Must-See Marketing Movies to Inspire Success

Marketing

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16 min read

Like you, we can’t get enough of marketing movies and marketing-focused television.

That said, if you were to ask me to pick between the two, I’d more than likely go with a movie where marketing is one of the main elements.

Don’t get me wrong, marketing tv shows like Mad Men, The Office, and Dragons Den are great and all, but there’s just so many episodes/seasons to watch. Watching any of these series from beginning to end can feel like a job in itself.

Marketing movies, on the other hand, tend to be a lot easier to digest, in my opinion.

Below you’ll find some of the very best movies for marketing that are bound to help inspire success moving forward.

How they inspire you will range from movie to movie.

For example, Moneyball (2011), starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, will inspire you to find alternative ways to succeed despite having very little budget to do so.

Every movie we’ve chosen should help you in a similar way, although we have thrown a few curveball marketing movies in our list, just to keep things interesting.

Now, let’s jump in.

A poster of the Steve Jobs movie
Credit to Den of Geek

Steve Jobs

Released In: 2015
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels

The first marketing movie to make the list is one that documents the life of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs – played to perfection by Michael Fassbender.

In the movie, we go behind the scenes of the digital revolution, following the story of Apple from the very beginning, while documenting the infamous relentlessness of Jobs and his complicated relationship with friends, family, and co-workers.

Reviews for this marketing movie were sure to highlight the truthfulness of the portrayal and its story, putting it miles ahead of another Steve Jobs movie that no one ever talks about, other than to compare with this one.

It’s a fantastic look at a man who continues to inspire marketers, founders, and business types to this day.

Watching this movie feels very much like a cautionary tale to me, as not everyone will find his cut-throat approach inspiring. Still, there’s no denying the impact of the man, and the imprint left on technology and culture as we know it.

An image from Sorry to Bother You
Credit to The New Yorker

Sorry to Bother You

Released In: 2018
Starring: LaKeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews, and Steven Yeun

Sorry to Bother You is one of my favourite movies from 2018. It tells the story of Cassius Green, a telemarketer who discovers a magical key to professional success, which ultimately sends him down a path of greed.

Like Steve Jobs, this marketing movie serves as more of a warning of what not to do, with Green losing everything he cares about as he reaches the top.

That said, there’s something quite endearing about Green finding his USP at the beginning; his ‘white voice.’ The movie is funny as it is creative, albeit a tad hard to follow if you’re expecting something serious.

You see, the world created by director Boots Riley, is similar to our own, only slightly tweaked for it all to make sense.

*Spoiler Alert* The ending to this movie is actually insane, so insane that I don’t know how to even put it into words.

Horses, that’s all I’ll say.

Jonah Hill talking to Brad Pitt in a scene from Moneyball
Credit to IMDB

Moneyball

Released In: 2011
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Inspired by a true story, Moneyball follows Billy Beans, Oakland A’s general manager, on his mission to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by utilising computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.

While there are clear financial benefits to draw from this marketing movie – as mentioned – there’s also the similarities/benefits that automating certain processes can bring, especially when it comes to marketing.

If you’re someone that dabbles in email marketing, social media marketing, or content marketing, generally, then there’s a lot you can take away from Moneyball.

Some say that this was the movie that helped propel Jonah Hill to star in much bigger movies, such as The Wolf Of Wall Street, which is another marketing movie we’ll be looking at later.

A screenshot from The Pursuit of Happyness
Credit to Amazon

The Pursuit of Happyness

Released In: 2006
Starring: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, and Jaden Smith

A classic in every sense of the word, regardless of what you think about Will Smith and his recent slapping antics.

For those that haven’t seen it, The Pursuit of Happyness is the story of Chris Gardner, someone who wants to provide for his family but has to go through a gruelling internship with no pay to make it as a stockbroker – all the while caring for his son.

Gardner’s optimism is what carries the movie, and will no doubt inspire you to look at life, your career, and your loved ones in a completely different light on your own pursuit of happiness and success.

It’s a heavy marketing movie, one that leans more on the side of sales, if we’re being totally honest.

Still, we couldn’t not include this movie on a list like this.

A closeup of the movie poster for the Ides of March
Credit to IMDB

The Ides of March

Released In: 2006
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Evan Rachel Wood

The movie poster for The Ides of March was everywhere when I was younger, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing it on the side of buses, bus stops, and billboards.

And with good reason.

This movie is every bit as good as people say it is, following the story of a campaign manager that allows his pride and confidence to get in the way of his own code of ethics and morals during a fictional presidential campaign in the US.

