movies for startup founders

15 Must-Watch Movies for Startup Founders Looking for Inspiration

Starting a business is a journey filled with challenges and opportunities. For startup founders looking for inspiration and guidance, the world of cinema offers a wealth of knowledge and insight. Movies, with their compelling stories and characters, can provide valuable lessons in entrepreneurship, innovation, and perseverance. In this article, we explore 15 must-watch movies that every startup founder should see.

These movies for startup founders, ranging from true stories to fictional narratives, cover various aspects of business and personal growth. They are not just entertaining but also enlightening, offering a unique perspective on the trials and triumphs of the entrepreneurial journey. Whether it’s learning about resilience, creative problem-solving, or strategic thinking, these movies are sure to inspire and motivate any aspiring entrepreneur.

15. Joy (2015)

Why Watch: Exemplifies the resilience, innovation, and determination essential for any entrepreneur facing adversity and striving for success.

“Joy” tells the inspiring story of Joy Mangano, a self-made millionaire who created her own business empire. Directed by David O. Russell and starring Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role, the film explores Joy’s journey from a struggling single mother to a successful entrepreneur.

14. Any Given Sunday (1999)

Why Watch: Vividly illustrates the importance of adaptability, teamwork, and strong leadership in the face of adversity –— essential qualities for every startup founder.

“Any Given Sunday” is a sports drama film directed by Oliver Stone, portraying the trials and tribulations of a fictional professional American football team. The plot centers around the Miami Sharks, a struggling football team aiming to make the playoffs under the guidance of veteran coach Tony D’Amato (played by Al Pacino). The team faces numerous challenges, including injuries to key players and internal conflicts. Third-string quarterback Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) is called upon to replace the injured starters, leading to a series of events that test the team’s unity and spirit.

13. Flash of Genius (2008)

Why Watch: A compelling reminder of the importance of protecting one’s intellectual property and standing firm for one’s principles in the face of daunting challenges.

“Flash of Genius”, directed by Marc Abraham, portrays the true story of Robert Kearns, an engineering professor who takes on the automotive industry. The story unfolds after a champagne cork incident leaves Kearns partially blind, invents a revolutionary windshield wiper. His creation, inspired by the human eye’s intermittent blinking, promises to transform the automotive industry. Kearns’ journey from a basement tinkerer to a determined inventor sees him patenting his design and presenting it to Ford, only to be met with silence and then shock as Ford unveils his invention without acknowledgement or compensation. This betrayal ignites a fiery quest for recognition and justice, leading Kearns down a path of legal battles, personal sacrifices, and an unwavering commitment to his principles.

12. Boiler Room (2000)

Why Watch: Explores the ethical pitfalls in business, emphasizing the importance of integrity and moral responsibility in the pursuit of success.

“Boiler Room” is a gripping crime drama film that delves into the high-stakes world of stock trading and corporate greed. The story revolves around Seth Davis, a 19-year-old college dropout who runs an unlicensed casino. He soon finds himself entangled in the world of J.T. Marlin, a brokerage firm with questionable morals. The film vividly portrays the aggressive tactics of cold calling and selling stocks, leading Seth into a morally ambiguous world.

11. (2001)

Why Watch: Shows a real-world lesson in the volatility of the tech industry and the importance of resilience and adaptability.

“” is a compelling documentary film directed by Jehane Noujaim and Chris Hegedus. The film depicts the rise and fall of, a dot-com startup that raised $60 million in funding from notable investors like Hearst Interactive Media, KKR, the New York Investment Fund, and Sapient. It captures the journey of govWorks founders Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman from 1999 to 2000, during the burst of the internet bubble.

10. The Founder (2016)

Why Watch: A nuanced view of entrepreneurial ambition and the ethical complexities in the pursuit of the American Dream.

“The Founder” is a compelling biographical drama that chronicles the story of Ray Kroc and his journey in transforming McDonald’s into a global fast-food empire. and starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the film delves deep into the complexities of business ethics, ambition, and the American Dream.

Set in the 1950s, the narrative begins with Kroc as a struggling milkshake machine salesman who stumbles upon a highly efficient fast-food restaurant in San Bernardino, California, run by the McDonald brothers. Intrigued by their innovative fast-service model, Kroc sees the potential for a nationwide franchise. The film meticulously captures the journey of Kroc as he transforms McDonald’s from a local eatery into a global phenomenon. This transformation, however, is not without its conflicts and controversies, particularly in his dealings with the McDonald brothers, played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch.

9. Steve Jobs (2015)

Why Watch: Watch it for its insightful portrayal of the challenges and triumphs in innovation, leadership, and the relentless pursuit of a visionary’s dream.

“Steve Jobs” is a biographical drama film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin. Adapted from Walter Isaacson’s biography and Sorkin’s interviews, the film spans fourteen years of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs’ life. It focuses on three pivotal moments: the launch of the Macintosh 128K in 1984, the NeXT Computer in 1988, and the iMac G3 in 1998. Michael Fassbender stars as Jobs, with Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels in supporting roles. The movie delves into his complex relationships with key figures like Steve Wozniak, Joanna Hoffman, and his daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs.

8. Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)

Why Watch: Offers a compelling look at the determination, innovation, and competitive spirit.

“Pirates of Silicon Valley,” is a riveting portrayal of the fierce rivalry and groundbreaking developments that marked the early days of the personal computer industry. Directed by Martyn Burke, the film stars Noah Wyle as Steve Jobs and Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates. Spanning from 1971 to 1997, it is based on the book “Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer” by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine. The film vividly captures the formative years of Jobs and Gates, their initial endeavors, and the eventual rise of Apple and Microsoft. It delves into the personal and professional challenges they faced, their unique approaches to business and innovation, and the impact of their rivalry on the evolution of technology.

