There is no better way to encourage that entrepreneurial thinking than watching one of the classic business movies to inspire you. We’ve put together a list of the best business movies out there, ranging from true stories depicting famous business moguls and self-made millionaires to dramatisations of financial crime and tales of corruption.
Some of these movies provide thrill-seeking escapism, whilst others may serve as a warning to upcoming entrepreneurs. One thing is for sure, though, business movies make for some of the best filmographies out there. These business movies are filled with suspense, inspiration and have the audience rooting for the underdog.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese, 2013, is a dark comedy biopic, delving into the greedy and seedy side of financial crime. The controversial film depicts the life of Jordan Belfort, a New York Stockbroker who gained infamy for his extravagant and somewhat immoral lifestyle that was fueled by his misleading stock exchange schemes.
The film dramatises Jordan Belfort’s personal memoirs that he wrote in prison after being found guilty of fraudulent stock exchange manipulation. Leonardo De Caprio plays the lead role, portraying the rise and ultimate failure of the larger-than-life character.
Some critics find the humour crude, with scenes displaying glorified drug abuse and immoral sexual exploits, but the film was a large success, becoming one of the highest-grossing business movies, bringing in over $406 million through digital distribution alone.
Where to watch The Wolf of Wall Street?
You can rent The Wolf of Wall Street starting at £2.49 or buy and download it on these streaming platforms:
I wouldn’t say the film is supposed to inspire audiences to explore fraudulent activities for monetary gain, but it is a humorous depiction of stocker broker culture and white-collar crime. Worth the watch for an insight into how entrepreneurship ideas can lend themselves to the seedy side of business practices.
JOY is a biopic comedy that follows the rags-to-riches story of Joy Mangano. The film dramatises the life of the single mother who became a self-made business mogul after reinventing the traditional mop. The entrepreneur has gone on to build a business empire which continues to invent and sell millions of household products per year.
Jennifer Lawrence brings the role of Joy Mangano to life on screen, depicting how she overcame cultural expectations placed upon her and followed her dream despite the challenges thrown her way. It’s one of the most inspiring business movies, showing the realities of building a business dynasty and the importance of self-determination and believing in yourself.
Where to watch JOY?
You can rent the biopic of Joy Mangano starting at just £3.49. It is also available to buy on the following streaming platforms:
Bradley Cooper and Robert De Nero also star in the 2015 film. It’s a feel-good comedy that has audiences supporting one woman’s entrepreneurship and rooting for the underdog the whole way through.
3. The Pursuit of Happyness
The Pursuit of Happyness has to be one of the best business movies out there, a tale that depicts the struggle, emotional turmoil and upheavals experienced by the true story of Chris Gardner. Will Smith plays the lead role of Chris, and his son Jaden Smith, plays the son, Christopher Gardner.
The 2007 film brings life to the unbelievable true story, depicting heartbreaking scenes of financial distress and the child-like mentality of being naive and unaware of their situation. The film almost provides a real-life depiction of Arthur Miller’s – The Death of a Salesman, showing the realities of achieving the “American dream” and the modern challenges of hiding poverty in order to keep up appearances.
Where to watch The Pursuit of Happyness?
The Pursuit of Happyness is now streaming on Netflix, but you can also rent it starting at £2.49 or buy it on:
The Pursuit of Happyness is a biopic of one man achieving career success due to his hard work, determination and ability to never give up. His success is so well deserved and a real inspiration to anyone trying to make it, one of the best business movies inspired by true events.
4. The Big Short
The 2015 film, directed by Adam McKay, is a brilliant exploration into the true story of a group of investors who bet against the US housing market. It dramatises the corruption and top-level fraud found within big banks and how the everyday American people were suffering due to their actions.
What this movie does best, is explain complex processes of financial fraud to audiences in such a way that is sarcastic and easy to comprehend, something that needs to happen in real life and not just in the movies. With a talented cast including Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Brad Pitt, it’s one of the best business movies that is well worth the watch.
Where to watch The Big Short?
The Big Short is available to rent for just £2.49, or available to buy and download for just £4.99. You can view the film on the following streaming platforms:
Mckay is excellent at leading audiences through the realities of the US housing market crash in 2008, creating a film filled with quick wit, satire and mockery of those who are supposed to be making responsible decisions on their customer’s behalf.
5. The Social Network
The Social Network is a 2010 film that dramatises the origins of one of the most popular social media networks – Facebook. The movie follows then-Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg and tells the story of how the idea for Facebook was first conceptualised and how it became one of the world’s biggest social media networks.
This movie is great at depicting the reality of starting a business and how any business venture is often met with challenges and those who claim some sort of monopoly when the idea itself becomes successful. With a talented cast starring Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg, it’s clear to see why this is one of the most phenomenal business movies created.
Where to watch The Social Network?
The Social Network is currently available to watch on Netflix or, you can rent it starting from just £3.49. The movie is available to rent or buy on the following streaming platforms:
This movie gives us an insight into the mind of Mark Zuckerberg, and it is so interesting to see how far the social media network has come, now becoming a platform for social media marketing and evolving into a Metaverse that is beyond what anyone thought to be its initial capabilities.
