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Must-watch Hollywood movies on management concepts for MBA students

Tired of case studies, lectures, and job hunts? Here’s something to lighten your burden: a list of great Hollywood movies for MBA students and aspirants, that give you valuable life and business lessons. We’ve tried to include a mix of movies related to business management concepts, leadership, sales & marketing, human resources, ethics, networking, office politics, entrepreneurship, investing, communication skills, mergers & acquisitions, team dynamics, business success & failure, finance and much more. Go, enjoy.

List of the best Hollywood movies related to management concepts for MBA students and aspirants

Wall Street (1987)

Director: Oliver Stone. Genre: Drama, romance. Starring: Michael Douglas, Charlee Sheen, Tamara Tunie, Daryl Hannah. Running time: 126 minutes.

Plot: A stock broker accepts the tutelage of a millionaire but unprincipled corporate raider to make it big on Wall Street.

Why is it here? The movie draws the curtains off the secrets and shenanigans of business. It shows how mottos like “Money is everything” and “Greed is good” can lead people to their ruin.

Up in the Air (2009)

Director: Jason Reitman. Genre: Comedy, drama. Starring: George Clooney, Verra Farmiga. Running time: 108 minutes.

Plot: An HR executive travels around doing his job, which is firing people. But he has a sense of compassion, though a false one. He undergoes transformation when his own company grounds him.

Why is it here? An interesting insight into the world of human resource management and communication skills.

The Insider (1999)

Director: Michael Mann. Genre: Drama. Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora. Running time: 157 minutes.

Plot: A researcher for a tobacco company who is involved in wrongdoing inside the company is faced with the choice of risking his life to turn into a whistleblower or keeping quiet.

Why is it here? Ethics and integrity are at the heart of business and personal conduct. As MBAs strive to become future leaders, retaining these values are as important as achieving targets. The Insider sends this message clearly.

The Godfather Trilogy (1972), (1974), (1990)

 List of the top Hollywood movies for MBA students

Director: Francis Ford Coppola. Genre: Drama, crime. Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, James Cann, Diane Keaton. Running time: 539 minutes.

Plot: The Godfather, rated among the best films of all time, follows the tribulations of an Italian American family, Corleone, whose patriarch, Vito Corleone, rises to become the lord of American organized crime.

Why is it here? Godfather focuses on the importance of building and maintaining relationships and networks, and on how crucial strong leadership and good planning are to business.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Director: Orson Welles. Genre: Mystery, drama. Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore. Running time: 119 minutes.

Plot: Citizen Kane tells the story of the rise of a newspaper tycoon who loses his moral bearings in his pursuit of power. In a series of flashbacks, news reporters tries to demystify the tycoon’s dying words.

Why is it here? A classic, Citizen Kane warns of the dangers of greed and unethical business practices. It teaches the lesson that success can sometimes carry a heavy price tag.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Director: Frank Capra. Genre: Fantasy comedy-drama. Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore. Running time: 130 minutes.

Plot: A good-hearted man in despair is about to commit suicide. But his guardian angel appears and shows him what the world would have been like without him.

Why is it here? What happens to people whose only aim in life is to make more money? The film tells us that your job is not everything, and there’s a life to be lived and cherished outside your office cabin. In the end, family and friends are what are left.

Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Director: Gabriele Muccino. Genre: Biographical drama. Starring: Will Smith, Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal. Running time: 117 minutes.

Plot: Pursuit of Happyness (the spelling of “Happyness” is taken from a situation in the film) is based on entrepreneur Chris Gardner’s memoirs. A salesman struggles with homelessness while bringing up his toddler son. He takes up an internship at a brokerage firm hoping to get the one paid job at the end of the program. He sleeps in shelters to save money and provide better things for his son.

Why is it here? The story of Chris Gardner shows that determination can make dreams come true and that character and attitude are essential qualities for success.

Office Space (1999)

Director: Mike Judge. Genre: Comedy. Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Ron Livingstone, Stephen Root. Running time: 89 minutes.

Plot: Three workers who hate their jobs decide to challenge their greedy boss.

Why is it here? A hysterically humorous take on the typical daily office routine. Although it depicts IT workers, the film makes sense to anyone who has ever held an office job. It is a funny case study of office politics and poor management.

The Social Network (2010)

Director: David Fincher. Genre: Biographical drama. Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake. Running time: 120 minutes.

Plot: Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg creates the social network website that is now famous as Facebook but faces lawsuits filed by two brothers who claim Zuckerberg stole their idea. Zuckerberg is also accused of drastically diluting the stake of a co-founder during FB’s incorporation.

Why is it here? Perhaps, no business idea has taken the world by storm so hugely as FB. The film teaches the nuances of entrepreneurship and the growth of the world’s youngest billionaire.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola. Genre: Biographical comedy-drama. Starring: Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Martin Landau. Running time: 110 minutes.

