Every year we look forward to the latest Hollywood movies to take us on great adventures, to new worlds, or simply to give us a chance to escape our ordinary lives. Some Hollywood movies however are based more on reality and instead offer us a stylish reflection of the world we live in. One category of such is business movies, which depict the daily happenings in the world of business. While there are plenty of movies where business plays an important part in the background of a movie to move the main character along, there are only a handful of movies where the business itself plays at the forefront of a film and almost becomes a character.
Most Hollywood business movies focus on the fast-paced worlds of stock trading, finance, or the birth of new companies and the tragic ends of others. Many of the business movies that Hollywood has made over the last 50 years, seem to have a negative and dark view of some of the livelihoods that business people have entered. They depict the consequences that greed and egotism play on societal victims at large. As with most movies, Hollywood never forgets to put a moral lesson for the characters in the film and perhaps a warning for the viewers. Here is a list of some of the business movies that you should watch if you’re in business and hopefully pick out the moral lessons. They are in no particular order:
Many have called Wall Street one of the quintessential Hollywood Business movies. In the film, a young go-getter played by Charlie Sheen enters the chaotic world of stock trading. His idol and the man he wants to be is his boss, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglass) who teaches him that the only way to succeed in stock trading is if you go illegal. So he teaches him insider trading. As Fox becomes embroiled in greed and underhanded schemes, his decisions eventually threaten the livelihood of his family. A great film with a powerful message about the cost of greed and the desire to be rich.
While Boiler Room has many similar plot elements to Wall Street, the film spends a bit more time focusing on some of the victims of illicit trading schemes. In the film, Seth (Giovanni Ribisi) dreams of being rich when he first joins the cutthroat world of trading but soon gets family and friends financially involved.
Margin call takes us through a 24 hour period at a trading firm where a few important members discover the imminent financial collapse of 2008 and debate how their actions can make or break their firm and cause the collapse of the Economy. Margin Call differs from some of the other stock trading movies. The film portrays the traders as victims as well as the thousands of other investors.
An unusual film that not only portrays a handful of the very few people that saw the financial collapse of 2008 and profited from it but also breaks the fourth wall and explains to the audience some very complex financial terms. Although many might think of the movie with such complex financial instruments like CDO’s and Derivatives to be less interesting, this true story offers a fun roller coaster ride into the downward spiral of the housing market. This film’s poignant message is not only about what events lead to the crisis but the utter failures of the American economic system and its irresponsible oversight.
A somewhat dark and bleak movie showing the effects of corporate downsizing on people’s lives. Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper), and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) all find themselves out of work after being let go by their firm – a shipping and manufacturing conglomerate. They now must face the consequences their job loss has on their lives and that of their families. To survive in a hostile post-career landscape, they must redefine their lives.
This HBO made comedy docudrama, based on the book of the same name, details the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. The film follows James Garner as F. Ross Johnson who created a bidding war in his attempts to take over Nabisco. While the film is done in a very tongue in cheek way, it does justice to the original story of one of the earliest leveraged buyouts.
Michael Keaton portrays the legendary Mcdonald’s mastermind, Ray Kroc. The movie gives us a brief history of Ray, an unsuccessful milkshake machine salesman, and how he turned a fast food restaurant owned by the McDonalds brothers into the restaurant conglomerate we know today. Some might suspect this film to be an upbeat, underdog story, but surprisingly it doesn’t shy away from showing the consequences of Ray’s own greed and ego.
The story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and how he and a small group of friends created Facebook. The movie traces his life through Mark’s early days at Harvard and the beginnings of the Facebook application. This is one of the few more upbeat Hollywood movies about a business and the genius of creation.
Rather than a serious drama, this documentary (narrated by Matt Damon) painstakingly details the financial crisis of 2008. The film interviews a long list of Politicians, Professors, and key financial personnel who witnessed the catastrophic events felt all around the world. For anyone who wants to get a comprehensive explanation and world view of the Crisis, this film is almost a requirement.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
This unusually titled film is the name of the firm where Al Pacino, Jack Lemon, Ed Harris, and Alan Arkin work selling real estate. The film is highly regarded for its exceptional, and somewhat uncomfortable, realistic view of the high-pressure salesman’s world. In the film, the four salesmen have just one night to get a sale or else one of them will lose their job. Some viewers will be intrigued as to how the men use deceptive and sometimes devious tactics to make sales. Anyone who has ever been in sales might find themselves not only pitying the characters but will empathize with their harrowing scenario. Although never explicitly said in the film, viewers are led to believe that the land the men are selling is of low value or worthless. The movie has also become famous for Alec Baldwin’s brief but menacing sales speech.