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Classic movies that Public Relations professionals should watch

Classic movies that Public Relations professionals should watch

Every public relations  professional is always thinking of how to make that perfect pitch, or find creative ways to maximize coverage for clients.

Inspiration can come from multiple directions. Movies could just be one of them. Let’s take a look at some famous movies that PR pros need to watch at least once.

Sweet Smell of Success

Not Rated, Noir/Drama

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison

Sidney Falco is a Manhattan press agent who is down on his luck and seeking to return to the top. Falco’s return to the top of the entertainment industry seems easy to achieve with the help of J.J. Hunsecker. Hunsecker is a powerful media magnate intent on breaking up his sister’s relationship. The lure of a return to the top sees Falco trapped in a series of dangerous events.

The movie explores the morality of the public relations industry. Falco learns about the dark side of the relationship between PR and the press.

Stream Sweet Smell of Success is on Prime Video and Vudu.


R, Drama

Starring: Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig

Truman Capote’s relationship with Perry Smith and his fans is the focus of the movie. Capote makes his way to the scene of the murders of a Midwestern family. Capote and his companion, Harper Lee, form friendships with the detectives on the case.

Capote’s friendship with Perry Smith leads him to question his life and career. As the murder case drags on, Capote must balance his friendship with his ambitions.

PR professionals will enjoy the questions of morality and fame. Capote’s fans hang on to every word about Perry Smith without seeing him as a person.

Stream Infamous on Prime Video, Apple TV and Vudu.

Thank You For Smoking

R, Drama/Comedy

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Cameron Bright

By the 1990s, big tobacco companies were coming under fire for hiding links to cancer. Nick Naylor is a tobacco spokesperson and refutes all cancer links. Naylor arrives in Hollywood with his young son in tow and tries to place cigarettes in blockbuster movies. Naylor’s life changes after a kidnapping involving nicotine patches. Naylor’s approach to his job and PR changes after he becomes hyper-sensitive to tobacco.

The movie takes a look at the morality of PR professionals. Nick Naylor’s epiphany comes with a new view of life and responsibilities to the public.

Stream Thank You For Smoking on Hulu + Live TV, The Roku Channel and Sling TV.


R, Drama/Dark Comedy

Starring: Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, William Holden

Howard Beale is a news anchor at the end of his career. The newscaster learns he is being removed from his primetime show. An angry Beale launches into a tirade against life. Beale ends his tirade by promising to commit suicide live on air the following Tuesday.

Beale’s employers exploit his mental state for ratings and usher in a new era of reality TV. Beale unites the nation as his superiors try to find a subject to be even more shocking. A Saudi takeover of the TV station changes Beale’s outlook and his rating drops.

The nature of fame and sensationalism are explored in “Network.” PR pros could see how sensationalism weaves into public relations.

Citizen Kane

PG, Drama/Mystery

Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingmore

Voted one of the greatest films ever made, Orson Welles’ masterpiece looks at the life of Charles Foster Kane. Kane’s death at his decrepit Xanadu estate prompts a search for the meaning behind his last words. Kane rises from a Colorado mining town to become one of the world’s top media barons. Kane rises from a happy, young newspaper owner to become a reclusive old man.

The movie’s heart lies in the relationship between media image and reality. The lines blur between the two in this classic movie.

Stream Citizen Kane on HBO Max, Prime Video and Apple TV.

PR take-away

Public relations professionals are perfect subjects for movie writers and directors. On the other side, if you are looking to get into PR, movies are a good way to learn about the life of a public relations professional.

Various streaming providers such as Prime Video, Apple TV and HBO Max offer popular titles that make for a distinct learning experience. You could run into some of these or similar movies on DSTV. So grab the popcorn and get set to dive into the silver screen!

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