Pens In The Spotlight - Pens in Movies, Shows, and Social Media

In our increasingly digital age, it’s easy for most people to dismiss writing utensils as an anarchonistic hobby, relegating them to message boards and specialty shops. But it seems that, more and more, directors, actors, and set designers are taking notice of the power of pens. For the better part of the last century, pens have steadily popped up in some of the most beloved films and television shows – and we’re also seeing a new presence across social media.

Part of the joy of seeing a pen in a television show or movie is like spotting an Easter Egg: it’s a small joy to recognize the subtle distinction between, say, a Montblanc LeGrand and a Waterman Hemisphere on the silver screen. But there’s often a deeper meaning as to why that pen was chosen. The pen one uses in a movie can be a sort of quick way to tell about the hobbies of a character, their social class, and what they value spending money on. For other characters, like Thomas Ripley, a pen can be a wealth signifier to move up the social ladder. No matter the reason, though, there’s usually a good reason why a character is seen holding a pen – and we’ve been paying attention to some of the best pens we’ve found across cinema!

Here are our top ten best moments in film and television where a pen stole a scene, showcasing memorable writing scenes in films and fountain pen cameos in television.

Top 10 Movies with Pens: Memorable Moments


Netflix’s Ripley, Montblanc Meisterstück 149

Having been released earlier this year to a lot of praise, Netflix’s eight-part series Ripley is a remake of the classic Patricia Highsmith novel (and, to a degree, the 1999 film starring Jude Law and Matthew Damon). In a way, Montblanc somewhat of a main character in the series, often commented on and shown throughout the film as a way of solidifying Andrew Scott’s Thomas Ripley as a convincing fraud, utilizing the cachet of the 149 to boost his own upper-class credentials. Throughout the series, there are close-ups of the iconic silhouette, showcasing not just Montblanc but the mystique and prestige attached to the brand for over a century.

Wes Anderson’s Montblanc Short Film

Wes Anderson’s work has often centered around nostalgia and a sense of wonder. In this way, it was a perfect match for Montblanc to tap the director to help celebrate the Meisterstück’s centennial. Combining an alpine background with Anderson’s signature quirky dialogue and set decoration, the film does a wonderful job of both conveying the history of the beloved model, while also bringing new attention to the brand for a younger generation. This campaign caught attention across social media, including the announcement of the limited-edition Schreiberling, which was designed by Anderson himself, and will be available in 2025.

Nightmare Alley, Esterbrook Tortoise Estie

In the 2021 Guillermo Del Toro film Nightmare Alley, there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene in which Cate Blanchett’s character, Dr. Ritter, is seen trying to psychoanalyze Bradley Cooper’s Stanton Carlisle. In her hand is the unmistakeable cigar-shaped silhouette of the Esterbrook Estie in Tortoise. While Esterbrook has been under new ownership since 2018, and thus this particular model didn’t exist in the time period of this film, the vintage-inspired tortoiseshell pattern and gold nib fit perfectly into the Art Deco setting of this film.

Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” Lyrics Video, Jinhao X159

For eagle-eyed Swifties and fountain pen fans alike, the title track video off of Taylor Swift’s latest album included a Jinhao X159 in full view throughout the video. Next to typewritten lyrics, the use of a fountain pen adds to the nostalgic, collegiate feel, which plays on themes of academia inspired by the album title. Swift has since marketed her own fountain pen which, we hope, can attract a whole new audience of “poets” to the hobby!

A Beautiful Mind, Pen Scene

In this 2001 film starring Russell Crowe, there is a scene in which John Nash, now an older and esteemed professor, sits quietly at a table. One by one, his colleagues and fellow academics approach him, placing their pens in front of him in a silent gesture of honor. This scene signifies their acknowledgment of Nash’s groundbreaking contributions to mathematics and economics. On the table, in front of Nash, is a series of pens that are fit for Princeton academics, including quite a few Montblanc models, giving pen-lovers a bit of eye-candy during this touching scene.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Conway Stewart 58

In the third instalment of the Indiana Jones franchise, there is a memorable scene played by Sean Connery with his trusty fountain pen. Trapped in a small room aboard a Nazi-controlled zeppelin, Professor Henry Jones Sr., played by Connery, finds himself confronted by an aggressive Nazi officer. In a moment of quick thinking, he uses his fountain pen as a weapon, squirting ink into the officer's face. This unexpected act blinds and disorients the enemy, allowing Indiana Jones and his father a chance to escape. As Dr. Marcus Brody, played by Denholm Elliot, says in the film, "the pen is truly mightier than the sword!"

