's Affair with Diana

Howard Beale: "I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!"

Max's Confession of Unfaithfulness to His Wife Louise - And Her Response

Chastisement of Beale by UBS Head Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty)

The End of Schumacher's Affair with Diana

The Assassination of Howard Beale


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