Then we shall begin…
6. Jurassic Park
The highest grossing film ever till Titanic was released four years later, Steven Spielberg’s 1993 fantasy was a special effects landmark in its day. Don’t mess with what you don’t understand was the message, as hubristic amusement park megalomanic John Hammond (played by Richard Attenborough) inadvertently unleashes carnage and terror when his dinosaurs escape. Perhaps if his brother David had been given a role as head game warden he could have kept things under control by soothing the dinos out of their rages. But it wouldn’t have been half as exciting.
7. Risky Business
Chicago high schooler Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise) is a true entrepreneur, if an unwilling one. In this 1983 classic, his life rapidly spins out of control when a hooker called Lana he invites round while his parents are on holiday turns his family’s suburban mansion into a knocking shop to service his friends. It’s a great business opportunity for her, of course, as his jock chums – quick, loaded and clean – are the perfect clients. In a nice counterpoint, Joel is enrolled as a ‘future enterpriser’ at school, where a bunch of materialistic students plan worthy but fruitless schemes to make money by going into business. There is enjoyable satire in that Joel is no match for Lana, whose life on the streets has given her a knack for making a buck that the Ivy League hopefuls and supposed company chiefs of tomorrow come nowhere near matching. Joel does get rich but, Hollywood being Hollywood, he is forced to give up his ill-gotten gains before the closing credits. Although the morality of the film may be dubious, the theme that the practical experience of the hustler is more valuable than college learning is satisfyingly handled.
8. The Social Network
Is Mark Zuckerberg really as obnoxious as he is portrayed here in David Fincher’s 2010 film about the rise of the Facebook founder? While brilliant and ferociously ambitious, the Harvard dropout is also a passive-aggressive misfit without ‘three friends to rub together’. Indeed, he shafts his only buddy, Eduardo Saverin. Fincher deploys his considerable talents to make someone setting up a website into an exciting film and the elite world of Harvard is vividly depicted. Rather than the usual money and success don’t make you happy, the moral is more ‘always read the small print’. Saverin was unable to stop his stake in Facebook being diluted from over 30% to under 1% because he didn’t have a new share contract checked over before he signed it. The film also makes clear the importance of company founders having the same ambitions. Saverin is eager to commercialise Facebook, Zuckerberg wants to keep it ad-free and ‘cool’, and it is this conflict that leads to Saverin’s ousting after he is outmanoeuvred by Zuckerberg.
9. There Will Be Blood
Daniel Day-Lewis won best actor Oscar number two as silver miner-turned-oil man Daniel Plainview in writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 epic. Day-Lewis skilfully manages to be both larger than life and nuanced in that most American of roles, the salesman. As so often in films, the tycoon figure cannot be driven and ambitious without also being greedy and ruthless. Here Plainview, a sociopath who claims he ‘hates most people’, accumulates wealth and enemies as he manipulates and exploits landowners in early 20th century California in order to get his hands on the oil that lies under their properties. The 158-minute film won high critical praise, but got a mixed popular response, with some viewers finding it overlong, ill scored, sluggish and lacking a strong narrative. Maybe it’s one for a sick day.
10. Wall Street
Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko became the defining face of capitalism in Oliver Stone’s 1987 excoriation of Wall Street (where his own father had been a broker). Once again Hollywood takes a jaundiced view of corporate life. The mantra ‘greed is good for you’ tells you all you need to know about Gekko’s philosophy, as if a surname that announces his cold-blooded nature didn’t already. Gekko gets his comeuppance – the picture is, after all, made by one of the great Hollywood liberals – undone by protégé Charlie Sheen and his union man dad (played by Sheen snr, Martin). But as often with films, the bad guy has the most charisma (Douglas won a best actor Oscar for Gekko) so who’s to know if many viewers didn’t secretly admire Gekko for daring to live the life they wished they could, even if they might concede he did go a little too far occasionally.
So there you have it, in alphabetical order. And our personal favourite entrepreneur of the top 10? It would have to be Michael Corleone (see last week), for staying alive in the shark-infested world of the mafia, which certainly puts Mark Zuckerberg’s feud with the Winklevii into perspective.