Wall Street(75187)
Credit: Theatrical Release Poster

Movies to motivate you in business

There are lots of movies that offer great messages appropriate to business.  Listed below are some of the very strongest contenders.  Some of the movies on this list tell stories of personal triumph.  Others tell of extreme perseverance.

Whatever the message, these movies should be “must see” for any business person.  They all are great for their entertainment value as well.

In no particular order, here is the list.

  1. Jerry McGuire –This is the movie that spawned the phrase; “You had me at hello.”  Jerry McGuire (Tom Cruise) is a sports agent who loses his job after distributing a morally sound mission statement to his fellow employees in a business where morals are not especially relevant.  Only one client, Rod Tidwell, (Cuba Gooding Jr.) stays with McGuire upon his departure.  Against all odds, McGuire succeeds in securing a winning contract for his client.  This is a story of persistence and loyalty in the face of great odds.
  2. Glengarry Glen Ross – Where do I start with this movie?  Glengarry is one of those movies that, if you’ve heard of it, you’ve probably seen it.  Talk to anyone in business that has seen this movie and chances are good that it will be at the top of their list of “must sees”.  Alec Baldwin, Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey – it’s hard to put together a more dynamic cast.  During an epic sales meeting headed by Blake (Alec Baldwin) new leads are presented - the Glengarry leads.  The salesmen are little more than con-men, most down on their luck, who are desperate for leads, any leads, and especially the new Glengarry leads.  Love them, hate them, root for them, or scorn them, Glengarry Glen Ross will undoubtedly surge your emotions.
  3. Hoosiers – When you know you’re right but everyone else is against you, you have a choice.  Stick to your guns, or bow to the pressure that everyone else is placing on you.  Hoosiers is a story about tainted teacher and basketball coach, Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), who alienates most of the town of Hickory, Indiana, by sticking to his methods which are slow to get results. This is also a story about a small town high-school basketball team that in the end overcomes all obstacles to ultimately win the state championship.  Perseverance on many levels along with a dogged determination to win is the key theme of this great movie.
  4. Door to Door – You’d be well advised to watch this movie with a box of Kleenex. 
    This is a true story about Bill Porter, who having been born with cerebral palsy, becomes a door-to-door salesman for The Watkins Company.  Bill Porter is played by William H. Macy.  As one might imagine, persistence is a central theme of the movie.  Porter displays a level of persistence just to find a job that most people wouldn’t endure.  After asking for the worst performing area in order to be given a chance, Porter succeeds in rising to the top of the  company’s sales ranks.  This story isn’t about one or two heroic deeds but about a life time of overcoming persistence challenges, such as walking 8-10 miles per day.  Completely heart-warming!
  5. Any Given Sunday – Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) who has ridden the bench most of his career finally gets the chance to play as starting quarterback.  Perhaps because this may very well be his last chance, Beamen delivers almost superhuman performances on the field.  Coach Tony D’Amato’s (Al Pacino) long standing strategies are subsequently challenged and D’Amato is forced to reevaluate his methods and values.  This too is a story of triumph over impossible barriers.  The half-time talk that D’Amato gives is not to be missed.
  6. Up in the Air – Is it possible to gracefully fire someone from their job?  What about firing  100 people in the same company?  Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) has just such a job.  Spending countless hours in airplanes and airports to get his job done as a downsizing  expert, Bingham is suddenly grounded because technology threatens to disrupt the way of life that he’s become accustomed to.  Sometimes, “face-to-face” just cannot be replaced and Bingham sets out to prove it.  One chief message of this movie is that it is sometimes good to continue with the status-quo.
  7. Boiler Room – If Gordon Gekko in Wall Street coined the term “Greed is good”, those in Boiler Room perfected it.  There’s lots of money to be made selling stocks.  Buy them low and sell them high and as a stock broker, you earn a commission on every trade.  How could you make even more?  By selling stocks of non-existent companies.  A new and young group of brokers are moving up in this movie and most will say anything to make the sale.  Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) has few morals left after landing a job at JT Marlin.  Some chance  encounters cause Seth to question the legitimacy of the firm.  This fast paced movie is packed with twists and turns ultimately leading Seth to use his first own tactics to make right at least one wrong.
  8. The Company Men – I debated even including this movie on this list.  The Company Men has a score with Rotten Tomatoes of only 65% (55% of viewers liked it) but because this is a list of movies with motivational messages and not a list about movies winning Oscars, critical acclaim, or any other kind of award, I decided that this movie had a place on the list.  Getting fired after acquiring all the trappings of life, Bobby Walker (Ben Afflack) experiences all the emotions that accompany a job loss: anger, regret, frustration, humiliation, and ultimately triumph.  Picking up the pieces is tough but it’s also how those pieces are picked up that matter.  This move is full of very strong messages that anyone in business could gain encouragement from.
  9. Moneyball – Is baseball a game to be loved for the beauty and elegance of the game, or is baseball a business where dollars come ahead of tradition?  Moneyball explores that issue, and others.  This story, based on a true story, tells about how Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is forced to use his intellect and resourcefulness to staff the Oakland A’s with a limited budget.  Beane accomplishes this but not without going against tradition.  One thing that I especially like about this movie is that Beane is able to find places for people that others have given up on.  This story reminds me of a great book for business: Don’t Fire Them, Fire Them Up:  Motivate Yourself and Your Team.
  10. Wall Street – “Greed is good!”  Yes, greed is a central theme in this fantastic move that takes us on an inside look of Wall Street that most people only hear hints of.  Greed, deception, double crossing; all are present in this movie.  Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) ends up trading on insider information to get to the top.  Unfortunately that information regards a company where his father (Martin Sheen) has worked for years.  Internal struggles with his morals eventually leads Fox to do what is right and save the company where his father works.