Are you an entrepreneur or aspiring to be one? Succeeding as an entrepreneur requires inspiration, motivation, and drive. We asked 20 entrepreneurs for movie recommendations that inspired them to be self-starters and these were their top picks.
“Being an entrepreneur is all about being inspired and motivated. There are more people out there who have great entrepreneurial ideas that don’t take action than those who do. The movie Rocky teaches you that getting to the top isn’t going to be easy and is going to be a lot of work — but it is still possible. Hard work, perseverance, dedication, and even being fearless are all traits that you need when you’re an entrepreneur or business owner. Watching Rocky fight his way to the top is definitely inspiring. The music is also extremely motivational!”
— Tonya Bruin, CEO, To Do-Done
“Having a business is never easy, as failing is simply part of learning the business process. Finding a business movie that teaches how to be a good, ethical business person is hard to come by, however, one that does so is Joy. The movie does a good job of showing you the struggles when starting a business, as well as the lack of support you’ll have at the beginning.
“Joy also inspires you to persevere and to keep fighting no matter the situation you’ve found yourself in. It’s a given that you’ll hit some roadblocks on your journey, but it’s how you find a way to hurdle them that will lead you to success. The movie also deals with maintaining your business once you have succeeded and working on that next big idea — something which a lot of business movies miss. If you want a true story about the average person going from a basic life into the business world, Joy is definitely worth checking out.”
— Damon Inlow, Owner, Vaporizers.ca
3. Catch Me If You Can
“An inspiring movie for entrepreneurs is Catch Me If You Can. Being a business owner requires you to think on your feet and to act fast every day. The movie inspires you to take risks but also teaches that risk-taking adds up and will come back and bite you in the end if you’re not careful. In other words, the movie teaches you to be smart and to make sure the risks you take are calculated ones. The movie also teaches you that even when you’re in a bad situation, you can always manage a way out of it — don’t ever count yourself out. Both of these are great lessons to learn before becoming an entrepreneur.”
— Rishi Kapoor, Founder and CEO, Nanak Flights
4. You've Got Mail
“One movie I recommend entrepreneurs watch is You’ve Got Mail. I think most entrepreneurs can find a kindred spirit in Kathleen Kelly, the owner of an independent bookstore named ‘The Shop Around the Corner.’ Kathleen inherited her business from her mother and is determined to keep her quaint bookshop thriving in New York City, even though she has a rival in the major book chain ‘Fox Books’ (owned by her later-on love interest Joe Fox). This movie is probably best known as a love story, but it’s also a love story to small businesses. It teaches entrepreneurs not to give up, even when you’re faced with competition and challenges. Even though ‘The Shop Around The Corner’ does, eventually, go under, Kathleen continues to work hard and sticks by the company and her employees until the very end. By the end of the movie, she has even pursued a new entrepreneurial endeavour as a successful children’s book writer!”
— Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation.com
5. Wall Street
“I really recommend watching ‘Wall Street’ if you want to start your own business. What it does so well is show what greed can lead to if you’re not careful. As an entrepreneur or business owner, an important lesson to know is that you can’t get ahead of yourself and that you should be grateful for what you have earned. When you first start out, you might get lucky and have some success, but it’s long term success that truly defines your journey. It’s also an exceptionally well-made movie with great acting — making it a terrific flick to watch.”
— Dr. Shahrooz Yazdani, Founder, Yazdani Family Dentistry
6. The Founder
“The Founder is an incredible movie for anyone like me who is more experienced in crafting the output of services rather than the sales side. No matter how great or innovative your product or service is, without sales, you will get left behind. This movie showcases the story of how Ray Kroc turned two brothers’ fast food ideas into what we know McDonald’s to be today.”
— Nathalie Athanasiadis, Founder, Ormi Media
7. The Pursuit of Happyness
“Hear me out: I know the film shows someone failing at their entrepreneurial pursuit, and then joining a larger firm. But, for me, business is about supporting family. This man goes to any length–including giving up his own plasma–to support his child.
“The movie imparts the importance of humility when Will Smith’s character goes into an interview wearing only an undershirt. It teaches gratitude when he weeps at being hired on full-time. The film certainly shows us the power of determination.
“In business, we will get knocked down from time to time. We will have to swallow our pride. What is important is that we remember who we are, what is most important to us, and that we do have the power to succeed. I love this film as it inspires confidence and morality.”
— Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO, GetVOIP
“Rudy is a movie every entrepreneur should watch since it shows how perseverance and trying until the end can help anyone win, even the underdog, which is a good lesson to remember as an entrepreneur — a small underdog company competing with huge brands.”
