The benefits of television come in many forms, from entertainment and comedy to education. Yes, you read that right, education.
Since its invention, TV has been one of the most popular sources of information for people. You can find shows, movies, and documentaries related to almost anything you want to learn about. All serve as a great tool for education.
Today, we’re exploring the top movies you can watch to learn the ins and out of business. These movies will help you on your entrepreneurial journey, whether you’re laying the groundwork for your startup or you’re ready to reflect after a decade of hard work. Fair warning, there are some spoiler alerts!
Our list of the best business movies will entertain and educate you, as each one provides powerful insight into the complicated world of business.
The 18 Best Business Movies
We’ve narrowed down our list from hundreds of entrepreneurial movies packed with important lessons to these 18. In addition to a brief synopsis of the films, we’ve also shared key takeaways that you can learn from each movie.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Featuring: Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger, and Cuba Gooding Jr.
Jerry Maguire is a classic that shows the ups and downs that come with starting a business. This movie follows a sports agent, Jerry Maguire, who is fired from a sports agency for having different values.
He believes that agents should have a deeper, more personal relationship with their clients. Of course, that means that agents would have fewer clients but more meaningful relationships with each of them.
His vision didn’t sit well with the agency he worked with, and therefore, he was fired. It is then that he decides to start his own agency with the help of his former co-worker, Dorothy. Maguire picks up a volatile football player, Rod Tidwell, as his only client.
The movie shows the trials and tribulations Maguire has to overcome to please his only client. Ultimately, Maguire is able to establish a successful agency following his ethos, proving that relationships trump money.
The lesson you can learn from this movie: Starting your own business is scary, especially after you’ve experienced the recent blow of losing a job. However, even the road won’t be easy, you can succeed if you have strong values and stick to them.
The Social Network (2010)
Featuring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake
The Social Network is the epitome of an educational movie for entrepreneurs. It showcases the whole thought process behind the development of Facebook, the biggest social network in the world.
The movie follows Mark Zuckerberg in his days at Harvard, the university he eventually drops out of. It shows how he started the app as a rating network and it eventually evolved into something a lot more.
Zuckerberg receives some financial backing from a friend, Eduardo Saverin, which helps evolve the app. Saverin is soon sidelined by Zuckerberg when Sean Parker, founder of Napster, comes along and offers to help out with Facebook.
This ultimately entangles Zuckerberg in a lawsuit over the rights and ownership of the platform. The movie showcases the whole trial that took place while taking the liberty of adding a little more pizazz to the plot.
The lesson you can learn from the movie: This movie highlights the whole process behind the creation of Facebook, starting with its conception. It shows the road taken by Zuckerberg and how he disregarded relationships to make his platform a success.
It reveals the importance of relationships in startups and why it’s important to keep those intact on the road to success. On the other hand, the movie also shows that you may have to sever relationships for the sake of success.
FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (2019)
If you like to learn from other’s mistakes, then watch this documentary. It showcases how Bill McFarland failed in organizing what was supposed to be one of the best and biggest parties of 2017, the Fyre Festival.
The festival was supposed to be a mega-concert, and it sold out fairly quickly. Unfortunately, it all turned out to be a fraud.
Thousands of people showed up to the Bahamas, the location of the festival, for the promised, party-packed weekend. After arriving, they discovered a disaster of a setup. They were promised luxury but didn’t receive what they had paid for.
The lesson you can learn from the documentary: This film stands as an excellent example of how not to operate a business. The arrogant organizer, Bill McFarland, is unapologetic and refuses to admit his mistakes.
Another key takeaway is how social media plays a vital role in marketing. The marketing strategy used by the third-party marketing firm is superb. They created so much hype around the festival that tickets sold out almost instantly.
Featuring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro
Joy is another movie that follows a real-life entrepreneur and her road to success. The film highlights the life of Joy Mangano, the inventor of Miracle Mop.
