10 Movies Every Business Student Must Watch

Would you put Jerry Maguire, starring Tom Cruise, on the list of best business movies?

Also see our updated story on the business movies MBA professors most recommend.

You can only learn so much from case studies. Sure, the lessons may be grounded in the real world, with real people suffering real consequences. In the end, do these examples really stick with you? Do you mimic lines from a study to your friends? And do you occasionally return to a key person or decision in a study and think, “I can really see myself doing that.” 

Sometimes, the best way to translate reality is through fiction. And no genre resonates more with people than cinema. Take the topic of business. Our work consumes over a third of our lives. For many, work is a community where they fulfill their life’s mission. In that world, you’ll find the great truths: The corrosive effect of power, money, and hubris; the fruits of hope, sweat and perseverance; the trade-offs and unforeseen results inherent to making decisions; and the ever-present opportunity for reconciliation and redemption.

Hollywood may embellish reality, but the behind-the-scenes business dealings in movies often reflect the real world all too closely. From Jordan Belfort to Howard Hughes, movie storytelling takes us inside deeply flawed, three-dimensional characters, whose key moments of achievement, betrayal, and epiphany remind us of our own potential and frailty. Whether we admire or loathe these characters, we remember them – and the cautionary lessons many represent.

Looking for some practical lessons that may get lost in a case study? Here are ten must-see movies that will amp up your business acumen with an up close and personal look at the temptations and ambiguities you’re bound to eventually face:

1) Wall Street




This has to be right at the top if you talk about must-watch movies for business students. The movie digs into everything a business hides behind the scenes. As a thrilling journey into Gordon Gekko’s life, it shows exactly how people barter their morals to become filthy rich and make it big on Wall Street, with principles like, “Money is everything,” and “Greed is good.” Take those lessons with a grain of salt!


2) The Insider



Al Pacino and Russell Crowe share the screen in this movie, which is reason enough to watch it, but it’s also a must-watch to know what ethics and integrity in business really mean. It’s a story of a man who is faced with an ugly choice of doing the right thing and risking his life, or keeping his mouth shut.


3) Tucker : A Man and His Dream



Searching for some inspiration to trigger your spirits before a leap into the world of entrepreneurship? This movie can be your unforgettable inspiration. Make yourself feel good while this movie works as an inspiration to your psyche by telling you exactly what it is like to follow your dreams…a bed of roses…but roses with spurs, where you have to make sacrifices.

  • G M

    Have you ever seen The Graduate? 😉

  • KS SK

    surprised Boiler Room didn’t make it on the list.

  • dfe217@stern.nyu.edu

    Trading Places

  • subhash tripathi

    am 3d modling

  • jayson miller

    Erin Brockovich, no broad movies. Never sell to a broad they bleed from their whatever. Pres-elect Trump.

  • robovox

    Several that I recommend:
    (1) Bull Durham: “Baseball’s a very simple game ! You throw the ball. You hit the ball. And you catch the ball. Some days you win, and some days you lose. And some days it rains, and you don’t get to play. But YOU DRESS FOR THEM ALL !”
    (2) A Few Good Men: “What did we do wrong? Colonel Jessup ordered the Code Red! We did nothing wrong!” … “Yeah, we did. We were supposed to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie.”
    (3) The Maltese Falcon: “When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. And it happens we’re in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it’s-it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it, bad all around, bad for every detective everywhere.”

  • Ian Hawkings

    The Corporation – which I don’t think has been mentioned below….and a definite second for both boiler room and glengarry – both great representations of sales culture, which is something that permiates most companies to a greater or lesser degree….

  • Full Movies

    HI Aditya Singhal
    Great Article
    I watched Wall Street and going to watch all Thanks

  • All movies were amazing, please share some movies like this.

  • Bud Fox

    Trading Places

  • Tara Isaac

    I would add Inside Job too. Dare I say Flashdance?

  • Intresting movies ! Must watch this

  • Keith

    I know this is late but Barbarians at the Gate is a great business movie as is The Devil Wears Prada.

  • Tim

    Glengarry Glenn Ross?

  • Rajendra

    The list is great. I have seen 3 Films which are often referred, shown, discussed and deliberated at various business schools :
    12 Angry Men, Mandela and Gandhi. I would mention that in case only ten have to be seen/imbibed these 3 should be considered for inclusion. Else even 13 are fine.

  • Thanks everyone for your valuable suggestions and feedback. I am excited to know about your suggestions to the list. I am currently compiling my favourite courtroom dramas and will soon write “10 Must Watch Movies For Law Students”

  • Eshu Kalra

    Superb list Aditya. Many Thanks.

  • JohnAByrne

    It’s never too late. Thanks for the suggestions.

  • GetItDone

    It’s probably a little late for suggestions; nevertheless a couple of movies off the top of my head.
    1) The Pursuit of Happyness : A touching movie that illustrates the importance of perseverance.

    2) Jerry Maguire : Having a conscience might not help your company produce fantastic quarterly results, but it can help you succeed in the long-term. Plus, the importance of trust and relationships.