— Stacy Caprio, Founder, Growth Marketing
9. The Social Network
“The Social Network is a perfect movie for budding entrepreneurs. Sure, it’s entertaining and offers a very Hollywood version of how the largest social network ever was built, but there are some good lessons in there for entrepreneurs starting a business.
“The Social Network shows you why picking the right co-founders is crucial to the stability of your company. You see how unresolved issues between founders can put the company at risk and why having a clear vision on the future of the company from the very beginning is so vital.
“As the movie plays out, you see how different characters feel betrayed by others they once felt good about working with. It really underscores the need for doing due diligence on the folks you’re deciding to start a company with and how important it is to make sure you are all on the same page from day one.”
— Daniel Gillaspia, CEO and Founder, UponArriving
10. Top Gun
“Get inspired by the music. Know that you must carry on even when bad things happen, i.e. when Maverick loses Goose. Be brave, take on the competition, win for your employees, your backers, and the nation too. Okay, maybe not exactly the nation, but think big or another company will replace you.”
— Renee Fry, CEO, Gentreo
11. The Intern
“From the perspective of a female entrepreneur, I found the 2015 movie, The Intern, with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway very inspiring. Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway’s character) is the founder of an online fashion retailer called ‘About The Fit.’ Jules is immaculately dressed with the perfect mix of cool and professional. The company headquarters are stunning, so glamourous and the perfect setting for an online apparel business. While the plot was pretty unrealistic; Jules’ company met their 5-year goals in just 9 months, the general takeaway of the movie was key for all entrepreneurs. The movie showed first-hand what can happen when the work-life balance gets off-kilter. As an entrepreneur, it is so important to find the perfect balance between work, family, and social life. I would highly recommend The Intern to other female entrepreneurs but male entrepreneurs will find the life lessons useful as well!”
— Christy Cook, Founder and CEO, Teach My
12. Boiler Room
“One movie I think all entrepreneurs should watch is Boiler Room (2000) which stars Giovanni Ribisi with notable appearances by Vin Diesel and Ben Affleck.
“The movie is a cautionary tale about what happens when unbridled greed gets the better of us. So the biggest lesson I take away from the movie is that, while success is important it shouldn’t come at the cost of your integrity and morals.
“In terms of starting a business, there are several other lessons. The first is that sales is really important. The highest earners in the movie are all those who are good at sales. And being good at sales is one of the best ways to become successful as an entrepreneur.
“The second lesson is that what you keep is just as important as what you earn. In one memorable scene, Ribisi is shocked to see how his fellow co-workers live. They have amazing houses and cars, but no furniture or even money for gas at the end of the month, because they can’t manage cash flow.
“A third lesson is that hustle can get you a long way. Ribisi only gets hired at the stock trading firm because he’s started his own (illegal) gambling business. This gets the attention of one of the top salespeople at the firm and gets him an interview.
“The final lesson entrepreneurs looking to start their own business should take away from this, is that your employees will take their cues from you. Throughout the movie, it’s revealed that many of Ribisi’s fellow co-workers are morally questionable individuals, but this is in part because the owner of the company is too. Basically, you should aim to be the opposite and always hire employees who will do the right thing.”
— Ian Wright, Founder, British Business Energy
13. Men Of Honor
“A great story about perseverance and the unwillingness to give up no matter what. It is a movie that made the character’s journey much bigger than just himself. The movie highlighted the most important thing a person can leave — their legacy.”
— Benjamin Ross, Founder, My Active Agent
14. 9 to 5
“The film was released in 1980 and I believe shaped a generation of Gen X women like myself to take the risk to leave corporate America structured workdays.
“In the film, the viewer sees the abuse of power, objectification, and disrespect experienced in the workplace, particularly by women. After 16 years of following the rules and working in corporate settings with 401K, good health insurance, and vacation days, I found those benefits were unrealistic for the trade-off of lack of being valued and lack of room to develop and grow.
“Reflecting on how the women in ‘9 to 5’ changed the whole environment of the office, I was inspired to do the same. They brought in plants, photos of their kids, opened a daycare — I had it in my mind my whole career as a goal, an ideal place to work. Knowing it was possible, seeing it transform the women’s work-life balance implanted in me the desire to have it in my own life. After working for several ‘good companies’ and not finding the gratification I sought, especially as my children grew older and older, I took the risk and started my own company.
