9 Movies Every Content Marketer Should Watch

The Academy Awards are coming up this Sunday. No matter the results, we’re sure to see plenty of indignant outrage from grouchy cinema snobs everywhere. There has never been a ‘Best Picture’ selection in history that didn’t incite debate, which is because taste in film — like music, TV, etc. — is subjective. We all have our own preferences and opinions.

I think just about everyone would agree, however, that movies in general are important and impactful. Certain scenes tend to stick with us long after the credits roll. (I personally can’t look at a large marble staircase without thinking of the baby stroller shootout scene from The Untouchables. I also can’t watch that scene without thinking of the incredible Naked Gun spoof.)

These on-screen projections can be powerfully resonant. They reflect themes and conflicts that present themselves in our everyday lives — often in amusing, dramatic or profound ways.

Today, we’re not here to weigh in on the best film of 2018. We’ll leave that to the Oscars and the grouches. Instead, we’re offering up our list of the all-time most pertinent movies for content marketers. In one way or another, each of these flicks gets to the essence of what content marketing is about and why it matters.

Must-See Movies for Content Marketers

The Post (2017)

This one was up for Best Picture last year, although it lost out to Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Based on a true story, The Post narrates the attempts of journalists at The Washington Post to publish classified documents about the Vietnam War (“The Pentagon Papers”) back in the 1970s.

Content marketing and journalism are inextricably linked in many ways. There are plenty of relevant threadlines in this movie about reporting, investigation, and the search for truth. Additionally, the main story follows two clashing functions – newspaper heiress Katharine Graham and editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee – that are able to set aside their differences and collaborate to accomplish something great.

Thank You For Smoking (2005)

The satirical comedy focuses on Nick Naylor, a top spokesman and lobbyist for the tobacco industry. Tiptoeing through a minefield of ethical and moral conundrums, Naylor proves to be a master of spin, with no shortage of confidence.

“Michael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk,” says Naylor.

There are many good takeaways on persuasive messaging, and the potential consequences of it.

The Social Network (2010)

With social media playing such a key role in today’s content strategies, it’s helpful to think back on how the phenomenon was truly sparked. David Fincher’s biopic on the origins of Facebook includes its share of exaggeration and creative liberties, but offers a generally accurate depiction of how things went down for Mark Eisenberg – er, Zuckerberg – and those he left in his wake.

The Social Network reminds us of that fundamental purpose behind social networks – connecting people and forging relationships in the digital space – even if the story behind Facebook is one of frayed connections and broken relationships.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor (2018)

This documentary celebrates the life and career of Fred Rogers, late host and creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. His public television show inspired and enchanted multiple generations of children, for one primary reason: Rogers knew how to connect with his audience.

He spoke about important issues in terms that viewers could understand. He captured our imagination with his Neighborhood of Make-Believe. He let his authenticity and genuineness shine through at all times.

As someone who recognizes the amazing potential of content marketing, but abhors interruptive advertising and shady marketing practices, I’ve always loved this quote from Fred Rogers: “When I first saw children’s television, I thought it was perfectly horrible … And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.”

The Princess Bride (1987)

A grandfather and his grandson share in the captivating allure of an engrossing novel. The Princess Bride is overtly about storytelling and its unparalleled ability to transfix us. Watch this movie and you will see every element of a good narrative at play – drama, humor, action, suspense, conflict, redemption. Given that great storytelling is integral to effective content marketing, it’s a worthwhile refresher for any practitioner who wants to keep an audience coming back for more.

“Grandpa, maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow.”

Charlotte’s Web (1973/2006)

Whether the original animated feature, or the live-action remake with Julia Roberts voicing the titular arachnid, Charlotte’s Web is an awesome display of content marketing in action. Wilbur is a young pig destined for slaughter until a spider named Charlotte takes it upon herself to promote his brand. She spins positive descriptors into her webs – “SOME PIG,” “RADIANT,” “HUMBLE” – and soon Wilbur is a sensation.

With the right message and the right medium, content marketing can save lives… or something like that. Ann Handley has called Charlotte the best content marketer in the world.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

We’ve referenced Shawshank on this blog before, as an allegory for the confining imprisonment of spreadsheets, but the tale of Andy DuFresne’s glorious escape serves more generally as a lesson about the long game.

Wrongfully accused and unjustly detained, Andy spends 19 years slowly chiseling through the wall of his cell before finally coming out on the other side. He goes through plenty of tribulations along the way, but he believes in his plan and ultimately it pays off.

Content marketers must show similar patience and perseverance. We all know this approach isn’t about the instant result. If your strategy is well founded, and you stick with it, you are going to see business impact eventually. Even if it feels sometimes like chipping away with a rock hammer.

The LEGO Movie (2014)

This movie isn’t about content marketing. It is content marketing, executed to perfection.

Content marketing is defined as the creation and distribution of material that “does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.” I guess you could argue the promotion is quite explicit when a film has a product name in its title, but that’s not what LEGO Movie is about.

As animation supervisor Chris McKay put it: “We took something you could claim is the most cynical cash grab in cinematic history, basically a 90 minute LEGO commercial, and turned it into a celebration of creativity, fun and invention, in the spirit of just having a good time and how ridiculous it can look when you make things up. And we had fun doing it.'”

Wayne’s World (1992)

And then there is the flip side: advertising done wrong. Wayne’s World is a nice story of organic brand-building, and staying true to one’s values, but I’m mostly including it for this hilarious lampooning of product placement:

Content Worth Watching

At DivvyHQ, we love content marketing. We eat, sleep and breathe it. Movies like the ones listed above help remind us why.

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