Oct 1, 2020
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Education

Top 10 Movies for Entrepreneurs

M

ovies have the potential to drastically impact our lives. Some people connect more strongly with visual content than other forms like written. Other people don't have the attention span for reading, making movies the optimal choice. Regardless of the reason that gets you watching, one thing is clear - movies are awesome. I'm sure we all enjoy movies based on fantasy, action, or science fiction. But, those movies are often not something that you can actively incorporate in your life. Movies based on entrepreneurial stories, on the other hand, have the potential to change your life. You can use them for inspiration, guidance, or just sit back and enjoy them with some popcorn. That being said, here is a list of 10 of our favorite movies for entrepreneurs.

Note: Some of the movies on this list have some graphic content in them, so please be advised. If you are looking to avoid graphic content, then we would advise you to check out the ESRP rating for each movie before you watch it.

This list is ranked in no particular order.

Top 10 Movies for Entrepreneurs:

The Social Network (2010)

The Social Network Movie Poster

The Social Network is a well-known biographical drama that tells the story of Facebook’s creation. Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) starts off as a computer science student at Harvard, when he becomes involved with a few other students in building a social network that would later become Facebook. Without revealing too much of the plot, Zuckerberg ends up building the world’s leading social network, and is sued for millions by several of his classmates that he left behind. It is a compelling story that shows both the glamorous side of building a world-class technology company, and the perils of navigating the relationships that make such an enterprise possible. 

The Social Network is inextricably tied to entrepreneurship, and the story has almost become an archetype for our perception of modern entrepreneurship. It has become increasingly easy to dismiss entrepreneurial innovation as something that a genius coder does in their dorm room, but this film covers both that perception and gives you an idea of how new ventures are incubated. Without a doubt, Zuckerberg’s success was built with the contribution of classmates, mentors, and venture financing. But as many entrepreneurs will soon realize, as Zuckerberg soon did, that it is often quite lonely on top. The more success you generate, the more you will risk alienating your friends, if not navigated carefully. Both inspirational and cautionary, this is a story worth hearing.  

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

The Pursuit of Happyness Movie Poster

The Pursuit of Happyness is a heartwarming biographical drama that depicts the story of Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith), a single father whose talents were unrecognized, and whose life was falling apart. It is a highly emotional story that is certain to make you tear up at times. Gardner is faced with incredible financial adversity, and nearly everything in his life falls apart besides his relationship with his son (played by Will Smith’s real-life son Jaden Smith). 

This is an exceptional movie for entrepreneurs because it demonstrates what is possible with the right attitude and work ethic. We all face challenges and adversity in our lives, and it is how we choose to handle those challenges that will either allow us to succeed or to fall apart. Life can present us with some extraordinary challenges at times, but those challenges present us with an opportunity to grow. Even if you don’t have the credentials for what you want to be involved in, or you don’t have a track record of success, you can still achieve what you dream of. Never stop pushing forward, and never stop pursuing your idea of happiness. 

The Big Short (2015)

The Big Short Movie Poster

The Big Short is a biographical comedy/drama that covers the events leading up to the 2008 financial crisis that started with the subprime mortgage market, and is based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis. With a main cast of celebrities like Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, the movie turns out to be anything but boring. Christian Bale takes on the role of Michael Burry, an eccentric (and quirky) hedge fund manager, and one of the few people who saw the housing market’s instability before the meltdown. The other central cast members go through their own process of discovering the housing bubble, and, being entrepreneurs, attempt to lead their organizations to survive the recession. 

The Big Short earned a spot on our list of movies for entrepreneurs because of the journey that the characters go through. Without giving too many spoilers, Christian Bale and the other members of the central cast are able to see something that many other people missed. In a world that would sooner take their opinions as criticism, they have to find their own ways to convince their teams (and themselves) of the potential crisis and find their own ways of dealing with it. As entrepreneurs, not everyone will share your vision. Sometimes you will see things that 99% of the world missed. And while it is tempting to dismiss those standalone figures as irrational or crazy, we sometimes find out that the mainstream opinion was irrational, and the critics were right all along.

Casino (1995)

Casino Movie Poster

Casino is an American crime film directed by Martin Scorcese that follows Sam Rothstein (played by Robert De Niro) as he begins managing a Las Vegas casino. Inspired by a true story, Rothstein is backed by an organized crime family and is tasked with managing the casino to the best of his abilities. This is a story of criminality, murder, gamesmanship, and entrepreneurship. But, just because you know you have enemies does not mean you will always know who they are. 

Casino made it on our list of movies for entrepreneurs because it demonstrates the managerial side of entrepreneurship. Rothstein is a great manager, and while he makes some questionable decisions in terms of leadership, his management is what allows him to excel. Ss the movie progresses, his loyalty towards his family, his wife, and his friends are all tested. It’s not easy to manage a leading casino in town where everyone is looking for their cut of the profits, including the government officials. But, there’s a reason his nickname is “Ace”. He always seems to be one step ahead.

The Founder (2016)

The Founder Movie Poster

As one of the more lighthearted movies on this list, The Founder is a biographical film that tells the story of Ray Kroc, the salesman who turned a small restaurant franchise into one of the world’s most recognizable brands. The name of that restaurant? McDonalds. 

The Founder is one of the best movies for entrepreneurs for several reasons. Without offering too many spoilers, the movie tells the story of how the small restaurant chain from California has grown to be the most franchised restaurants in the world, with over 37,000 locations as of 2017. But even though Ray Kroc was not one of the founders of the business, he was still very much the driving entrepreneurial force behind its growth. Growth that was spurned by one of the most important things for a scalable company: systemization. Systemization is what drew Ray Kroc to the company, and what helped McDonalds excel in a nation where hamburgers and fries are quite common. Ray Kroc did what all entrepreneurs must do. He took an idea that he thought had merit, and in the face of overwhelming uncertainty, he bet on his intuition. The results? Well, the results speak for themselves.

