Whether you arrive at your swanky office in a top-end four-wheeler with a driver in tow, or you are hustling around the valley in your trusted motorcycle, trying to make your mark on the world, the movies listed below offer lessons aplenty for every breed of entrepreneur. They will shepherd you to the top and more importantly, they will help extend your stay as King of the mountain.
The Social Network (2010)
Great artists leave behind a work of art that transcends time and shapes their legacy. For Da Vinci, it is the Mona Lisa. For Beethoven, it is his Fifth Symphony. For Aaron Sorkin, writer extraordinaire, The Social Network remains the pièce de résistance in his delectable oeuvre. The biographical drama recounts Facebook’s chequered history, primarily focusing on Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, two of the architects of the largest social media platform in the world. The Facebook story is likely the ultimate startup tale; a journey that started with a few teenaged Harvard University students setting up a social networking website for Ivy League students resulted in an enterprise that is now worth USD 510 Billion (As of June 2018, Forbes).
The movie deals with the trials and tribulations synonymous with establishing a successful startup, from the initial stages of securing financing to keeping the vultures at bay when the idea bears fruit. It further examines how loyalties can shift instantaneously when billions are involved. Zuckerberg is sued for Intellectual Property theft and Saverin himself files a lawsuit over the unjust dilution of his shares.
The Social Network informs, enlightens and entertains in equal measure. Laced with Sorkin’s signature scathing wit and whirlwind dialogue, the movie is a delight to the senses and sheds light on the inner workings of Zuckerberg, the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.
Steve Jobs (2015)
A titan of technology, Steve Jobs was a pioneer of the personal computing revolution. Tech enthusiasts the world over hold aloft the co-founder of Apple in reverence. 7 years after his premature demise at 56, the legend of Jobs shows no sign of subsiding, on the contrary, the veneration grows stronger. Directed by Danny Boyle, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, the movie delves deep into the psyche of its eponymous protagonist, exploring his relationships and his uncompromising pursuit of perfection. Structured unlike other biographical fares, the movie is akin to a 3-act play, each act taking place 30 minutes before the launch of a major product- the Macintosh (1984), the NeXT Computer (1988) and the iMac (1998).
Jobs' is questioned and denounced by every figure in the movie, and much like in real life he alienates a fair few people, but he remains staunchly by his ideologies and his vision, undeterred by the torrents of critique. His decision to enforce end-to-end control of Apple products, which meant tech hobbyists could not modify and customise their computers as was the predominant trend is ridiculed in the movie.
Had he folded under pressure then, Apple, as we know it would not exist. End-to-end control is now one of the key differentiators between Apple and its competitors; it cultivates the exclusivity and desirability that Apple is now renowned for.
However, the movie does not deify Jobs, his follies and foibles are laid bare for the audience to see and learn from. Steve Jobs was a remarkable man; it would not be hyperbolic to say he changed the world. And this equally remarkable movie offers an illuminating and intriguing look behind the curtains, both literally and figuratively.
In 2002, the Oakland Athletics had a dilemma. The Major League Baseball (MLB) outfit had just surrendered three of their star players, were operating on a trifling budget contrasted to their rivals and still reeled from the repercussions of a dismal season a year prior. Yet they recorded one of the grandest seasons in their history, shattering records along the way. Moneyball chronicles the remarkable true to life journey.
How did they accomplish it? The answer lies in the quaint science of sabermetrics, the empirical analysis of baseball statistics. Oakland Athletics' general manager Billy Beane flung out the century-old rulebook on scouting and recruitment and along with a Yale economics graduate, Peter Brand sparked a paradigm shift in the sport. Beane recruited players based not on their perceived talent or value, he merely factored in what the numbers reported and this induced recruitment of undervalued players that were supposedly unorthodox. Nevertheless, Beane and Brand believed in their sabermetric method and stayed the course. After initial hiccups, their numbers-based model paid dividends. Ultimately, the Oakland Athletics won 20 consecutive games, the longest winning streak in American League history.
Moneyball extols the virtues of risk-taking, going against the grain, challenging prevailing practices. If a specific method has never been tried, it also means it has never failed; innovation is the bane of failure. As Edison famously said about his umpteen failed attempts to bring the light bulb to life, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
“I partied like a rock star, lived like a king,” says Jordan Belfort, the former Wall Street broker, in his autobiography.Visionary director Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Belfort’s autobiography, The Wolf of Wall Street is more a cautionary tale than an aspirational one. The movie depicts Belfort’s exceedingly decadent lifestyle and its repercussions.
Belfort’s silver tongue and apathy for financial laws saw his firm Stratton Oakmont scale unfathomable heights. However, the firm and by extension, Belfort, were under the surveillance of the FBI and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Eventually, Belfort’s gold-plated house of cards collapsed in spectacular fashion and he was sentenced to three years in prison. Belfort currently plies his trade as a motivational trainer.
The Wolf of Wall Street does a marvellous job of highlighting Belfort’s varied shades. While his affinity for rampant corruption and hedonism are deplorable qualities, his immense entrepreneurial drive and a penchant for success are ideals to aspire to. Further, the movie portrays the toxic quality of the ‘success at all costs’ attitude predominant in Wall Street and in numerous large-scale corporations.
Jordan Belfort, the protagonist of this narrative of extravagance, is a perplexing personality. A man endowed with the gift of gab and an entrepreneurial mind, he, much like Icarus, fell prey to hubris and flew too close to the sun.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Negotiation, leadership, team-building and analysing behavioural patterns are fundamental business techniques. 12 Angry Men, a courtroom drama directed by the late, great Sidney Lumet is a master class in imparting those techniques and deciphering the elusive art of persuasion.
Twelve unnamed Jury members assemble to deliberate the case of an 18-year-old Hispanic boy charged with stabbing his father to death.
In the United States, to arrive at a decision on criminal cases ordained by a jury, the verdict must be unanimous. In the movie's context, this meant all twelve members must reach a unanimous decision. Eleven members find the defendant guilty, Juror 8, played with considerable panache by Henry Fonda, is the sole holdout. The story thus proceeds, as Juror 8, wielding his innate understanding of human behaviour and group dynamics, sows doubts in the minds of the other jurors. Juror 8’s approach is neither manipulative nor nefarious, but it proves to be effective. Towards the conclusion, all twelve jurors agree the boy is not guilty.
12 Angry Men elucidates on the intricacy of group dynamics. It also spells out the skills required to be a competent communicator. During the movie, the jurors that shape opinion and carry weight are the ones who remain calm and conduct themselves with grace; the others gravitate towards them. Educators and CEOs cite this movie as essential viewing for business practitioners.