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Practice Management > Building Your Business

25 best business movies: 11-15

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15. Thank You for Smoking (2005)

Starring Aaron EckhartCameron BrightMaria Bello

Directed by Jason Reitman 

What it’s about: A precursor to TV’s Mad Men, this satire with teeth and black lungs is scary funny and hones in on the art of spin and persuasion as seen from the point of view of Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), the tobacco lobby’s mouthpiece.

Why watch it: Naylor is known as the Sultan of Spin and getting to watch his power of persuasion, even if it’s for a despicable cause, is a thing of beauty.

Business takeaway: The world of media and politics is driven by spin more than any of us want to admit, and, if you believe in your message, you can convince people of almost anything. Almost.

Memorable scene: When Naylor is kidnapped by anti-smoking terrorists and used as a human guinea pig to show the damage nicotine can do to the body.

Memorable quotes: 

Nick Naylor: Right there, looking into Joey’s eyes, it all came back in a rush. Why I do what I do. Defending the defenseless, protecting the disenfranchised corporations that have been abandoned by their very own consumers: the logger, the sweatshop foreman, the oil driller, the land mine developer, the baby seal poacher.


Jeff Megall: Sony has a futuristic sci-fi movie they’re looking to make. 

Nick Naylor: Cigarettes in space? 

Jeff Megall: It’s the final frontier, Nick. 

Nick Naylor: But wouldn’t they blow up in an all oxygen environment? 

Jeff Megall: Probably. But it’s an easy fix. One line of dialogue. ‘Thank God we invented the… you know, whatever device.’ 


Nick NaylorMichael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent.

Next up: Modern Times


14. Modern Times (1936)

Starring Charles ChaplinPaulette GoddardHenry Bergman 

Directed by Charles Chaplin 

What it’s about: Charlie Chaplin, in his last role as “The Little Tramp,” finds the new industrial age one that’s hard to live in — and make a living in, for that matter. 

Why watch it: For its sheer brilliance and choreography. Chaplin was a visual genius and there are moments from Modern Times that have become cinematic lore, such as the conveyor belt scene and the bit where he roller-skates while wearing a blindfold. 

Business takeaway: Never quit. No matter how tough times may get, hang in there, and keep plugging away. Something good is bound to happen.

Memorable scene: Opening scene, which shows sheep running through a slaughter chute, then cuts to waves of people pushing their way through a narrow subway to work. 

Another classic scene is the one which has been copied numerous times, where Chaplin is working on a factory line and the conveyor belt gets faster and faster and faster until finally its sucks him into the machine.

Memorable quote: Well, considering it’s a silent film, you’re not going to get a lot of good dialogue. But there are frequent sound effects, such as the voice of the factory owner over a loudspeaker. 

President of the Electro Steel Corp.: [from the Telescreen in the restroom to the factory worker] Hey you! Get back to work! 

Next up: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying



13. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)

Starring  Robert MorseMichele LeeRudy Vallee 

Directed by David Swift

What it’s about: A window washer named J. Pierpont Finch (Robert Morse) buys a how-to book and quickly climbs the corporate ladder. 

Why watch it: Morse’s impish charisma, and the song and dance numbers (yes, this is a musical). 

Business takeaway: Read a good how-to book. It might just have the secret to your success.

Memorable scene: Finch and his boss singing the school fight song.

Memorable quotes: 

J. Pierpont Finch: Be patient? Don’t you realize I’ve been working here … well, two whole hours now? 

J. B. Biggley: I realize that I’m the president of this company, the man that’s responsible for everything that goes on here. So, I want to state, right now, that anything that happened is not my fault. 

J. Pierpont Finch: I feel sorry for men who don’t knit, they lead empty lives. 

Next up: Trading Places


12. Trading Places (1983)

Starring Eddie MurphyDan AykroydRalph Bellamy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Ameche

Directed by John Landis

What it’s about: The Duke Brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) own a commodities brokerage firm and make a bet that they could take their company’s leading stalwart, Louis Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) and have him trade places with a homeless man (Eddie Murphy) and no one would know the difference. 

Why watch it: It’s one of Murphy’s more toned down roles. He’s fun to watch and actually seems to be having fun with the part of Billy Ray Valentine, as opposed to many later films where his ego gets away from him.

Business takeaway: Could management really bring someone in off the street who could do your job as well as you can? It’s doubtful, but still something to keep in the back of your mind for an extra edge at work.

Memorable scene: Where Winthorpe dresses up as a drunk Santa and crashes the Duke Brothers’ Christmas party. 

Memorable quotes: 

Randolph Duke: Money isn’t everything, Mortimer. 

Mortimer Duke: Oh, grow up. 

Randolph Duke: Mother always said you were greedy. 

Mortimer Duke: She meant it as a compliment. 


Louis Winthorpe III: Fifty bucks? No, no, no. This is a Rouchefoucauld. The thinnest water-resistant watch in the world. Singularly unique, sculptured in design, hand-crafted in Switzerland, and water resistant to three atmospheres. This is *the* sports watch of the ’80s. Six thousand, nine hundred and fifty five dollars retail!

Pawnbroker: You got a receipt? 

Louis Winthorpe III: Look, it tells time simultaneously in Monte Carlo, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Rome, and Gstaad. 

Pawnbroker: In Philadelphia, it’s worth 50 bucks. 

Up next: Once Upon a Time in the West


11. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968

Starring Henry FondaCharles BronsonClaudia Cardinale, Jason Robards

Directed by Sergio Leone

What it’s about: Another of director Sergio Leone’s operatic spaghetti westerns, though parts of it were filmed in the U.S. While it has the usual guns and bullets of the genre, it’s also a story about the building of the American West and the type of men it took to get the railroads carved through violent, outlaw-laden areas. 

Why watch it: Leone’s camera, Ennio Morricone’s haunting, harmonica-heavy score and Henry Fonda as a bad guy. 

Business takeaway: Surround yourself with good people you can trust. Otherwise one of them might shoot or stab you in the back.

Memorable scene: The opening ambush where desperadoes gun down an innocent family and Leone cuts to the head bad guy — Henry Fonda in a black suit.

Memorable quotes: 

FrankHow can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? The man can’t even trust his own pants.


Cheyenne: Harmonica, a town built around a railroad. You could make a fortune. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hey, more than that. Thousands of thousands. 

Harmonica: They call them “millions.” 

Cheyenne: “Millions.” Hmm.


Morton: How does it feel sitting behind that desk, Frank? 

Frank: Almost like holding a gun … only much more powerful. 

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