When it comes to finding inspiration and learning valuable lessons, movies can be a powerful tool for entrepreneurs. Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or just starting out, the right film can provide insights, motivation, and a fresh perspective on the entrepreneurial journey. In this article, we will explore some of the best movies for entrepreneurs, ranging from biopics to fictionalized accounts of real events. These films offer a wide range of perspectives on what it takes to succeed in the world of business, making them a must-watch for anyone looking to be inspired and entertained while gaining valuable insights into the entrepreneurial world.
From the rise and fall of iconic business figures to the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity, each movie on this list has something unique to offer. So, grab some popcorn, get comfortable, and get ready to be inspired by the most-watched movies for entrepreneurs.
Now, let’s dive into the world of business and entrepreneurship through the lens of cinema, and discover the stories that can help fuel your entrepreneurial spirit and drive your success.
32 Movies Every Entrepreneur Should Watch for Inspiration
Entrepreneur: Joy Mangano
Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, a self-made millionaire who created her own business empire.
Synopsis: Joy is the story of the title character, who rose to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty.
Wall Street (1987)
Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, and Martin Sheen
Synopsis: The film tells the story of Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), a young stockbroker who becomes involved with Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), a wealthy, unscrupulous corporate raider.
The Social Network (2010)
Entrepreneur: Mark Zuckerberg
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, with Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, Armie Hammer as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and Max Minghella as Divya Narendra. Neither Zuckerberg nor any other Facebook staff were involved with the project, although Saverin was a consultant for Mezrich’s book.
Synopsis: Based on the 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history… but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.
Margin Call (2011)
Director: J. C. Chandor
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci
Synopsis: The principal story takes place over a 24-hour period at a large Wall Street investment bank during the initial stages of the 2007–2008 financial crisis. Its focus are the actions taken by a group of employees during the subsequent financial collapse.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Entrepreneur: Jordan Belfort
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort, Jonah Hill as his business partner and friend, Donnie Azoff, Margot Robbie as his second wife, Naomi Lapaglia, Matthew McConaughey as his mentor and former boss Mark Hanna, and Kyle Chandler as FBI agent Patrick Denham.
Synopsis: Based on Jordan Belfort’s 2007 memoir of the same name. It recounts Belfort’s career as a stockbroker in New York City and how his firm, Stratton Oakmont, engaged in rampant corruption and fraud on Wall Street, leading to his downfall.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Director: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Tom Cruise as the sports agent Jerry Maguire, alongside Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger, Kelly Preston, Jerry O’Connell, Jay Mohr, Bonnie Hunt and Regina King.
Synopsis: When a sports agent has a moral epiphany and is fired for expressing it, he decides to put his new philosophy to the test as an independent agent with the only athlete who stays with him and his former colleague.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Director: James Foley
Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce
Synopsis: Based on his 1984 Pulitzer Prize–winning play of the same name. The film depicts two days in the lives of four real estate salesmen, and their increasing desperation when the corporate office sends a motivational trainer to threaten them that all but the top two salesmen will be fired within one week.
Boiler Room (2000)
Director: Ben Younger
Starring: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Ben Affleck, Nicky Katt, Scott Caan, Tom Everett Scott, Ron Rifkin, and Jamie Kennedy
Synopsis: A college dropout, attempting to live up to his father’s high standards, gets a job as a broker for a suburban investment firm which puts him on the fast track to success. But the job might not be as legitimate as it first appeared to be.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Entrepreneur: Erin Brockovich
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart
Synopsis: The film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts, who initiated a legal case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company over its culpability for the Hinkley groundwater contamination incident.
Entrepreneur: Billy Beane
Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Synopsis: The film is based on the 2003 nonfiction book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. The book is an account of the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s 2002 season and their general manager Billy Beane’s attempts to assemble a competitive team. In the film, Beane (Brad Pitt) and assistant general manager Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), faced with the franchise’s limited budget for players, build a team of undervalued talent by taking a sophisticated sabermetric approach to scouting and analyzing players.
