12 Favorite Business Movies Of MBAs

The Pursuit of Happyness

The Premise: Think you’ve had a run of bad luck? Try a broken marriage, jail, homelessness, and debt — not to mention working for free. That would be just about enough to break anyone. Well, Chris Gardner wasn’t just anyone. Born into a poverty marked by alcoholism domestic violence, and abandonment, Garden excelled in the U.S. Navy and medical sales … before his life fell apart again. Living day-to-day in shelters and even public bathrooms, Gardner beat the odds to work as a stockbroker at a leading firm. Sure enough, after the credits rolled, he emerged as a financial legend, author, philanthropist, and (most important) father of the year.

MBAs Say:

“I’m a firm believer in hard work and that success is built on resilience, not just talent. I think The Pursuit of Happyness has a great story in it. It highlights the importance of overcoming adversity and not letting others tell you what you can or cannot be while keeping in mind what is truly important in life — our families.”

Ilja Orre, University of Virginia (Darden)

“It’s a movie about struggle, resilience, and triumph. It’s the American dream wrapped into two hours.” Brandon Byers, University of Illinois (Gies)

“Apart from making me cry hopelessly, it reminds me to never take anything for granted and that persistence and determination can go a long way.”

Sravya Yelewarapu, Dartmouth (Tuck)

“I recently re-watched The Pursuit of Happyness on Netflix. The biggest lesson I took away from was importance of empathy. I think it is crucial that businessmen and women master this life skill to understand not only where their peers have come from, but also what personal challenges and institutional barriers they encountered along the way to success.”

JP Ortiz, Emory University (Goizueta)

“I love The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith, based on the experience of entrepreneur Chris Gardner. In the face of incredibly tough circumstances and humiliation, Gardner focuses on what he can control and finds success taking one step at a time. The movie is humbling and inspiring.”

Sarah Hinkfuss, Stanford GSB

Best Movie Quotes:

Chris Gardner: “It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?”

Chris Gardner: “You got a dream. You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.”

Christopher: “There was a man who was drowning, and a boat came, and the man on the boat said, ‘Do you need help?’ and the man said ‘God will save me.’ Then another boat came and he tried to help him, but he said ‘God will save me,’ then he drowned and went to heaven. Then the man told God, ‘God, why didn’t you save me?’ and God said ‘I sent you two boats, you dummy!'”

The Big Short

Premise: What do you do when the financial world is teetering on the brink — and no one seems to care? You bet on the masters of the universe to fail … and fail they did. The Big Short follows the stories of three insurgents who decide to stick it to the man — and make a tidy profit in the process. Turns out, these characters were only a handful of winners to come out of the 2008 financial collapsed. Banks closed. Jobs vanished. And the guilty parties were given a stern finger wagging, bailed out, and sent on their merry way to the next bubble (Smart money is on student loans or cryptocurrencies). In the meantime, The Big Short relishes in demystifying complex financial tools and exposing the rot and hypocrisy at every grubby corner of the system.

MBAs Say:

This movie, and the story behind it, remind me that it’s important to maintain a healthy skepticism and challenge the status quo when you strongly believe that the consensus view is incorrect.”

Ryan Ripp, Columbia Business School

The movie demonstrated that challenging conventional wisdom can pay enormous dividends if you trust your instincts and work tirelessly to uncover a new way of thinking.”

Travis Martin, Michigan State (Broad)

“I think The Big Short is a great business movie, not just because of the content that it shares about how the financial crisis came to be, but how it experiments with storytelling. The short explanations in the middle about business concepts showed me that no matter how unfamiliar an audience may be with a subject, if you are creative in how you tell the story and can relate to the audience while doing that, they will engage with the content.”

Mahum Yunus, New York University (Stern)

“I learned that the worst-case scenario could absolutely come true. Never believe that something’s too big to fail. Overconfidence can lead to big failure.”

Mabel Gomes, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Best Movie Quotes:

Mark Baum: “We live in an era of fraud in America. Not just in banking, but in government, education, religion, food, even baseball. … What bothers me ins’t that fraud is not nice. Or that fraud is mean. For fifteen thousand years, fraud and short-sighted thinking have never, ever worked. Not once. Eventually you get caught, things go south. When the hell did we forget all that? I thought we were better than this, I really did.”

Ben Rickert: “If we’re right, people lose homes. People lose jobs. People lose retirement savings, people lose pensions. You know what I hate about f-ing banking? It reduces people to numbers. Here’s a number — every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die, did you know that?”

Mark Baum: “The banks have given us 25% interest rates on credit cards. They have screwed us on student loans that we can never get out from under. Then this guy walks into my office and says those same banks got greedy, they lost track of the market, and I can profit off of their stupidity? F-, yeah, I want him to be right!”

Jared Vennett: “If the mortgage bonds were the match, then the CDOs were the kerosene soaked rags, then the synthetic CDO was the atomic bomb that the drunk President holding his finger over the button, it was at that moment in that dumb restaurant, with that stupid look on his face that Mark Baum realized the whole world economy might collapse.”

The Devil Wears Prada

Premise: Every college graduate goes through it. You take a starter job to pay your dues (and rent). It is a rite of passage; you gain experience and build a network … all while taking home meager pay and rarely plying your talents. In the case of Andy Sachs, it was a Faustian bargain, replete with the devil herself: Miranda Priestly. The editor-in-chief of Runway magazine, Priestly is cold and dismissive … well, except when she is acidic and ruthless. A primer on the gap between personal identity and business culture, The Devil Wears Prada is a movie that poses the big questions for young professionals. Are the sacrifices worth the return? How long can you compromise your values before you become what you hate? Then there is the biggest question: Is Miranda simply cruel – or has she adapted better to the demands and culture better than anyone else? You decide.

MBA Says: “Though there are literally hundreds of lessons in this movie, the biggest one is that people are not always who they appear to be and can come in clutch for you when you most need them to.”

Alex McNair, Emory University (Goizueta)

Best Movie Quotes:

Miranda Priestly: “Do you know why I hired you? I always hire the same girl — stylish, slender, of course … worships the magazine. But so often, they turn out to be — I don’t know — disappointing and, um … stupid. So you, with that impressive résumé and the big speech about your so-called work ethic — I, um — I thought you would be different. I said to myself, go ahead. Take a chance. Hire the smart, fat girl. I had hope. My God. I live on it. Anyway, you ended up disappointing me more than, um — more than any of the other silly girls.”

Emily: “Really? It’s for Paris, I’m on this new diet. Well, I don’t eat anything and when I feel like I’m about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.”

Nigel: “Yes, because that’s really what this whole multibillion-dollar industry is all about, isn’t it? Inner beauty.”

Miranda Priestly: “That is all.”

Go to next page for The Founder, Wall Street, and The Godfather. 

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