Jon Favreau (who also wrote and directed the film) stars as Carl Casper, a head chef who is fired after a video of his spat with a food critic goes viral. That’s when he decides to start a food truck and reignite his passion for cooking. This is the only movie on my list that actually involves an entrepreneur starting a business. There are also some convenient aspects of the plot that gloss over how hard it actually is to get funded and get started. I also liked how it portrayed the role of social media in today’s business landscape and how the film taps into one of the most compelling reasons why people start their own business: the desire to be their own boss.
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Kiera Knightley, and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, Begin Again is an intimate, personal, and upbeat look at the modern music industry. With full musical numbers throughout, Begin Again has a really unique energy. It endearingly represents the ingenuity and collaboration required to bootstrap a project. Like Chef, it also offers an interesting look at how social and new media have helped independent artists/entrepreneurs compete with entrenched businesses that have deeper pockets. At times, the movie gets a little too cutesy—things unfold too perfectly—but if you focus on enjoying the music, you should be able to pacify your inner critic.
In what is likely the last film in his illustrious career, Hayao Miyazaki tells us the true story of Jiro Horikoshi, a famous Japanese aerospace engineer who designed the WWII Zero fighter. This beautifully animated film chronicles Jiro’s determination as he fought through many obstacles (lack of technology, the 1923 Kanto earthquake, etc.) to pursue his passion. Kids will probably lose interest in this story pretty quickly, but I don’t think children were the intended audience for this movie anyway. Instead, entrepreneurs and business owners will relate to Jiro as he pursues knowledge, innovates, learns from failure, and follows his lifelong dream.
Based on the New York Times bestselling memoir, Wild (starring Reese Witherspoon) is a great story that demonstrates lean planning in action. Without any prior experience, 26 year-old Cheryl Strayed over-packed her backpack, and headed out on a 1,100 mile hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. She was forced to learn and adapt with every new failure, test her assumptions, and find a way to succeed on her journey. Witherspoon’s performance has earned Oscar-buzz, and the story is sure to pull you in.
What does traveling through space and time in order to save humanity have to do with entrepreneurship? There’s a line in the movie that offers a good answer, “We used to look up to the sky and wonder about our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” Perhaps you’ve seen reports that suggest the entrepreneurial spirit is dying in America. At it’s core, Interstellar celebrates humanity’s capacity to dream. The reason we blast a rocket off into space is the same reason we launch a new business: we must keep pushing ourselves beyond our limits. We pioneer. We innovate. We dream. If you need to be reminded why that is, then Christopher Nolan’s latest film is perfect for you.
Another New York Times bestseller adaptation, the story of Louis Zamperini is unlike any story you’ve heard before. Directed by Angelina Jolie, Unbroken is an inspirational biopic of one of the most courageous and determined men in recent history. I don’t want to spoil too many details since the movie has only been out since Christmas day, but let me just say that Louis’ story should be an inspiration to any entrepreneur or business owner (or anyone for that matter) who has the guts to keep going in the face of adversity. Interstellar may remind you to dream, and Wild may remind you to learn from failure, but Unbroken will remind you to never ever stop trying.
Ignore the criticism that this movie is part of an “anti-business” agenda. Anyone who is actually involved in starting, growing, or managing a business will understand the core message of this animated film: creativity is awesome, and you need to embrace what makes you unique. As an entrepreneur, you can draw comparisons to innovation, product differentiation, and other tried-and-true business concepts, but don’t try too hard make the analogies work. The point is to have fun, and I guarantee the song, “Everything is Awesome,” will be stuck in your head for days.
In addition some great narrative films this year, there are three documentaries that were released in 2014 that I’d recommend:
You might be familiar with this YouTube video of a man with alzheimer’s seeming to burst to life with conversation after hearing some of his favorite music from his younger days. The clip was an excerpt from the longer documentary, Alive Inside, which demonstrates the power of music therapy in older men and women who suffer from alzheimer’s and dementia. While the results of this music therapy are fascinating, the documentary also follows social worker Dan Cohen as he attempts to gather grass-root support and government funding for his non-profit organization, Music and Memory. A fascinating documentary for anyone interested in launching a non-profit organization.
Most people can recall the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the immense ecological and economic damage that was done, and the PR nightmare that followed. Now, four years later, a documentary film crew gives us an insider perspective. With interviews from local citizens, former employees, and oil executives, The Great Invisible is a great retrospective on all the things you shouldn’t do as a business owner. You probably don’t run a multi-billion dollar oil company, but there are plenty of things to consider as you build your own business. Where are you willing to cut corners? What are your ethical values in business? What should you do when you make a mistake? Use this documentary as an opportunity to ask yourself these important questions, and learn from the failures of others. The film is currently in limited release now.
Narrated by Sean Astin, Video Games: The Movie, provides a visual history of the video game industry. From pioneering engineers in the 60s to the multi-billion dollar industry that exists today. If you’re unfamiliar with the inner-workings of the industry, this documentary provides a great overview of it and provides a glimpse at where this unique form of entertainment is headed. With plenty of room for new market entrants, entrepreneurs may see the video game industry as a potential opportunity for new ventures.