These business ethics movies will help you generate innovative ideas and understand the incredible and crazy world of entrepreneurs.
The opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are personal.
Yes! Hollywood can dramatize the entrepreneur’s situation, but sometimes the best way to capture reality is through fiction. You can collect some ideas from these 17 provocative, wacky, and entertaining movies wherever you are on your entrepreneurial adventure.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
When you hear Catch Me If You Can, you imagine the successful con artist Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio), who deceptively and charmingly has almost everyone under his dominance skills. Based on a true story, Catch I, if you can, am a classic film that exemplifies the business journey. Important topics such as creative problem solving, turning what comes out of a bad situation into a good thing, and the common person’s hustle to achieve success are touched.
. Topics include business competencies, creativity and innovation, perseverance, business acumen, personal sales techniques, and sources of business resources.
Lord of War (2005)
If you like dark humor with small doses of action, The Warlord is a must-see. This war crime film tells the life of Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), an immigrant from Ukraine who decides that his path to success is through the illegal distribution of weapons. Morale aside, Yuri’s ambition, tenacity, and ability to tolerate risk show the qualities that entrepreneurs need to be successful. In addition, if you want more information on positioning strategies, the generation of customer loyalty, and negotiation techniques, this film delves into these topics. You will probably find yourself incorporating some of these lessons into your own business.
. Topics include entrepreneurial skills, emerging markets, creative problem solving, crisis management, negotiation techniques, customer loyalty, competitive strategy creation, and geopolitics.
Wall Street (1987)
Have you ever pushed yourself to the limit in your quest for power and success?
Wall Street develops this theme through the eyes of Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), an ambitious stockbroker who rides the rollercoaster of the Wall Street economy, adopting the motto “greed is good.” This film is a window into corporate finance, portfolio management, investment law principles, and capital markets. The story of a susceptible and young mind, which shows how easy it is to get carried away by the glamorous lifestyle that comes with wealth, is very revealing. Even if you thought that the Wolf of Wall Street was maybe too much, this movie is more homemade, a version of social criticism.
. Topics include corporate finance, portfolio management, capital markets, investment law principles, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, and business ethics.
Rogue Trader (1999)
This 1999 film is based on a true story of the employee who alone brought down Barings Bank, England’s largest bank. The movie shows how money drives all manner of manic behavior and serves as a warning about people who mistakenly regard power and money as indispensable.
. Topics include Origin, Corporate Valuation, Financial Reporting, Capital Markets, Emerging Markets, and Business Ethics.
Twelve Angry Men (1957)
Possibly my favorite movie of all time, Twelve Warring Men is a brilliant courtroom drama that has multi-layered views on leadership, group behavior psychology, and conflicting value systems. It is a must-see; it will certainly leave you thinking about the way you make important decisions.
. Topics include negotiation techniques, persuasion methods, conflict resolution, and consensus-building.
Office Space (1999)
This American comedy satirizes a 1990 software company’s corporate culture, depicting work relationships and office politics. It’s hilarious, and it’s sure to get you thinking about leadership, teamwork techniques, and career development.
. Topics include: corporate culture, mentoring and professional development, leadership, work-life balance, staff retention, teamwork techniques, and information technology management.
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather trilogy is possibly the best cinema of all time for people in business; by highlighting why relationships and networking are important, why helping people drive good business, and why understanding competition is non-negotiable. These movies are highly entertaining, packed with exciting and provocative scenes that will leave you better prepared to handle your next business challenge.
. Topics include competitive strategies, key retention, corporate acquisitions (friendly and hostile), alliances, mergers and acquisitions, business succession, and long-term corporate diversification.
The usual suspects (1995)
Common Suspects must see if you enjoy a good psychological thriller with an ambitious twist ending. It tells the story of a group of professional criminals who find themselves on the same line of suspicion as the police, who decide to form a team and jump on a lucrative robbery. The film explores building leadership, power and influence, and long-term business strategy, which provides valuable insight for established and aspiring entrepreneurs.
. Topics include:
- Consolidation leadership.
- Power and influence.
- Long-term business strategy.
- Risk and reward compensation.
- Entrepreneurial capabilities.
- Innovation and creativity.
- Brand building.
- Marketing and logistics operations.
- Planning and execution.
Enron: The smartest guys in the room (2005)
Based on the best-seller of the same name by reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, this 2005 documentary film covers one of the biggest corporate scandals in American history: the Enron Corporation’s collapse. History buff or anyone looking for an encouraging and shocking example of modern corporate corruption needs to see it.
. Topics include accounting reporting (basic, advanced, and innovative), reporting, offshore diversification, off-balance-sheet accounting, agency issues, and business ethics.
How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)
Even if you’re not looking for advertising advice, How to Succeed in Advertising will teach you a thing or two about creative problem-solving. The film was a flop when it was first published but was redeemed many years later and touted as a brilliant entertainment satire of the advertising industry. It will certainly make you think differently about business in the commercial world.
. Topics include marketing strategy, advertising know-how, market segmentation, and branding.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
The devil wears fashion will motivate you to take the plunge and carry out your ideal job. It’s a movie that shows how to handle awkward situations, navigate worlds that seem unfamiliar, and how hard work pays off over time.
It is also an interesting insight into the fashion industry. It will teach you a few things about working your way up the corporate ladder.
. Topics include branding, sales techniques, the importance of the media, and career development.
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
Thank You for Smoking is the perfect movie for a savvy marketing entrepreneur or someone who wants to learn a few tricks on how to sell almost any product. The film tells the story of a lobbyist in the tobacco industry, Nick Naylor, who creatively argues in the most difficult situations to defend the cigarette industry.
It is a must-see film for those who want to learn a few things about crisis management, corporate communications, public relations, and negotiation tactics.
. Topics include public relations, marketing, and advertising campaigns, crisis management, corporate communications, and effective negotiation techniques.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1982)
Success at Any Cost is based on the award-winning play about four real estate salespeople whose jobs are under fire as the corporate office announces that all but the best two men will be laid off in a week. This movie is an entertainment showcase of competition and manipulation. If you are going to start a new business, being forewarned is sometimes the way to success; it is much easier than you think.
. Topics include sales techniques, customer relationship management, and negotiations.
The Merchant of Venice (2004)
The Merchant of Venice is based on Shakespeare’s play and is one of the best Al Pacino films. The story is about Bassino, a young member of the aristocratic class, who turns to a Jewish moneylender, Shylock (Al Pacino), for financial help. It is a small taste of the good time with lessons in business collaboration, risk assessment, and business law that still have value today.
. Topics include contract negotiations, commercial law, risk assessment, and the principles of commercial law.
- Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Dr. Strangelove is a brilliant satire on the Cold War, one of those movies that will keep you entertained from start to finish. It will get you thinking about leadership and loyalty; however, it warrants a good couple of laughs.
. Topics include international relations, geopolitics, influence, and leadership.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
This legal drama is based on the true story of a woman who, against all odds, helps win the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit. The film embodies women’s empowerment and highlights the importance of sticking to doubt even in the face of obstacles. Topics such as social responsibility, sustainable business models, and gender biases in business are touched.
. Topics include corporate social responsibility and sustainable business models.
The Rainmaker (1997)
The Rainmaker is the story of a law school graduate who, bankrupt, takes over a corrupt insurance company to fight for the life of a boy with end-stage leukemia. The movie is a fantastic representation of underdog people, exemplifying the power of determination and social responsibility.
. Topics include social responsibility, business ethics, and business law.