In the mood for some spin doctor movies?
Well, let’s face it. There’s not exactly an abundance of movies about public relations professionals. Still, there are a few — and some of them are worth a watch.
Please note that I haven’t included movies about sports agents (“Show me the money!”).
Wag the Dog (1997)
Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, and Woody Harrelson. This comedy is dark and witty about how a spin doctor helps start an imaginary war. This is simply the one movie you must watch if you’re working in the public relations industry.
Conrad ‘Connie’ Brean: You watched the Gulf War, what do you see day after day? The one smart bomb falling down the chimney. The truth? I was in the building when we shot that shot – we shot in a studio, Falls Church, Virginia. One-tenth scale model of a building.
Stanley Motss: Is that true?
Conrad ‘Connie’ Brean: How the fuck do we know? You take my point?
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
A dark satire about the spin doctor Nick Naylor who hustles for Big Tobacco while trying to be a role model for his son. There’s just so many epic one-liners and the comedic timing makes the underlying darkness bearable.
Kid #3: [in Joey’s class] My Mommy says smoking kills.
Nick Naylor: Oh, is your Mommy a doctor?
Kid #3: No.
Nick Naylor: A scientific researcher of some kind?
Kid #3: No.
Nick Naylor: Well, then she’s hardly a credible expert, is she?
Phone Booth (2002)
Colin Farrell plays a slimy publicist who gets terrorised by an angry man (Kiefer Sutherland) via telephone. It’s a weird plot, but it’s strangely enjoyable to see Colin Farrell try to weasel his way out of the situation.
The Caller: You’re in this position because you’re not telling the truth.
Stu: No, I’m in this fucking position because YOU HAVE A GUN!
Primary Colors (1998)
If you like John Travolta and Emma Thompson, this could be a movie for you. It covers the plays behind the scenes of a presidential campaigns. The movie is said to have been inspired by President Bill Clinton’s campaign.
Richard Jemmons: The media giveth, and go fuck yourself.
The Candidate (1972)
Robert Redford plays a presidential candidate who get his ideals taken for a spin.
Lucas: You’re the Democratic nominee!
Bill McKay: You make it sound like a death sentence.
Jersey Girl (2004)
I’m not a fan of Ben Affleck, but Liv Tyler is a great actress in this relationship drama about a spin doctor who must re-evaluate his career focus.
Ollie: Convincing a town to approve something that’s already in their best interest, that’s just delayed common sense!
The Social Network (2010)
Mark Zuckerberg is the original online spin doctor as he gets his social network off the ground.
Sean Parker: You’re twenty minutes late. You’re gonna walk in there and say you overslept and didn’t have time to get dressed. They’re gonna pitch you. Case Equity is gonna pitch you. They’re gonna beg you to take their money. You’re gonna nod, you’re gonna nod, you’re gonna nod, and then you’re gonna say, “Which one of you is Roth?” No, not Roth. Manningham. “Which one of you is Mitchell Manningham?” And he’ll say, “I am.” And then you say, “Sean Parker says, ‘Fuck you,'” Walk out.
The Insider (1999)
Crisis communications, whistleblowers, and Big Tobacco. Add Al Pacino and Russel Crowe and it’s a perfect storm of a thriller.
Lowell Bergman: We’ve got a guy who wants to talk, but he’s constrained. What if he were compelled?
Mike Wallace: Oh, torture. Great ratings.
People I Know (2002)
Yet another slimy publicist gets in over his head. Al Pacino is cool though, as per usual.
Eli Wurman: I’ve got a starlet in here with more drugs than I’ve ever seen. We could start a cartel.
The Ides of March (2012)
Ryan Gosling is a political staffer who gets a crash course in dirty campaigning. Yet another presidential campaign movie.
Stephen Meyers: If you want to be president, you can start a war, you can lie, you can cheat, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t fuck the interns. They’ll get you for that.
In the Loop (2009)
A group of British spin doctors goes to America to try prevent a war.
Malcolm Tucker: “Climbing the mountain of conflict”? You sounded like a Nazi Julie Andrews!
Our Brand is Crisis (2015)
Sandra Bullock plays a spin doctor sent to re-elect a controversial president in Bolivia.
Jane: That’s the world, that’s politics. That’s how it works. It starts out with big promises and ends up with jackshit happening. But like the man said: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”
Photo by Julian Schröpel on Unsplash.