While you may be continuing with courses in your online business degree program, it's summer -- the traditional time to take an afternoon off and catch one of the new blockbusters at the local multiplex.
But if you're not up for yet another "Mission Impossible" or "Terminator" sequel, queue up Netflix or Hulu and stream some of these tried-and-true business movies.
For Hollywood, the corporate world has always made for good business – and memorable one-liners. From the infamous Gordon Gecko's declaration that "Greed is good" to Jerry Maguire's, "Show me the money," film is replete with insight into the minds and souls of characters pursuing power and profit.
There are business movies to suit whatever mood you're in.
If you're looking to laugh:
- "Nine to Five": You can't go wrong with Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda getting even with the most arrogant, chauvinistic boss ever, Dabney Coleman, in this 1980s romp.
- "The Devil Wears Prada": Another film in the bad-boss genre set in the world of high fashion. Naïve and aspiring journalist Anne Hathway plays junior assistant to cruel and powerful editor Meryl Streep.
If you want to be inspired:
- "Norma Rae": Who doesn't get goosebumps when feisty Sally Fields jumps on the table in the midst of the blaring factory floor, holding the "Union" sign above her head and workers, one by one, silence their machines.
- "Field of Dreams": More than a great baseball movie, this film conveys a message about the entrepreneurial spirit and the perseverance needed to fulfill a dream: "If you build it, they will come."
If you're looking for a classic:
- "On the Waterfront": This Marlon Brando classic is a morality tale based on a New York City newspaper reporter's expose on crime and corruption in the city's mob-run dockyards. The film deals with the issues of trade unionism and labor racketeering and the struggles of longshoremen for work and dignity. If you've never seen Brando's character, a washed-up ex-boxer, utter the words, "I coulda been a contender," then this is a must-watch film.
- "A Christmas Carol": You've seen George C. Scott (1984) and Jim Carrey (2009) as Scrooge. Watch Reginald Owen in the original 1938 version or Alastair Sim (1951) depict the most cold-hearted businessman there ever was as he confronts the fundamental question: what is business is all about – serving humanity or amassing personal wealth?
Looking for more suggestions? Here are films that Saint Leo business faculty recommend for students in online business degree programs:
Best Business Movies Include
- Boiler Room
- Citizen Kane
- Draft Day
- Glengary Glen Ross
- Office Space
- The Corporation
- The Social Network
- The Wolf of Wall Street
- Wall Street and Wall Street Never Sleeps
- Walmart, The High Costs of Low Prices
Drama/Thriller (2000)Actors: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Ben AffleckRecommended by: Philip HatlemPlot: Desperate to please his father who is federal judge, Seth Davis, an ambitious, intelligent college dropout gets a job as a stockbroker for a small firm. Lured by big commissions and dreams of wealth, he becomes very successful at sales, but comes to question the legitimacy of his firm's operations.Worth the watch: "Boiler Room" is a movie about ethics in business during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s and the 'get-rich-quick' mentality that defined that period. It also teaches a lesson about the importance of thoroughly investigating a potential job before accepting it.
Drama/Mystery (1941)Actors: Orson Welles, Dorothy Comingore, Joseph CottonRecommended by: Dr. Patti WilliamsPlot: Charles Foster Kane is a newspaper tycoon who starts out with good intentions but gets obsessed with the pursuit of power. This movie takes the audience through a sequence of flashbacks as a reporter attempts to untangle the mystery of the mogul's dying words, "Rosebud."Worth the watch: Kane starts his career as an idealistic newspaper man and accumulates much wealth but loses his soul in the process, dying old and alone. This movie emphasizes the impact of greed and the fact that money does not bring happiness.
Drama (2014)Actors: Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer GarnerRecommended by: Dr. Kathryn AdamsonPlot: As the general manager for the Cleveland Browns, Sonny Weaver has the opportunity to rebuild his team on draft day when he trades for the number one pick. Professional complications and pressures abound as the day unfolds and Weaver must weigh his personal convictions and decide what sacrifices he's willing to make.Worth the watch: "Draft Day" illustrates the complicated process of decision-making, especially when under pressure. Business decisions are influenced by multiple factors including time, money, other individuals, and personal motives. This movie demonstrates the importance of keeping the main thing, the main thing, and the power of negotiation.
Drama: (1992)Actors: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec BaldwinRecommended by: Philip HatlemPlot: Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Mamet, the film focuses on four desperate real estate agents who sell investment properties in retirement developments. Under corporate pressure to increase performance, they are forced to compete in a sales contest. Since the losers will be fired, the agents resort to treachery to fool potential clients.Worth the watch: While potentially lucrative, sales is usually viewed as a competitive and somewhat risky career path; therefore, many companies today are having a difficult time filling sales positions. This film depicts sales tactics to follow such as acting with confidence, speaking with passion, paying attention to details and connecting with clients as well as numerous obvious tactics to avoid, including lying, cheating and stealing.
