There are plenty of business films, but a lot of them provide the predictable spiel many business gurus want to hear whilst thinking whimsically about “business capital” and “growth”. It’s the banality of these movies which makes them somewhat ineffective and stifling. Watching an emotionally arresting, artistically brilliant film can have a far more dramatic impact on how you approach business deals; you can learn a lot from them and aspire to make your business better. Here are ten such examples; they range from the humane to the inspirational, but all pack an emotional punch which can help lift you to new heights.
Stranded: I’ve come from a plane that crashed on the mountains…
Stranded is a 2008 documentary about the famous Andes Plane Crash. In this remarkable and tragic incident an amateur rugby team’s place crashed into a remote area of the Andes mountain range in October 1972. Trapped for 2 months in the freezing wilderness, survivors resorted to eating the flesh of their dead friends to survive. Ultimately Nando Parrodo and Roberto Canessa made an arduous 10 day trek through the mountain range to reach safety.
Parrado has since gone on to become a successful businessman who provides motivational speeches around the world, and this humbling tale is a real wake up call for everyone.
Former Monty Python star Terry Gilliam’s acclaimed take on pedantic bureaucratic red tape is a real wake up call for the business world. Although released in 1985, the Orwellian thymes of a dystopian society are very prevalent, whilst the truly warped business references are darkly amusing and insightful.
This prescient account of the media’s obsession with ratings sees Tim Robbin’s first (very brief) film appearance, and Peter Finch’s very last (he also won a posthumous Oscar). It was made in 1976.
Finch’s Howard Beale suffers a mental breakdown after being informed he is to be fired after a career in television. He announces, live on air, a shocking plan for his final show, prompting a huge ratings surge and his reinstatement as a phenomenon. His mental collapse is consequently exploited mercilessly by the studio. Events are loosely based on the true story of Christine Chubbuck.
Nim was a chimpanzee who, in the 1970s, was taken into human care. The scientific experiment was to see him raised as a human, the hope being to teach basic sign language to Nim. Over the decades the project took hilarious and poignant turns up to the modern day.
This 2011 documentary asks some profound questions about human nature; any business wishing to show its compassionate side should consider watching this moving account of an unusual life.
The Vanishing of the Bees
Rising Hollywood star Ellen Page narrates this 2011 documentary examining the disappearance of honey bees over the last decade. This is much more serious than the possibility of no more honey; the balance of the Earth’s ecosystem is managed effectively by the bee’s habit of pollination. Their disappearance would bring about an ecological collapse.
The demise of the honey industry is also examined, as is the effect on the economy. We see, up close, the sad failure of family industries which have passed on for successive generations. Meanwhile, the larger companies turn to organic practices for sustainability. There is a lesson here for all of us.
One of Ridley Scott’s lesser known films, this effort from 2003 is inventive and highly entertaining. It’s also a lesson about the virtues of honesty in business, so pay attention!
Matchstick Men follows Nicolas Cage’s obsessive compulsive con man Roy, with Frank (Sam Rockwell) as his protégé. Adept at swindling people out of their money by regularly posing as tax collectors, they promise refunds, holidays, and offer stunning prizes. Roy has been at this for years and, after enlisting his estranged daughter, he and Frank aim for a major swoop. This inevitably leads to trouble and a startling end twist.
This is a tale of how one man can make an incredible difference.
Ayrton Senna was a Brazilian racing driver whose natural genius lead him to three World Championships in Formula One. It is his drive, commitment, and business asides which mark him out as a heroic, but ultimately tragic, figure. You also get a rare insight into the inner workings of a multi-billion dollar industry.
Man on Wire
The aptly named Philippe Petit is a diminutive Frenchman with one almighty claim to fame. On August 7th 1974 (aged 24) he performed a high-wire trapeze across the void between the World Trade Centre towers in New York.
This 2008 documentary is an awe inspiring tale of real life bravery at its most compelling, and how to do one over corporate big wigs!
There Will Be Blood
Upton Sinclair’s 1905 novel gets worked into 2010’s instant classic, starring Daniel-Day Lewis on career best form. He portrays misanthropic, supremacy seeking oil man Daniel Plainview who makes a fortune dominating the oil market at the turn of the 20th century. It’s an incredible film showcasing the rise of capitalism in a new era.
For a display of brutal business moguls at work, and all of the consequences this entails, watch There Will Be Blood!
A clever slice of science fiction from 2009, this South African tinged modern classic highlights apartheid and corrupt organisations.
A huge race of aliens, who are seemingly lost, bring their spaceship to rest above Johannesburg. The creatures on board are managed in makeshift camps on the city outskirts, but conflict soon arises between aliens and humans. The organisation MNU step in to bring order, yet chaos ensues! This should be a lesson on how not handle delicate situations.