Working Girl (1988) is a movie about a young women’s efforts to succeed in the brokerage industry where men are bosses and women are secretaries. Melanie Griffith plays a secretary who has the ambition and drive to succeed, but finds all the cards stacked up against her. Her male bosses don’t take her seriously, and things don’t improve even when she is assigned to a female boss. She has a good idea for an acquisition, which her new boss steals and tries to pitch as her own. Of course, like with all Hollywood movies the good wins over the evil, the hard-working people succeed and the dishonest and unethical find themselves defeated.
Most people like to think that if you work hard, success will come. The movie does a realistic job portraying how most people usually remain trapped in the socio-economic strata in which they were born. It is really hard to break free and move up when most other forces are working to keep you where you were. Of course, Hollywood movies do an efficient and effective job of taking you from you are to where you want to be.
The movie is definitely worth watching!
View from the Top (2003) is a movie about flight attendants. Donna (Gwyneth Paltrow), a small-town girl, dreams of escaping the dead-end life in her town and wishes to get out of it to see the world. She reads a book by a popular flight attendant Sally Weston who writes about her free travels around the world. Donna becomes a flight attendant at a small commuter airlines, hoping to transfer to a bitter international airline later. However, her personal life and professional rivalries keep her from fulfilling her dream. She eventually does fly international to the destinations she had been dreaming of, only to realize that happiness was to be found in other things than just counting the number of countries you get to fly to. The movie was not very liked by critics. I did like it though for two reasons- One, it accurately potrays that becoming a flight attendant is a dream for many young small-town girls. Second, it does a good job of communicating that when it comes to professional work “all that glitters is not gold”. The movie does a decent job of presenting the flight attendant profession, the training, the challenges, and the politics in the job.
There are parts of the movie that can be effectively used in Human Resources and Organizational Behavior classes. Of course, it is a good movie for flight attendant training classes. And, for a more general audience, the DVD may be worthwhile to buy simply for a useful bonus feature on the history of the flight attendant profession.
(I am certainly curious as to what actual flight attendants think about this movie. So, if you are a flight attendant reading this blog, I would love to hear from you).
Most entrepreneurial activity is context-specific. But if there is one entrepreneurship movie that students from all across the world can find interesting it is Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999). This movie is a fictionalized account of the early professional lives of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, two men who made the technology world what it is today. The movie presents their struggles during college, the humble beginnings of their companies (Microsoft and Apple respectively) and the ingenuity that took them from where they were to where they are now.
Both Gates and Jobs started their companies with very little investment, but tons of passion for what they were interested in- Computers. The movie is a good watch for many different types of audience- entrepreneurship, information technology, innovation, engineering, computers, new product development etc. What is even more remarkable is that because of the global stature of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, this movie can be used in classrooms around the world. I used it when I taught at Institute of Management Technology (India), and the students loved it. I regularly use it in my teaching in the U.S. where, of course, students know these two men, their businesses, and the context in which the movie is set in much more than people in other parts of the world.
The People versus Larry Flynt (1996) is an entrepreneurship movie, but it not a movie for everybody. This movie is the story of Larry Flynt, an ambitious, hard-working, driven self-made entrepreneur. He (with his wife and brother) started publishing a girlie magazine that challenged society’s moral values. This magazine- Hustler- becomes the success story the Flynts were dreaming of. Even though he has to fight numerous legal battles with people who were opposed to his business, he was able to assert his constitutional right to continue publishing his magazine. The movie is a fictional account of the life of a real-world financially successfully entrepreneur.
Because the movie is about an entrepreneur who acheived his success in the pornographic publishing industry, it is full of nudity and sex. Despite doing a great job of presenting the struggle between an upstart entrepreneur and the establishment, this is not a movie you can watch with your family or relatives. I personally think the movie could have presented Larry Flynt’s story without so many nude and explicit scenes.
The U.S. (as well as many other countries around the world) have many entrepreneurs like Larry Flynt (Hugh Hefner, Joe Francis etc.) whose success comes from exploring the dark side of the business world. The stories of these entrepreneurs as well as the fascination with them in the media and the public make them great examples to discuss the ethical side of entrepreneurship.
