Quick Quiz: The FBI in Pop Culture
Test Your Knowledge of the FBI in Pop Culture
The FBI has long been a fixture in our nation's popular culture; over the years we've been the focus of countless books, movies, TV and radio shows, comic books, even games and toys (see left for just one example)—some rooted in fact, others purely fictional. We thought you'd be interested in a quick tour through our pop culture history—in the form of a quiz. Make your best guess and click to see how you did. Good luck!
1: Which gangster reportedly said, "Don't shoot, G-Men, don't shoot!" as he surrendered to FBI agents, creating a nickname that became synonymous with our investigators and a fixture of the nation's popular imagination?
a) John Dillinger
b) George "Machine Gun" Kelly
c) "Baby Face" Nelson
d) "Pretty Boy" Floyd
2: He was the original Mr. Smith. He later starred as Special Agent Chip Hardesty in the 1959 movie, The FBI Story. Who was he?
a) Gary Cooper
b) Spencer Tracey
c) William Holden
d) Jimmy Stewart
3: In which movie did the fictional serial killer and FBI nemesis Dr. Hannibal Lecter first appear?
a) The Silence of the Lambs
c) Red Dragon
5: Which actor/actress hasn't played an FBI agent on the silver screen?
a) Johnny Depp
b) Sandra Bullock
c) Denzel Washington
d) Clint Eastwood
e) They've all played agents
6. EXTRA CREDIT: In which movie did an FBI agent help protect the country from giant radioactive ants?
a) I Was a Zombie for the FBI
c) Invasion of the Body Snatchers
d) The Monster Hunter
The answer is (b), "Machine Gun" Kelly. The story is most likely apocryphal (see our story of 9/26/03), but whatever its origins, by 1935 the term "G-Man" was firmly fixed in the nation's imagination. For years afterward, the name was borrowed for movies (including G-Men starring James Cagney), magazines, comic strips, and untold numbers of "Junior G-Men" toys, books, and games.
It's (d), Jimmy Stewart. The movie was based on the book of the same name that was written by reporter Don Whitehead and spent 38 weeks on best-seller lists. The movie followed the fictional Agent Hardesty's career from 1924 to 1958, covering everything from the Osage Indian murders to the fight against the KKK, from the gangster era to our Special Intelligence Service in WWII to our espionage work during the Cold War.
You probably guessed (a), but it's actually (b). Although The Silence of the Lambs (1991) featured the better known portrayal of Lecter by Anthony Hopkins (followed by Hannibal and Red Dragon), Lecter actually first appeared as a character in the 1986 film, Manhunter. If you answered Red Dragon, you get partial credit, because it was a remake of Manhunter. These movies helped popularize our use of behavioral analysis to track and identify violent criminals and terrorists. For more information, see our Behavioral Science Unit website.
We’re not sure, but the truth is out there... Actually, The X-Files goes with (3), with Agents Mulder and Scully played by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, respectively. Twin Peaks featured Special Agent Dale Cooper (1). And The FBI starred Inspector Erskine, played by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. Which of these shows ran the longest? The FBI. It had 239 episodes compared to 202 for The X-Files.
All of them have played agents (e). For example, Johnny Depp starred in Donnie Brasco as real-life agent Joe Pistone, who went undercover to take down the mob. Tom Hanks, John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Mel Gibson, Angelina Jolie, Gene Hackman, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, and Bruce Willis have also starred as FBI agents in recent years.
The FBI was featured in all of these movies, but the answer is (b), Them. For information on "unusual phenomena" that we've investigated over the years, go to our list on our Freedom of Information Act website.