Be sure to see Moneyball, the movie about Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane’s inspired rejiggering of major league baseball’s thinking about player recruitment and how to form a winning team. I couldn’t help but think that Beane, showed good entrepreneurial drive and it got me thinking of other inspiring movies for entrepreneurs. Here’s my list of the best movies of all time for you intrepid company builders.
- The Blues Brothers. Aside from sheer good humor, Blues Brothers has to be on every entrepreneur’s list because Jake and Elroy are on a mission from on high. And if you truly believe in your startup when everyone else thinks you’re nuts, you are on a mission and you have a purpose, regardless of what is inspiring you. The best companies and causes have big, inspiring missions.
- Apollo 13. Even though we know the outcome upfront, there is a scene in Apollo 13 so quintessentially entrepreneurial that it will gladden the heart of the steeliest company founder. When some of the oxygen tanks exploded on the command module, the CO2 recycling system failed and had to be repaired using spare parts and odds and ends – anything the astronauts could find. Back on planet earth in Houston a team of engineers dumped a box of items onto a big table to figure out how the astronauts could use the materials at hand in a cramped space capsule to repair the failing CO2 filter. Available items included a printed manual and duct tape. You want to talk about figuring out a solution in real time, on the fly, with only minutes of air left to breathe? See this movie and drill this scene into your head and into your team’s thinking. You and I don’t face limitations like that, not ever.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg’s Indiana Jones character is a classic entrepreneur, highly trained and yet also a bold explorer willing to take risks for huge gains. Lots of folks view entrepreneurs and wish they would have taken the same leap…but they didn’t. Instead they have a long list of excuses as to why, or why not. Here’s my prescription for you budding entrepreneur or established company veteran: listen to John Williams’ musical score for Raiders the next time you feel even a twinge of hesitation about anything.
- Twelve O’Clock High. Anyone who manages a staff has to see Twelve O’Clock High. Aside from the fact that it’s a great way to see Gregory Peck in a movie other than To Kill a Mockingbird, this is the best flick for learning: 1) how to manage people; 2) how to oversee other managers; and 3) how to stay on the sane side of the fine line separating highly stressful work from obsession/workaholic fixation leading to total breakdown. Yes, I know, I could have cited better war movies and leadership stories like Patton. But this is not a list of best war movies – it’s about self-generating entrepreneurship.
- Spartacus. I love CG effects and animation in movies like Avatar, Matrix, and Terminator. But there are some movies made before the world became so fast-twitch that we couldn’t stand five minutes of dialog before another earth-destroying end-of-days battle. Kirk Douglas in Spartacus is the personification of Margaret Mead’s line about a few individuals being able to change the world. If you think Spartacus’ example of leading a slave revolt against the Roman empire is no longer relevant, just think how much harder it was to be viral and to create a brand and message that would cause all your fellow slaves (er, sorry, cubicle dwellers) to join you – without benefit of tweets, email or status updates. When Crassus, the Roman senator, general and Forbes 400 billionaire of his day finally put down the slave rebellion, he crucified thousands of recaptured slaves along the Roman road. Lucky for us, modern entrepreneurial efforts are a lot easier, even if your pet project takes on the powers that be. Let me put it this way. If Sean Parker, founder of Napster, is a modern day version of Spartacus, Sean’s revolt was against the autocratic music industry, and he lost – Napster was shut down, end of story. But he wasn’t crucified, instead he went on to glory helping birth Facebook. So the modern world isn’t all bad, yes?
- Slumdog Millionaire. The Mumbai teen hero of Slumdog wins an opportunity to compete on the Indian TV version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” He seizes the opportunity and despite arrest and torture, he pursues his dreams. Relentlessly! He wins the game, the money, and the girl. Being opportunistic is one of the key qualities of founders interviewed in How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America. Curiosity fueled their passion and they pursued opportunity tirelessly.
- Casablanca. What endears Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick, to everyone who’s ever watched this classic is the moment when Rick sacrifices himself for something bigger than his own pain, desires or needs. Despite the ache he feels from a lost love, he puts his rival’s noble cause first. How does this apply to you? Because your company, your baby, your business that you’ve sacrificed for – it’s not about you. It really isn’t. I know, you are the founder. But the true measure of success for any business is the point when it becomes bigger than you, when it becomes self sustaining and when customers, vendors, managers and employees will also live and die for it.
- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Buck’s the classic entrepreneur. And if you look at his team, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, think about how powerful you could be if your startup team had that level of dedication. I am not sure if he was more adventurer, scientist, surgeon or rock musician, but it really doesn’t matter. Pursue your passions. Peter Weller was good playing Buck, but John Lithgow and Ellen Barkin steal the show.
- The World’s Fastest Indian. Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of New Zealand motorcycle enthusiast Burt Munro should give hope and inspiration not just to rookie entrepreneurs, but to anyone who decides to launch something when they are 40. Or 50. Or 60. WFI documents Munro’s dream – tinkering with a 1920 Indian motorcycle, a bike that helped him set the land-speed world record at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967 when Burt was 67 years old. 200 mph, no flame-retardant suit, not much between Burt and a lot of baked salt zipping by. Flat broke, sleeping in his car – this is a must-see for entrepreneurs.
- The Social Network. Yes, the movie is that good. Whether its 100% accurate or not – we are living in a Facebook world and you can thank Mark Zuckerberg for that.
So get cracking. I’ll throw in two bonus movies for good measure. See Lawrence of Arabia and finish up with The Adventures of Robin Hood. Peter O’Toole kills it in Lawrence – I mean if rounding up warring tribes to launch coordinated attacks on superior enemy forces isn’t entrepreneurial genius, what is? And then there’s Errol Flynn, the original Robin Hood. He takes on the Man (the evil Prince John), and he wins.
**Robert Jordan is a Forbes.com contributor. View the original posting of this article on Forbes.com.