Movies are big business, and, sometimes, they actually are about business. Over the next five days, I’ll review what I believe are 25 of the best business movies ever made. Some of them I studied in business school and others I’ve grown to love on their own accord. Not all of these films focus directly on corporate life. Some of the best of them more subtly touch on the art of sales and negotiations.
Starring Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger
Directed by Cameron Crowe
What it's about: Sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) eats a bad slice of pizza and has an epiphany. He decides he no longer wants to be the biggest, baddest agent in sports. From now on, he wants to build personal relationships with his star athletes. This new idea gets him fired, but it helps him develop a conscience and a moral center.
Why watch it: It's a movie of big moments, from Cuba Gooding Jr.'s exuberant dancing to Cruise's lofty speeches to Renee Zellweger's bittersweet declarations.
Business takeaway:Customer first, even if it means turning away some business. Keeping those A-list clients feeling A-list is of utmost importance.
Memorable scene: Rod Tidwell (Gooding Jr.) prancing and dancing and cajoling Maguire into chanting the mantra "show me the money!"
Rod Tidwell: Show me the money!
Jerry Maguire: You complete me.
Dorothy: You had me at "hello."
Dicky Fox: The key to this business is personal relationships.
Jerry Maguire: I am out here for you. You don't know what it's like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, OK?
Starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman
Directed by Colin Higgins
What it's about: Frank Hart (Dabney Coleman) is a bad boss with a capital B. He's a liar, a thief and a sexual harasser before that term hit the mainstream. Finally, fed up with his shenanigans, three of his female employees plan a counterstrike.
Why watch it: Dabney Coleman is pitch perfect in this dastardly role, in which he comes across like one of those silent film bad guys with the curled up mustaches and innate evilness that leaves audiences cheering for his comeuppance.
What it's about: Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford) is an anomaly in the '40s — a fiercely independent single mother who builds an empire of restaurants. She sacrifices her own happiness for a daughter (Ann Blyth) who has a nasty selfish streak, and for men who are after her money.
Why watch it: Too many people remember Crawford for her domestic shortcomings ("No wire hangers, ever!") than her talent as a leading lady, and that's a shame. Lots of celebrities are given a pass for their personal faults and judged on their celluloid presence instead and Crawford should be, too.
Business takeaway:Determination and resilience are two words that come to mind when reflecting on the character of Mildred Pierce. Sometimes in life and business we're dealt the short stick and crumble, but not Mildred, who always forges on.
Memorable scene: When daughter Veda (Blyth) and Mildred are standing in high heels on a narrow staircase and Veda slaps her mom across the face, literally knocking her off her feet. The look on actress Crawford's face is priceless.
Veda: With this money I can get away from you. From you and your chickens and your pies and your kitchens and everything that smells of grease. I can get away from this shack with its cheap furniture and this town and its dollar days, and its women that wear uniforms and its men that wear overalls.
Starring Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons
Directed by J.C. Chandor
What it's about: With the financial crisis of 2008 looming, Margin Call follows the key players in the risk management department of an investment bank who are trying to stay a step ahead of the tsunami that's about to hit.
Why watch it: Although it's not a documentary, and only loosely based on the reality of the market crash, it's an engaging study of risk and how investment banks turn the knobs on the world's financial levers.
Business takeaway: When investing or preparing for retirement, measure the risks, do your due diligence and weigh your appetite for whatever good or bad could take place. Only then should you jump into the deep end.
Memorable scene: When the executives at the investment bank are flown into the headquarters by helicopter in the middle of the night to discuss the storm that is about to hit.
John Tuld: It’s just money; it’s made up — pieces of paper with pictures on it so we don't have to kill each other just to get something to eat.
John Tuld: Maybe you could tell me what is going on. And please, speak as you might to a young child. Or a golden retriever. It wasn't brains that brought me here; I assure you that.
John Tuld: So, what you're telling me, is that the music is about to stop, and we're going to be left holding the biggest bag of odorous excrement ever assembled in the history of capitalism.
What it's about: In yet another version of the odd couple buddy movie, two businessmen (Steve Martin and John Candy) meet at an airport and desperately attempt to get home over the Thanksgiving holidays, but their comedic journey is met with delays, cancellations and madcap adventures.
Why watch it: Another story of life on the road for weary businessmen and how that existence can produce loneliness and strain on familial relations.
Business takeaway: While life on the road may pay the bills, at the end of the day, there's no place like home.
Memorable scene: If you've seen the movie, you know it: the scene where Neal Page (Martin) and Del Griffith (Candy) are forced to share a crummy motel room and the crummy motel room's small bed.
[waking up after sharing the same bed at the motel]
Daniel D. Williams, Senior Market Advisor’s editor, is an award-winning journalist and business editor with extensive experience in print, online and trade shows. Prior to joining Senior Market Advisor, Daniel was editor of Real Estate Southern California magazine and West Coast South Bureau Ch... More
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