“I’ll do and say anything if I believe in it, but I have to believe in the cause.”

What I like about the movie is it shows how easy it is to colour outside of the lines if you think that you can do something better than others.

Of course, in this instance I’m referring to you doing something different in a marketing capacity in spite of your competitors, not that you should run for president and hoodwink people.

There’s also a lot to pick up on in terms of how to act in the heat of the moment, when pressure levels are at an all time high and you’re the one people look to.

An image taken from the Boiler Room movie
Credit to IMDB

Boiler Room

Released In: 2000
Starring: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, and Ben Affleck

Boiler Room is another one of those classic marketing movies that you can watch again and again.

In this movie, a college dropout looking to live up to his father’s high standards, gets a job as a broker for a suburban investment firm which puts him on a fast track to success. Only the role isn’t what it seems.

What this film does perfectly is illustrate the importance of working with a level of integrity, highlighting the ramifications of falling into the trap of unethical sales and shoddy business practices.

A less damning lesson to be learned here, is understanding the importance of customer perceived value, which is something that can be boosted by scarcity and urgency.

For example, in one of the most important scenes of the movie, a buyer’s interest skyrockets when he realises that what he’s interested in will soon become unavailable. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book for marketers, but it’s just as viable in the modern day.

Remember that.

An illustrated movie poster for Licorice Pizza
Credit to IMDB

Licorice Pizza

Released In: 2021
Starring: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, and Bradley Cooper

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza is one of the more recent marketing movies to make our list here.

Anyone that’s seen the movie will know that it tells the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in San Fernando Valley in 1973.

Why Licorice Pizza makes the cut here comes down to the character of Gary, and his ability to run multiple businesses and market them accordingly.

Over the course of the movie, Gary sells waterbeds, and even, entry to the opening of his new arcade. He’s a highly motivated individual for someone meant to be 15 and he finds a way to make them work as the head of these companies despite his young age.

None of his businesses are life-changing by any means, but his enthusiasm really sells the importance of them, not only to him, but the people around him.

A screenshot taken from the Fyre documentary poster
Credit to IMDB

Fyre

Released In: 2018
Starring: Multiple event organisers and commenters

Make no mistake about it, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is a documentary/marketing movie that you should really watch, not for what to do to find success, but rather, what not to do.

Everyone should have heard of the festival, and the Netflix production that followed given the amount of attention both were given back in 2017/2018.

The entire thing was a gigantic mess, on a scale that many would believe to be unfathomable.

And yet, it still happened.

I won’t spoil the details if you haven’t seen it, just know that influencer marketing played a significant role in netting the festival a lot of attention, which made people believe that the event was actually legitimate.

So what is there to learn from this Fyre incident?

We could write another blog entirely on the mistakes made, but the most obvious is this:

Don’t lie to your customers and sell them on something you know you can’t deliver on, it’s that simple.

Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network
Credit to Vulture

The Social Network

Released In: 2010
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Rooney Mara

Arguably the most essential movie of the 2010s, The Social Network is an Oscar-winning movie directed by David Fincher – the man behind Zodiac, Gone Girl, and Netflix’s Mindhunter, if you’ve seen it?

Like Steve Jobs, The Social Network is a movie that documents the rise of Mark Zuckerberg, the man behind Facebook – the company now known as Meta – and how he squeezed his co-founder out of the company.

What this film does very well is highlights the importance of the awareness stage of the sales funnel.

You see, Zuckerberg’s partner wanted to run ads in order to boost revenue, whereas Zuckerberg wanted to double down on creating a great product that would then raise awareness simply by proxy.

It goes to show that rushing between different stages could stifle the relationship you have with your customer base before it even gets up and running.

A piece of the movie poster for The Wolf of Wall Street
Credit to IMDB

The Wolf of Wall Street

Released In: 2013
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, and Jon Bernthal

Is this one of the greatest marketing movies of all time? 100% it is, and who could argue any differently?

If you’re one of the five people on the planet who haven’t seen this amazing movie, know that it’s directed by the Martin Scorsese, “the greatest living director,” as hailed by Ricky Gervais during his viral Golden Globes speech.

The Wolf of Wall Street is, in my opinion, Leo’s best movie (and Inception is in my top 5 favourite movies of all time list). It has everything, be it comedy, drama, suspense, and that’s without mentioning the beautiful Margot Robbie who steals practically every scene she’s in.

Marketing-wise, the movie shows just how effective CTAs are to making sales and driving interest to a particular product. This is something that is scattered throughout the film, from the beginning when Belfort is selling penny stocks out of a strip mall, all the way to him making it on Wall Street.

