I’ve seen a lot of them and for the most part enjoyed them all.
The first business-oriented movie I saw was Big with Tom Hanks. While it’s considered a comedy, it’s set in New York in the toy industry.
While some people may have a narrow definition of a business movie such as Wall Street oriented movies only. My concept of a business movie is broader.
As you’ll see in my list I include movies that don’t involve Wall Street at all.
However, they do involve business in some capacity, including criminal businesses (Lord of War), law firm business, specific industries (Casino, The Insider, Thank You for Smoking).
Moreover, some movies on my list are comedies, some are dramas while others are totally unrealistic with respect to business.
These movies entertain, can inspire and in some cases educate.
FYI, just because I include some movies that showcase nefarious and illegal business enterprises doesn’t mean I suggest you decide to pursue that kind of business.
Here’s my list of favorite business movies of all time (in no particular order). Yes, I’ve watched them all.
1. Boiler Room (my favorite)
If forced to choose my favorite business movie of all time, Boiler Room is it. It’s dramatic, fast-paced and provides an in-depth glimpse into boiler room Wall Street (or I should say off Wall Street) stock scam operations.
2. Wolf of Wall Street
It’s long but it doesn’t feel long. The movie keeps going at a good clip and the antics of rich, greedy and young stock scammers offered plenty of laughs.
3. Wall Street
The 1980’s cranked out some epic business movies given it was a golden era on Wall Street with a long bull market and the popularity of Junk Bonds.
Oliver Stone sought to encapsulate the Wall Street greed with his iconic movie Wall Street. He did a pretty good job.
Any list of top business movies needs to include this starring Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas. “Greed is good” is the popular phrase from this movie. Whenever it’s said, most business fans born before 1980 know it’s Gordon Gecko’s famous line.
4. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
5. The Company Men
6. Glengarry Glen Ross
The entire movie takes place in an office, which may sound like it would get boring, but the dialogue, humor and top-notch acting doesn’t get boring at all. It’s a great movie.
7. Jerry Maguire
Jerry Maguire is a love story, but revolves around the business of sports; sports agents in particular.
The love story was alright, but the sports agent and business of sports made this movie interesting and entertaining. Like most industries, the sports business is high pressure and highly competitive. One deal means millions of dollars and that’s definitely portrayed well in Jerry Maguire.
8. Baby Boom
I loved Baby Boom. I stumbled upon it on TV when I was a kid. It was my first introduction to Diane Keaton. I loved how Diane Keaton’s character adapted to a big life change, which was having a toddler thrust into her care forcing her to give up a corporate career.
Always the business person, she parlayed her business skills into building up a successful baby food business.
Baby Boom reeks of 1980’s movie style, but for me it’s a movie I’ll always enjoy watching every few years – in part due to it’s business angle and in part because of its nostalgic effect on me.
9. Office Space
It pokes fun at corporate cubicle America.
3 guys hate their cubicle life and embark on a scheme to get out of it.
If you haven’t watched this movie, cancel your plans tonight and watch it.
10. Barbarians at the Gate
This movie, based on the book of the same name (the book is outstanding), profiles the events surrounding the RJR Nabisco leveraged buyout competition between KKR and Shearson Lehman.
It’s a high stakes mega deal. The depth of information about leverage buyouts that grew in popularity in the 1980’s is excellent. The movie (and especially the book) takes you through a day-by-day happening of events.
11. The Insider
The move delves deeply into the tobacco industry and due to the intense conflict is a tense drama that kept me entertained.
12. Trading Places
Trading Places is a comedy. It was one of Eddie Murphy’s first movies (arguably one of his best). The business lesson is simplified to “buy low, sell high”.
That said, it touches on deeper themes regarding opportunity, education and the class system and does so with plenty of humor. It does this via the premise which theorized if one took an uneducated, poor person and thrust them in a position of wealth, privilege and authority, could they rise to the occasion and perform the job just as well or better than a person with a privileged background.
13. Broadcast News
Broadcast News is another 1980’s movie I enjoyed starring William Hurt, Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks.
The business setting is the broadcast news industry in which a broadcast news team works to climb to the top. It’s very corporate ladder oriented within the broadcast news industry.
14. The Firm
While at heart The Firm is a legal drama, I include it in the list because it’s one of the best movies that reveals what the law firm business is all about. You learn all about client acquisition, making partner, billing… in a nutshell you get a glimpse at the business side of law.
15. Working Girl
Melanie Griffith made some great movies in the 80’s and 90’s. Working Girl is one of her best. She stars alongside Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver.
It’s a rags to riches tale (in a sense) of lowly secretary (Melanie Griffith) who manages to provide the solution to a complicated business deal within the M&A department in which she works.
