June 27, 2016

Top Business Movies for Entrepreneurs this Holiday Season


movie projector

One of the newest business movies for entrepreneurs, “Joy” premiered in theaters on Christmas Day. The film, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro, details the life of entrepreneur Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop.

The movie tells Mangano’s story as a struggling single mom who builds a business empire with her knack for products that eventually make her a fortune on QVC.

But even if you haven’t got time to get to the theater this holiday season, there are a variety of movies of interest to the small business owner and entrepreneur available in DVD format or via streaming video.

Here are some business movies for entrepreneurs you may want to check out.

babyboom movieBaby Boom

At its heart, “Baby Boom is a film about entrepreneurship as a path to better work/life balance.

What’s so interesting is that the film emerged in the 1980s in an era before such ideas were being bandied about much in the mainstream media.

The film stars Diane Keaton as J.C. Wiatt, a career-driven Manhattanite whose life is suddenly turned upside down when she must care for a toddler left to her by a long lost cousin.

Wiatt soon finds her fast paced career incompatible with her new-found role as a mother. It is an era before family leave, flexible work hours and other concessions made the corporate world more family friendly.

Her solution is to quit and start her own company selling baby food.

We’ll leave aside for the moment whether starting a business really does permit more or less time to spend with family and other responsibilities, especially in the startup phase. Clearly there’s some Hollywood wish fulfillment going on here.

The movie is worth watch not just for Keaton’s performance. It also raises the issue of entrepreneurship as a path to making a living that fits your lifestyle.

flash of genius movieFlash of Genius

Flash of Genius” is a cautionary tale, not just for inventors and creators, but for small business owners too.

If you’ve ever had a great idea stolen by a competitor or a larger company, this movie, based on the true story of Robert Kearns.

Starring Greg Kinnear as Kearns, the movie follows the struggles of a man suing a giant auto manufacturer with the claim that an “intermittent” windshield wiper the company developed had been stolen from an idea he had patented.

A 2008 film, “Flash of Genius” is timely in an era of shifting patent and intellectual property rules, patent trolling and other similar issues.

But it’s also a story about the little guy trying to win out against huge odds, a subject any entrepreneur should appreciate.

beer wars movieBeer Wars

“America’s beverage is beer.”

So declares the trailer for “Beer Wars.” The 2009 documentary examines the battle between corporate giants like Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing Company and Coors Brewing Company and smaller competitors like Dogfish Head Brewery, Moonshot 69 and others.

The movie should be entertaining to any small business owner or startup entrepreneur who needs a reminder about the best way to compete with larger competitors in an established market.

But it is also a timely movie in an era of microbreweries and craft beers. It’s a market that reminds every small business owner about the importance of quality — not just price — when competing for customers.

tommy boy movieTommy Boy

Though certainly a vehicle for the late comic Chris Farley, “Tommy Boy” is also about the sales process.

That’s a rare thing indeed for a major motion picture. But it’s very interesting to look online for the sheer number of posts drawing sales lessons from the movie.

At it’s heart, the film tells the story of Thomas R. Callahan III, played by Farley, who goes on a cross country sales trip to save his family business.

At first, Callahan’s manic behavior proves an impediment to closing sales. But eventually, with the help of sidekick Richard Hayden, played by David Spade, he begins to succeed.

But it’s what he learns about the sales process that small business owners and entrepreneurs may find most interesting.

cocktail movieCocktail

Starring Tom Cruise and Bryon Brown, the 1988 film “Cocktail” is about the long and sometimes challenging path challenging path of entrepreneurship.

The movie follows the sometimes complicated lives of a young bartender, played by Cruise, and his mentor.

And it focuses in particular on Cruise’s character and his ambitions to one day own a bar of his own.

Along the way, romantic entanglements abound and the relationship between mentor and mentee is strained.

