Top 10 entrepreneur movies, part one

MT digs out the best movies about wheelers, dealers and business legends.

by Angus Walker
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Forget slasher movies and rom coms – with the upcoming release of Jobs, the Steve Jobs biopic, entrepreneur flicks are where it's at. MT has dusted off its favourite business movies – all you need to supply is the popcorn. Stay tuned for the second part next week...

The Aviator
Martin Scorsese’s 2004 film covers two decades in the life of Howard Hughes (1905 to 1976), the aviator-cum-film director-cum-Hollywood playboy. The Texan-born Hughes was a gifted engineer, aeronautics designer and pilot, a successful Hollywood film director and was one of the main players in the development of Las Vegas. He also built up TWA into a major airline, and in 1938 achieved the fastest-ever circumnavigation of the globe; he was back in New York 91 hours after setting off. He also dated Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Bette Davis. However, his later life was marred by mental illness and severe pain, most likely caused by serious injuries sustained in a number of plane crashes, and he ended up with a reputation as the US’s greatest eccentric. He was perhaps too unique and too damn weird to be someone to emulate, but his ability to turn dreams into reality should inspire anyone to greater things.

Baby Boom
In this 1987 comedy Diane Keaton plays a successful, hard-working Manhattan executive, JC Wyatt, known as the ‘Tiger Lady’, who inherits a baby from deceased relatives and is forced to make major life changes, including leaving behind her fast-paced life and investment banker partner and moving to Vermont. Having to look beyond her own career and take responsibility for someone else makes her a more rounded and likeable person, and she finds her reward in a love affair with local vet Jeff Cooper (Sam Shepard). She also sets up a successful baby food business. The film is well played and Keaton’s comic talent is first rate. An American film about how a cute baby can change your life puts you in fear of the sort of sentimental excesses that would have you cowering behind the sofa, but fortunately the film-makers are smart enough to avoid ladling treacle over the story.

This brash 1988 hit stars Tom Cruise as bottle-twirling bartender Brian Flanagan, half of a show-off duo with mentor Doug Couglin, who rake in huge tips with their behind-the-bar routines. Coughlin, at once world-weary and opportunistic, is the more interesting character of the two. There is a touch of Iago about him as he pooh-poohs Flanagan’s business schemes and all-but-destroys his relationship with his true love, Jordan, a New York artist/waitress, encouraging his protégé to start a relationship with a richer, older woman instead. The importance of choosing your mentors is the entrepreneur’s lesson here: make sure they are secure enough in their own success to let you become bigger than they are.

The Godfather II
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 morality tale about how absolute power corrupts absolutely is undoubtedly the finest sequel ever made. It charts the continued rise of Mafiosi Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), son of Vito (Marlon Brando), who takes over the family firm. His wealth and influence increase as his personal life becomes hollowed out and corrupt. It serves as a reminder that paranoia and cruelty are inseparable from unchecked power and, thus, it may be regarded as an argument for the checks and balances of corporate governance, which keep some sort of rein on the power-crazed. If there had been more tickbox compliance, perhaps there would have been fewer bodies on the streets.

Due for release in the UK later this year, the biopic of Steve Jobs, who died last year, benefits from Ashton Kutcher’s close resemblance to the Apple co-founder. Kutcher does a convincing job portraying some of Jobs’s mannerisms and speech habits. The film’s entry and exit points in Jobs’s life are his dropping out of college and the launch of the iPhone. Key players in the Apple story, in particular co-founder Steve Wozniak, are disappointing thinly sketched, leaving the focus on the man himself and his tirades, perfectionism and relentless ambition and focus. While the film doesn’t quite get under Jobs’s skin, the life story of the greatest entrepreneur of our times is not to be missed.

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