The 9 Best Business Movies of 2020
See which titles you need to watch to learn more about the biz world
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If you want to succeed in the world of business, there are thankfully many pathways towards that goal. Some people will find that burying their head and focusing on the technical skills is a great way to succeed, while others will see that social skills do come in handy. The films on this list explore the challenges and triumphs of trying to make it in the field, the problems in a variety of business industries, as well as the full range of successful approaches that individuals have taken. Learning about business does not have to be dull. Look for takeaways in movies and build upon them in your professional life. Take a peek below to find the best business movies to watch today.
Best Personality Profile: The Imitation Game
If you want to become the best in business, you will need to learn how to create dynamic teams that can solve challenges no one else can. While there are individual personalities that obviously get along better with others, and specific skills that are clearly necessary for success, sometimes surprising personality elements can turn out to be an individual’s (or company’s) most significant asset. This thrilling 2014 film is set during WWII and depicts the true story of Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant mathematician who was recruited by the British MI6 to crack an unbreakable Nazi code, Enigma. Along with his team, including the woman Joan Clarke (played by Keira Knightley), Turing breaks the code and becomes a hero. Many elements make this film — and Turing — unique: Turing is on the autism spectrum, complicating his human interactions but making him brilliant at his job. In a harrowing moment, Turing is also revealed as gay — and thrown into prison for being so.
Best Social and Cultural: The Making of Funko Pop
Are you looking for documentary style business inspiration? Watching The Making of Funko Pop will take you on the journey of a cultural phenomenon that transformed from a garage startup to the rockstar brand it is today. A lot of what Funko was able to do was based on connecting with customers using nostalgia. Watch how they operated in the early days, how they used unique marketing strategies, and how they exploded their brand. Learn how they dealt with growing pains, how they had a lot of failures along the way, and how getting a Star Wars license was a huge stepping stone for the company. Both collectors and business minded people will love watching toy history in the making.
Best Feel-Good Movie: Julie & Julia
Julia Child is known around the world for her mastery of French cuisine and heartwarming television shows that made French food accessible for American audiences. This film is half the true story of how Julia Child (in this film, played by Meryl Streep) became who she was, and half the fictionalized story of a frustrated New Yorker named Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) who gets fed up with her job and decides to make every single one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
In the “Julia” portion, we see how the wife of a diplomat discovered her real passion when she started taking courses at Le Cordon Bleu. The biggest takeaway from this film, depicted in both the title characters’ lives, is that a stable relationship goes a long way towards making your own dreams a success.
Best for Highlighting Double Standards: I Don't Know How She Does It
If you are going to be a leader, you need to understand that the playing field for men and women is far from equal. In this film, Sarah Jessica Parker plays a Boston-based financier who is trying to juggle her family life as a mom and wife with her career needs — which now include frequent trips to NYC. When a new associate, Jack Abelhammer, enters her firm, she also faces the challenge of a flirtation that could bring it all crashing down. Competition is tough in the business world. People judge and younger versions of you exist adding pressure to how you perform. This movie is relatable for those people who operate two-income households. This film does a great job of highlighting the pressures women who dare have a career and family at the same time face (albeit with a Hollywood twist).
Best Classic: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
If you are going to work in Wall Street, you need to master financial concepts, sure, but you also need to be on the lookout for the types of individuals who do not care about anyone but themselves, and could bring you — or the entire financial industry — down in one fell swoop. This 1987 movie stars the iconic Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas), a role that helped bring the idea that Wall Street is full of sleazebags into the forefront of the American imagination. It is a film about greed, a film about appearances, and a film about how a cunning con man can trick everyone in their path. The portrayal does an excellent job of showing the cost to individuals, society, and a culture that comes when such an individual is allowed to rise to power. It features plenty of other nail-biting moments as well — you will have to watch and see.
Best Wall Street Fantasy: Boiler Room
This film features the firm J.T. Marlin, the type of financial firm that everyone likes to vilify — for good reason. The company profits by artificially inflating stock prices and then tricking investors into thinking that putting their money into those companies is a wise idea. Unfortunately, this film romanticizes the unethical world in which these characters live but does also manage to serve as a cautionary tale of how greed can get the better of anyone and how personal ruin can befall everyday people who get unlucky enough to take the advice of these swindlers. Justice does swoop in at the end of the film, but we don’t want to be the one to ruin the ending.
Best Comedy: Office Space
This film makes light of the plight of office workers around the world and shows what happens in the fantasy universe where workers take revenge. The premise should clue you in on just how unrealistic the film is: Peter Gibbons (played by Ron Livingston) is left in a vulnerable mental state when his therapist dies in the middle of a hypnotherapy session. When he returns to his work as a software engineer at a company called Initech, he is a perfect model of the worst employee ever. Somehow, the two consultants that the evil VP of the company has hired to figure out how to fire as many workers as possible end up loving Gibbons’ attitude and recommend him for immediate promotion. His friends, however, are not as lucky and learn they are going to be soon let go: their plan for revenge is the thrilling and hilarious rest of the movie.
Best Evil Boss: The Devil Wears Prada
While Miranda Priestly may be a favorite example of “the worst boss ever,” the lessons she teaches her young charge Andy (played by Anne Hathaway) are excellent preparation for the real world. When the young intern lands a dream job at the movie version of Vogue, “Runway,” she soon finds that despite her snobbery towards the “lowly” pursuit of fashion, she is terribly unprepared for just how demanding and technical the field is. Andy experiences many twists and turns, highs and lows in business and love. The movie is a great lesson that you should never underestimate the challenges of even a seemingly superficial company — especially if you want to be successful while working there. Overcoming adversity in business is essential for thriving. Determination and persistence are the biggest takeaways you will learn from both Miranda and Andy.
Best Oldie Film: Citizen Kane
Some businessmen get where they are by hard and honest work — and others lose their morals on the way to the top. Produced in 1941, this film has remained a classic because it highlights the life of an extraordinary business tycoon in a way that no one else had ever done before or has done since. The film is a true-ish depiction of the life of William Randolph Hearst, who in this film is named Charles Foster Kane. After a chance discovery of a gold mine on his family land, Kane is catapulted from poverty to power. He becomes a newspaper tycoon, almost gets elected governor and starts a war with Spain. Along the way, he becomes supremely wealthy, but he loses a great deal of what makes him human.