It starts by showing Mangano’s life before her success. She lives in a beat-up house with her kids, divorced parents, grandmother, and ex-husband. Her life is nothing special until one day she gets an idea for Miracle Mop, which turned out to be a revolutionary cleaning product.
While she struggles to keep her home and family relationships intact, Joy decides to pursue the creation of her idea. She faces a lot of adversity along the way but eventually overcomes, leading to her success.
Her mop gets featured in QVC, and the rest is history. Today, Mangano owns hundreds of patents and is a multimillionaire. It truly is a rags to riches story.
The lesson you can learn from the documentary: While most movies highlight just the success, Joy shows the real struggles of entrepreneurs. Not every entrepreneur comes from a wealthy background, and Joy portrays a more realistic road to success.
The documentary shares the story of the rise and fall of GovWorks. Founded in 1998, the platform allowed government clients to keep track of contracts and purchasing functions.
The startup raised $60 million from various agencies like the New York Investment Fund, KKR, and Hearst Interactive Media. However, the bursting of the internet bubble and the mismanagement of the company led to bankruptcy in 2000.
The lesson you can learn from the documentary: You’ll learn a lot about capital raising, team building, and growth management. You can also observe certain approaches and methods that business owners use to raise capital.
Furthermore, the documentary portrays the negative impact of financial mismanagement, in this case thanks to the lack of planning and rushing the product to the market. That’s why this is one of the best business movies for what not to do if you’re looking for long-term success.
The Founder (2016)
Featuring: Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, and Nick Offerman
McDonald’s is easily the biggest chain of fast-food restaurants around the world. The Founder tells the true story of how the fast-food chain started.
It follows Ray Kroc’s journey to make hamburgers within 30 seconds rather than 30 minutes. Kroc’s determination to achieve success with the concept of fast food leads him to establish a fast-food empire.
He does face challenges along the way, but his ideas and determination allow him to overcome them. The rest is history, as thousands of Mcdonald’s now operate around the world. The movie is a feel-good, inspirational tale for anyone looking to start a business.
The lesson you can learn from the movie: Building a business is not easy, especially if you have your eyes set on establishing an empire. You can expect plenty of hiccups along the way that may threaten to squash your idea. However, persistence and determination can make your vision possible.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Featuring: Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks
Though it’s not your typical business movie, Catch Me If You Can showcases many skills important for business owners to develop. It’s based on the true story of a charming con artist, Frank Abagnale. He impersonates a Pan Am pilot and forges checks. The FBI gets wind of this, and Agent Carl Hanratty starts to track Frank only to be fooled.
The movie highlights the “cat and mouse” chase as Hanratty hunts Frank down. Eventually, Carl catches him in France. Frank is taken to prison for 2 years and is eventually taken back to the U.S. where he is sentenced to 12 years.
During that time, Carl develops a friendship with Frank as he visits him often. When released from prison, Frank becomes a leading expert in bank fraud and forgery and maintains a good relationship with Carl.
The lesson you can learn from the movie: Through this movie, you can learn about the importance of innovation and creativity. Not for forgery, of course, but rather how quick thinking and a creative approach can help your business thrive.
You also learn about personal sales techniques and perseverance. Both are very important for running a successful business.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Featuring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Margot Robbie, and Jonah Hill
This movie highlights the true story of Jordan Belfort, who became one of the most famous stockbrokers in America. It shows the life of the broker and how he rose to fame. During the process, he also caught the attention of the FBI due to fraud and money laundering.
You get an inside look at the lavish life of a successful stockbroker, along with all of the ups and downs, partying, and luxury. However, you also see the dark side, shady deals, and financial fraud. There are plenty of takeaways for business owners, both good and bad.
The lesson you can learn from the movie: Entrepreneurial mindset plays a big part in business success. As this movie shows, you will need to take risks. Just make sure they are calculated so you can minimize the likelihood of a devastating fall if the risks you take don’t pan out.
You also learn that you need a certain thirst to be successful. It may not always be about money, but if you want to make a change, you’ll need determination along with a brilliant idea.