While I don’t normally like fantastical movies, which Big is, I loved this movie. I saw it as a kid and appreciated the business angle of a kid who ends up in an adult’s body and becomes an executive at toy company. Because he’s actually a kid, he has a keen sense of which toys the company should make.
It’s funny too, although I enjoyed the unrealistic (but fun) tale of a young kid who outsmarts the other executives at a large toy corporation.
17. Night Crawler
Not touted as a comedy, I found Night Crawler hilarious.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays a creepy character who starts a video production company that specializes in capturing video footage of crime and car accidents in L.A.
The movie does a nice job exploring this very niche business industry which is part of the news industry. What I particularly liked about it is how Jake’s character falls in love with the business concept of being able to build up a successful business by getting video coverage. He’s good at it, but his ambition drives him to ignore ethics to get the story.
Limitless is a fun movie starring Bradley Cooper. A struggling writer gains access to a pill that enables him to use 100% of his brain power. He uses his new-found smarts to make a fortune on Wall Street.
This is a fun movie.
19. The Social Network
The Social Network showcases the start and growth of Facebook.
While I’m not sure what is fact or fiction, it’s an interesting, informative and definitely entertaining movie about one of today’s biggest tech companies.
Moneyball does a brilliant job showcasing the business of sports, baseball in particular.
While the movie focuses on the story of a team’s general manager using statistics to build a team, you get a inside glimpse into the operations of a baseball team and the pro baseball business generally.
21. Up In the Air
Up In the Air is about a corporate ax-man, played by George Clooney, whose job is to lay people off. He’s a hired gun. Companies hire him to lay off thousands of people. It’s a good look into the downsizing of corporate jobs.
22. The Corporation
For those of you who like documentaries and enjoy a more serious look at business, The Corporation is for you.
It’s a well done documentary exploring the concept of the corporation as a legal entity in today’s society.
Gambling and casinos are big business. The film “Casino” does a great job giving viewers an inside look at the machinations of the casino business.
As with any big budget Hollywood movie, it includes violence and romance, but at the heart it’s all about the casino and gambling business.
Blow is my favorite drug lord movie. It stars Johnny Depp who goes from surf bum to drug lord. I won’t reveal the end, but you can probably guess it.
It’s filled with luxury eye candy.
It’s based on a true story. It’s a fun ride that showcases the growth of the drug trade in America.
25. There Will Be Blood
There Will Be Blood is a fantastic movie starring Daniel Day Lewis about the early days of the oil industry.
26. Lord of War
Lord of War is a fun movie about the arms industry post Cold War. Nicholas Cage does a great job playing an international arms broker selling all kinds of Soviet weapons, from which he earns stupendous commissions.
27. In Good Company
In Good Company is a nice movie about the advertising industry. It stars Dennis Quaid, Scarlett Johansson and Topher Grace.
It’s about a large ad company buying a smaller one. Dennis Quaid’s character, a 51 year old ad excec finds himself suddenly subordinate to a boss half his age.
28. The Devil Wears Prada
The Devil Wears Prada is a fun movie about the fashion magazine industry which you see through the eyes of a young woman who is assistant to the powerful and nasty fashion magazine editor.
29. Middle Men
Middle Men is a hilarious movie. My wife and I stumbled upon it one night and lived it.
It’s based on a true story about the creation of online billing software that turns 1 guy into an instant internet multi-millionaire.
30. The Secret of My Success
This movie is about a new college graduate from the Midwest who ends up in finance in New York City.
It’s a “rise from the ashes” movie in which the recent college graduate loses his job before he starts. He’s stuck in NYC and can’t land a new job except in the mailroom. Using his smarts and access to the company’s documents he discovers the company is making bad decisions. He makes this known and so his star rises.
31. Other People’s Money
Other People’s Money is about a corporate raider who wants to take over a smaller family-owned business. It’s a David vs. Goliath film in a business setting.
32. Thank You for Smoking
I loved this movie. It’s hilarious. It’s about a tobacco industry spokesperson whose job is to justify and defend the industry. The movie focuses on ideas to improve dwindling cigarette sales in an environment where cigarette advertising is severely restricted.
At its heart, the movie pokes fun of the tobacco industry and how it conducts itself to grow sales in a world that knows cigarettes kill.
33. Margin Call
Margin Call reminds me of Glengarry Glen Ross in that it’s like a play (not because Margin Call also stars Kevin Spacey). Margin Call is set in an office and covers a 24 hour period just before the 2008 financial crisis.
Cast Your Vote for Best Business Movie (of all time):
Business Movies I Want to Watch:
I’m particularly excited about watching Margin Call. However, I’m sure eventually see the others on this list (I love Netflix and Movies on Demand).
- Pirates of the Silicon Valley
- Steve Jobs
- The Big Short
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