Five Great Business Movies

Hollywood seldom does any favors for corporate America.

Captains of industry are generally portrayed as evil (Casino, 1997), greedy (Wall Street, 1988), or both (There Will Be Blood, 2007).

Perhaps the Steve Jobs biopic, Jobs, opening this month, will send a better message and present a more positive image. Early reviews are encouraging, so there’s hope.

But to be fair, if you look hard enough, the film industry has churned out a few titles that, even if they don’t paint an entirely sympathetic picture, at least provide a valuable lesson or two, while bringing a lot of bang for the entertainment buck.

Check out MP Star’s list of Great Business Movies, and let us know which films you would have added.

The Social Network (2010, David Fincher)

Director David Fincher’s telling of the founding of Facebook received eight Oscar nominations and won three, including best adapted screenplay.

The film is constructed around two separate lawsuits brought against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The storyline allegedly plays fast and loose with certain facts, but Fincher does a masterful job of peeling back the layers of Facebook’s development via a series of flashbacks.

Best Line: We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the Internet!

The Aviator (2004, Martin Scorsese)

Scorsese focuses on Howard Hughes’ early career as a film director and mega-player in the early days of commercial aviation – he owned controlling interest in Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA).

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hughes successfully leverages a keen intellect and previous successes into lucrative contracts with the U.S. Air Force. Greater achievements are short-circuited, though, when Hughes’ obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) becomes unmanageable.

Best Line: There’s too much “Howard Hughes” in Howard Hughes. That’s the trouble.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, Mel Stuart)

It’s hard to imagine now that this odd little film, based on a book by Roald Dahl, was originally considered a commercial flop. Forty-plus years after its release, thanks to cable television and various home entertainment formats, it’s achieved cult classic status.

A kids’ film? Sure. But if you pay close attention the business lessons imparted by Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka – guard your trade secrets vigilantly, surprise and delight your customers, diversify intelligently, respect your core product, etc. – are many.

Best Line: Don’t talk to me about contracts, Wonka. I use them myself. They’re strictly for suckers.

Startup.com (2001, Chris Hegedus)

The only documentary in this list, Startup.com recounts the efforts of three entrepreneurs to fund and launch an early e-commerce site during the height of the dot-com hysteria of the late 1990s.

The discussions regarding the pitch meetings for venture capitalists steal the show. It’s astounding, in retrospect, how eager investors were – at least for a little while – to throw money at businesses they didn’t understand and supported by a platform they could barely comprehend. The human elements of the story, especially relating to the serious tolls taken on old friendships, are compelling.

Best Line: I can’t believe you’re here purely out of goodwill and curiosity.

Tucker – The Man and His Dream (1988, Francis Ford Coppola)

Jeff Bridges in one of his best pre-Lebowski performances, plays Preston Tucker, the real life post-World War II entrepreneur committed to producing the Tucker Torpedo, or, “the car of tomorrow, today.”

It’s easy to see where the story will go (you don’t see any Tucker dealerships around, right?), as the “Big Three” automakers, Washington D.C., and even his own board of directors start lining up against him. A pivotal scene, where Tucker talks about how capitalism is damaged by the dealings of large corporations against small entrepreneurs like himself, is the cinematic antidote for Gordon Gekko’s Greed is Good speech.

Best Line: If they can make headlines with lies, we can make bigger headlines with the truth.

Image courtesy Sony Pictures

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