The Best Movies for Entrepreneurs on Netflix & Amazon Prime
Even the smallest business venture is a daunting undertaking. For those who have the courage and gumption to take that first step, the road ahead will be rough but hopefully rewarding. Now, there are enough books written about business to fill a dozen libraries, and all of them have at least one great piece of advice. Unfortunately, there’s only so much time you can devote to reading them, so the next best thing is movies.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll be called on to wear many hats. Rather than try to become specialized in every one of the functions you have to perform, focus on principles. Below is a list of great movies that will underscore solid principles, rather than tactics, which will compound in value as your venture grows.
Every entrepreneur starts their journey with a great idea and good intentions. It’s easy to get sidetracked along the way and be tempted to set your values aside for the sake of progress. Jerry McGuire is a case study in how to hold on to what you know is right and refuse to compromise your core beliefs.
This movie is replete with great takeaways. The principles to focus on here are: invest heavily in personal relationships and stick to your values. Jerry Maguire shows you how a rising tide lifts all boats but never lets you forget that you’re in it to make a living. Remember the timeless line, “Show me the money!”
The Social Network
By now, most people know Facebook’s origin story, at least superficially. The Social Network is a great movie in general, but holds a lot of added value for entrepreneurs. The saga of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise is equal parts inspirational and a cautionary tale. The screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin, who describes his own work as a painting rather than a photograph. This makes for some very digestible dialogue that reads almost like Zen Koans, which can be applied broadly to business strategy.
The most important principle exhibited in this piece is that, if you have a great product, people are going to want it. However, it’s important to be rational – just because you think your product is great doesn’t make it so. Another important lesson is understanding that you’ll be operating in what is functionally a zero-sum game. Someone will have to end up on the losing side, so find a balance between keeping friends and being successful.
If you’re under the impression that this is a movie about baseball, that’s understandable, but not accurate. Yes, it’s the true story of the legendary baseball manager Billy Beane, but that just sets the stage for a compelling narrative about working from the fundamentals. Beane, as the manager for the Oakland A’s, was put into a situation where he had to adapt or “die.” Moneyball is a terrific exposé of how entrenched ideas and outdated models are massive opportunities if you can take advantage of them.
The upshot is pretty clear. When you’re faced with a problem, think about the fundamental concepts that cause it, and work from there. Beane moved away from old-fashioned ideas about talent and applied sober analytics to make decisions. Those decisions eventually made his team one of the most successful in their league. Other lessons include valuing criticism and listening to people with good ideas, no matter who they are.
Most people wouldn’t root for Ray Kroc when watching this movie. You may disagree with his methods, but you can’t argue with the results. Ray Kroc, of McDonald’s fame, had nothing to do with opening the first restaurant, but he had everything to do with making it the success it is today. The story takes a lot of twists and turns but stays focused on how perseverance and big-picture thinking can win the day.
In many ways, this movie shows the cutthroat side of making your vision into a reality. Kroc doesn’t hold back because he has a clear vision, and he’s able to sell people that vision rather than a product. The important principles touched on here include focusing on a specific problem you’re solving for clients and having a broad plan, as well as a focused strategy.
Twelve Angry Men
This is likely to be the movie on this list that raises the most eyebrows. It may be hard to see how a courtroom drama applies to entrepreneurs, but there’s a lot of value to be gleaned from this film. The movie follows the deliberations of a jury in a case that most of the jurors have strong feelings about.
Savvy entrepreneurs will recognize this as a masterclass in negotiation. A large part of your responsibility as a business owner will be to mediate disagreement, in one form or another. 12 Angry Men shows how empathizing, soft pressure, and a multitude of other tactics can be used to win people over to your side without creating resentment.
From Hollywood to Silicon Valley
In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, there’s a famous scene in which Indy has to step into an abyss to reach the Holy Grail and ultimately save his father. This is an excellent illustration of what being an entrepreneur is like. You will have people depending on you, projected goals to reach, and many competitors rooting for you to fail. All the while, you will be expected to take on most of the risk and lead the charge.
Actualizing your dreams is a difficult undertaking. Hopefully, you can extract some valuable lessons from the movies in this article. Like Indiana, you’re working for the greater good, so don’t forget to throw some sand behind you to show others the path.
What movies have inspired you most throughout your career as an entrepreneur? Let us know in the comments below if you have any favorite movie scenes or quotes that help your decision making.