12 Favorite Business Movies Of MBAs

The Founder

Premise: Ray Croc was the Mark Zuckerberg of his era …without the hoodie. A middle-aged milkshake machine salesman, Croc’s life — and American commerce — was forever transformed when he visited a San Bernadino burger joint in 1954. He quickly snapped up a stake in the operation, whose assembly line cooking process paired consistent quality with a steamlined and speedy delivery. Within five years, Kroc had opened 100 restaurants nationwide and turned the “Golden Arches” into ground zero for many communities The “founding father of fast food,” Kroc re-defined marketing, building his empire’s value proposition on branding, real estate, and franchising. He set the highest standards for restaurant cleanliness, training, and customer service, while maintaining a simple menu and strict guidelines that stifled costs. He even introduced sponsorships to diversify revenue streams. Croc was a true genius … but also someone who cut the original founders out of royalties and drove their business into the ground. The Founder is a movie about turning an idea into a household name — and how innovation is often the result of fine-tuning and spreading another’s ideas.

MBA Says:The Founder is a movie that depicts how Ray Kroc built the McDonalds empire through good fortune, talent and execution. Although it was serendipitous that Ray stumbled upon the McDonald’s brothers in the first place, Ray was smart enough to recognize that the burger spot was an opportunity that could be scaled up and had the gumption to follow through. The brilliance, however, was in Ray’s realization that prime real estate could act as a golden goose, paving the way to McDonalds becoming a mammoth in not only fast food, but commercial real estate. Because opportunities may not always be immediately obvious, look for the subtle connections.”

Jay Kiew, University of Western Ontario (Ivey)

Best Movie Quotes:

Ray Kroc: “I’m looking for a few good men … and women … who aren’t afraid of hard work. Aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves. I’m looking for scrappers, hustlers, guys that are willing to roll up their sleeves. They’re livin’ on drive, they got a little fire in their belly. I stand right here before you today, I’m gonna offer you something as precious as gold. And you know what that is? Anybody? Anybody? Opportunity. It’s opportunity. Opportunity. Opportunity to advance, to move forward, to move up, to advance … To succeed. To win. To step up. The sky’s the limit. The sky is the limit. Grab the brass ring. To give yourself a shot at the American dream. Put your arms around the American dream. Opportunity. Cause I’ll tell ya somethin’ … At McDonald’s? It’s like this great nation of ours … Some of that elbow grease. I guarantee ya, if you got the guts … the gumption, the desire … I guarantee ya you can succeed. There’s gold to be had. At the end of … those Golden Arches … Golden Arches. Golden Arches. Now who’s with me? Who wants to jump on that ladder to success? Be part of the McDonald’s ‘mishpokhe’. Now who’s with me? Come on, lemme see some hands.”

Ray Kroc: “I know what you’re thinkin’ … What the heck do I need a 5-spindle for … when I barely sell enough milkshakes to justify my single-spindle. Right? Wrong. Are you familiar with the notion of the chicken or the egg Mr. Griffith, I mentioned … that there’d be costs. Well, I think it applies here. Do you not need the multimixer because, well heck, you’re not selling enough milkshakes. Or are you not selling enough milkshakes because you don’t have a multimixer? I firmly believe it’s the latter. Because your customer comes in here and he knows if he orders a shake from your establishment … that well, he’s in for a terrific wait. He’s done it before and he thinks to himself, well by golly, I’m not gonna make that mistake again. But if ya had the Prince Castle, 5-spindle, multimixer … with patented direct-drive electric motor we’d greatly increase your ability to produce … delicious, frosty milkshakes, FAST. Mark my words. Dollars to donuts, you’ll be sellin’ more of those sons of bitches … then you can shake a stick at. You increase the supply, and the demand will follow. .. Increase supply, demand follows. Chicken, egg. Do you follow my logic?I know you do because you’re a bright, forward thinking guy who … knows a good idea when he hears one. So… What do you say?”

Ray Kroc: “I know what you’re thinking, how the heck does a fifty-two year-old, over the hill, milkshake machine salesman build a fast food empire with sixteen hundred restaurants and an annual revenue of seven hundred million dollar? One word: persistence.”