7. Wall Street (1987)

Why Watch: Watch this movie to understand the ethical pitfalls of unchecked ambition and the importance of integrity in business.

“Wall Street” revolves around Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), an ambitious young stockbroker, who becomes entangled with Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), a wealthy and unscrupulous corporate raider. Bud, lured by the allure of quick wealth, gets involved in shady business deals, leading to moral conflicts and legal troubles.

6. Moneyball (2011)

Why Watch: A thought-provoking story about the intersection of sports, business, and innovation.

“Moneyball,” directed by Bennett Miller, is a biographical sports drama based on Michael Lewis’s book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.” The film stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the innovative general manager of the Oakland Athletics, who, along with his assistant Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), challenges traditional baseball norms by using a sophisticated sabermetric approach to assemble a competitive team on a tight budget. This strategy, met with skepticism and resistance, ultimately leads to a record-breaking winning streak, revolutionizing the game of baseball.

The movie has earned multiple Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and is celebrated for its unique blend of sports, business acumen, and the daring to defy conventional wisdom.

5. The Social Network (2010)

Why Watch: A timeless tale of ambition, innovation, and the human element in the digital age.

“The Social Network,” directed by David Fincher and penned by Aaron Sorkin, is based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires”. The film portrays the tumultuous early days of Facebook. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, alongside Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, and Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins.

The narrative unfolds around the lawsuits faced by Zuckerberg, contrasting the legal drama with the site’s meteoric rise. The story begins with Zuckerberg’s creation of “Facemash” at Harvard, leading to the development of Facebook and its rapid expansion. The film delves into the complexities of friendship, betrayal, and the cutthroat nature of business, as Zuckerberg’s relationships with co-founder Saverin and the Winklevoss twins deteriorate amidst Facebook’s success.

4. The Big Short (2015)

Why Watch: Vividly demonstrates the impact of market dynamics and the importance of foresight in business decision-making.

“The Big Short,” explores the 2007–2008 financial crisis triggered by the United States housing bubble. The narrative intertwines three separate but connected stories, focusing on these individuals’ actions leading up to the housing market crash. The film delves into the discovery of the unstable housing market based on high-risk subprime loans and follows the characters as they bet against the housing market, leading to significant profits but also exposing the flaws and corruption in the financial system.

3. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Why Watch: The movie shows to the resilience and determination required for success.

“The Pursuit of Happyness,” based on the best-selling memoir of the same name by Gardner and Quincy Troupe, is directed by Gabriele Muccino and stars Will Smith as Chris Gardner, a homeless salesman. Set in San Francisco in 1981, it portrays Gardner’s nearly one-year struggle with homelessness.

The plot revolves around Gardner’s investment in portable bone-density scanners and the subsequent financial strain it puts on his family, leading to his wife’s departure. Gardner’s life takes a turn when he impresses a manager at Dean Witter Reynolds and lands an unpaid internship as a stockbroker, competing against 20 interns for a paid position. Despite numerous setbacks, including being evicted and struggling with homelessness, Gardner perseveres, focusing on maximizing client contacts to secure his future in the firm.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Why Watch: A provocative exploration of greed, excess, and the pursuit of the American dream gone awry.

“The Wolf of Wall Street,” directed by Martin Scorsese, is an American biographical black comedy crime film. It’s based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, recounting his career as a stockbroker in New York City and the corruption and fraud at his firm, Stratton Oakmont, leading to his downfall. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Belfort, with Jonah Hill as his business partner Donnie Azoff, Margot Robbie as his wife Naomi Lapaglia, and Matthew McConaughey as his mentor Mark Hanna.

The film traces Belfort’s rapid rise to wealth and his indulgent lifestyle, marked by substance abuse and debauchery. It also delves into his firm’s manipulative trading practices and the subsequent legal troubles that ensnare Belfort and his associates. Notable for its explicit content and moral ambiguity, the film sparked controversy for its portrayal of Belfort’s hedonistic exploits.

1. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Why Watch: Exemplifies the power of perseverance and innovative thinking in the face of adversity, essential qualities for every startup founder.

“A Beautiful Mind” is another best inspirational film for entrepreneurs that delves into the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics, portrayed by Russell Crowe. Directed by Ron Howard and based on Sylvia Nasar’s biography, the film explores Nash’s journey as a brilliant but asocial mathematics graduate student at Princeton University. His life takes a dramatic turn when he accepts secretive work in cryptography, leading him into a world where he begins to question his reality.

The film traces Nash’s struggles with schizophrenia, depicting his hallucinations and the impact on his life and work. Despite his challenges, Nash’s dedication to his work and the support from his wife, Alicia (played by Jennifer Connelly), play a crucial role in his eventual recognition in the field of economics.

Each of these inspirational films for entrepreneurs, in its unique way, sheds light on different aspects of starting and running a business — from the initial spark of an idea to the complexities of managing a growing enterprise. They serve as a source of motivation, a cautionary tale, or a playbook of dos and don’ts for aspiring entrepreneurs.

In the end, while the entrepreneurial journey is as diverse as the individuals who embark on it, these movies offer a common ground — a source of inspiration and learning that can fuel the fire of innovation and perseverance in every startup founder.

Aarvi Sid

Meet Aarvi, a passionate entertainment journalist and author who has been writing about the latest trends and events in the industry for over a decade. With a keen eye for detail and a love for all things pop culture, Aarvi has built a reputation as a go-to source for the latest news and insights on movies, TV shows, anime, music, and celebrities.

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