How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes

How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Richard E. Grant is a tyro of bile in Bruce Robinson's stunningly abrasive satire How To Get Ahead in Advertising. Grant plays Dennis Bagley, a belligerent and dynamic advertising executive who suffers a creative block when he is unable to figure out how to market a new pimple and boil remedy. As he points out, "Everybody knows that there is no product on the market which can cure a boil except the person who has one." Living at a country estate with his beautiful and caring wife Julia (Rachel Ward), Bagley ponders the pimple account over a weekend in which a dinner party is planned for a group of shallow acquaintances. At the dinner party, Bagley goes off the deep end -- ranting against his guests and the base money-lust of the advertising world. After Bagley's breakdown, he develops a physical manifestation of his mental turmoil -- a boil on his shoulder. The boil grows bigger and bigger until it sprouts eyes, teeth and a mustache and begins to lecture him in a surly and clipped tone of voice. It grows as big as Bagley's own head and it gets to the point where Bagley can't tell which is the head and which is the boil.


Richard E. Grant
as Denis Dimbleby Bagley
Rachel Ward
as Julia Bagley
Richard Wilson
as John Bristol
Jacqueline Tong
as Penny Wheelstock
John Shrapnel
as Psychiatrist
Mick Ford
as Richard
Pauline Melville
as Mrs. Wallace
Pip Torrens
as Jonathan
Sean Bean
as Larry Frisk
Hugh Armstrong
as Harry Wax
Vivienne McKone
as Receptionist
Tanveer Ghani
as Hospital Doctor
Donald Hoath
as Businessman
John Levitt
as Businessman
Joanna Mays
as Phillis Blokey
Vivienne McKonne
as Receptionist
Victor Lucas
as Tweedy Man
Dawn Keeler
as Tweedy Woman
Kerryann White
as Girl in Elevator
View All

Critic Reviews for How to Get Ahead in Advertising

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (1)

The film would be better if it kept all of its images and performances and threw out a lot of the dialogue, which explains at great length things that need no explaining.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

This Monty Python-esque freak of a satire is laugh out loud funny, quite the lambast of the advertising industry, and many of the messages in the movie are equally relevant today.

July 26, 2019 | Full Review…

The running gag is that [this film about advertising] takes its own high-concept formula of a yuppie's just desserts and whips it up with more tang than any consumer could want.

September 1, 2009 | Full Review…

Grant alone makes this eminently worth renting.

April 9, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Thanks to Grant's bravura performance, the film is wickedly enjoyable.

January 13, 2004 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The difference between Withnail and I and this film is that here, Robinson is trying to deliver a message instead of focusing on his characters. Mistake.

December 20, 2003 | Rating: D+

Audience Reviews for How to Get Ahead in Advertising

One of my favorite films and for sure one of the best comedic performances is put in by Richard E. Grant. Actually I am very surprised by all the negative reviews I've read on here.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

I'm not really sure why I watched this movie, it was so strange. It was interesting at the beginning but by the end I just didn't care anymore.

Megan S
Megan S

Super Reviewer


About to suffer a nervous breakdown due to a looming deadline to create a pimple cream campaign, a hot shot advertising exec grows a boil on his neck, which soon develops a face and a nasty personality. Does he need a dermatologist, or a psychologist? This weird and witty advertising satire from the director of WITHNAIL AND I has been sadly neglected over the years.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

How to Get Ahead in Advertising Quotes

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