These Movies About Starting a Business Are Way Too True
Starting and running a business can be harrowing at any stage — whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been in business for years. But if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re in for a stressful ride.
Here we take a light-hearted look at the fun and frustrations involved in all aspects of being an entrepreneur as portrayed in Hollywood films.
These scenes will resonate with anyone who’s started a business — you might even see yourself depicted here.
PG, Action-Adventure, Comedy, Science-Fiction
Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Sigourney Weaver.
After losing their various positions within academia, a trio of parapsychologists decided to embrace capitalism and start their eponymous company busting ghosts.
They understand that the supernatural is real and can be dangerous and their talents are soon called upon to save all New York City from an eldritch evil that is trying to make its way into our world.
Ghostbusters Captures the Entire Arc of a Startup
This film covers all the steps of how a startup goes from idea to a successful endeavor.
You begin with several people possessing specialized knowledge, one of whom has a knack for wheeling and dealing. Next, you acquire a headquarters, at least one company vehicle, the equipment to do the job and then you hire some extra bodies to be fully operational.
This film also touches on how some of the best ideas can be hamstrung by red tape. It’s often noted that Walter Peck, the officious bureaucrat, is correct in his concerns about the ghost containment facility’s noncompliance with various health and safety regulations.
Stream Ghostbusters on fuboTV and the Roku Premium, AMC+ on and Amazon Prime. Try these options to get it for free.
The Social Network (2010)
PG-13, Drama, History
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara and Justin Timberlake.
This is the story of how a genius created a revolution in interpersonal networking by launching a platform that irrevocably altered how his generation and future generations of humans interacted with one another.
The Social Network Realistically Depicts the Darker Side of Tech Startups
This film has a leg up on some of the other entries on this list in that it is all about how a startup began.
The film may add some flourishes or embellishments here and there, but it covers all of the beats that an aspiring tech firm goes through:
- Defending ownership of your business idea
- Dealing with the courts, lawyers, and lawsuits
- Managing the balance of business with the friends who contributed to the company’s success
Rare is the tech business that cannot relate to these struggles.
Streaming now on Netflix.
Office Space (1999)
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Diedrich Bader, David Herman, Ron Livingston, Ajay Naidu and Stephen Root.
Peter Gibbons is a cog in the machine that is Initech Corporation and decides that he has had enough. What follows is what happens when three coworkers decide that an uncaring company needs to suffer.
Office Space Depicts the Corporate World That Entrepreneurs Want to Escape
This film gets a mention because it does a wonderful job of highlighting just how smothering the prior jobs for some entrepreneurships can be.
Mike Judge, the film’s director, used his smothering experiences in the corporate workplace and channeled his disdain into this dark comedy. In short, this film is the perfect example of how failures to treat employees as people leads to disdain, disgust, embezzlement of funds and even arson.
Office Space is available for streaming on fuboTV, Paramount+, Peacock Premium and for free with ads on tubi.
The Founder (2016)
PG-13, Drama, History
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Laura Dern, Michael Keaton, John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman.
This is a drama that retells the events that led to salesman Ray Kroc usurping control of a fast-food burger stand from the McDonald brothers after initially signing on as a partner.
The Founder Showcases the Pros and Cons of Ambitious Entrepreneurship
This film does an amazing job at showing what a cutthroat approach to business and having one’s eyes open to all possibilities and revenue streams can lead to.
Frustrated with the limitations of his contract with the McDonalds, Ray gets the canny idea to purchase the land that franchise locations are built upon and uses that ability as a wedge to pry away their control to the point that he is able to reach the driver’s seat of operations for McDonald’s.
Streaming on VUDU, tubi, PlutoTV, Redbox, tubi and VUDU.
Big Night (1996)
R, Romantic Drama
Starring: Marc Anthony, Larry Block, Minnie Driver, Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci.
A pair of immigrant brothers named Primo and Secondo own an Italian restaurant that hits dire straits — so they reach out to a jazz legend for help.
Big Night Is a Cautionary Tale About Bad Business Decisions
This film gets a mention because its premise is built on one of the cardinal sins of any startup: never assume that the people will come just because you are passionate about your product.
Primo loves his Italian heritage and the food that comes from that boot-shaped country but he and his brother choose a terrible location for their restaurant.
None of the American customers who decide to eat there, familiar with the offerings of “Chef Boyardee,” can recognize any of the dishes on the menu and Primo is too proud to adjust to the locals’ tastes.
While the film is entertaining because of this pie-in-the-sky approach to success and seeing how the brothers keep their heads above water, the reality is that Primo and Secondo should have seriously looked into locations where an Italian restaurant would thrive because the locals know authentic Italian food.
It is also a hearty reminder that a successful business should be willing to show some flexibility.
Big Night is available for streaming, with ads, on PlutoTV.
Films are often more than sheer entertainment. The next time you watch a film with a business at its center, consider what lessons you could glean from it.
You might just save your business — without the need for having to experience the downsides yourself.