Five of the Best Films About Business

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It's Christmas – a time of relaxing, good will to all men, and all that. For many students, though, it’s also a time of studying.

If you’re a business student, though, help is at hand in the form of our pick of a few of the best films about business. So kick back and enjoy this festive period. After all, it’s ‘revision’.

Wall Street

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." Whether or not you agree with the statement, it’s hard to deny how it echoed through the 80s and beyond. Michael Douglas’s compelling portrayal of super-broker and psychopath, Gordon Gekko, is at the heart of everything that’s good about the film (although it also features a great performance from a fresh-faced Charlie Sheen) which is an engaging attack on Wall Street excess.

(The less said about its sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the better.)

The Wolf of Wall Street

A sort of deranged 21st-century revamp of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s take on Jordan Belfort’s memoirs see Leonardo di Caprio in the driving seat of this rollercoaster romp through the world of crooked 80s stockbroking. Subtle it may not be, and in many ways it lets its targets off too easily, but it’s brilliantly acted, incredibly shot and often laugh-out-loud funny.

Citizen Kane

From the ridiculous to the sublime, Orson Welles’s magnum opus – generally considered to be one of the greatest films of all time – charts the rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane (based on newspaper/publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst).

Why is Kane such a great film? Let us count the ways: it’s beautifully shot, in shadowy German Expressionism-inspired black and white, and it’s got a defining performance by Welles himself along with several others. It’s also one of the grandest films about business, hubris and the American Dream ever made. A must-see.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Originally a play by David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross is a fast-talking tale of dodgy real estate salesmen getting sucked into a downward spiral. The script is superb, while with Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin and Jack Lemmon (amongst others) all appearing, ‘all-star’ doesn’t quite sum up the cast that was assembled. Lemmon’s playing of his washed up character, Shelley Levene, trying (and failing) to get a break is especially poignant. A compelling and brutal indictment of red in tooth and claw American brand capitalism and unrestrained sales culture.

The Social Network

David Fincher’s ‘Facebook Movie’ is funny, dark, brilliantly acted (from Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg to Justin Timberlake as fellow tech entrepreneur Sean Parker) and, however loosely based on reality, fascinatingly revealing into the birth of a modern business phenomenon.

While it ostensibly centres around the heated legal battle behind the creation of the site/company back at Harvard in 2003, it’s really about the alignment of genius, insane work ethic and (whisper it) serendipity that allows a business as big as Facebook to come about so quickly. Because, behind all the initial Silicon Valley tech-underdog identity, you don’t get much more ‘big business’ than a share valuation of $200 billion – a sum that makes Facebook bigger than Disney, Coca Cola and Bank of America.

Like our pick of the best films about business and thinking of taking the subject up? Check out our online business studies BTECs.