Drama (2011)Actors: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah HillRecommended by: Dr. Ronda MarianiPlot: Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane has his back against the wall to assemble a winning baseball team with the lowest salary constraint in baseball. He hires a young Ivy League grad to scientifically analyze data based on Bill James' statistic approach so that Beane can select undervalued players based on their on base percentages.Worth the watch: For management students, this film demonstrates the value of innovative thinking and the importance of implementing new processes to drive change and create solutions. It's also a great example of having the courage to take calculated risks.
Comedy (1999)Actors: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Anniston, David HermanRecommended by: Dr. Patti WilliamsPlot: Continually humiliated by their soulless boss, computer programmer Peter Gibbons and his two friends hate their jobs at Initech. When the company hires efficiency exerts as the first step toward corporate downsizing, they devise a plan to extract revenge.Worth the watch: The young professionals in this movie took the right path by going to college, choosing a stable career and working hard; yet they found themselves confined to cubicles with managers who lacked the skills to inspire or stimulate them. This film stresses the importance of being an effective manager. Getting to know subordinates, their roles and abilities, and conversing with them about their desires creates a more satisfying and more dynamic workplace.
Drama (2007)Actors: Josh Hamilton, Ayesha DharkerRecommended by: Dr. Ronda MarianiPlot: Call center manager for a novelty company in Seattle, Todd Anderson travels to India to train his replacement when the company outsources center operations to Bombay. Cultural differences and misunderstandings abound as Anderson tries to teach the new staff about American culture and what American customers expect, while learning more about Indian culture so that that he can help the workers be successful.Worth the watch: Dr. Mariani recommends this film particularly for international management students since it provides insight into the influence of cultural differences when conducting business in a global marketplace and a glimpse into the impact of a global economy.
History/Documentary (2004)Directors: Mark Achbar, Jennifer AbbottRecommended by: Dr. Chris McChesneyPlot: Winner of numerous international awards, this film is based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan. It includes interviews with 40 corporate executives from a range of industries, business insiders and critics.Worth the watch: This film teaches students about the various aspects and intricacies of corporations in America and how the corporation has evolved in the business world of today. It covers important topics for business students including: branding, capitalism, corporate crime, marketing, social responsibility, regulation, strategies for change and more.
Drama (2010)Actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Justin TimberlakeRecommended by: Dr. Sherrie LewisPlot: A movie about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the youngest billionaire in history and the legal and personal complications that result from creating the social networking site known as Facebook. It begins with website's inception in a Harvard University dorm room and continues through the battles over ownership among its originators.Why it's worth the watch: Dr. Lewis says this is another good film about business ethics, emotional intelligence, power and leadership.
Biography/Dark Comedy/Crime (2013)Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot RobbieRecommended by: Dr. Sherrie LewisPlot: Involving crime, corruption and the federal government, this movie documents the rise and fall of Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort who served 22 months in prison for defrauding investors in a massive securities scam. It's the story of corporate greed and excessive affluence in the late eighties.Why it's worth the watch: This movie could be used to discuss business ethics, emotional intelligence, power and leadership. According to Dr. Lewis, her students enjoy discussing Belfort's charisma and how he used it to defraud others.
Drama/Crime (1987 and 2010)Actors: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Shia LaBeoufRecommended by: Dr. Patti WilliamsPlot: Ruthless, greedy corporate raider Gordon Gekko mentors a young, ambitious and impatient stockbroker who ends up trading on illegal insider information. Gekko spends time in prison for money laundering, but in the sequel comes back to extract revenge on his Wall Street enemies and rebuild his empire.Worth the watch: This movie reflects the extent people will go to make money and the consequences of these actions. It offers a look at what influence and greed can do to the human soul.
Documentary (2005)Actors: Lee Scott, Don Hunter, Jon HunterRecommended by: Dr. Chris McChesneyPlot: Interviews with former employees, small business owners impacted by Walmart's presence in their communities and archival footage of Walmart executives combined with statistics create a critical documentary and negative picture of Walmart's business practices.Worth the watch: This movie gives students an idea about how Walmart works as a corporation, how they treat their employees, their feelings toward union negotiations, and the overall strategy of the company. Dr. McChesney says that while this movie is a little dated, it still provides valuable information for business students.
Especially for sport business students
Entire books have been written about sports movies. But if you're interested in the business side of sport, here's a quick run-down of a few more films Saint Leo instructor Philip Hatlem recommends – particularly for students in a sport business degree program.
Top sport business movies
- "Slap Shot"
- "North Dallas Forty"
- "A League of Their Own"
- "Jerry Maguire"
- "Eight Men Out"
Films that focus on the business side of college athletics
- "Without Limits"
- "Blue Chips"
- "We Are Marshall"
- "All the Right Moves"
- "The Program"
What other business movies would you add to this list?
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