Having watched the Social Network movie recently, I was thinking about movies that have business as a general or background theme. What influence do these movies have? There is no doubt that the negative commentary in the Wall Street movie actually interested people in working in Wall Street during the 1980′s greed period, rather than putting them off it with ethical issues, as the film intended. It is probable that the Social Network movie, with its underlying theme of betrayal and ‘winner takes all’ will probably have the same effect.
So what are my top five business movies (this is not an exhaustive list)? I am not including documentaries like ‘Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room’ but instead concentrating on fictional movies even if they are based in fact. My scoring is pretty ad lib, more of a personal choice :
No.5 Wall Street: Because greed is, obviously, good….until you sink the system of course. Alas the follow-up movie that could have delivered so much is somewhat lacking the bite the original movie had. Inspired casting of the two Sheens, but it is Michael Douglas who runs away with it as the presumptive King of Wall Street, Gordon Gecko
No.4 The Social Network: Although it is new, I have to give the Social Network a good mark in terms of the background to Facebook. It is all true? Maybe not, but it does show that whatever happens, don’t sign anything until you have a lawyer present, and that startups can be nasty enterprises if the ground rules aren’t sorted out in the early days.
No. 3 Glengarry Glen Ross: David Mamet’s cautionary tale of salesmen and salesmanship, with an all-star cast and witty one-liners, can show the Gen Y kids just how animalistic it can all get in the office. I suspect this is happening in real estate offices across the country now.
No. 2 Barbarians at the Gate: the tale of RJR Nabisco and the Leveraged Buyout period on Wall Street (remember that?) this actually works very well as a negotiation/comedy of errors and again a movie that is not shown as often as it should. All business school students should be made watch this. Actor James Garner plays F. Ross Johnson, the CEO of RJR Nabisco and gives the performance of the century.
No. 1 Pirates of Silicon Valley: Although a movie made for tv, my favourite is probably ‘The Pirates of Silicon Valley.’ As the story of Apple and Microsoft in their early days, it again crosses into the ‘trust/betrayal’ territory of the social network movie, and it isn’t completely accurate (IBM had for example approached Digital Research to provide DOS for it before it talked to Bill Gates, but hey it works as a movie). Again good casting means the players look quite similar to their real life characters. Surely after the success of the Social Network this is a script crying out to be remade?