A few weeks ago, I asked the Facebook fans of PR firm Arment Dietrich
about their favorite PR movie.
We narrowed down the responses to what we think are the top five, plus one honorable mention.
Yes, we know we missed a few goodies such as “Wag the Dog” and “Jerry McGuire,” but those are on everyone’s list; I wanted to highlight a few others in their place.
“Thank You for Smoking” –
Nick Naylor portrays a smooth talking tobacco lobbyist, but he seems to be more of a publicist. He doesn’t deny the health risks of smoking, but still defends the cigarette industry. It’s a great illustration of the work of spin, which (as we all know) sucks.
“The Social Network” –
Who doesn’t like a drama about the guy who created the world’s largest social network with more than 900 million users? (For those living under a rock, I’m talking about Facebook.) This movie tells a great business story encompassing both digital media and traditional public relations.
“The Queen” –
After Princess Diana died in a car crash in 1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Royal Family disagree over how to address her death to the public. The Royal PR team attempts to distance themselves from Princess Diana after the messy divorce from Prince Charles. All the while, Blair tries to convince Queen Elizabeth to make affectionate comments about her grandchildren’s mother, or a PR nightmare will ensue. It’s a great example of compromise and what to do to avoid a PR crisis.
“Roman Holiday” –
If you aren’t familiar with the plot of this classic film, Princess Ann (played by Audrey Hepburn) derails her public relations tour across Europe when her handlers give her a sedative and she sneaks out to enjoy Rome on her own terms. She must decide whether to sell her secrets and unhappiness to the world or keep her friendship with reporter Joe hush-hush. This movie shows how much power the reporter has over the story.
After staying quiet for three years, former U.S. President Richard Nixon attempts to save face, and his legacy, with a historic interview with British TV personality David Frost. Here’s a clip
from the actual 1977 interview. PR pros are portrayed on both sides preparing their subjects for the interview and attempting to control the outcomes.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” –
We all know the story. Willy Wonka needs a successor for his empire so he looks to buzz marketing, PR, and media relations. His Golden Ticket stunt is one for the PR ages. He converts his eccentricity into positive publicity for his brand. I’m a fan of the most recent version—and it has everything to do with Johnny Depp
And a bonus, one of my favorite television shows:
“Mad Men” –
It didn’t win an Emmy
this year, but it’s still a great show. I know it features an advertising firm; however, it does offer relatable scenarios such as client-worker interactions, innovative and new company pitches, and agency dynamics.
There aren’t many movies that depict public relations accurately, but I think these movies do a pretty good job either featuring public relations as a core issue or referring to it in a passing way.
What are some of your favorites?
is an account executive at Arment Dietrich. A version of this story first appeared on the Spin Sucks blog.