Updated Novemeber 26, 2011 (Barbarians at the Gate)
Business Movies and TV Shows that are All Business
“Movies so good they should be taught in business school and some that are”
For the past few years I’ve been googling search terms such as The Best Business Movies or Greatest Business Movies. Lists of 10, 25 or 100 greatest movies on various genres are all over the Internet. Since I’ve seen them all (which is kind of sad, because there aren’t any left for me to watch) I thought I’d give this list of business movies based on these criteria:
- The movie’s main focus is on business or
- The movie has one particular scene that it should be taught in business schools
- The movie isn’t full of idiotic boy meets girl and implausible business situations (watch The Secret of My Success for both situations below).
- Something can be taken from the movie and used in the real-world (I don’t mean this to sound like college is not practical but, there is a difference).
First, the Worst Business Movie Ever
Why The Secret of My Success is the worst business movie ever:
- The soft porn water fountain scene is more funny than sexy
- Continuity errors everywhere.
- The worst ending ever – I won’t give it way.
- The story line takes away from what could have been a great business movie.
Honorable mentions for worst business movie ever:
- The God Father (all of them). Slow, boring, crime is crime – not business. I’ve never been to a business class where the professor told me to shoot the competition or stab an employee who wasn’t loyal.
- Boiler Room. Too much personal nonsense between characters. The acting was just bad.
- Goodfellas (see The God Father).
The Most Disappointing Business Movie Ever
Wall Street : Money Never Sleeps
Oliver Stone really dropped the ball on this one. Wall Street is my all-time favorite business movie but the sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a dumbed down recap of the 2007 financial crisis.
Stone’s attempt to weave a story around the housing bubble, solvency, moral hazard, and the fire sale of Bear Stearns and or Merrill Lynch was so uninteresting that the remaining leg that the story line stood on, the romance between Gekko’s daughter and the guy from Transformers, made for a very useless business movie.
Wall Street 2 is about a year behind the times. Had Stone been a little smarter then he would have made this movie a cartoon instead. The characters in the cartoon could have names like Kyle, Stan, Butters, and Cartman … oh wait, SOUTH PARK episode 1303, “Margaritaville” already beat Stone to the punch and they did a much better job of explaining what happened.
So, the Best Animated Business TV Show is…
South Park Season 13 Episode 3,Margaritaville
Simply a better version of Wall Steet 2.
And, the Worst Business TV Show Ever
Season 10 of The Apprentice (air dates started September 2010) is bar far the biggest crock of $#!t to ever hit television.
The storyline is quite noble; it focuses on the casualties of the recent market meltdown and American economic crisis. But, instead of using participants who actually have great business skills, healthy personalities (read magnetism), and strong leadership attributes (such as Bill Rancic or Kelly Perdew) viewers are forced to watch the most average business people fight for a job – noble yes but, not the stuff that makes great TV.
After the first two episodes of season 10, there have been ZERO business lessons demonstrated. I feel somewhat sorry for the candidates as they embarrass themselves in the primetime spot light. I can’t see Donald wanting to hire any of them. What will happen is that NBC will cut the winner a check and walk them out the back door – end of season 10.
The Best Business Movies of All-time:
These movies are in no particular order. SEE THEM ALL!! Also, I have some book suggestions that are a good read after watching a particular movie.
The Social Network
Before you watch The Social Network, watch Pirates of the Silicon Valley. The Social Network, while not a duplicate of Pirates of the Silicon Valley, is very similar. Viewers will come away as seeing Zuckerberg in the same light as Steve Jobs - a complete asshole.
The complete smear job of Shawn Parker was a little disappointing though probably entertaining for many. In the movie , Parker’s character, as played by Justin Timberlake, was more about partying that any tech-social savant he plays in real life.
This movie is easily a 9 out of 10 and a perfect Part 2 of Pirates of the Silicon Valley.
I’m not a big fan of Demmi Moore nor am I a fan of David Duchovny but this is an awesome marketing movie. The Joneses work for LifeImage Enterprises, a stealth marketing company.
What I liked the most was the contrast in marketing styles between the stealth marketing of the Joneses and the traditional home-based / party selling of their neighbour.
A must see to understand and protect yourself from super sneaky marketing tactics.
Gordon Gekko, evil to the end. No tear-jerker redemption story telling here. This movie focuses on insider trading between characters Bud Fox and Gekko.
Secretariat is by far the most pleasant movie in this list to watch. The movie operates on several levels; first, it is a classic Disney family movie; it doesn’t shy away from women’s rights in the 60s and 70s; and, continuing the women’s rights theme, Secretariat is a business movie that breaks away from the patriarchal bubble that seems to encase every other business movie.