Boiler Room (2000)
Featuring: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, and Ben Affleck
Boiler Room gives you a look inside a brokerage firm full of brokers determined to make money. It showcases how scheming brokers leverage their client’s money to make themselves rich.
The movie answers one question that many business owners have: How can you become rich from nothing? The young and aggressive brokers will show you how.
The lesson you can learn from the movie: The business world is very competitive, and if you aren’t on your toes at all times, someone can knock you down. Furthermore, this movie shows that aggressive sales tactics can be an important skill in any business.
You also learn the importance of risks and how they can truly make your business a success. You just need to have the drive to do whatever is necessary to succeed.
Featuring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman
The movie tells the true story behind the success of Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane. His methods contradict conventional expectations.
Instead, Beane employs data-driven methods to build a team that can counter the rich baseball teams. Billy Beane’s approach led the mediocre A’s to a 102-60 regular season record, all with a roster composed of overlooked players.
The very same teams that underestimated those players ultimately ended up jumping on board with Billy Beane’s methods and using data-driven techniques to build great teams.
The lesson you can learn from the movie: This movie offers entrepreneurs applicable advice when it comes to being responsive to new ideas, adaptable to change, and unafraid of rejection.
Beane transformed the approach to building a team when he chose to depend on analytical data to see which players would be the best fit. While he did face a lot of challenges, he trusted his method and the data, which allowed him to build a winning team.
It also shows the importance of using data to inform your decisions. The world is more data-driven today than ever, and data doesn’t lie. You have to know how to use data to your advantage to be successful.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Featuring: Gene Wilder and Peter Ostrum
The movie adaptation of the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory shows a candy maker, Willy Wonka, who looks to find a successor for his factory. He launches a plan to give five children a tour of his factory and a chance to inherit his legacy.
You get to see the whole tour, with four of the five children meeting a horrible end. Charlie is the only one left at the end and is chosen as Willy Wonka’s successor.
The lesson you can learn from the movie: Finding the right business partner and/or successor can be tough. You want to find someone who shares the same values as you and understands your vision.
While watching this movie, you learn about tactics, values, and business ethics when it comes to picking a reliable partner.
American Experience: Henry Ford (2013)
Henry Ford is one of the most coveted American entrepreneurs to date. The short documentary showcases the professional life and hardship of Ford as he introduced the first modern car. You also learn how he transformed the work and labor market by introducing the assembly line.
The film reveals some hidden demons and struggles Ford had to face. He is remembered as a man who always prioritized his ambitions over his relationships. This is something many entrepreneurs can relate to, or it’s at least a moral dilemma you’ll experience.
The lessons you can learn from the documentary: Innovation goes a long way when it comes to success. Ford revolutionized the automobile industry not just by introducing the modern car but also the assembly line. He both created an incredible product and revolutionized how it was made.
Ford’s journey wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. You learn that as a business owner, you need to have a balance between ambition and relationships. If you don’t, ambition is likely to take the lead, straining and even sacrificing a lot of the relationships.
American Experience: Silicon Valley (2013)
The short documentary shows the start of what we now know as Silicon Valley, the hub of the tech world. You are introduced to 8 gentlemen from Northern California that leave their careers in hopes to establish a successful startup.
You get to see their journey unfold, how they contributed to transforming Palo Alto, and their impact on the surrounding area now known as Silicon Valley.
The lessons you can learn from the documentary: Entrepreneurs will enjoy the documentary because it gives them a background into the formation of Silicon Valley. It also highlights a story of perseverance, a must-have character trait for business owners.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Featuring: Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway
The Devil Wear Prada might just be the final push you need to quit your 9-to-5 and start your own business. It shows the struggles for employees in the corporate world who hope to climb the ladder.
The movie follows Andy, an aspiring journalist, as she joins a fashion magazine. She works as an assistant to Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief, and is given the runaround.
She eventually wins the trust of her boss, but in the process, she learns that there is no charm in working for one of the world bosses. It essentially shows how you can get so lost in the rat race that you lose your ethics and integrity along the way.
