The notion of the American Dream has always been linked inexorably to entrepreneurship. Indeed, the backbone of the American economy is those folks who had an idea and decided, through hard work and determination, to turn their dream into reality. It’s precisely in this manner that some of America’s greatest businesses and industries were born – just look at Henry Ford’s example.
It’s no surprise then that the notion of entrepreneurship has a long-standing place in that other very American industry – cinema. On top of movies being made by self-starting captain of industry – Walt Disney, David O’ Selznick, etc., etc. – they often tell the stories of those larger-than-life businessmen and women who captured the public’s imagination.
Here are just a few examples of popular movies throughout the years that center on titans of industry.
The Social Network
This is the first entry on the list not because it is the most recent, but because it centers on the most popular Internet offering of the modern age: Facebook. The story centers on Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), as he takes his social network from concept to reality. But the film isn’t your average biopic; it is something akin to a Greek tragedy, with all the intrigue, backstabbing and catharsis that implies.
Pirates of Silicon Valley
This film is often overlooked due to its “TV movie” style. This is a shame for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that this is the only movie that explores the rivalry between two giants of the American computer industry – Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – during their early years. And the rivalry was fierce. Noah Wyle’s Jobs comes off as a highly driven megalomaniac while Anthony Michael Hall’s Gates is an ambitious and scheming programmer. The result is a very watchable flick – despite its obvious budgetary constrictions.
A cautionary tale and homily to the dangers of greed – what more could one expect from Oliver Stone (whose own father was a broker)? The movie tells the story of Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), a young trader with ambition to spare. His obvious talent catches the eye of infamous and overly hair-gelled corporate raider Gordon Gekko (played with serpentine aggressiveness by Michael Douglas) and thus begins Bud’s journey to total loss of self. Through the combined actions of the two men, they both end up learning hard lessons about exactly how low a person can sink in the world of high finance.
Entrepreneurship doesn’t need to be all backstabbing and greed – it can be about prostitution as well. Actually the movie is more of a sweet-natured and funny coming-of-age story more than it is about the world’s oldest profession. Tom Cruise plays Joel, a typical Midwestern teen who lets loose while his parents are away for the weekend. Turns out he goes a little too crazy, and before long he’s put in a position where he needs to make mass amounts of cash quickly. Cue Rebecca DeMornay’s hooker with a heart of gold and her list of connections.
While there are certainly other films that feature memorable entrepreneurs, this list represents a healthy cross spectrum. It runs the gamut from tragedy to comedy and includes some of the most memorable and iconic American characters in both cinema and reality.
Editor’s Note: Amy Fitzgerald is a professional blogger that provides financial advice and tips to consumers. She writes for TitleMax.biz, a title loan company.