But what small business owners and entrepreneurs may find most interesting is what the movie has to say about taking the right advice and the importance of focus.

startupdotcom movieStartup.com

Startup.com” is a documentary looking at the rise and fall of a dot-com startup, govWorks.com.

From raising millions in funding to its eventual end, govWorks.com was eventually a victim of the first Intrernet bubble.

The movie follows company founders Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman through the founding of their company which eventually raised $60 million in investment. But the film may offer insights into why such companies fail.

social network movieThe Social Network

The Social Network” looks at how Mark Zuckerberg went from a student at Harvard with an uncanny knack for coding to the multimillionaire founder and CEO of Facebook.

Contrary to popular belief this is not just a story about social media. It is about the relationships, investment, mentorship and employee culture that go into transforming a great idea into a great business.

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS movieGlengarry Glen Ross

At first glance “Glengarry Glen Ross” may look like nothing more than a critique on the worst qualities of the sales game.

However, the movie is also notable for actor Alec Baldwin’s famous “Always be Closing” speech.

In fact, the film may be primarily responsible for bringing the well-known “ABC” acronym into the popular consciousness.

pirates of silicon valley movie

Pirates of Silicon Valley

How can a film about the competition between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates not have appeal for entrepreneurs?

Pirates of Silicon Valley” takes place between 1971 and 1997.

During that time, it depicts the history of Apple and Microsoft. But more importantly it examines the leaders of both companies: Jobs, played by Noah Wyle and Gates, played by Anthony Micheal Hall.

The 1999 movie looks at the differences between the two business leaders and how these differences influenced the development of their companies.

pursuit of happyness movieThe Pursuit of Happyness

Another true story, “The Pursuit of Happyness” follows the struggles of Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith.

Finding himself both a single father and homeless, Gardner must struggle against seemingly impossible odds to achieve a coveted stockbroker position.

For small business owners, the Garnder’s story can be an inspiration. It’s important to remember that, despite limitations, great things can be accomplished with hard work and determination.

moneyball movieMoneyball

It takes money to make money, but in business you don’t always have all the cash you need.

Moneyball” is a film about the general manager of a baseball team played by Brad Pitt. Faced with recruiting winning players with a limited budget, Pitt’s character comes up with innovative approach with the use of statistics.

Sure it’s a sports movie. But the main character’s determination to work with what he has and find a solution applies to entrepreneurs as well.

WALL STREET movieWall Street

Again, 1987’s “Wall Street” may be seen as primarily a cautionary tale about the role of greed in business.

Indeed, Michael Douglas’s character Gordon Gekko has become synonymous with the worst qualities of investment industry with his well-known mantra “greed is good.”

But the movie is also a story about what the positive aspects of entrepreneurship should be: protecting jobs and growing companies to create wealth instead of selling them off piecemeal.

jerry maguire movieJerry Maguire

Sometimes you have to break out on your own despite the risks.

In “Jerry Maguire” the main character, played by Tom Cruise, decides to start his own sports agency. The decision is the result of a moral epiphany leaving him at odds with the company he had been working.

The 1996 hit is also responsible for bring another great business line into the public consciousness: “Show me the money!”

office space movieOffice Space

Any entrepreneur ever to strike out on his or her own to escape the frustrations of a job in corporate America will likely appreciate the sentiment behind “Office Space.”

The movie follows three friends who work for the same software firm and decide to take revenge on the company that makes them so miserable.

It’s a funny and satirical look at white collar employees working for a big company. But for entrepreneurs, it may also serve as a reminder of why you left that big corporate job in the first.

something ventured movieSomething Ventured

Those interested in investment may enjoy 2011 document “Something Ventured

The movie follows the rise of venture capital firms which eventually funded and led in the development of companies like Apple, Intel and Cisco.

While you may never raise venture capital from these firms and may not even be a tech entrepreneur, the insights into investors and how they think should prove useful.

upin the air movie

Up in the Air

The 2009 film “Up In the Air” is about an HR consultant who flies all over the country to manage company layoffs.

