Are you an entrepreneur?
Hollywood might be in the business of cranking out unbelievable stories, but give credit where it’s due. For good reason, they do know a thing or two about portraying entrepreneurs.
With each film representing a big risk to investors, combined with the larger-than-life personalities and egos working behind the scenes to bring the product to the masses, it’s no surprise there are a number of films with valuable lessons for entrepreneurs to draw from.
5 Movies With Lessons for Entrepreneurs
The settings of these films are varied, as are the lessons they teach. Here are five movies that provide great lessons for entrepreneurs.
Like The Aviator, Tucker: The Man and His Dream is set in the World War II era and chronicles the real-life story of an ambitious entrepreneur. Instead of planes, though, Preston Tucker was an innovator in the automotive industry who went from designing military vehicles to consumer cars.
His passion, as depicted in the film, is contagious. Underdog stories in all types of genres can be compelling, but it’s especially true in this case of an upstart automaker taking on the big companies.
Unfortunately, like The Aviator, there isn’t a happy ending. The Securities and Exchange Commission took issue with some of Tucker’s unique funding techniques and accused the company of being an outright sham. The case went to trial, and Tucker prevailed against all charges.
The company, however, was mired in debt and was bankrupted.
The lesson learned is a hard one that every entrepreneur should be aware of. Even endless passion and innovation isn’t enough to make a company successful. In some cases, competitors won’t play by the rules so they can gain an unfair advantage.
The story line of Jerry Maguire can resonate with most entrepreneurs, as they’ve probably experienced some of the same things that Tom Cruise’s character goes through. In the film, a successful sports agents becomes completely disillusioned with the soulless corporate structure of the business.
He’s fired from his job and tries to work as an agent on his own terms. The story is inspired by what a real-life sports agent went through.
Things are incredibly rocky, as all but one of his former clients choose not to stay with him. Part of the film deals with the struggles and doubts that come with leaving an established enterprise and trying things on your own.
When the challenges arise while trying to build a business on your own, it’s normal to think along the lines of, “did I do the right thing?” or, “will this be a failure?” The film’s buildup is compelling, and the payoff is satisfying — especially if you’re wondering if you made the right decision to work for yourself.
If there’s one lesson to be learned here, it’s don’t steal uranium from Libyan terrorists to build a time machine. They’ll find out, and they won’t be happy.
In seriousness, though, there is a lesson in this infinitely watchable comedy/sci-fi film. When you have a product, take into account all scenarios of what could happen. Even the worst-case situations need to be considered and planned for — just in case.
What if funding falls through? What if delays pop up at the last minute? What if a key employee departs?
Thinking about the “what if” scenarios doesn’t just apply if you’re building time machines — being prepared for the unexpected is an important component for every industry and business.
4. The Aviator
When it comes to innovators, few have soared as high and fell as hard as the legendary Howard Hughes. This bio pic directed by Martin Scorsese tracks the entrepreneur’s incredible career, from his work in Hollywood to his innovations in the aviation industry.
Leonardo DiCaprio depicts Hughes as someone who’s almost recklessly ambitious, but with the talent to achieve just about anything before his well-documented mental illness takes over.
In real life and in the film, the ambition of Howard Hughes eventually backfired. During World War II, he was making the largest aircraft ever to be used for the war effort. Critics were skeptical of the viability of the project, yet Hughes doubled down and put his reputation on the line.
Accusations of Hughes misspending government money on the project surfaced, and Hughes testified, “I have my reputation all rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it’s a failure, I’ll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean it.”
Hughes went all in, but the project was a failure.
The plane, derisively known as the Spruce Goose, wasn’t completed in time for the war and was only flown once for less than a hundred feet. It’s a real life cautionary tale of the worst that can happen to a bold entrepreneur who fails to deliver on lofty expectations.
“Always be closing” are words to live by. This 1992 film about the pressures of being a salesman are as relevant today as they were then. The anxiety is overwhelming, and corporate interference ratchets up the stress on these burnt-out salesmen as they struggle to meet their sales goals.
The highlight of the film is Alec Baldwin’s foul-mouthed speech used to both inspire and terrify the sales team. The speech is both manipulative and brilliant. Yet as harsh as his words are, it’s an over-the-top reminder of the efforts and sacrifices that sometimes need to be made in order to succeed.
It’s both awful and inspirational.
Here’s a snippet from the speech, which is one of the only parts without cursing:
“You drove a Hyundai to get here. I drove an eighty-thousand dollar BMW. THAT’S my name. And your name is you’re wanting. You can’t play in the man’s game, you can’t close them — go home and tell your wife your troubles. Because only one thing counts in this life: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted.”
Take away the machismo and you’re left with something to consider: How much are you willing to commit to make the business work?
These are just five of the films that provide valuable lessons for entrepreneurs, and more are released each year. It seems like some of the best movies have worthwhile concepts that apply in the real world.