Inspiration and motivation for entrepreneurs can come in a variety of mediums – books, articles, mentors, quotes, and even movies. Personally, I find the most motivational movies to be biopics or those loosely based on real-life people. Itâ€™s easier to connect with these characters since they actually experienced the same challenges, failures, and successes that I went through.
Hollywood seems to think the same since theyâ€™ve released a steady stream of biopic-type movies over the years, including the following 11 Oscar-nominated films. While this list is not comprehensive, these films happen to my personal favorites whenever I need a dose of inspiration.
1. “The Social Network” (2010)
Nominated for eight Academy Awards, this over-dramatized film follows Mark Zuckerbergâ€™s meteoric rise from a Harvard student to the founder of the worldâ€™s most popular social network.
Why watch it? Again, “The Social Network” took some liberties when recounting the founding and success of Facebook. However, it does an excellent job of detailing the obstacles that plenty of startup founder faces: battling with co-founders, lawsuits, and isolation. It also documents the importance of a variety of traits such as being resilient, flexible, delegating, networking, and being receptive to suggestions.
2. “Citizen Kane” (1941)
Hands down one of the greatest movies ever made, “Kane” was nominated for an impressive nine Oscars. While not exactly a biography, the main character Charles Foster Kane was based on American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and Chicago tycoons Samuel Insull and Harold McCormick.
Why watch it? Charles Foster Kane, like most entrepreneurs, has a desire to change the world. In Kaneâ€™s situation, he wants to do so with journalism. However, as his wealth and power increases, Kane transforms from a “citizen of the people” to a man only obsessed with his wealth and power. In the end, the only thing that mattered to him was his childhood sled â€œRosebud.â€ The lesson? Thereâ€™s more to life than just money and power.
3. “Joy” (2015)
Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Joy Mangano, who was a single mother who invented the Miracle Mop. Through her dedication she became a self-made millionaire who now holds more than 100 patents.
Why watch it? Joy experienced her own challenges, such as family betrayal and a fickle industry. There was even a point when QVC was going to pull the Miracle Mop. However, Joy believed in her product so much that she began pitching it on QVC herself. Her first TV appearance resulted in selling more than 18,000 mops in less than a half an hour. Sometimes it pays off to be your biggest cheerleader.
4. “Rocky” (1976)
Loosely inspired by real-life boxer Chuck Wepner, “Rocky” won three Oscars, including Best Picture. Since itâ€™s release, Rocky Balboa has become one of the most beloved characters in film history â€” especially in Philly â€” thanks to the underdogâ€™s grit and determination.
Why watch it? Like Rocky, entrepreneurs are underdogs. But that doesnâ€™t mean that they donâ€™t rise to the challenge. What makes a successful entrepreneur isnâ€™t if they win or los. Itâ€™s the fact that they can go toe-to-toe with the champ when everyone else doubts them. Besides, how can you not get amped when listening to Bill Contiâ€™s score?
5. “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006)
Based on the true story of Chris Gardner, in which Will Smith was nominated for an Oscar for, “The Pursuit of Happyness” follows Gardnerâ€™s struggles with homelessness to successful businessman, investor, stockbroker, motivational speaker, author, and philanthropist.
Why watch it? Entrepreneurs most make sacrifices when chasing their dreams. In Gardnerâ€™s case, that was raising a son while being homeless. However, Gardner never gave up and persisted. If that doesnâ€™t inspire you, then I donâ€™t know what will.
6. “Moneyball” (2011)
Nominated for six Academy Awards, “Moneyball” recounts the Oakland Aâ€™s impressive 2002 season. What made it so inspiring was that the team didnâ€™t have the money to attract top talent. But thanks to outside-of-the-box thinking from general manager Billy Beane, the team won the American League West.
Why watch it? This film demonstrates how entrepreneurs have to be innovative when bootstrapping their business. In other words, you donâ€™t need money in order to make your product better. On top of that, Beane never gave-up on his vision, despite the constant criticism from naysayers.
7. “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” (1998)
This biographical film was nominated for three Oscars and follows Preston Tucker during his attempt to manufacture his 1948 Tucker Sedan, which he dubbed “the car of tomorrow.” Tuckerâ€™s design revolutionized safety features, such as a pop out windshield, headlights that swivel when you turn, and seat belts, but faced animosity from the Big Three automobile companies and the authorities. The smear campaign against Tucker and his â€œcar of tomorrowâ€ lead to his company going bankrupt. However, the vehicle, thanks in part to this film, is now admired – and highly collectible.
Why watch it? Preston Tucker risked everything to follow his dream. While there wasnâ€™t a happy ending for Tucker, this film shows the challenges that entrepreneurs must face from investors, regulators, and competitors.
8. “Jerry Maguire” (1996)
Inspired by real-life sports agent Leigh Steinberg, “Jerry Maguire,” which was nominated for five Oscars and featured Best Supporting Actor Cuba Gooding Jr., tells the story of a successful sports agent who had everything and risked it all when he realized that agents should be focusing on their clients and not just dollar signs. Jerry loses everything, but his values eventually guide him in starting his own successful firm and even to true love.
Why watch it? Like “Citizen Kane,” this is another example where the protagonist realizes that thereâ€™s more to life than money and material objects. When you have this epiphany, everything else in your life will fall into place – even if the journey is bumpy along the way.
9. “The Aviator” (2004)
Martin Scorseseâ€™s Howard Hughes biographical drama was nominated for a whopping eleven Academy Awards. The film traces the life of Huges between 1927 and 1947 as he goes from successful film producer and an aviation magnate to a man battling obsessiveâ€“compulsive disorder.
Why watch it? Entrepreneurship is full of risk and hard work, which is why you need to blow off some steam – which was exactly what Hughes did as he builds and runs his own companies. However, whatâ€™s most inspiring about “The Aviator” is that at the height of his personal struggles, Hughes managed to defend his business dealings in front of a Senate committee. No matter whatâ€™s going on in their lives, successful entrepreneurs are tenacious and will pull themselves together when backed into a corner.
10. “Lorenzoâ€™s Oil” (1992)
“Lorenzoâ€™s Oil” is based on the true story of Augusto and Michaela Odone, who relentlessly searched for a cure for their son’s adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). The couple devote everything they have in order to find a cure, which eventually leads them to finding an oil that improves some of Lorenzoâ€™s symptoms. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards.
Why watch it? Film critic Roger Ebert sums it up perfectly: â€œIt takes a heartbreaking story and pushes it to the limit, showing us the lengths of courage and imagination that people can summon when they must.â€
11. “Steve Jobs” (2015)
Nominated for two Academy Awards, “Steve Jobs” is another biographical film that takes some liberties as it retells the story of Appleâ€™s co-founder Steve Jobs – specifically his exit from the company, the founding of NeXT, and his subsequent return to Apple.
Why watch it? Despite his setbacks, such as his split with Apple, product failures, and his at times heated relationships with Steve Wozniak, colleagues, and his family, Steve Jobs never gave up on his vision. In fact, it was this vision that made Apple the juggernaut it is today.
John Rampton is serial entrepreneur who now focuses on helping people to build amazing products and services that scale. He is founder of the online payments company Due. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine. Time Magazine recognized John as a motivational speaker that helps people find a “Sense of Meaning” in their lives. He currently advises several companies in the bay area.
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