The film stars George Clooney. And for those use to frequent travel for business and the isolation it sometimes produces, this may be a movie to which you can relate.

The movie also asks key questions about the importance of relationships in business and life and the role technology plays. That role can be one of either facilitating those relationships or creating further isolation.

wolf of wall street movieThe Wolf of Wall Street

The importance of ethics in business is again the theme of “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The story is inspired by the real-life story of stockbroker Jordon Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Belfort launches a firm which engages in illegal and unethical trading activities to profit at the expense of its clients.

But the companies corrupt trading practices eventually make it the focus of both the Security Exchange Commission and FBI. Belfort eventually agrees to turn on his colleagues in a deal with federal authorities, but then breaks the agreement and is given jail time.

For entrepreneurs, the lesson is simple. Profitability is not something to be pursued at the expense of your customers.

forrest gump movieForrest Gump

At first, you might wonder what the 1994 hit film “Forrest Gump” has to do with entrepreneurship.

But remember that Gump, portrayed by actor Tom Hanks, was a small business owner.

In classic entrepreneurial fashion, Gump parlays earnings from an endorsement as a champion ping pong player to found the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.

The movie is light hearted and often touching. It serves as a reminder that success comes from taking advantage of your opportunities no matter what your personal skills and gifts.

aviator movieThe Aviator

Another Leonardo DiCaprio film, “The Aviator” is based on the life of millionaire entrepreneur Howard Hughes.

Building on a business created by his father, Hughes, portrayed by DiCaprio, exhibits determination and vision to grow his company in unexpected directions.

Some of these involve a flirtation with the film industry and then a focus on aviation. Far from simply a wealthy business CEO who delegates everything, Hughes demonstrates curiosity and passion in all his projects. And he pushes through personal and business challenges to reach his goals.

chef movieChef

This is a movie for small business owners and entrepreneurs interested in the trending food truck business. “Chef” was written and directed by Jon Favreau, who also stars in the movie.

The story follows a Los Angeles chef who quits his job to fix up an old food truck and take his son on a cross country journey to get back to basics with his cooking.

The movie should interest DIY entrepreneurs and those creating a business around a skill or talent they possess. The movie also delves into the use of social media for local marketing.

citizen kane movieCitizen Kane

Starring and directed by Orson Welles, “Citizen Kane” is an acknowledged classic.

But it also Welles’ fictionalized take on the real life of another famous entrepreneur and businessman, William Randolph Hearst.

Welles’ title character, loosely patterned on Hearst, turns a family fortune built on a Colorado gold mine into a huge newspaper empire.

Welles shows us the entrepreneur’s instinct for differentiating a product as Kane disrupts the newspaper industry and becomes a master of promotion.

Though his personal problems eventually get the better of him, Kane’s ambition, like the ambition of many entrepreneurs, is t change the world — his way!

So there you have it. A list of top business movies entrepreneurs might want to look into this holiday season. Have any more to suggest?

Movie Projector Photo via Shutterstock

3 Comments ▼

Tabby McFarland


Tabby McFarland Tabby McFarland is a staff writer and web researcher for Small Business Trends. As a staff writer she specializes in social media, technology, special interest features, and e-commerce. A geek at heart, Tabby loves to be online interacting with the blogging community. Tabby is a WAHM (work at home mom) and is also an avid Pinterest enthusiast with a strong sense of style and creativity.

3 Reactions

  1. Martin Lindeskog

    The Pursuit of Happyness is one my favorite movies. I will check out Beer Wars.

  2. I have always loved watching movies in my free time because it does not only allow me to explore a different world, it also teaches me a lot of lessons that can happen in real life. Also, it never fails to leave me feeling inspired and ready to tackle my business tasks right after. Citizen Kane is a great classic along with Pursuit of Happyness.

  3. wow, I think aviator will do the trick for me .

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