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The Best Movies of All Time & the Quality Content Lessons Taught by Them

Who doesn’t enjoy a great movie? The global box office generated $38.6 billion in ticket sales in 2016 alone, according to the MPAA. Even with the increasing popularity of online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, this means that millions of people still enjoy heading to the theaters to see big-budget blockbusters, cult classics and independent sleeper hits on the big screen. Perhaps you are one of them!

When you consider some of the most successful movies of all time, you will notice that quite a few lessons in quality content creation and marketing are taught by each of them. Here is an overview of some of the classics you probably have featured on your own top list:

Photograph by kanzefar via Bigstock

THE GODFATHER

I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse…”

A friend should always underestimate your virtues and an enemy overestimate your faults.

You may not be a fan of mobster movies. You may not even be a fan of Marlon Brando or Al Pacino. Neither of those points matter. Everyone interested in content creation and marketing should pay attention to the lessons taught by this cinematic classic reviewed by numerous moviegoers, critics and media outlets as the greatest movie of all time.

Detect the Wave Before It Rises: Paramount Pictures did not wait very long at all to acquire the rights to the novel on which the movie was based. The studio obtained those rights for $80,000 before the book became popular. There was even turbulence with securing a director for the film since the first few candidates turned it down.

  • How much money do you think Paramount would have had to pay for the rights if they didn’t make an offer until after the book became popular?
  • How many directors do you think kicked themselves for turning down what became an 11-time Oscar nominee (including Best Director) and 3-time Oscar winner (including Best Picture)?

Successful quality content is all about timing and early detection. Writing an article or blog post on a topic that has already been covered by the masses after it gained notoriety may not do very much at all for your analytics. However, studying the rising trends and popular keywords before they spike puts you in the perfect position to capitalize on maximum exposure and traffic.

Postponed Publishing is Not Always a Bad Thing: At times, it may seem right to publish your posts and articles right away. However, timing is essential. There may be some cases in which patience really pays off. The Godfather was initially set to be released on Christmas Day in 1971. It was delayed for nearly 3 months and did not even make its world premiere until March 14, 1972. However, 400 theaters renting the movie generated $15 million for the movie even before it premiered, and it eventually became the highest grossing film of 1972. Timing your posts strategically is imperative. A viewless dud today could have been a viral hit this time next week.

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

You know, the funny thing is, on the outside, I was an honest man. Straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook.”

Remember, Red, hope is a good thing – maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

The Shawshank Redemption earned seven Oscar nominations in 1995 – including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. It walked away without a single win, but the lasting impact of that film on the world of cinema speaks volumes about its true value.

Others May Not See a Story, But That Doesn’t Mean It’s Not There: Director Frank Darabont apparently saw the cinematic potential of the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption even when the author himself did not see it. At its core, the 96-page novella focused on Red’s thoughts about his fellow prisoner and eventual friend Andy but Darabont apparently saw it as much more. Several years later, he spent 8 weeks writing the Oscar-nominated screenplay which took the core elements of King’s novella above and beyond what King created.

When you consider specific topics or perspectives for your content, others may not see your vision. There may even be some writers who started but did not see it through for one reason or another. If you have done the research and have a clear vision for your content, then you should never stop the opinions of others to deter you from seeing it through to the finish line.

Opportunity Knocks, But Don’t Assume Everyone Will Answer: “That’s such a great story… but I’m sure everyone else will jump on it!” This assumption has led many content creators to miss golden opportunities to maximize exposure and generate online traffic. Just because an opportunity knocks does not mean everyone will answer the door.

Most Shawshank Redemption fans would agree that Andy Dufresne was a career-defining role for Tim Robbins. However, he was not the studio’s first choice for the character. Darabont reached out to actors like Robert Duvall and Gene Hackman, but they were not available. A major lesson about opportunity is taught by the story of three other actors that were offered the role:

  • Sometimes, there is a better opportunity available (Tom Hanks turned it down due to starring in Forrest Gump at the time)
  • Hindsight is always 20/20 (Kevin Costner turned it down due to starring in Waterworld)
  • An ego can close more opportunity doors than you think (Tom Cruise turned it down due to not wanting to work for an inexperienced director)

When the “golden opportunity” presents itself, do not let baseless assumptions or even your own ego get in the way. The bottom line is that someone will take advantage of it. Don’t you want that person to be you?

FORREST GUMP

Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze, but I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.

Over $677 million generated at the box office worldwide, 6 Oscar wins from a list of 13 nominations and career-defining performances for Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise and Mykelti Williams are just some of the accolades earned by this 1994 classic film. Quite a few lessons of love, loss, humility and compassion are taught by the story of a bullied child who inadvertently and unintentionally turned into a decorated war hero, Ping Pong champion and a “gazillionaire” business owner from Greenbow, Alabama. If you pay attention to the story behind the content, though, the list of lessons learned from Forrest Gump is much longer than you think:

Facts Should Always Win Over Fabrication: Tom Hanks reportedly agreed to sign on to star in Forrest Gump within just 90 minutes of reading the script. However, his condition was that the film had to be historically accurate. Anyone familiar with the movie know that its story is deeply woven into the historical timeline that passed from the late 1950s to the early 1980s. There was plenty of room for creative liberties and exaggerations. However, even though it is a fictitious character, the historical accuracies that surround his story enhance the appeal and authenticity of the film.

It is easy to create clickbait and “stretch the truth” for more views in your content. However, in the long run, is it worth it? Chances are that Forrest Gump would not be viewed as one of the greatest films of all time today if it was not the screenwriters’ (and lead actor’s) determination to choose fact over fabrication. On which side of that fence do you want to place your online presence?

There’s Nothing Wrong with Original Spins on Adapted Content: The story of Forrest Gump was adapted from a 1986 novel written by Winston Groom. If you read the book, you would notice that there are quite a few similarities. However, perhaps what stands out the most are the significant differences between the two stories and even the two versions of the titular character.

According to director Robert Zemeckis, screenwriter Eric Roth breathed new life into the story by offering a somewhat original spin to the character. Zemeckis claimed that the love story between Forrest and Jenny became the primary feature of the movie instead of the secondary element (which is how it was told in the book). He also stated that the book was “cynical and colder than the movie.” The movie allowed Forrest Gump to be “completely decent” and “true to his word” with “no agenda and no opinion about anything except Jenny.” Can you imagine Forrest Gump being any other way? If Zemeckis would have gone “by the book”, he would have been.

The lesson learned is that there is nothing wrong with putting an original spin on existing content. If the heart of the story is intact, an original spin can breathe new life into the story that your audience will appreciate more than you think.

The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump barely scratch the surface of content lessons that can be learned from cinematic classics. What other popular movies teach profound lessons in content creation and marketing?

Annie Ianko

Chief Content Officer

Annie has over 20 years of experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.

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