American Gangster (2007)

American Gangster Movie Poster

American Gangster is one of the more unorthodox entries on our list of movies for entrepreneurs. It is a semi-biographical crime film centered on the criminal career of Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington), the head of a crime family in Harlem, New York. While the film has been turned into a work of fiction, it is still based on true events. At a time when organized crime in New York was dominated by crime families of European descent, Frank Lucas built an extensive criminal network that trafficked so much heroin that Lucas was taking in over $1 Million dollars per day, and had over $300 Million in heroin stockpiles. But despite all of the criminal content in the movie, what makes it relevant to this list is that it is the story of an entrepreneur.

American Gangster is filled with entrepreneurial content. Lucas was mentored, as entrepreneurs often are, by a gangster called Bumpy Johnson. When Johnson passed away, Lucas had to step into his shoes and assume control of the organization. Unsatisfied with how things normally operated, and being nickel-and-dimed by middlemen, Lucas took it upon himself to go visit the manufacturer of his products directly. He negotiated lower rates, established a supply chain, vertically integrated his distribution channels, and managed his partnerships and competitors with care. He built himself an empire that was so extensive that the authorities initially discredited him as a suspect, due to the racist belief that only a white man would be capable of such a feat. While the subject matter is definitely violent (viewer discretion is advised), it is still one of the best examples of an enterprising entrepreneur in film. Definitely worth giving it a look.

Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball Movie Poster

At first glance, this biographical drama will appear to be about sports. But, as you watch it, you’ll realize that it is really about business and innovation. Moneyball tells the story of Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Major League Baseball team the Oakland Athletics, back in 2002. The Oakland Athletics were, at the time, facing some issues regarding their ability to afford star athletes. They needed an A-List team, but they only had the budget for C or B-List at best. Faced with this frustration, Billy Beane turned to an unlikely statistician (played by Jonah Hill) for help. Together, they develop an innovative approach to redesigning their team that would soon become common practice in the industry. 

What makes Moneyball one of the best movies for entrepreneurs is how Billy Beane approaches the problems he was facing. At the time, professional baseball was inundated with old-school methods of talent scouting and management. Facing criticism from his players, the press, and his own staff, Billy Beane stuck his neck out to develop a new method of management. One that would give him a fighting chance of competing against teams with bigger budgets, bigger stars, and better track records. This movie sheds light on the importance of making data-driven decisions, and will have you questioning the paradigms that govern your business or industry.

Chef (2014)

Chef Movie Poster

Chef is a comedy/drama starring Jon Favreau, who is also the writer, director, and co-producer. The story is centered around Carl Casper, the head chef of an upscale restaurant in Los Angeles. Casper is at odds with his manager over the dishes that they serve. The manager wants to serve time-tested favourites, while Casper wants to create a new menu with more innovative,  modern dishes. Like many entrepreneurs, Casper decides to go his own route after a final clash with management where his ideas don’t receive the respect he feels that they deserve. 

Chef is one of the best movies for entrepreneurs because it chronicles the journey that many entrepreneurs make as they shift from working for someone else to starting their own business. Most of the time, entrepreneurs create ventures in the field that they have experience in, and Casper is no different. But like most innovative thinkers, Casper is consistently confronted with people who challenge his ideas and beliefs, and he is forced to decide if he wants to make a stand. If you are an employee thinking about going the entrepreneurial route, or you have already done so, then you will definitely see some parallels between Casper’s journey and your own. Chef is one of the lighter options on this list, and a great choice for movie night.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

There Will Be Blood Movie Poster

There Will Be Blood is a drama that is set in the early 20th Century and focuses on budding oil tycoon Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day-Lewis). As you might be able to deduce from the movie poster, this film gives audiences a look into the darker side of entrepreneurship. It goes on to show that it can be difficult to build an empire while keeping your hands clean, especially in the oil industry.

There Will Be Blood is one of the best movies for entrepreneurs because you get to witness Daniel Plainview build his business from a single well into an oil empire. The process is anything but easy, but the rewards can be immense once you get established. Furthermore, Plainview's character allows us to witness the level of sacrifice that entrepreneurs must often undertake to be successful. His business dictates his lifestyle, and both he and his son are faced with relentless adversity. While modern capitalism isn't as brutal or unforgiving as what you'll see in this movie, you will likely be captivated by Plainview's struggle and the world he lives in. A darker piece, no doubt, but a great story with top-shelf acting.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Glengarry GlenRoss Movie Poster

At nearly 30 years old, Glengarry Glen Ross still holds up as one of the best movies for entrepreneurs. It is a classic story of a group of salespeople at a real estate office. Iconic for its approach of tough love, accountability, and persistence, this movie was nominated for an Academy Award in its day. Alec Baldwin plays a high-rolling sales consultant that comes to the office to help the struggling salespeople get motivated and start achieving results. It is also a cautionary tale for those who think that they can cut corners in business, especially when it comes to reputation or the law.

What makes this movie an exceptional choice for entrepreneurs is the focus it puts on persistence. Many entrepreneurs or salespeople are quick to blame anyone or anything else for their lack of results, and Alex Baldwin's character will quickly shut those excuses down. Business is a hard world, and over time, only those who can adapt to the conditions will survive. There will be a time in your career that you will have to ask yourself "am I a closer?", and you had better hope that answer is yes. Otherwise, you might be better off in a less confrontational line of work.

If you liked our list of the top 10 movies for entrepreneurs, then make sure to check out the following:

Must-Read Business Books for Any Entrepreneur


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