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25 best business movies: 16-20

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20. Boiler Room (2000)

Starring Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long

Directed by Ben Younger

What it’s about: Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) is a disappointment to his federal judge father. Instead of looking for a white collar career he runs a small casino out of his home. All that changes when Davis takes a job at J. T. Marlin, an “off-Wall Street” brokerage firm that promises ridiculously high commissions, the kind that just can’t be legit.

Why watch it: On the surface it comes across as a mix of Glengarry Glen Ross and Wall Street, but Boiler Room deserves its own audience if not a cult following due to an emotional performance by Ribisi and a nice turn by Vin Diesel as one of the senior brokers in the firm.

Business takeaway: If a deal or a company sounds too good to be true, well, it probably is. Perform the due diligence in any business venture to make sure you know what you’re really getting yourself into.

Memorable scene: In a cameo similar to Alec Baldwin’s in Glengarry Glen Ross, Ben Affleck delivers an inspirational yet scorching sales pep talk to the new recruits.

Memorable quote: 

Jim Young: And there is no such thing as a no-sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close? You or him? Now, be relentless; that’s it, I’m done. 

25 best business movies: 21-25.


Next up: Network


19. Network (1976)

Starring Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall, Peter Finch

Directed by Sidney Lumet

What it’s about: On one hand it’s about the onscreen crackup of a popular nightly news anchor. But, on the other, and more disturbingly, it ushers in a move from serious television news journalism to the pretentious and disturbing exposé-laden sensationalism that continues to be sold as “news” today.

Why watch it: Because of the legendary performances by Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch and William Holden. Also, because Network accurately depicts everything we suspect and despise about journalistic sensationalism.

Business takeaway: Whether it’s television ratings or monthly sales figures, you better be on top or you’re going down.

Memorable scene: Howard Beale (Peter Finch) appearing on camera in a rain-soaked trench coat, ranting and raving for the disenfranchised. 

Memorable quotes: 

Howard Beale: I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’

Diana Christensen: I’m interested in doing a weekly dramatic series based on the Ecumenical Liberation Army. The way I see the series is: Each week we open with an authentic act of political terrorism taken on the spot, in the actual moment. Then we go to the drama behind the opening film footage. That’s your job, Ms. Hobbs. You’ve got to get the Ecumenicals to bring in that film footage for us. The network can’t deal with them directly; they are, after all, wanted criminals.

Next up: The Social Network 

18. The Social Network (2010)

Starring Jesse EisenbergAndrew GarfieldJustin Timberlake 

Directed by David Fincher

What it’s about: The founding of social media giant Facebook. As with many an empire, Facebook was not built without its fair share of double-crosses and backdoor deals.

Why watch it: With a market value of $68.9 billion as of Feb. 19, 2013, the film gives an insider’s peek at how Facebook was created. Besides that, the script by Aaron Sorkin won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay and is written as if with a steak knife, i.e. no one gets out of here unscathed.

Business takeaway: Borrowing from the film’s tagline: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” 

Memorable scene: After getting dumped by his girlfriend, Mark Zuckerberg skedaddles back to his dorm room at Harvard where, in an all-night programming binge, he develops the early ideas that eventually lead to Facebook.

Memorable quotes: 

Mark Zuckerberg: Did you know there are more people with genius IQs living in China than there are people of any kind living in the United States?

Erica Albright: That can’t possibly be true. 

Mark Zuckerberg: It is. 

Erica Albright: What would account for that? 

Mark Zuckerberg: Well, first, an awful lot of people live in China. But, here’s my question: How do you distinguish yourself in a population of people who all got 1600 on their SATs? 

Erica Albright: I didn’t know they take SATs in China. 

Mark Zuckerberg: They don’t. I wasn’t talking about China anymore, I was talking about me. 


Sean Parker: Drop the “The.” Just “Facebook.” It’s cleaner.


Erica Albright: You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an ***hole.

Next up: The Hudsucker Proxy

17. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

Starring Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Newman

Directed by Joel Coen 

What it’s about: A bumpkin from Muncie, Indiana is promoted from the mail room to become president of a manufacturing company as part of a scam to drive the stock down. The tone is not what you’d expect from the Coen Brothers as it has a breezy, innocent feel to it.

Why watch it: It has a magical quality about it and is easily the most undervalued of the Coen films. (It holds up much better than the overrated The Big Lebowski.) In fact, I actually enjoyed Hudsucker more in 2013 than I did in the theater in 1994. Also, the soaring score is a treasure in itself. I fell in love with the music as much as the movie and bought the soundtrack on iTunes the day after watching the film.

Business takeaway: Always open your mail. If you know the movie, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You never know when a piece of mail (or email) might contain the answer to your dreams.

Memorable scene: Robbins and Jason Leigh singing the Muncie fight song. Interestingly, when I watched How to Get Ahead in Business Without Really Trying, I saw that the Coen Brothers had borrowed heavily from a similar scene in that movie. 

Memorable quotes: 

Sidney J. Mussburger: [Referring to Norville] The barred-window boys are out looking for him now. We’ll see how Wall Street likes the news that the president of Hudsucker is heading for the booby hatch. Huh! When Doc Bromfenbrenner gets through with him, he’ll need diapers and a dribble cup! 

Norville: [to Amy] Say Amy, how about you and I grab a little dinner and a show after work. I was thinking maybe “The King And I.”

[Amy slaps him

Norville: How about “Oklahoma”? 

Amy Archer: [to Norville] Shut up! After all, you haven’t talked to me for a week and now I’m going to say my peace. Look, I’ve never been dumped by a fellow before, and that hurts. But what really hurts is watching you uproot your soul, chasing after money and the respect of a board who wouldn’t give you the time of day if you, if you, if you… 

Man: Work in a watch factory. 

Amy Archer: Shut up! Exactly! 

Next up: The Shop Around the Corner

16. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Starring Margaret SullavanJames StewartFrank Morgan 

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch

What’s it about: Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan are two employees at a retail shop in Budapest who despise one another. The only catch is they are actually pen pals and falling in love with the person at the other end of those anonymous letters. If that sounds familiar you might have seen the vastly inferior remake, You’ve Got Mail

Why watch it: Jimmy Stewart in anything is hard to beat and this is one of his better and more underrated roles. Also Frank Morgan (who played the wizard in The Wizard of Oz) is perfect as the curmudgeonly owner of the shop.

Business takeaway: Don’t make enemies at work. They might wind up being your neighbor or even your spouse. 

Memorable scene: When Alfred Kralik (Stewart) realizes that Klara Novak (Sullavan) is not only his nemesis at work, but also the woman he’s been writing love letters to. He gets that Jimmy Stewart gleam in his eye and begins pushing all the right emotional and psychological buttons.

Memorable quotes: 

Alfred Kralik: There might be a lot we don’t know about each other. You know, people seldom go to the trouble of scratching the surface of things to find the inner truth. 

Klara Novak: Well, I really wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralik, because I know exactly what I’d find. Instead of a heart, a handbag. Instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter … which doesn’t work. 


Alfred Kralik: Pirovitch, did you ever get a bonus? 

Pirovitch: Yes, once. 

Alfred Kralik: Yeah. The boss hands you the envelope. You wonder how much is in it, and you don’t want to open it. As long as the envelope’s closed, you’re a millionaire. 

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