Tribeca Review: Rather


Rather begins by painting reporter Dan Rather as a journalist that everyone knows. Whether they’re elderly and have been watching the news since the Kennedy administration to young Gen Z Twitter followers who retweet him, people are aware of him. Even if you don’t like him, as many conservatives do, you still can at least respect what the man has done for journalism. By starting off like this, Rather sets the stage for attempting to prove why Dan Rather is that influential and important.

Admittingly, that’s an easy task to accomplish. With a body of work that spans decades, all that Rather really has to do is present his accomplishments and that’s enough, right? Add in some talking heads that know him and who worked with him and we’re good surely? In theory, yes. In execution, maybe, it just needs some spice to make it more interesting.

Tribeca Review: Rather

Copyright: Tribeca Film Festival

Director: Frank Marshall
Release Date: June 9, 2023 (Tribeca Film Festival)

Rather is, in many ways, a very traditional documentary. It chronologically goes through Dan Rather’s life from his time with radio broadcasting in Texas, progressing towards when he would inevitably begin working for CBS. Once there, we see Rather’s coverage of events like the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and his controversial interview with then-presidential candidate George Bush, all the way up to his departure from CBS News in 2005. Rather, himself, chimes in occasionally with his thoughts on each of those events with the benefit of retrospect and hindsight, lending us an insight as to what was going through his mind in those key moments.

As someone who only had a general knowledge of Dan Rather and his career, Rather is very informative. The documentary focuses mostly on his early career, speeding through most of his work after the 90s, but it paints a picture of the man and his beliefs. He explains his thoughts behind his early catchphrase “courage,” why he tirelessly pursues the stories that he does, and how much he tries to fight for the truth. We also get some brief looks at major media figures tangentially related to Rather, like Walter Kronkike and Roger Ailes, mostly just to show how they differ from what Dan Rather did. That being said, the focus always stays firmly on Dan Rather.

Rather does a remarkable job of informing us who the man is, but it’s a very dry experience. This is the kind of documentary that you would watch in a high school journalism class that you would zone out on every now and then just to make sure you have enough info to write about. It informs but doesn’t necessarily charm you. The documentary tries to endear us to him by listening to his family, but their accounts only drive home how devoted to his work he is. In a sense, it only further exemplifies what kind of man he is, but it still doesn’t change the fact that a lot of what Rather does is conventional and standard. If you were to look in a textbook for the definition of the word “documentary,” Rather would be the example they use for reference.

While Rather does make the case of proving why Dan Rather is an influential journalist, the documentary drops the ball somewhat in elaborating on his career post-CBS. The most it does to show what he has been up to for the past 18 years is that he tweets some spicy takes that people share online. It’s true, but it undermines his importance in media if he now just tweets some hot takes on current events. It’s a weird note for Rather to end on, but a lackluster ending doesn’t really detract from the rest of the documentary.

If I could describe Rather in one word, it would be efficient. It faithfully represents its subject and does a good job, for the most part, explaining why he matters. If you knew nothing about Dan Rather before watching this, you’ll get a good sense of who he is and may want to take the initiative to learn more yourself. It won’t exactly excite you, but it’ll educate you. If you watch documentaries to be educated, you’ll find a fair bit to like here. If you want a bit more from your documentaries that go behind simply a portrait of a person, then maybe look elsewhere.



Rather does a competant job at informing audiences about the life and times of Dan Rather, though it's conventional approach and rushed ending limit this documentary from its true potential.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.