I enjoyed the entrepreneurial theme of the movie, but had a very tough time making a positive decision to include it in my entrepreneurship course as one of the choices (and I tell them about the nudity and explicit scenes so they can make an informed decision). I am curious to see what my students think about it.
Blood diamonds or conflict diamonds are “diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council”. (United Nations definition of Conflict Diamonds). (For more information about blood dimaonds, click here.)
How does a teacher help young business students understand the relationship between the diamond business, globalization, war, and the despair amidst wealth that the African people face today. Blood Dimaond (2006) is a Hollywood adventure-drama film that takes us through the complete supply chain of the diamond trade. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly make topics like blood diamonds, which most of our young students do not know much about, much more interesting to discuss and learn about in ways that most teachers (like myself) can not. (The official site of the movie can be accessed by clicking here).
The movie is set in the Sierra Leone civil war of the late 1990s. The story revolves around Danny Archer- an ex mercenary from Rhodesia with a tortured past- and Solomon Vandy- a fisherman who like most parents around the world dreams of a good future for his son. Though both men are Africans, one is white and the other black, which is enough to take their lives in different directions. Solomon is kidnapped by rebel forces and taken to work in diamond mines where he chances upon a rare and big diamond. The rebel commader sees him trying to hide the diamond. However, before Solomon is forced to give up the diamond government forces attack the rebel and Solomon is arrested. In prison, Solomon’s path crosses Archer who has been caught smuggling diamonds from the country. Archer proposes to help Solomon find his lost wife and children in exchange for the diamond. The two men are assisted by Maddy Bowen, an idealistic American journalist who finds herself attracted to the daring Archer. At each step of the way, Danny, Solomon, and Maddy find themselves having to fight the corrupt and greedy bureaucracy, rebel forces, and business interests who profit immensely from the illegal trade in African diamonds. The rest of the movie is about the search for the diamond in rebel territory, with Solomon driven by the motivation to be united with his family and Archer by the chance to get out of Africa.
The movie was well received by critics, media, and viewers. It is a great story with compelling characters. I hope it also makes people think about the human side of the global diamond trade, especially the lives lost in getting that wedding ring to the store.
The Efficiency Expert (1992) is a socially-conscious comedy movie set in 1960s Australia. Anthony Hopkins plays Errol Wallace, an efficiency expert who is in the business of helping companies become more efficient. His preferred route towards better efficiency is downsizing and layoffs. The central plot of the movie is about Wallace’s experience with a small shoe factory (Ball Moccassin Factory) that has become a small shadow of what it once was. The company is family-run and all employees are treated like family. The company is in such a bad shape that it has made no money in many years and management has been running the company by selling off assets. Just when Wallace things he has figured out how the company can become profitable again, he learns new lessons from the workers that change his life, his outlook towards business, and the future of the company.
The movie is interesting. In an era of globalization and corporate restructuring, it reminds us of the human side of doing business. At the same time, it also raises important questions about how to manage workers, and the kind of work environment management should strive for. It would be a good movie for students to watch, except that it is slow and drags at places.
Martha, Inc. (2003) is the story of Martha Sterwart, arguably one of the most succesful American women entrepreneurs of our time. The movie takes us to Martha’s childhood, her experiences in the family she grew up in, and her sense of competitiveness. It introduces us to her frustrations, her anxieties, and her failures. But, perhaps more importantly, it shows us her willingness to grab at and leverage every opportunity that came her way. The movie chronicles the rise and fall of Martha Stewart, but it is her rise from being a nobody to being an iconic entrepreneur in the country which most viewers of this movie are interested in (I think).
I don’t know how accurately this movie portrays the real life of Martha Stewart. We know that Hollywood movies, even those made on famous people, take at least some liberties with the truth. I admit that as yet I don’t know how much of the Martha Stewart presented in this movie is fictional and how much of her is real. Of course, if any of you know much about Martha, we would love to hear from you and what you think of the movie