19 Powerful Movies Every Aspiring Entrepreneur Needs to See

by | Aug 11, 2023 | Movies

Starting a new business can be an exciting yet challenging experience. While there is no substitute for real-world experience, movies can provide inspiration, motivation, and lessons for entrepreneurs.

Top 19 films every budding entrepreneur should watch for motivation, insights and cautionary tales.

By portraying different entrepreneurial journeys, these movies cover a wide range of motivations, ideas, challenges and successes.

1. The Social Network (2010)

This biopic traces the beginnings of Facebook from a Harvard dorm room. Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, spearheads the development of the world’s largest social network.

The movie illustrates entrepreneurial qualities like vision, perseverance, strategy and the importance of relationships.

Key Takeaways:

  • Have a clear vision and execute it relentlessly. Zuckerberg’s focus on his idea led to its massive success.
  • Be flexible and open to new opportunities even if they deviate from your original plan. Facebook started as a campus social network before becoming global.
  • Legal hassles can plague startups. Zuckerberg faces accusations of stealing the idea and breach of contract.

2. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Will Smith plays down-on-his-luck salesman Chris Gardner who struggles to provide for his family. After his wife leaves, he lands an internship in a brokerage firm aiming for a lucrative career.

Key Takeaways:

  • With extreme perseverance, you can overcome difficult circumstances. Gardner refuses to give up despite being homeless for months.
  • Provide real value and solve problems for others. Gardner impresses his bosses and clients with his tenacity and skills.
  • Be humble and willing to start from the bottom. Gardner sees opportunity in the unpaid internship.

3. Joy (2015)

Jennifer Lawrence portrays Joy Mangano, a divorced mom who invents the Miracle Mop. She overcomes many obstacles in bringing her creation to market and building a business empire.

Key Takeaways:

  • Creativity and innovation are vital. Joy uses her ingenuity to engineer the self-wringing mop.
  • Persist through setbacks and rejections. Joy faces many hurdles ranging from manufacturers stealing her design to retailers turning her down.
  • Understand all aspects of the business like pricing, marketing and customer service. Joy leaves no stone unturned in launching the mop.

4. Jerry Maguire (1996)

When sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) loses his job, he starts his own company guiding just one client – pro footballer Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.).

Key Takeaways:

  • Relationships and loyalty matter. Jerry triumphs by caring for his only client.
  • Deliver exceptional service. Jerry prepares meticulously for contract negotiations.
  • Stand by your principles. Jerry refuses to compromise on his values.

5. The Founder (2016)

Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, the businessman who turned McDonald’s into a fast food empire after buying the rights to the franchise.

Key Takeaways:

  • Persistence pays off. Kroc overcomes many rejections before convincing the McDonald brothers to franchise with him.
  • Think big and see the larger potential. The brothers planned just a small chain but Kroc envisioned nationwide expansion.
  • The contract fine print matters. Kroc sneakily maneuvers to buy the full rights later.

6. Ghostbusters (1984)

After getting fired from university, three parapsychologists start a ghost-hunting business in New York City. They stumble upon an apocalyptic demonic threat.

Key Takeaways:

  • Identify market needs and cater to the demand. The Ghostbusters capitalize on interest in paranormal activity.
  • Assemble a skilled, complementary team. Each Ghostbuster brings different strengths and talents.
  • Regulation and red tape can hinder new ventures. The Ghostbusters face scrutiny and skepticism.

7. The Intern (2015)

Seventy-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) becomes a senior intern at an online fashion company run by impatient entrepreneur Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).

Key Takeaways:

  • Leverage experience and wisdom. Ben’s maturity and empathy ultimately benefit the stressed employees.
  • Admit your weaknesses and delegate. Stubborn Jules learns she can’t do everything alone.
  • Value and bridge generational differences. Jules and Ben learn a lot from each other.

8. Office Space (1999)

This comedy focuses on three frustrated employees – Peter Gibbons, Samir Nagheenanajar and Michael Bolton – working at a soul-crushing corporation called Initech.

Key Takeaways:

  • Micromanaging and bureaucracy stifle creativity. The employees are constantly monitored for tardiness and minor infractions.
  • Find meaning and fulfillment in your work. Peter discovers his passion is different from his job.
  • Challenge conventional wisdom. The friends embezzle money from Initech in an unorthodox revenge scheme.

9. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Four desperate real estate salesmen compete ruthlessly to avoid losing their jobs. The internal rivalry leads to deception, blackmail and betrayal.

Key Takeaways:

  • Unethical behavior like bribery and dishonesty can seem attractive but will backfire. The salesmen pay serious consequences.
  • Toxic, high-pressure environments bring out the worst in people. There is no team spirit, only infighting.
  • Have integrity and keep your values intact. One seasoned salesman refuses to stoop down to the nefarious tactics.