‘While ‘9 to 5’ isn’t about women who are entrepreneurs, it is about women taking charge and making changes they needed to improve their work environment. The movie is about having the tenacity to stick together when society tells us to compete. The film showed me how women can create their own community and that’s what I created in my own business, a place where I support other women entrepreneurs and build them up to be the absolute best they can be.”
— Jennifer S. Moxley, Social Entrepreneur & Founder, Sunshine Media Network
15. Jerry Maguire
“One of the best films to inspire you to start your own business is Jerry Maguire. It’s a motivating story of how one sports agent, Jerry Maguire, is fired from his job but instead of giving up on his dreams, he ventures out to start his own sports management company with just one client at the time! The film inspires us to use our skills and expertise to start a business of our own instead of working for others.
The film depicts Jerry as a great example of the strength, faith, and ethics you need to start your own business even in the face of adversity, fear, and failure. It shows us that you can succeed even if the odds are against you, as long as you don’t give up and stay true to yourself and your values.
When you watch the film, you can relate to the lessons Jerry learns while struggling to make his own business work, such as valuing people over money. When you care for the people, money will follow because people will love your product or service. You learn how important it is to build trust with your audience and love your customers in business, like Jerry did with his client to overcome doubts and fears. Ultimately, these lessons in business lead him to succeed as an entrepreneur!”
— Amira Irfan, Lawyer, Business Coach, A Self Guru
16. I Am
“While an unlikely choice, the essential movie I’d recommend to entrepreneurs is Tom Shadyac’s documentary ‘I Am’. This movie can help entrepreneurs expand their own ideas of success and build those concepts into their business models from the beginning, learning from Shadyac’s experience. Shadyac’s documentary kicks off with something of a hero’s quest, though he starts his journey from having “made it” by all typical metrics of success. After an accident leaves him with post-concussion syndrome that limits his mobility, causes headaches, and brings on a debilitating depression, he begins questioning the money, the houses, and all the other markers of success that he had once relied on. We need to redefine the entrepreneurial space away from the burned-out, hustle-at-all-costs stereotypes that wreck people’s health and relationships, and instead consider the questions that Shadyac poses about who we really are as founders, what we’re creating, and why we’re creating it to live good lives. In particular, his documentary reminds us all that our lives can be part of leaving a legacy.”
— Kate Swoboda, Creator of the Courageous Living Program
17. Triple Frontier
“I recently watched ‘Triple Frontier’, it’s a 2019 American action thriller directed by J. C. Chandor; an epic way of portraying human vs nature. The scene which struck me most is when the team has to throw off millions of dollars of the heist dollars to reduce the plane’s weight, otherwise, it would not be able to cross the Andes mountains (11,000 ft). If you want to run fast as an entrepreneur, you ought to reduce your dead weight. The learning applies to your product, business idea, and even your web properties.”
— Girdharee Saran, Head of Marketing, MyAdvo
18. Glengarry Glen Ross
“Perhaps this is a cliche, but my favorite ‘business’ movie is Glengarry Glen Ross. I find Alec Baldwin’s ‘Coffee is for closers’ to be such a great speech for getting myself pumped up, even if I disagree with the cutthroat and materialist aspects of it. The whole tone and storyline of the movie is very motivating to me in an odd way; it makes me feel in control of my own destiny and success.”
— Courtney Barbee, Co-owner/COO of The Bookkeeper
19. Pirates of Silicon Valley
“Depicting the early days of two of the most iconic tech companies, this movie is an inspiration to any entrepreneur who wants to build a successful company. Aside from showing us the initial struggle to make the ‘crazy’ ideas behind Apple and Microsoft come true, it also contains important leadership lessons through Jobs’ interaction with employees (both positive and negative), and reminds us that the world as we know it was made by people whose ideas were once regarded as insane.”
— Leia Ruseva, Co-founder of EllisX
20. Flash of Genius
“Anyone who’s an entrepreneur must watch this movie to understand why it’s important to protect your ideas from being stolen. Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear), a college professor, invents the windshield wiper that is embraced by all the auto giants of the 1960s, becoming a standard device on all cars. However, the automakers do not give Kearns the credit he is due. It might be heartbreaking to watch as Kearns fights powerful corporations,but therein lies an important lesson for all entrepreneurs to learn.”
— Annastasia Kamwithi, Senior Editor, SocialFish
There are many common themes amongst these movies, all of which surround the highs and lows that entrepreneurs face along their journey. While every entrepreneur is unique, motivation, dedication, and perseverance are something that they all share. If you are an entrepreneur or think you have what it takes to be a self-starter, and are in need of some inspiration, be sure to watch one or all of these movies in order to get that extra push you need.