6. Lord of War
This 2005 film is written and directed by the talented Andrew Niccol, and tells the story of a charismatic arms dealer, played by Nicolas Cage, who is confronted with the morality of his job. Whilst Cage’s character – Yuri Orlov, is fictional, the person that the movie is based on is not. The film loosely illustrates the life of Viktor Bout, a real-world international warlord.
This film is great at portraying serious topics and turning them into satirical biopics. With a talented cast including Nicolas Cage, Ethan Hawke and Jared Leto, it’s a must-see action-packed thriller that shows the ugly underbelly of international crime and shady business deals.
Where to watch Lord of War?
Lord of War is now available to watch on Netflix, but you can also rent or buy it on the following streaming platforms:
This film has to be one of the most exciting business movies. With satirical lines like, “I sell to every army except for the salvation army”, it’s a shocking depiction of top-level international crime and the business world that is unfortunately associated with war.
7. The Aviator
This 2004 film is directed by the talented Martin Scorsese and tells the life story of Howard Hughes, an American innovator who was highly intelligent and transformed the aircraft industry. Leonardo Di Caprio brings life to the biopic, perfectly dramatising the truth behind the legendary man and illustrating his mental health battles with germaphobia and OCD tendencies.
The film also showcases how Howard Hughes was met with a public relation crisis’ during his career and optimistic expansion of the aircraft industry. Despite his challenges, Howard Hughes was determined, eventually becoming one of the most influential and wealthiest men of his time.
Where to watch The Aviator?
You can rent The Aviator on the following streaming platforms for as little as £2.49.
This has to be one of Scorsese’s best business movies. He does a wonderful job at capturing the roaring 20s era and dramatising the realities of product marketing. The talented cast of Leonardo Di Caprio, Alec Baldwin, Kate Beckinsale and Cate Blanchett bring life to the story of the legend that is Howard Hughes, a classic biopic executed in classic Scorsese fashion.
Babylon is a new comedic depiction of early Hollywood, dramatising the indulgent and decadent lifestyle that ran rampant in the 1920s show business era. Whilst the movie is extravagant, it does depict well the realities of getting a movie produced, especially in Hollywood, where it rang true, “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know”.
Where to watch Babylon?
Babylon is currently showing in cinemas, but it is available for pre-release on the following streaming platforms:
With an amazing cast starring Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Diego Calva, it’s set to be one of the best business movies of the year, showcasing perfectly how “they’re ain’t no business like show business”.
8. Thank you for smoking
The 2005, Thank you for Smoking is a black comedy that satirically dramatises the fictional character Nick Naylor. The film is based on the 1994 novel by Christopher Buckley, which follows the tobacco lobbyist as he confronts the morality of his role in promoting the consumption of cancer-causing tobacco products.
Thank you for Smoking does a great job of showing the major challenge of tobacco lobbying in the 1990s. It’s a job where the moral compass is thrown out the window, and it gives rise to the question, is this still happening today? As truth be told, lobbying in governments is still a modern concern for the public.
Where to watch Thank you for Smoking?
Thank you for Smoking is available to rent for as little as £3.49 on the following streaming platforms:
With a talented cast starring Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright and Maria Bello, this is a great business movie that shows the dark side of political business.
9. The Founder
The Founder is a 2016 film that traces the origins of one of, if not the most popular, fast food chains in the world – Mcdonald’s. The film tells the story of how Ray Kroc met brothers Mac Donald and Dick Donald, and after being impressed with their fast-paced burger restaurant, he saw an opportunity for building a franchise.
Despite being the original founders and creators of Mcdonald’s, the brothers are betrayed by Ray Kroc, due to his scheming and machiavellian ways. This film is the perfect lesson for budding entrepreneurs and serves as a warning to who you get into business with.
Where to watch The Founder?
This film is included on your Amazon Prime, if you have an account, otherwise you can rent it for as little as £2.49 on the following streaming platforms:
With a cast starring Micheal Keaton, Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch, this true story film is expertly dramatised and includes many unbelievable twists and turns.
Finishing off the list is the inspirational 2016 film Burnt, which follows a Michellin star chef as he loses it all and attempts to regain his credibility and get his name back in the restaurant business.
The film stars Bradley Cooper and he perfectly portrays the hamartia and redeeming qualities of the character Adam Jones. Although it is not based on a true story, it still serves as an incredibly inspirational film, especially for those who have hit rock bottom and know that the only way is up.
Where to watch Burnt?
Burnt is currently available to watch on Netflix, and you can also rent the movie starting at just £2.49 from the following streaming platforms:
Best Business Movies
This list includes a range of film genres from exciting crime thrillers to inspirational true stories, this is the ultimate list of the best business movies out there and where you can watch them.
If you’re still interested in hearing more about the world of business, check out this article on the best business TV shows and the best business podcasts to hear the stories from some of the greatest business moguls and how they made their mark within their industry.