10 Best Films About Advertising

Sunday, February 6 by Joshua Wade

The ten best films about advertising feature award winning films by acclaimed filmmakers like Frank Capra and Elia Kazan, as well as career-defining performances from talented actors like Jack Lemmon, Peter Finch and Jean Arthur. Characterized as honest and unflinching as well as smart and satirical, these films depict the best and the worst of the advertising world and have earned their place as some of the greatest films ever made about the fast-paced, cutthroat industry.

  1. "Network" (1976) An Academy Award winning film about a cynical television station and their struggle for better ratings, this film won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The film also garnered actor Peter Finch a posthumous award for Best Actor following his death in 1977, as well as a Best Actress award for Faye Dunaway.
  2. "Lost in America" (1985) A smart road comedy about an advertising executive and his wife who decide to abandon their high paying jobs and travel across the country, this film was directed by actor Albert Brooks, who also stars as the film’s protagonist and co-wrote the script.
  3. "Crazy People" (1990) This hilarious tale of an advertising executive played by Dudley Moore who dreams up an ad campaign of brutal honesty after a trip to a mental institution is considered by many to be one of the ten best films about advertising ever made. Moore gives one of the funniest performances of his career in this film, which also features a great performance by comedia Paul Riser.
  4. "Putney Swope" (1969) An African American advertising executive accidentally gains control of his agency and replaces the all-white staff with his black militant friends in this deeply satirical look at the advertising world. One of the ten best films about advertising ever made, “Putney Swope” was directed by cult filmmaker Robert Downey, Sr. father of award-winning actor Robert Downey, Jr.
  5. "The Hudsucker Proxy" (1994) Written, produced and directed by indie filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, this film focuses on an inept mailroom worker who is selected as the proxy for a recently deceased company president as part of a stock scam. A noteworthy performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh as the fast-talking reporter assigned to write about the titular character highlights this screwball comedy.
  6. "Nothing in Common" (1986) One of the ten best films about advertising in recent years, this film about an advertising executive played by Tom Hanks whose job and carefree life are compromised by his bitter, aging father, “Nothing in Common” earned critical praise for legendary comedian Jackie Gleason. The film also marks a turn in Tom Hanks career toward more dramatic roles and is noted as an early film of actress Sela Ward.
  7. "It Should Happen to You" (1954) The story of a girl who enjoys unexpected fame after deciding to advertise herself on a blank billboard, this film is arguably one of the ten best films about advertising ever made. Noted as being the first appearance of screen legend Jack Lemmon, this film was nominated for an Academy Award in 1955.
  8. "A Face in the Crowd" (1957) This striking drama from acclaimed director Elia Kazan concerns a drifter who rises to great fame as a charming folk singer, namely through advertising and a local television show. A stark depiction of the corruptive power of fame and the media, the film also marked the debut of Andy Griffith as the film’s protagonist, Lonesome Rhodes.
  9. "Meet John Doe" (1941) An immortal classic by writer-director Frank Capra, this film is undoubtedly one of the ten best films about advertising ever created and features an indelible performance by Gary Cooper as the wholesome titular character. The film, about a lovable everyman who becomes a voice of the people through a rigorous advertising campaign created by a reported played by Barbara Stanwyck, “Meet John Doe” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Story.
  10. "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936) Another classic from writer-director Frank Capra, this film stars Gary Cooper as Longfellow Deeds, a small town man who finds himself the heir to a fortune. Jean Arthur gives a career-defining performance as the charming, sharp reporter Babe Bennett, who regretfully writes a series of articles advertising Deeds as a backwards, country fool.