“Chayefsky has also created a gallery of juicy characters to populate his satire. The film gives a marvelous sense of the backstage intrigue at a major network. Chayefsky has attended enough of these secret 'powwows and confabs' to understand the elaborate power plays; he is unmistakably fascinated by the gamesmanship of these corrupt, cynical characters….

            “Chayefsky’s triumph is the character of Diana Christensen, the programming executive who sees how to use Howard Beale to enhance her own position at the network. Chayefsky has created the best woman character in an American movie in years—a power-hungry executive who is capable of competing with the men on their own terrain and outsmarting them. The irony is that feminists, who have been pleading for just this kind of heroine, may be uncomfortable with Diana because she strikes a little too close to home. Feminists seem to prefer a heroine who is either an abused victim (as in A Woman Under the Influence) or a spunky, goodhearted earth mother (as in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More). The scheming, commanding Diana is closer to the black widow heroines of forties movies—the striking, aggressive, ambitious bitches played by Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis.

            “Diana is a creature of the media, compulsively chattering about ratings and shares, spitting out all the counterculture clich├ęs that she has picked up from reading the right magazine articles. She is ruthless and poisonous, but also cunning, articulate, seductive, witty, self-aware and powerful. In a word, she is formidable, and Chayefsky never makes the mistake of underestimating her. Faye Dunaway rises to the challenge of the role and gives the performance of her career. Sidney Lumet is a wizard at drawing things out of actors that no other director has tapped. Dunaway has never before given a performance of such dizzying energy; her work here is a revelation.”

                                    Stephen Farber
                                    New West, November 8, 1976

            “And what of Diana Christensen, the hopped-up Cosmopolitan doll with power on the brain? Look at her name: the goddess of the hunt, and some sort of essence of Christianity? In bed, on top of Schumacher, she talks ratins until orgasm. Chayefsky, in interviews, actually claims that he has created one of the few movie roles in which a woman is treated as an equal; this can be interpreted to mean that he thinks women who want equality are ditsey little twitches--ruthless, no-souled monsters who take men's jobs away from them. Diana Christensen is, Schumacher says, "television incarnate"--that is, she is symptomatic of what's spoiling our society. And, in case we don't get Chayefsky's drift, he presents us with that contrasting image of a loving woman who has the capacity for suffering--Max's wife, to whom he returns after he leaves rotten Diana.

            “…. Dunaway chatters as Kim Stanley did in The Goddess (Chayefsky must believe that women talk because of their tinny empty-headedness), and even when she's supposed to be reduced to a pitiful shell by Holden's exposing her "shrieking nothingness" she's ticky and amusingly greedy. She snarls at underlings and walks with a bounce and a wiggle. In the past, Dunaway hasn't had much humor or variety; her performances have usually been proficient yet uneventful--there's a certain heaviness, almost of depression, about them. It's that heaviness, probably, that has made some people think her Garboesque. A beautiful woman who's as self-conscious as Faye Dunaway has a special neurotic magnetism. (The far less proficient Kim Novak had it also.) In this stunt role, her usual self-consciousness is turned into comic rapport with the audience; she's not the remote, neurotic beauty--she's more of a clown. And though her Diana isn't remotely convincing--she's not a woman with a drive to power, she's just a dirty Mary Tyler Moore--it's a relief to see Dunaway being light. She puts us on the side of the humanoids….”

                                    Pauline Kael
                                    New Yorker, December 6, 1976
            "....But in Network..., she was the nerve center of the film--agitated, sensation seeking, and as cold as TV itself. At the same time, she was a believable neurotic career woman and a comic-book video creature--the medium and a massage--and she won the best actress Oscar for it...."

                                    David Thomson
                                    The New Biographical Dictionary of Film,
                                                      p. 255

            "[Sigourney] Weaver, never one to hold back, gives her readings a crushing vehemence. As a comedienne, she doesn't have the lyrical gift--the charge of fantasy--that Faye Dunaway brought to a similar character thirty years ago in "Network," but she's effectively hateful..."

                                    David Denby
                                    The New Yorker, April 16, 2007

            “…. Sidney Lumet … began his service to this script with some sharp casting…. Dunaway, cold and cutting and sexy, gives her best performance since Bonnie and Clyde…. All of them [Finch, Holden, Dunaway, Duvall, and Straight] shine with the feeling that they know they are working for a director who understands actors, that they have relied on him, and that he has come through for them. As they have for him. They are all exceptionally good….”

                                    Stanley Kauffmann
                                    New Republic, November 13, 1976

                                    Before My Eyes, 103