Hollywood loves making money by making movies about money. Highlighting the passion, greed, and drama of the business world, these riveting business movies offer invaluable lessons that no classroom, simulation game, or textbook can provide. Here are 10 business movies every student should add to their spare-time syllabus.
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1. Norma Rae (1979)
Have you ever wondered how much of an impact unions actually have in the real world? Based on a true story, Norma Rae is an inspiring and insightful account of how unions operate. This award-winning drama stars Sally Field as a single mother who fights to improve terrible working conditions in a North Carolina textile factory.
2. Something Ventured (2011)
Even the most brilliant business ideas generally need some sort of financial backing. This documentary looks at the emergence of venture capitalists: savvy investors whose support of entrepreneurs and seedling companies led to the development of some of the biggest brands in the world. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs from Apple, Cisco, Intel, and more weigh in on the early stages of America’s start-up economy.
3. Inside Job (2010)
Before The Wolf of Wall Street gave viewers a scandalous view of some of Wall Street’s wildest years, Inside Job offered a much more realistic portrayal of America’s financial industry—particularly the economic crisis of 2008. This powerful documentary features exhaustive research, analysis, and interviews with key financial insiders, politicians, and journalists.
4. House of Strangers (1949)
This film noir classic serves as a history lesson of sorts, following a family of Italian-American bankers in New York in the 1920s and ’30s. Drama ensues when ruthless patriarch Gino Monetti pits his four sons against one another.
5. The Social Network (2010)
How did a brainy Harvard student go from messing around in his dorm room to running one of the most valuable brands in the world? The Social Network shows us, following the trajectory of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The film focuses on the early years of the company, when Zuckerberg was accused of stealing the concept of Facebook from a couple of frat brothers, and the legal battles that ensued.
6. The Godfather, Part II (1974)
Yes, you can learn a few lessons from a mob boss. The Godfather’s Michael Corleone, for instance, gave us this unforgettable line: “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” Francis Ford Coppola’s trilogy follows the often violent progression of an Italian-American family, but it also includes some memorable lessons about market research, competition mapping, networking, and more.
7. Barbarians at the Gate (1993)
Hostile takeovers always make for great entertainment. Barbarians at the Gate is about the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco for $25 billion—one of the largest buyouts in American history.
8. Wall Street (1987)
A young Charlie Sheen stars as Bud Fox, an up-and-coming stockbroker who falls in with an unscrupulous corporate raider, played by Michael Douglas. The movie shows how some people barter their morals in exchange for wealth.
9. 12 Angry Men (1957)
For years, this movie was utilized as course material for Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. It’s a wonderful depiction of persuasion, consensus building, and group decision-making, all of which is crucial in large corporations.
10. A Christmas Carol (1984)
What is the fundamental reason for a business to exist? Is it just profit or is there a higher purpose to it?
Does business make people or do people make business? If you ever grapple with these questions, this movie based on Charles Dickens’s novel is a surprisingly fitting watch. As Marley quips, “Mankind was my business! Their common welfare was my business!”
Aditya Singhal is the cofounder of transtutors.com, which is a leading online tutoring resource for college students. Adi and his team are currently creating a courseware platform for MBA students. They are also launching an eBay style marketplace for assignments later this year. Adi gives back to society by contributing a portion of the company’s revenue toward the education of poor students in India. Connect with Aditya on LinkedIn.