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November 10, 2010

Forbes Suggests The Top 11 Movies Every Entrepreneur Should See

Filed under: General HR Buzz10:59 am

Two big business movies are about to hit the big screen: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to Oliver Stone’s 1987 suspender-snapping classic, and The Social Network, about the founding of and feuding within Facebook, now with north of 500 million users per month.

How fast the world changes. In Gordon Gekko’s day, cellphones were the size of large bricks and the Internet apparently a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye. Twenty-five years later, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and throngs of other online entrepreneurs, millions of young people have richer virtual lives than real ones.

Twenty-five years from now, iPhones and social networks as we know them will seem just as anachronistic, and a handful of good movies will come along to celebrate (and hopefully poke some fun at) the proceedings.

Truth is, business movies abound, even if they aren’t packaged as such. Many have valuable lessons for entrepreneurs and management alike–from choosing the right customers to taking on established competitors. We rifled through decades worth of cinema, including dramas, mysteries, comedies, documentaries and chillers, looking for a worthwhile crop. Not all were blockbusters, some weren’t even mild commercial successes, but they’re all darn good flicks. Here are but a handful:

“Citizen Kane” (1941)

Directed by Orson Welles

No list of great films, let alone ones about business, would be complete without this classic, which traces the life and times of Charles Foster Kane, a fictional newspaper tycoon based loosely on William Randolf Hearst. The movie is about the relentless pursuit of wealth and power–and what, in the end, it’s all worth. For those who haven’t seen Citizen Kane, stop reading now and take care of business. For those who have seen but haven’t quite processed its message, dust it off and pop some corn.

“Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992)

Directed by James Foley

With the unemployment rate stubbornly stuck near 10%, David Mamet’s stinging script about desperate New York real estate salesmen fighting for their jobs cuts almost too close to the bone. The all-star cast includes Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce and, of course, Alec Baldwin, who delivers one of the most oft-quoted speeches in business-movie history. Lesson for business owners? Find better ways to motivate your closers than reminding them that third prize in this month’s sales contest is “You’re fired.”

“It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)

Directed by Frank Capra

A small business founders and gets no love from its lender. George Bailey’s tale of woe is all too familiar (and not just because it plays like clockwork on TV every Christmas season). Clarence, Bailey’s guardian angel, comes to the rescue, as do other key players in Bailey’s life. Lesson for small business owners: When the going gets tough, a loyal and thoughtful board of advisors comes in handy.

“Gosford Park” (2001)

Directed by Robert Altman

This sumptuous murder mystery is packed with delicious dialogue and myriad subplots. Sir William McCordle, a boorish aristocrat, hosts a shooting party at his estate in the English countryside. Many of the guests have reason to do him harm. Sure enough, he ends up at his desk with a knife in the chest. The most trenchant business lesson comes from the head servant, played by Helen Mirren, who delivers the very definition of customer service: “I’m the perfect servant. I know when they’ll be hungry, and the food is ready. I know when they’ll be tired, and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves.”

“Session 9″ (2001)

Directed by Brad Anderson

This little-known chiller is about a cash-strapped asbestos-removal entrepreneur and his four-man crew, who accept a job to clean up a spooky, abandoned insane asylum in Danvers, Mass. The gig proves a killer: The team agrees to finish what amounts to a two-week job in one, and there is evil in those hospital halls that never sleeps. Lesson: Not all customers are good ones, even if you really need the money. Watch this one with the lights on.

Office Space” (1999)

Directed by Mike Judge

Happy to have a job in this economy? You should be, but that doesn’t mean you should be miserable day in, day out. For fed-up cubicle warriors who need an extra push–to do their own thing or at least to shake things up a bit–this gut-busting classic is for you.

“American Gangster” (2007)

Directed by Ridley Scott

With any luck, your American dream doesn’t involve enslaving an entire neighborhood to hard drugs, as Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) does in this movie and did in Harlem in the late 1960s. With just as much luck, you’re channeling Lucas by pinpointing and exploiting inefficiencies in the market and stealing share from established players–and doing it all within the letter of the law.

“Barbarians At The Gate” (1993)

Directed by Glenn Jordan

This tongue-in-cheek, made-for-TV take on the largest (at the time) takeover battle in corporate history is based on the book by seasoned journos Bryan Burrough and John Helyar (right up there with Den Of Thieves and Liar’s Poker in the pantheon of great business titles). James Garner is charming as F. Ross Johnson, RJR Nabisco’s bumbling, greedy chief executive, who tries to buy out his company with the help of some well-heeled backers. When other deep-pocketed suitors jump in, hilarity ensues and the price tag goes through the roof. Lesson: Whether you’re looking to raise money or looking to sell out, create some competition.

“I.O.U.S.A.” (2008)

Directed by Patrick Creadon

Sponsored in part by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (Mr. Peterson is a billionaire investor and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce), this all-too-obscure documentary aims to scare us all stiff about the burgeoning debt crisis in America and the painful consequences of mass fiscal irresponsibility. Planning for the future–whether that involves running a business, raising a family or electing capable government officials–means understanding these forces.

“Risky Business” (1983)

Directed by Paul Brickman

This coming-of-age standard-bearer is about the essence of entrepreneurship: identifying a market need and filling it. Sure, the business involves the oldest profession in the world, and a beautiful Porsche gets dunked in Lake Michigan, but the core message still stands.

Honorable Mention: “Man On Wire” (2008)

Directed by James Marsh

This documentary chronicles tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s miraculous 1974 performance on a 1,350-foot-high steel cable wired between the rooftops of the World Trade Center’s twin towers. Petit and his conspirators spent eight months planning their (very illegal) coup, including how to bypass security and lug their equipment to the tops of the towers. Lesson? Only that amazing feats begin with passion and vision, and Petit had gobs of both.

Source: Brett Nelson


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