Diana Christensen (Dunaway) is a type ‘A’ network television executive who rides the wave of an unfolding ratings sensation broadcasting deranged televangelist Howard Beale (Peter Finch, in his final performance). Beale hits a chord with disillusioned Americans, urging them to chant his mantra: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" But the Beale phenomenon may not last, as Howard's ever more bizarre ranting signals an emotional breakdown in the making.
Sidney Lumet's devastating, disturbing satire of the modern broadcast age (written by Paddy Chayefsky) still has a lot to say 40 years after release. Beyond portraying a business that bypasses quality in single-minded pursuit of the dollar, television serves as metaphor for a society mired in sensationalism and greed. Dunaway is commanding in a caffeinated performance as ruthless Diana, Holden unusually affecting as a washed-up veteran of TV's glory days, and Finch a revelation as the unbalanced Beale, winning a posthumous Oscar for his work. A triumph.