James Bond Octopussy, Montblanc Meisterstück

With Bond’s mix of sophistication and style, of course he would have a Montblanc on-hand, specially adapted from the Q-Branch of MI6. The scene unfolds when Bond, played by Roger Moore, finds himself in a perilous situation requiring both cunning and the ingenious use of spy tools. The Montblanc pen in question is not merely an elegant writing instrument but a cleverly disguised weapon. As Bond navigates the treacherous environment, he uses the pen to emit a stream of acid, enabling him to escape from handcuffs. This moment underscores Bond's reliance on wit and technology, reflecting the franchise's flair for integrating luxury with lethal utility. In fact, one could argue that the choice of a Montblanc pen, a symbol of sophistication and status, adds a layer of irony and elegance to the deadly situation. This juxtaposition of high-class aesthetics with lethal functionality is a hallmark of Bond films, enhancing the allure and excitement of the narrative and why it has been one of film’s most popular franchises for the better part of five decades.

Hitchcock’s The Birds, Esterbrook J

It’s always fun to turn on a classic movie and see the plethora of pens that were used in a bygone era. In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, we see Tippi Hedren use an Esterbrook J to write a note to Cathy Brenner in the film. Small and only for a couple seconds, this Esterbrook looked especially vibrant on the vintage film used at the time. While the movie is an American classic, one could argue that Esterbrook, which has been around since 1858, could be described that way, too!

Netflix’s The Crown, Parker 51

Throughout the Netflix series, which follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II and the surrounding royal family, the monarch can be seen using a Parker 51. This pen, known for its reliability and classic design, had long been a favorite of the late Queen. The Crown went through great lengths to ensure that the series was as true-to-life as it could be and having her Parker 51 poised in various actresses’ hands throughout the show conveys how the set designers looked for authenticity in even the smallest details.

Somewhat surprising, the Parker 51 is a fairly inexpensive pen – by royal standards anyway! – and shows the simple attitude that Elizabeth had towards luxury and who valued good products over a luxury good just for luxury’s sake. It’s no wonder, then, that the monarch awarded Parker a royal warrant for their craftsmanship and penmaking skills during her reign.

Mad Men, Parker

Mad Men was a cultural phenomenon that took viewers into the 1960’s and all the office politics that enveloped its cast of characters. What made the show so profound and engrossing was its commitment to sets, costumes, and props that were true-to-life of its time. Since the series takes place in an office, it’s no surprise that pens play a prominent role in many scenes. In the series, Parkers reign supreme, with Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, opting for the 51 when needing to sign important documents. Jotters were often scattered across desks, showing the ubiquity and utility of such a well-designed daily pen. And who could forget forget office manager, Joan Holloway’s pen necklace, which hung on a gold chain across her décolletage throughout the early seasons?

Keep Your Eyes Open for Pens in Movies!

Pens in movies and TV shows are more than just writing tools—they add a special touch to storytelling. A pen can tell a lot about a character without them ever having to open their mouths or address the writing utensil, such as the use of Ripley’s Montblanc or the subtlety in which professors ceremoniously place their pens down in front of Nash in A Beautiful Mind.

In fact, seeing these small “Easter Eggs” in film and TV can enrich the viewing experience on a storytelling level, too. A well-placed pen helps to add a touch of real-world grounding to a scene that could otherwise fall a little flat. Even in music videos, like Taylor Swift's featuring the Jinhao X159, pens bring an extra layer of charm and nostalgia that help to build a more three-dimensional world that puts the director’s vision to life.

Pens have a way of subtly anchoring period pieces like Mad Men and The Crown. Putting classic designs in the hands of actors tells us about the characters and gives us a visual opportunity to begin connecting with them from the moment they appear on screen.

About the Author

Brett F. Braley-Palko works in the pen industry by day and is a novelist, consultant, and freelance writer by night. You can find his work in a variety of publications, like British GQ and Robb Report. Follow him on Instagram at @brettfbraley or visit his website at

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