One scene that comes to mind is when the entire office is selling Steve Madden shoes over the phone, and are practically screaming at the customers.

Other scenes that play in my head even when I’m not watching it, includes:

  • Jordan dragging himself into his car
  • Brad selling the pen in the diner
  • Donnie asking Jordan if it’s his car outside
  • The little person throwing scene

Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley performing to an audience
Credit to The Atlantic

Nightmare Alley

Released In: 2021
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, and Richard Jenkins

Nightmare Alley, written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, might not be the first film that comes to mind whenever you think of a ‘marketing movie’ per say, but that doesn’t change the fact that it does a really great job of highlighting the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

If you haven’t seen it, Bradley Cooper plays a drifter who works his way up from a low-level carnival worker to a psychic medium who dazzles audiences with his seemingly unnatural talents.

News soon spreads of his skills, and before he knows it he’s entertaining high level individuals who want to utilise his so-called powers for their own ends.

It’s the rise and fall of Stanton Carlisle (Cooper’s character) that is the most interesting here, although Willem Dafoe’s brief appearance is pretty fun too in a creepy vaudevillian kind of way.

Carlisle’s success has a lot to do with how he markets himself, and his act, to others. It does eventually lead to his downfall, but seeing him go from nothing to something is very entertaining.

An image from The Founder
Credit to The New Yorker

The Founder

Released In: 2016
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, and Linda Cardellini

Many know McDonald’s, but not a lot of people know the story behind the major fast-food giant, so seeing it in movie form was always going to grab people’s attention when the movie was released back in 2016, which seems like an eternity ago compared to now.

The Founder is the story of one Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery into one of the largest businesses in the world.

He did this by franchising the company, and leveraging a series of shady business practices that blur the lines between morally good and morally bad. Which is why marketers should check this movie out as it acts as a mirror, asking you the question:

How important are morals on your journey to success?

Without spoiling too much (as you should really check this marketing movie out), you soon come to realise that the foundation of McDonald’s isn’t as bright as it might seem.

It could make you change your mind on the company for good.

Luckily, I was always more of a BK guy anyway before seeing The Founder. Still, seeing how the brand started out was very interesting, and is one of the main reasons why I’m currently reading Shoe Dog at the moment.

Shoe Dog being the memoirs of Phil Knight, the man that started Nike – a book that we’ve covered before on the Canny blog, and a book that could be made into a movie soon with Netflix picking up the rights in 2018.

A screenshot from The Lego Movie
Credit to Warner Bros

The Lego Movie

Released In: 2014
Starring: Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, and Liam Neeson

The last marketing movie we want to direct your attention to is the literal definition of a wild card when you consider what we’re trying to do in this post (that being, to help you be successful in your current role).

So what does The Lego Movie have to do with inspiring success? Sure, the ‘Everything is Awesome’ song is inspiring in its own right, but surely there’s something else?

You’re right to think that, and the reason why is pretty meta.

You see, The Lego Movie is, in itself, an effective marketing tool for the popular toy brand. Think about it, the movie is literally named after the brand, and around 95% of it features, you guessed it, Lego.

In other words, what’s inspiring about The Lego Movie is its approach to effective indirect marketing. Following the movie, the brand released multiple toy sets of various scenes from the movie, not to mention countless other types of merchandise (i.e. shirts, notepads, video games, etc.).

We should mention that not everyone will be able to release a feature-length movie that stars their products.

Still, there’s not a lot stopping you from doing something similar with a product demo video, or something similar, just not one that’s an hour and a half, like The Lego Movie is.

Must-See Marketing Movies to Inspire Success

How many of those marketing movies have you seen already? And which is your favourite from our chosen selection.

Do let us know via the social media platform of your choosing. We’re on all the major platforms – including TikTok if you’d like to send us a message there.

Oh, and don’t forget to let us know if there are any must-see marketing movies that weren’t included above; preferably those that will help to inspire others in their greater marketing efforts.

Watching marketing movies is an interesting one for us here at Canny, what with us being a creative marketing agency and all. There’s been a few times where we’ve sat down and pointed at the screen, similar to Leo’s character in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.

Anyway, if you find yourself looking for extra help to execute your marketing campaigns, then look no further than us here at Canny. Our services cover everything you could possibly need – from marketing assets for your next social media campaign, to optimised blog content fit for gathering leads and conversions.

We’re also pretty damn good at building websites and branding, which are the building blocks of your marketing efforts, and should also be prioritised in order for your campaigns to succeed.

Get in touch to find out more, and again, do let us know if there’s any quality marketing movies missing from this post.