Penny Chenery (aka Penny Tweedy), starts out as a strong house wife who quickly finds her own stride as an incredibly strong business woman. Arranging a high risk breeding rights gamble worth over 6 million dollars, Chenery navigates financing, personnel management, public relations, and a family.
Other People’s Money
Much like Wall Street but with an almost happy ending. DeVitto’s character is a corporate raider aka Larry the Looter. In the end he still screws everyone over but they seem happy for it.
The Dark Night (Batman)
The opening scene contains the best game theory translated to cinema ever. After watching it I built an employee bonus system using the same concept… minus the murder.
I was in London when this opened. At the time, I could have watched it in Vancouver for $9.00 but was happy to pay $22.00 in Oxford Square. It just felt right to watch the true story of the fall of Barings Bank in London. You might feel a little sorry for the lead character Nick Leeson – he is a total idiot. Check out Nick Leeson’s Website.
How to Get Ahead in Advertising
A very funny business movie all about ad spin. I love Grant’s spin on nuclear weapons.
Pirates of Silicon Valley
The story of Apple and Microsoft – the story of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Even though this movie didn’t get good reviews it is pretty insightful. You may come away thinking Steve Jobs is the real villan.
I became interested in Douglas Rushkoff after reading Media Virus. Douglas Rushkoff tends to be about 10 years ahead of the times when it comes to his literature and spot on with his documentaries. The Persuades is all about marketers and psychologists. One particular psychoanalyst, Clotaire Rapaille is the focus. See Rapaille’s Culture Code – an amazing book on product developement, people, and branding.
Merchants of Cool
Another Rushkoff documentary. It exposes youth culture as a feeding ground for unethical marketers. If you have or will have teens soon – please, watch this movie/documentary.
A personal note to Merchants of Cool, I had an interview with the CEO of a California marketing company. The CEO, a former “cool hunter”, worked for one of the firms mentioned in the doc. In the interview she educated me on the techniques of manipulating a group of kids. I’m not going to share them here but the education gave me one more tool to protecting kids against advertising and marketing manipulation. [Yes, I am a marketer but I wouldn't hesitate to vote 'yes' to ban marketing towards children.]
This clip has an amazing business lesson: SHUT UP! when it’s not your business. Though, in this movie about real-estate fraud, advocating dishonesty is not my intention or a good business practice.
One man versus the tobacco industry. A very intense business movie.
Similar to Glengarry Glenross. Every one needs metal siding on there house in this life as a shady salesman story.
I’m going to get very philosophical here. Watch the movie clip and consider why this is a great business movie. Pi has, as its primary premise – Mathematics is the Language of Nature. There is a field in management that incorporates ecology. In this ecological model of management, all firms operate in one or more of the several biological models of organism relations: Commensalism, Mutualism, Symbiosis, Amensalism, Competition, Predation, and Parasitism.
The main character, Max Cohen, believes the NYSE is an organism and therefore its behavior can be predicted. Unfortunately, he fails to understand that the predictive nature of the NYSE is an in-principal constraint rather than a computational constraint. A few classes with one of my favorite philosophy professors, Paul Viminitz, may have kept Max from going mad.
These modalities of nature are based in evolutionary biology which has its underpinnings in Game Theory. Game Theory is, in part, a science of math and behaviour – i.e. Decision Theory.
Pi is full of managerial dilemmas. The game of Go is used in Pi to illustrate the infinity of choices a business, or individual, can face when considering strategy.
All about the evils of “The Man.” A lot of funny scenes.
Show me the money!
Barbarians at the Gate
This is the story of the Fall of RJR Nabisco which was brought on by a stock bidding war which would allow the winner the ability to perform a leveraged buyout of the company. This movie has a lot of great business elements (it is a business movie to the core) such as product development, horrible PR/media control, contrasting corporate governance ideologies, and more.
THE BEST BUSINESS TV SHOWS
Unlike the Donald Trump version (see below) the UK Apprentice is as close to real as a business competition gets.
Marketplace (Canada CBC)
Go to the CBC Marketplace website to watch The Seven Deadly Sins of Marketing episode.
I grew up watching Wendy Mesley host Marketplace on CBC (in Canada). The best episode ever what when she humiliated the Walt Disney PR spokesperson – Baby Einstein episode.
The Apprentice (USA)
Unlike the UK version, The Apprentice is a glossed over reality show. I’ve watched all six seasons four times over. Hey!, I said it’s glossed over, I didn’t say it wasn’t great to watch. Some clips have been used in managerial ethics classes but professors don’t understand that the production company editors and producers turn reality in to part fiction – almost everything is out of context. Visit some the contestant’s blogs to see what I mean.
Well, HAPPY VIEWING!!!
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