10. The Aviator (2004)

Leonardo DiCaprio inhabits the role of Howard Hughes, the businessman, movie producer, aviator and engineer who battles obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Key Takeaways:

  • Have bold vision and dare to achieve the impossible, like Hughes’ passion for aviation and filmmaking.
  • Eccentricity can accompany genius but may lead to dysfunctional behavior. Hughes faces increasing instability and isolation.
  • Fame comes with pitfalls like greed, paranoia and addiction. Hughes succumbs to many vices.

11. Moneyball (2011)

Brad Pitt plays baseball manager Billy Beane who uses analytics and statistics to assemble a winning Oakland A’s team on a modest budget.

Key Takeaways:

  • Innovate and challenge conventional wisdom. Beane’s tactics are initially criticized but ultimately successful.
  • Leverage data, facts and evidence over assumptions. Beane overhauls traditional scouting based on emotion and ‘gut feel’.
  • Find undervalued talent. Beane recruits seemingly flawed players who get on base and help the team.

12. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio plays real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort who makes millions through fraudulent practices like pump-and-dump schemes. His firm Stratton Oakmont is rife with corruption and scandals.

Key Takeaways:

  • Unethical behavior may seem rewarding temporarily but causes long-term damage. Belfort ends up losing everything.
  • Unchecked greed leads to downfall. At Stratton Oakmont, greed spirals into illegal activities.
  • Your reputation is your most valuable asset. Belfort’s misdeeds catch up and he earns lifelong infamy.

13. Erin Brockovich (2000)

Julia Roberts won an Oscar for playing activist Erin Brockovich who brings down Pacific Gas and Electric Company for contaminating water in a small town.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tenacity and resourcefulness can overcome lack of experience. Erin has no legal or technical knowledge but she perseveres.
  • Build empathy and truly care about your customers/clients. Erin is outraged by the injustice and wants to protect the townspeople.
  • Do thorough research and build an airtight case. Erin gathers extensive evidence before going to court.

14. Startup.com (2001)

This documentary provides a raw, unfiltered look at the rapid rise and fall of GovWorks – a 1990s dotcom startup for government services and transactions.

Key Takeaways:

  • The startup journey can be an emotional rollercoaster. The founders’ friendship is tested.
  • Growth comes with painful challenges. Hiring issues, technical fires and budget overruns plague GovWorks.
  • The dotcom burst serves as a cautionary tale about speculative financing models and exorbitant spending.

15. Chef (2014)

After a public meltdown, chef Carl Casper starts a food truck business from scratch serving Cuban sandwiches. He tries to reconnect with his son and passion for cooking.

Key Takeaways:

  • You’re never too old to start over. Casper begins a new chapter mid-career.
  • Go back to your roots and core strengths. Casper returns to street food.
  • Use social media to directly engage customers. Casper builds his brand through Twitter.

16. Wall Street (1987)

Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) gets involved in insider trading under the influence of ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). He faces the moral implications when Gekko targets his own father’s airline.

Key Takeaways:

  • Riches obtained unethically offer hollow rewards. Bud’s ambition and moral compromises ultimately leave him empty.
  • Shady mentors can lead you astray. Gekko’s warped outlook corrupts Bud.
  • Stay true to your values when tested. Bud tries but fails to stop Gekko’s airline takeover.

17. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear plays inventor Bob Kearns who designed the intermittent windshield wiper but automakers copied and patented his innovation without crediting or paying him. His long crusade for justice depletes his finances and strains family relationships.

Key Takeaways:

  • Fight for your intellectual property rights. Kearns perseveres until court victories against Ford and Chrysler.
  • Big corporations may exploit entrepreneurs’ creativity for profit. Kearns faces injustice and sabotage.
  • Obsessively pursuing individual credit can cause collateral damage. Kearns sacrifices too much for vindication.

18. Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

Jeff Bridges portrays Preston Tucker, a spirited entrepreneur who designs the innovative “Tucker Torpedo” automobile in the 1940s but is unable to bring it to market amidst big auto manufacturers’ sabotage.

Key Takeaways:

  • Follow your passion with infectious enthusiasm. Tucker puts his heart and soul into making his dream car.
  • Expect fierce resistance from established players. Tucker faces conspiracy, allegations and lawsuits.
  • Perseverance is key. Despite challenges, Tucker comes close to releasing his car.

19. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

In this fantasy comedy-drama, timid photo manager Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) goes on a globe-spanning adventure to find a missing photograph negative.

Key Takeaways:

  • Break out of your comfort zone. Walter finds courage to pursue his dreams.
  • Life’s unforgettable moments happen outside offices and desk jobs. Walter realizes there is a whole vivid world awaiting him.
  • Stop procrastinating and seizing opportunities. Walter stops fantasizing and takes real action.

The road to entrepreneurship is filled with thrills and spills.

At times, it may seem easier to simply watch from the sidelines. But turning ideas into reality is worth all the challenges involved.

So be bold, take the plunge and chase your goals – these movies will keep you inspired along the way!