Plot: The movie narrates the story of Preston Tucker and his revolutionary idea of creating a “car for the future.”

Why is it here? The movie further inspires those dreaming the American dream and people with the entrepreneurial spirit.

Other classic must-see Hollywood movies for business school students

Back to School (1986; starring Rodney Dangerfield, Sally Kellerman; 96 minutes): A self-made millionaire goes back to school to prove a point and help his dejected son get through college.

Thank You for Smoking (2005; starring Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright, Maria Bello; 92 minutes): A satirical comedy about a Big Tobacco spokesman who uses his marketing and communication skills effectively to promote a life-threatening product while trying to remain a role model for his young son.

12 Angry Men (1957; starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb; 96 minutes): One member of a jury persuades the others to reconsider their opinion that the person on trial is guilty of murder. The film provides a thought-provoking study of group dynamics and behavior.

The Intern (2015; Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo; 121 minutes): A retired professional joins an online fashion company and teaches the CEO and her colleagues the value of experience.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992; Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin; 100 minutes): This film provides a fascinating insight into the real world of sales and what it takes to make it there.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013; Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill; 180 minutes): The Wolf portrays the rise of a stock broker to great wealth and his fall to deep corruption and crime.

Enron — The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005; John Beard, Tim Belden, Barbara Boxer; 110 minutes): What really happened at Enron? See this documentary about how Enron’s corrupt business practices led to its fall.

Inside Job (2010; Matt Damon; 105 minutes): This documentary analyzes the systemic failures of the US financial services industry that caused the 2008 meltdown.

Barbarians at the Gate (1993; James Garner, Jonathan Pryce; 107 minutes): The president of a large tobacco company wants to buy the company but there are other bidders. Watch this film for a deep understanding of hostile takeovers and leveraged buyouts.

Norma Rae (1979; Sally Field, Beau Bridges; 114 minutes): A young single mother who works in a textile mill decides to help her colleagues unionize, despite the risks.

Margin Call (2011; Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey; 107 minutes): Margin Call portrays the activities of key players at an investment bank in the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis.

The Big Short (2015; Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt; 130 minutes): Four people predict the housing bubble burst of the mid-2000s and decide to challenge the big banks for their twisted policies.

The Big Kahuna (1999; Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, 90 minutes): Two experienced salesmen analyze a sales pitch to a client through their young understudy.

Erin Brockovich (2000; Julia Roberts, Albert Finney; 131 minutes): An unemployed single mother becomes a lawyer’s assistant and single-handedly takes on a chemical company that is polluting her city’s water supply.

Jerry Maguire (1996; Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger; 139 minutes): A sports agent develops a crisis of conscience and circulates a heartfelt memo to colleagues. He is fired but floats a company with only his secretary and one client, a football player.

Other Hollywood movies that deserve an honorable mention

  • Sully (2016, crisis management)
  • Class Action (1991, whistleblower lawyer against automobile maker)
  • Pirates of the Silicon Valley (1999, history of Apple and Microsoft)
  • Boiler Room (2000, broker fraud)
  • Other People’s Money (1991, hostile takeover)
  • The Fountainhead (1949, integrity versus financial pressure)
  • AntiTrust (2001, antitrust fraud and dubious business practices)
  • Remember the Titans (2000, team-building)
  • Rogue Trader (1999, story of Nick Leeson, the former derivatives broker)
  • Trading Places (1993, an investor and a street con artist unknowingly become part of a bet)
  • Captain Philips (2013, leadership)

Any other good ones that you’ve watched? Share the name and the reasons why you like it in the comments below.
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 | Image credit

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8 thoughts on “Must-watch Hollywood movies on management concepts for MBA students”

  1. Steve Jobs- If people are interested to watch Kate Winslet over reading the complete biography.

    Christmas Carol- questions the fundamental purpose of buisiness , serving mankind or profit.

    To Kill a Mockingbird- To learn the importance of integrity & tenacity even when you have to swim among sharks. On same lines I would also go for Devil wears Prada.

    Pretty Woman- Well might be not so business type but teaches us the importance of being professional rather than allowing emotions to hijack professionalism.

    Seemabaddha (1971) by Satyajit Ray- Everything comes at a price even manipulative office promotions.

    Ratatouille – For an entrepreneur , HR or strategy major who believe in the golden lines ‘Change is nature’. Can be watched not only to figure out how a dwindling business can be revived but also pour l’amour de Paris et la cuisine française.

  2. you missed 2 good ones Sameer
    1. Crimson Tide : For management under stress and for standing upto your ideals and for what is right even under pressure from superiors
    2. Coach Carter: on how to motivate a team

  3. The Founder-because it shows the best and worst in entrepreneurship, confidence and building a brand

    Ocean’s Eleven-as a great example of assembling your team in project management


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