The lessons you can learn from the movie: A lot of business owners base happiness on the success of their business and wealth. However, the Devil Wears Prada shows that while we climb the top, we tend to lose a lot of our values.
Being on top doesn’t matter and will not lead to happiness if you’ve lost your values and ethics.
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Featuring: Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks
You’ve Got Mail is considered to be a classic, romantic movie, so you may be surprised to see it on this list. However, it has plenty to offer business owners or hopeful entrepreneurs. It showcases the trouble small businesses go through when a bigger competitor comes into town.
Kathleen, a small bookshop owner, faces tough competition when a massive book store chain opens up on the corner very near her shop. Joe is the heir to the bookstore chain. He and Kathleen meet anonymously online and start a conversation, eventually leading to a romance.
The two coincidentally meet in person, without knowing that the other is actually the person they are conversing with online. Kathleen has a predisposed disliking to Joe because of the harm his massive bookstore causes her business.
Joe eventually realizes that Kathleen is the girl he’s been romantically linked with online and has a decision to make. You can watch the movie to see what he decides!
The lessons you can learn from the movie: The adversity small businesses face when a bigger competitor or chain comes into the market is very real.
It doesn’t matter if you are a staple to a community; when a bigger competitor comes in, your business will suffer. Many small business owners can relate to the business element of the story.
Steve Jobs (2015)
Featuring: Michale Fassbender
Steve Jobs is considered to be one of the most innovative, successful entrepreneurs of all time. This movie lets you take a look inside the life of the founder of Apple.
It takes you on his incredible journey, leaving you to consider how innovation enabled him to build one of the biggest companies in the world. Not only do you get to see Jobs’ successes, but you can learn from his failures too.
Most people think that all of Jobs’ ideas were a success, but he had plenty of failed ideas and experiments along the way. You get to see it all in this masterpiece.
The lessons you can learn from the movie: As everyone strives to be like Steve Jobs, not many know about his exact journey. The movie gives business owners insight into the life of Jobs.
You can learn a lot about innovation and the process behind creating one of the most popular brands. Most entrepreneurs will be hoping to replicate what they learn.
Featuring: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., and John Leguizamo
Another inspiring movie, Chef takes aspiration from the real-life of Roy Choi, who also co-produced the movie. It shows how a chef ditches his job at a restaurant and starts his own food truck business.
The chef, Carl Casper, has control of what he puts on the menu, creating the food he wants. You get to see his journey, the personal and work relationships, and the success he achieves.
The lessons you can learn from the movie: The feel-good movie is a story that every entrepreneur hopes to live up to. It isn’t easy to quit a well-paying job to start your own business.
But if you follow your heart and passion and you aren’t afraid to work hard, you will find success in whatever it is that you decide to do.
The Big Short (2015)
Featuring: Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carrell
The Big Short gives us a look into the 2008 financial crisis. It shows three storylines that eventually integrate into one larger story, all of which show the impact of the inevitable crisis.
For most people, understanding such an event is difficult due to all of the technicalities and financial terminology. However, the movie does a great job at simplifying it so that it’s easy to follow.
Overall, you learn a lot about what causes a financial crisis and how to respond to it, which will help you plan better for your own business.
The lessons you can learn from the movie: It is difficult for entrepreneurs to determine when to push and when to be cautious. This film provides insight into the American financial mindset, which should help you plan your business.
It also teaches you when it is the right time to take some risks and when to be more careful.
Final Thoughts on the Best Business Movies
As an aspiring or established entrepreneur, you probably don’t have a lot of time to spare for movies. Therefore, when you do find some time, you probably want to watch something that will inspire, teach, or motivate you.
The 18 best business movies we have highlighted will do just that. They are filled with lessons for entrepreneurs that will help you along your journey.
Who knows, some of these movies may even provide you with a fresh idea, helpful insight, or inspirational push you need to take your business to the next level.