Wall Street

Premise: The archetypal business movie, Wall Street is an allegory that’s as old as storytelling. Bud Fox, an ambitious young man tethered to a dead end sales job, aspires to “one day be on the other end of that phone.” His prayers are answered after he lands five minutes with robber baron extraordinaire Gordon Gekko (after 59 attempts, no less). Eventually, Gekko brings Fox into his inner circle after he proves himself by gathering information through dubious means. Soon enough, Fox learns that he is being led along by Gekko in an airline deal. That leads to a fateful choice: Does he take the golden parachute out … or risk his future by turning against Gekko and protecting the livelihoods of the airline employees? He makes his decision – and pays the price.

MBAs Say: “Wall Street shows how greedy business people can be. As Gordon Grekko said in this movie, ‘The main thing about money is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do’ and ‘Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies and cuts through to the essence of the evolutionary spirit’. Frankly, I don’t agree with that. I think that this movie helps to put things into perspective and it shows that people who only care about money can be extremely narrow-minded.”

Maria Potapova, Cambridge University (Judge)

(Editor’s Note: The “main thing” quote was actually delivered by Lou Mannheim).

Wall Street. In the 1987 movie, Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko had a very interesting line: ‘Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good.’ But is it?

“Greed in the form of wanting more and more, and believing that the end justifies the means is definitely bad. You can see evidence of that in the 2008 financial crisis, which can be traced back to one human flaw: greed.

“However, that’s not the only form of greed. Greed in the form of relentless passion and desire to learn, improve, and achieve great things in life is actually good. Perhaps, if the early human didn’t greedily want warmer caves, humankind would have never discovered fire.”

Ahmed Bakr, IESE Business School

Best Movie Lines:

Lou Mannheim: “You can’t get a little bit pregnant, son.”

Gordon Gekko: “If you’re not inside, you’re outside!”

Gordon Gekko: “Lunch is for wimps.”

Gordon Gekko: “I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”

Lou Mannheim: “Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.”

Gordon Gekko: “Ah, Jesus. I wish you could see this. Light’s coming up. I’ve never seen a painting that captures the beauty of the ocean at a moment like this. I’m gonna make you rich, Bud Fox. Yeah. Rich enough, you can afford a girl like Darien. This is your wake-up call, pal. Go to work.”

Carl Fox: “There came into Egypt a Pharaoh who did not know.”

Gordon Gekko: “I beg your pardon, is that a proverb?”

Carl Fox: “No, a prophecy. The rich have been doing it to the poor since the beginning of time. The only difference between the Pyramids and the Empire State Building is the Egyptians didn’t allow unions. I know what this guy is all about, greed. He don’t give a damn about Bluestar or the unions. He’s in and out for the buck and he don’t take prisoners.”

The Godfather

Premise: Is The Godfather an American crime story, a treatise on immigration’s aftermath, or a primer on best business practices? In reality, it is a combination of all three. You may not find Don Corleone on the alumni roll of Columbia Business School, but the hard-won wisdom he imparts could fill a semester-long course. For Corleone, ‘business’ is an extension of relationships, ones forged by building goodwill within his community (with the expectation that he’ll eventually receive something in return as a token of respect for his ‘services’). In fact, the Don’s reputation – if not his brand – stems from his ability to execute (ahem) decisively. Corleone also carefully delegates responsibilities and allocates resources, knowing a wrong move (such as moving into narcotics) could undermine his larger investments. At the same time, he treats business as business, an impersonal calling where the greatest sin is impulsiveness (ala Sonny). That’s not to say the Don doesn’t keep a close eye on the competitive landscape. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” he advises his son in one of the movie’s most quoted lines. It is timeless advice for sure.

MBAs Say:

The Godfather trilogy — this movie reinforced a long-standing belief — relationships are important, strong networks are everything and to beat competition — always look at things through the vantage point of your opponent.”

Vuyane Mhlomi, University of Oxford (Said)

The Godfather. Some wouldn’t exactly consider it a business movie, but who can forget ‘I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse’? The movie is a treatise on building relationships, gaining trust, and understanding the motivations behind people’s actions.”

Varun Chandak, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Best Movie Quotes:

Don Vito Corleone: “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Michael Corleone: “All right. This one time I’ll let you ask me about my affairs.”

Kay Adams: “Is it true? Is it?”

Michael Corleone: “No.”

Go to the next page for additional favorites like Barbershop, Margin Call, and Mrs. Doubtfire

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