    You could do a Top Ten Episodes of “Mad Men” that would be fun to analyze. Don Draper has made some amazing decisions. Firing Lane. Mentoring Peggy. There are so many business decisions on that show.

  • avivalasvegas

    Thoughts on the “Inside Job”? While Columbia faculty might take issue with the recommendation, it is one of the most successful documentaries of all time 🙂

  • Stern admit

    How about “There Will Be Blood”? The choices you make as a person make you who you are – personally and professionally…

  • seeIt

    There is, it’s called “Margin Call”

  • Moshé Simpson

    “The Game” is also a very good movie: Understanding why, even when building and empire, you should take stock of what’s really important in life.

  • Moshé Simpson

    My wife would love this: “Pretty Woman” actually has a few direct and indirect messages that relate to business: what constitutes good business versus profitable enterprise. Maintaining professionalism regardless of circumstances and perceptions (because you could be burning a very lucrative relationship). Seeing the potential in what others might deem worthless and making something great out of it.

  • Ernst Schnell

    There are two that I am missing here. On the cultural side, “The secret of my success” is a must, and on the art of LBO, “Other people’s money” is as real as it is funny 🙂

  • Moshé Simpson

    Vincent Mancini did not say that line. That line was said by Don Luchesse (sp?).

  • miltonjomo

    Where are the following ones?
    1) Too big to Fail
    2) Margin call

  • Donora

    The Office — everyone knows big corp’s work like this!

  • JohnAByrne

    Definitely agree. That’s a really good add to the list.

  • Tatiana Novakova

    Why isn’t there “Too big to fail”. The film about financial crisis 2008. I think business students should see it.

  • Jeff-Schmitt

    I agree, Greg.I should’ve included that movie in my list below. Jeremy Irons was terrifying calm and corrupt as the CEO.

  • Jeff-Schmitt

    ABC – Always Be Closing!

  • avivalasvegas

    I’m an Academy Award selected film producer who attends a top 5 business school. To me, Erin Brockovich deserves mention given the increasing relevance of whistle blowers in an organization, along with power of business law in non market environments

  • Coffee Is For Closers

    Glengarry Glen Ross, yes, thank you.
    Alec: What’s my name?!? F-You, THAT’S my name!!

  • greg6363

    Margin Call

  • Business Doctors

    Though not a movie (yet), it might be worthwhile checking out the TV series – ‘House of Lies‘ – based on a book by a former Booz consultant.

    It’s a dramatized look at the management consulting industry.

  • timtim

    it should be noted that citizen kane is the most overrated movie of all time

  • JohnAByrne

    Those are terrific suggestions! Thanks.

  • wangkon936

    Boiler Room is good. The Social Network is good too.

  • wangkon936

    I would put Godfather III in there. Michael Corleone is trying to move into legitimate business operations via an LBO of an Italian conglomerate. What can be more B-School then that?… ;).

    “Finance is a gun. Politics is knowing when to pull the trigger.”

    – Vincent Mancini’s character in the Godfather III

  • JohnAByrne

    By the way, our own Jeff Schmitt–a big movie goer at heart. has some additional must-see business movies. It’s an interesting list::

    The Big Kahuna: Looking to close that job-saving client? Don’t liquor him up in a Wichita hospitality suite. Try talking to him about his passions first. This Kevin Spacey vehicle is an allegorical reminder that business is based on personal relationships, first-and-foremost.

    Boiler Room: You are the sum of your decisions. But those decisions don’t just taint you. Cutting corners have devastating legal, financial, and personal consequences for your business partners and loved ones too.

    In Good Company: What do companies lose when they push aside experienced hands for business school prodigies? Are companies merely pawns to be sold off in search of that elusive “synergy?” As Teddy K. would say, “You ask some excellent, excellent questions. And I’m leaving it to you, all of you, to answer them.”

    American Gangster: The quintessential entrepreneurial flick…if you’re looking to sell “Blue Magic” heroin, that is. This Frank Lucas biopic covers all the bases: Manufacturing, distribution, finance, management, and even branding. And it does it far better than similar films like New Jack City or Blow.

    The Social Network: This movie charts Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg course from callow, socially-inept Harvard programmer to callow, socially-inept business tycoon. If you’re looking for a case study on why you shouldn’t start a business with friends (or smart mouth opposing counsel), this movie is for you.

    Glengarry Glenn Ross: Think sales is a cushy gig where you can hit the links on Friday? I can almost imagine Alec Baldwin frothing at the mouth and calling you a loser! Yes, sales is the heart of any business, where you go out and earn your job every day! Whether you’re a Ricky Roma or a Shelley Levine, that pace eventually proves too much. Eventually, it makes them callous and desperate. Keep a close eye on your people…and know when it’s time to make the cut.

    Batman Begins: Keep your guard up: Your mentor may not have your best interests at heart. And always capitalize on your advantages (such as an in-house arsenal).

  • bwanamia

    Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead. Jimmy the Saint!