The Founder (2016)
Entrepreneur: Ray Kroc
Director: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll, Linda Cardellini, Joan Smith, B. J. Novak
Synopsis: The film depicts the story of his creation of the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant chain, which eventually involved forcing out the company’s original founders (Richard and Maurice McDonald) to take control with conniving ruthlessness.
Lord of War (2005)
Director: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan, Ethan Hawke
Synopsis: Lord of War follows Yuri Orlov as he enters the illegal arms trade shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, eventually becoming a well-known and unscrupulous gun runner.
Steve Jobs (2015)
Entrepreneur: Steve Jobs
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jeff Daniels
Synopsis: It was adapted from the 2011 biography by Walter Isaacson and interviews conducted by Sorkin. The film covers fourteen years in the life of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, specifically ahead of three press conferences he gave during that time – the formal unveiling of the Macintosh 128K on January 24, 1984; the unveiling of the NeXT Computer on October 12, 1988; and the unveiling of the iMac G3 on May 6, 1998.
Two for the Money (2005)
Director: D. J. Caruso
Starring: Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey, Rene Russo, Armand Assante, and Carly Pope
Synopsis: Brandon Lang loves football: an injury keeps him from the pros, but his quarterback’s anticipation makes him a brilliant predictor of games’ outcomes. Needing money, he leaves Vegas for Manhattan to work for Walter Abrams advising gamblers. Walter has a doting wife, a young daughter, and a thriving business, but he has problems: a bum heart, a belief he’s a master manipulator, and addictions barely kept in check. He remakes Brandon, and a father-son relationship grows. Then, things go awry. Walter may be running a con. The odds against Brandon mount.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Director: David Frankel
Starring: Miranda Priestly, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Adrian Grenier
Synopsis: Based on the 2003 novel by Lauren Weisberger. After graduating from university, Andy lands the dream job that “a million girls would kill for”: assistant to Miranda – the chief editor of Runway, the top-selling fashion magazine in the industry. It is a job set to fast-track her career in journalism if she can survive a year working for Miranda. From here, Andy, with no sense of fashion at all, begins a fish-out-of-water drama as she is thrown into a lifestyle full of fast-paced, three-inch-minimum-heel-height, diet coke and coffee substance abuse. Andy works really hard to deal with Miranda’s endless unimaginable demands. She even becomes trendy and classy. However, she gradually finds she is working 24/7 and soon her life with boyfriend Nate and best friend Lily is slipping away from her. Then, she realizes that she is losing what really matters. She does not want to lose herself no matter how many pairs of Monolos and Jimmy Choos she can score along the way.
Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
Entrepreneurs: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates
Director: Martyn Burke
Starring: Noah Wyle as Steve Jobs and Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates
Synopsis: Spanning the years 1971–1997 and based on Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine’s 1984 book Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer, it explores the impact that the rivalry between Jobs (Apple Computer) and Gates (Microsoft) had on the development of the personal computer.
Entrepreneur: Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman
Director: Jehane Noujaim and Chris Hegedus
Starring: Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman
Synopsis: It follows the dot-com start-up govWorks.com, which raised $60 million in funding from Hearst Interactive Media, KKR, the New York Investment Fund, and Sapient. The startup did not survive, but it became a reference for lessons learned, as it was the subject of a 2001 documentary that follows govWorks founders Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman from 1999 to 2000, as the Internet bubble was bursting.
The Big Short (2015)
Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, with John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, and Marisa Tomei
Synopsis: It is based on the 2010 book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis showing how the 2007–2008 financial crisis was triggered by the United States housing bubble.
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Director: Nora Ephron
Starring: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan
Synopsis: Inspired by the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László (which had earlier been adapted in 1940 as The Shop Around the Corner and in 1949 as In the Good Old Summertime). It tells the story of two people in an online romance who are unaware they are also business rivals.
The Aviator (2004)
Entrepreneur: Howard Hughes
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn, and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner
Synopsis: Based on the 1993 non-fiction book Howard Hughes: The Secret Life by Charles Higham, the film depicts the life of Howard Hughes, an aviation pioneer and director of the film Hell’s Angels. The film portrays his life from 1927 to 1947 during which time Hughes became a successful film producer and an aviation magnate while simultaneously growing more unstable due to severe obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD).