Top Business Movies for Startup Founders
In order to help you stay inspired and get some ideas from other entrepreneurs who were once in your shoes, we’ve compiled a list of the top business movies for startup founders to watch. No matter which movie you decide to start with, you’ll be able to snag some valuable lessons and reflect on your own journey.
Even though it may sound cliche, entrepreneurship is truly a journey that matters far more than the destination. How you overcome challenges along the way, how you build your team, and how you provide valuable solutions to your customers or clients will make a massive impact on your life and make you a better entrepreneur in the long run.
Now it’s your turn – turn on one of these entrepreneurial movies and start reflecting on how you can improve your business strategies to achieve your desired growth and profitability.
1. Startup.com (2001)
- Directors: Chris Hegedus, Jehane Noujaim
- Stars: Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, Tom Herman, Kenneth Austin
- Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video
During the height of the dot com era, when web millionaires were seemingly on every corner, two friends, Tom Herman and Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, decided to make their fortune on the internet. “Startup.com” is a story of inspiration and motivation to build your dream as an entrepreneur and a cautionary tale with an inside look at the bursting of the dot-com bubble.
"Startup.com" is great for any entrepreneurs who want to follow the journey of two co-founders and see all of their struggles and difficulties close up. For many startups, their journey closely resembles that of the govWorks.com team, even though the fate of their companies might see better days than Herman and Tuzman.
2. The Startup Kids (2012)
- Directors: Vala Halldorsdottir, Sesselja Vilhjalmsdottir
- Stars: Trip Adler, Alexa Andrzejewski, Mike Butcher
- Where to Watch: Amazon, Vudu, Roku
"The Startup Kids" is a documentary about young entrepreneurs who founded companies such as InDinero, Vimeo, Dropbox, Soundcloud, Kiip, and Foodspotting. Created by two Icelandic women, this movie offers a first-person experience into the lives of young founders who are making their dreams happen and bringing their visions to life.
If you’re an entrepreneur who is currently building your business from the ground up, or someone who has dreams and ambitions to acquire funding and start building a successful company, then "The Startup Kids" will give you a unique perspective and opportunity to follow several entrepreneurs from companies you may have heard of, or even used in your own life. For inspiration and strategy, this is a great movie for every startup founder to watch at least once.
3. Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
- Director: Martyn Burke
- Stars: Anthony Michael Hall, Noah Wyle, Joey Slotnick
- Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Roku, Xfinity, MSN
"Pirates of Silicon Valley" follows two of the most influential “geeks” that ever made their way into business and the tech world – Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. This is a movie about the birth of Apple and Microsoft during the 1970s and how the founders grew their companies into some of the most influential and important businesses in the world.
Even though your startup is likely on a much smaller scale than Microsoft or Apple, getting a unique view into the lives of prolific entrepreneurs is always a great way to level up your own thinking process, learn from their mistakes, and see firsthand what it took to build corporations on such a massive scale.
4. Generation Start-Up (2016)
- Directors: Cheryl Miller Houser, Cynthia Wade
- Stars: Dextina Booker, Kate Caitlin, Avery Hairston
- Where to Watch: Amazon, Peacock TV, Vudu, Tubi TV, Apple TV, Roku
"Generation Start-Up" is an inspiring film that tracks the lives of six young entrepreneurs from Detroit who go through struggles and daily challenges to bring their business dreams to life. If you’ve ever wanted to see what it’s like to be an entrepreneur in America who is willing to put everything on the line to build their vision, then this is the perfect documentary for you.
You’ll see the risk-taking, challenging moments, and successes firsthand and may even get some inspiration from the drive and vitality these young entrepreneurs have daily. While the journey isn’t always easy, it is well worth the effort in the long run, especially if you’re someone who knows that building a business is something you want to do in life.
5. Something Ventured (2011)
- Directors: Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine
- Stars: Bill Bowes, Herbert Boyer, Po Bronson
- Where to Watch: Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Prime Video
"Something Ventured" is a film that shows how venture capitalists and entrepreneurs changed our world by funding and building companies such as Apple, Atari, and Cisco. These companies, founded at the very beginning of the internet and technology age, paved the way for entire industries, including microprocessors, biotechnology, and personal computers.
If you’re a startup founder who wants to see firsthand how fearless individuals put their blood, sweat, and tears into transformative companies, "Something Ventured" is the perfect movie for diving deep into entrepreneurship, innovation, and companies that completely transformed our lives just a few decades later.
6. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
- Director: Alex Gibney
- Stars: John Beard, Tim Belden, Barbara Boxer
- Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV, YouTube, Apple TV, Vudu
"Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" is more of a cautionary tale than an inspirational story of entrepreneurship and success. While it seemed like a successful enterprise from the outside, a plethora of corrupt and faulty business practices from within eventually led to Enron’s demise.
At one point, Enron was the seventh-largest company in the United States, yet it declared bankruptcy just a short year later. This movie is the perfect example of what not to do as a startup founder and entrepreneur, especially in regulated markets like energy and electricity.
Enron’s downfall was ultimately caused by greed, manipulation of brokerages and banks, gaming California’s deregulated electricity market, and instances of corruption. For a dramatic film that takes you through the fall of a major public company in the US, this title delivers.
7. Steve Jobs: One Last Thing (2011)
- Directors: Sarah Hunt, Mimi O’Connor
- Stars: Bill Fernandez, Robert Palladino, Dean Hovey
- Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video, PBS
"Steve Jobs: One Last Thing" is a documentary and biography about Steve Jobs, as described by his colleagues, fans, friends, and rivals. This film reflects on the life of Apple’s co-founder, including excerpts from interviews with Jobs not long after his cancer diagnosis and Bill Gates.
As a startup founder, hearing about great entrepreneurs from their friends, family, and colleagues is a great way to get deep insights into how they acted, their personalities, and what made them tick. Apple is a company that has transformed the technology industry as we know it today, and getting a deeper understanding of the life of Steve Jobs is something every entrepreneur can benefit from.
8. Print the Legend (2014)
- Directors: Luis Lopez, Clay Tweel
- Stars: Chris Anderson, Bruce Bradshaw, Craig Broady
- Where to Watch: Netflix, Roku, Amazon Prime Video
"Print the Legend" is a documentary about innovation and bringing 3D printing technology to homes and industries worldwide. As an entrepreneur, watching this film is a surefire way to get inspired and begin pondering some strategies and tactics for bringing innovation into your business.
This documentary follows the 3D printing revolution and looks at the challenges these startup founders faced when trying to bring this technology forward, even with all of the deniers and unbelievers. Even though your industry is likely not 3D printing directly, you can still take lessons and insights from this film and apply them to your own industry, helping you spread innovation in your own space and fearlessly adapt new technologies, products, and solutions to the old or “traditional” ways of operation.
9. Ctrl+Alt+Compete (2011)
- Director: Brian Giberson
- Stars: Joanne Lang, Mark Gilbreath, Josh Sookman
- Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Apple TV, Xfinity
"Ctrl+Alt+Compete" is a documentary that follows young entrepreneurs in the rapidly growing technology industry as they seek to change the world by solving problems and building their startups from the ground up. This film follows Mike Maples Jr. of Twitter, Tim O’Reilly of the Web 2.0 Summit, Nolan Bushnell of Atari, Felicia Day of The Guild, Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Veronica Belmont of Tekzilla, and Cliff Bleszinski of Gears of War.
This documentary truly captures the amount of work it takes to take an idea and turn it into a real physical product that solves problems in the marketplace. If you’re looking for “the story behind the story” of entrepreneurship, "Ctrl+Alt+Compete" provides an excellent perspective.
10. The Social Network (2010)
- Director: David Fincher
- Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
- Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, YouTube, Apple TV
"The Social Network" is a movie that details the story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his journey toward creating one of the world's most popular social networking sites. This film won three Oscars and is the perfect film for any entrepreneur or startup founder who wants to mix some entertainment, drama, and inspiration all in one.
The plot follows Zuckerberg, a Harvard undergraduate student with a particular knack for computer programming. He begins using his skills to build what would ultimately become a social network for college students and eventually grow into something billions of people use to communicate with their friends, coworkers, family, and colleagues. For an immersive experience that walks you through what it took for Zuckerberg to achieve staggering success and become the world’s youngest billionaire in history, this is a classic entrepreneurial film that won’t disappoint.
11. Jerry Maguire (1996)
- Director: Cameron Crowe
- Stars: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renee Zellweger
- Where to Watch: HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV, YouTube
"Jerry Maguire" is a fun film for startup founders and entrepreneurs that follows a sports agent (Cruise) as he has a moral epiphany and is fired as a result. He decides to test his new philosophy and become an independent agent, even though only one athlete believes in him enough to stay with him through the turbulence.
Before all of this, life was good – Jerry Maguire was a very successful sports agent who had the respect of his peers, noteworthy clients, and a beautiful fiancee. Now, as he finds himself going out on his own and rebuilding his reality from the ground up, he has to endure the challenges and hardships of life that he never had to face before.
This is a great film for startup founders, as it shows how vital perseverance is when picking yourself up and pushing forward, no matter how difficult the situation might be.
12. Wall Street (1987)
- Director: Oliver Stone
- Stars: Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, Tamar Tunie
- Where to Watch: Paramount+, Sling TV, Vudu, Roku, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube TV
The original "Wall Street" film, directed by Oliver Stone, is a classic movie of ambition, greed, and the main character’s desire to work his way to the top. Bud Fox is a young stockbroker willing to do whatever he needs to make his way in the big city; he ends up enticing corporate raider Gordon Gekko into mentoring him by providing insider trading information and becomes embroiled in various underhanded schemes and greedy endeavors as a result.
As he’s tied up in the mess he created, Fox starts to question where his loyalties lie and whether or not he’s willing to pay the price for his dream of quick riches.
13. The Founder (2016)
- Director: John Lee Hancock
- Stars: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch
- Where to Watch: YouTube, Apple TV, Tubi, Google Play Movies, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu
"The Founder" is a film about Ray Kroc, the salesman behind the massive enterprise we know today as McDonald’s. Through a combination of ruthlessness, persistence, and ambition, Kroc took the innovation of two brothers who created their own fast food eatery and used their ideas to build the largest restaurant chain in the world.
Even though every single one of our stories is unique, as entrepreneurs, we’ll often be faced with some of the same challenges Ray Kroc faced when building companies into successful endeavors. If you’re looking for an interesting film about a prolific entrepreneur, give "The Founder" a watch when you have the opportunity.
14. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
- Director: Gabriele Muccino
- Stars: Will Smith, Thandiwe Newton, Jaden Smith
- Where to Watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Apple TV
"The Pursuit of Happyness" is the story of a struggling salesman and his son and how he built himself up and started a life-changing professional career that significantly improved their quality of life.
This film is based on a true story about a man named Christopher Gardner who was invested in selling medical devices known as “bone density scanners.” Due to their high cost and similarity to regular X-ray machines, these devices didn’t sell as well as Gardner had initially hoped. He works hard to make ends meet but eventually finds himself out on the streets with his son.
After working through a number of challenges and difficulties, he manages to land a position as a stockbroker and changes his and his son’s lives forever.
"The Pursuit of Happyness" is a great film for entrepreneurs and startup founders, specifically because it dives into the challenges of building something from nothing and overcoming obstacles and adversity.
15. Moneyball (2011)
- Director: Bennett Miller
- Stars: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill
- Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV, YouTube, Google Play Movies
"Moneyball" is a story about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and how he assembled an incredible baseball team with a shoestring budget through computer-generated player analysis — a brand new innovation.
Beane uses statistical data to sniff out “sleeper” players that others overlook but have amazing skills hiding behind the curtain. Even though his budget was incredibly tight, he could find a competitive advantage that put his team above the competition and turn baseball upside down in the process with his innovative ideas.
Entrepreneurs often face similar challenges, where innovation comes from a constraint or hindrance that eventually ends up working in their favor. "Moneyball" is a great film to watch for entertainment purposes, but it’s also an excellent movie for entrepreneurs who want to get inspired and begin innovating in their own respective industries.
16. The Big Short
- Director: Adam McKay
- Stars: Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Bitt
- Where to Watch: YouTube, Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video, Pluto TV
"The Big Short" is a biopic based on a true story, or rather, three parallel true stories at once. Set in 2008, the film centers around Michael Burry, a Wall Street hedge fund manager, who discovers the instability of the US housing market. Burry bets over $1 billion against the housing market. What ensues is a wild ride through a devastating economic crash and how the gamble paid off – at a price.
This is one of the best business movies that skillfully demonstrates corruption and cunning while introducing creative educational tidbits from unexpected sources. With various cameos and several instances of 'breaking the fourth wall,' The Big Short is a successful and entertaining portrayal of a pivotal moment in modern American history.
17. The Wolf of Wall Street
- Director: Martin Scorsese
- Stars: Leonardo Di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
- Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, YouTube
By successful film director Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street" is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort and his rise and fall from success.
The movie begins in 1987 when Jordan Belfort – once a promising Wall Street broker – takes on an entry-level position at a brokerage firm. It isn't long before Belfort sets out to make his stamp on the business world by founding his own firm off of Wall Street. As success grows, so does greed, white-collar crime, and a myriad of illicit activities that lead, eventually, to Belfort's downfall.
This is a wild tale of greed, addiction, lust, and money – lots of it. Not only is this one of the best entrepreneur movies to demonstrate what not to do when building your business, but it is also highly entertaining and will keep you engaged all the way through.
18. Glengarry Glen Ross
- Director: James Foley
- Stars: Al Pacino, Alex Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon
- Where to Watch: YouTube, Pluto TV, Tubi, Peacock
Based on an award-winning play, "Glengarry Glen Ross" is one of the best business movies to learn one of the most important skills in the business world — sales.
The story follows a New York City real estate office. When the salesmen are informed all but two of the top salesmen will be fired at the end of the week, pressure, competition, and desperation begin to build. This movie teaches some valuable lessons in sales, what to do and not to do, as well as skills for navigating the high-pressure nature of sales.
19. Thank You for Smoking
- Director: Jason Reitman
- Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Adam Brody, Rob Lowe
- Where to Watch: YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, Apple TV
"Thank You for Smoking" is a satirical film based on a book by the same name by Christopher Buckley. The film is about a tobacco lobbyist, Nick Naylor, and his personal battle between fatherhood and promoting harmful products.
The character ricochets between the drive to be a great role model for his son while being the face of Big Tobacco. And, to make things more complicated, a sentor-driven anti-smoking campaign threatening the career he's built.
Notably, the firm's executive producers include Elon Musk, Max Levchin, and Peter Theil. This is more of a business movie, less of an entrepreneur film, that masterfully portrays the sometimes inharmonious balance between values and success.
20. Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
- Director: Chris Smith
- Stars: Ja Rule, Billy McFarland
- Where to Watch: Netflix
"Fyre" is a documentary film about the infamous luxury music festival that never was: Fyre Festival. This documentary by the same name is one of the best business movies for entrepreneurs as it provides a look into the true story behind one entrepreneur, fraud, and failure.
Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland's cautionary tale demonstrates the consequence behind failing to deliver on promises – especially after taking on investment.