Compared to police dramas or rom-coms, movies about business are few and far between, but some of the best films of all time have been about the ruthless yet magical side of this industry.
These movies aren’t only about business, however, they act as a vehicle to cover every aspect of human life and journeys to the top – and back down again – often see characters exposed to greed, management and capitalism in some of the most extreme ways.
Here are our top five.
Citizen Kane (1941)
Directed, produced, co-written and starring Orson Welles, this groundbreaking drama loosely based on the life of William Randolph Hearst has often been cited as one of the best American films ever made.
It begins with a group of reporters setting about trying to find out the meaning behind the elusive last words uttered by aging newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Welles) on his deathbed – “rosebud”.
From then on in, the film features a series of flashbacks digging into the backstory of Kane – one of the US’s richest and most omnipotent men – as he grows from a simple boy into a powerful businessman who loses his soul along the way.
The Godfather (1972)
This film is pretty much flawless and has all the hallmarks of a classic – it’s stylish, has memorable performances, great quotes and an epic storyline.
Here, business and life overlap so dramatically that for Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) – head of the New York mafia – there’s no such thing as clocking off. What will happen, therefore, when his beloved son Michael (Al Pacino) returns from the war but refuses to join his father’s business?
At the same time, Don Corleone faces the same problem as many firms – move with the changing times and innovate or stick with what you know best and continue on the same path that’s served you well for a long time?
Trading Places (1983)
This film tries to address the old nature/nurture question by asking: Is it a person’s heritage or their environment that determines whether or not they do well in life and business?
In other words, can anyone be a successful businessperson if they’re given proper training, or is it something that only a few people are born with?
This is the question that Trading Places sets about trying to answer as the millionaire Duke brothers – heads of a brokerage firm in New York – make a $1 bet and hire street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) to see how well he’ll fare in the world of work.
The conniving brothers set about getting their star employee Louis Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) fired so Valentine can step right into his yuppie lifestyle, including his high-flying job, mansion and model girlfriend. Will he be able to run the company?
At the same time, Winthorpe suddenly finds himself with nothing – but his innate ability to succeed will help him get back up to the top, won’t it?
Wall Street (1987)
“Greed is good”, is one of the lines of this film, which sees the ambitious Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) working day and night to get to make it to the top as New York’s best stockbroker.
Fox works for his firm by day, but at night he succombs to a partnership with the ruthless yet extremely successful Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). This seedy character manipulates the market and uses inside information to get ahead.
As Fox takes advice from his new pal – which includes working to the mantra that greed is good – he soon finds himself in the depths of dodgy deals, fast cash and fast women. There’s a message about how not to conduct business in there somewhere.
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
This film – written by Joel and Ethan Coen – gets off to a somewhat bleak start, as Waring Hudsucker, head of his hugely successful business Hudsucker Industries, commits suicide.
His board of directors then comes up with a ruthless plan to drive the value of the stock of the down by appointing a moron to takeover from the deceased Hudsucker. Enter naive business college graduate Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins), whose wacky ways are predicted to drive the company to ruins, leaving the directors open to buy it back for pennies.
But as this is business, things don’t quite go according to plan as intuitive and smart reporter Amy Archer smells a rat and begins an undercover investigation into the company.