As statewide stay-at-home orders lead us to cozy days spent in sweatpants and slippers, scrolling through social media, and seeing all of the quarantine accomplishments our peers are achieving, it is all too easy to be overwhelmed with guilt for binge-watching Netflix. Our time in isolation has led many of us to consume more media than ever before and not all of it has been healthy. While it is one thing to relax and take a break from productivity, mindless media consumption rarely makes us feel better and often leaves us dissatisfied with ourselves.
Yet, there are healthy alternatives to binge-watching! CFI has carefully curated a list of our Top Ten Film Recommendations, quality movies infused with meaningful messages about business, work, and value. We present these films to you, not as another list of binge-watching material, but as opportunities to engage with and learn from stories which carry meaningful truths packed into engaging plot lines.
The Pursuit of Happiness (PG-13, 2006)
An encouraging story of perseverance, The Pursuit of Happiness shows the many highs and lows of life. Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a young, broke salesman attempting to sell a complicated, expensive medical machine to hospitals in New York City. While on the circuit, Chris learns of an opportunity to intern at a prestigious finance company. Inspired by the potential career change, Chris decides to apply and is selected as one of fifty interns, of which, at the end of the internship, one will be given a full time position. Can Chris accomplish enough to be chosen for the full time position? Can he maintain his work life while combating the struggles of divorce, eviction, and homelessness while caring for his young son? This movie, based on a real story, is a heartwarming representation of the classic American Dream.
Money Ball (PG-13, 2011)
We love a good sports movie, and Money Ball starring Brad Pitt does not disappoint. Billy Beane, a former baseball star turned manager of the Oakland A’s, attempts to reinvent the game of baseball incorporating an innovative system designed by sports and economics brainiac Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Billy struggles against the old ways of baseball and Oakland’s dwindling budget desperate to achieve his dream of a perfect season with the Oakland A’s. Introducing audiences to the business side of baseball, Money Ball presents a unique take upon the sports movie genre creating accessibility for everyone, not only baseball enthusiasts, to appreciate the film’s wit. Audiences of all kinds will be charmed by the humor and quick reparté while sports lovers will appreciate the depth of baseball knowledge and history expressed in this movie. Based on a true story, Money Ball is an entertaining story for the whole family.
The Intern (PG-13, 2015)
This movie is one of my personal favorites. A feel good film that teaches the value of old wisdom in a modern world, The Intern demonstrates the value of cross-generational teams and collaboration. The protagonist, Ben (Robert De Niro) is a retired executive and recent widower looking for a new start in life. He finds a flier advertising for senior interns and decides that maybe it is time to go back to work. He begins working at the up and coming online retailer “About the Fit,” as the personal intern to the company’s CEO, Jules Ostin (Ann Hathaway). Ben wins over the entire office with his humble, can-do attitude, and his old fashioned, or rather classic, charms. He becomes a grandfather like figure to three younger men, calling them up into their manhood, and a source of comfort and wisdom to Jules as she struggles with issues at work and at home. This film is a testament to respecting one’s elders and the wisdom of drawing those with experience into your life, in addition, it is an inspiration to pursue new things in every stage of life and to take your time to appreciate life and not let it pass you by.
We Bought a Zoo (PG, 2011)
This film follows the story of Benjamin Mee and his two young children as they work through their grief over the passing of wife and mother, Katherine Mee. Benjamin believes the best way to move on with life is to find a new start. He begins searching for a new home for him and his family. He and Rosie, his youngest, are not impressed with the many listings that they see on their journey until they come to a unique property over an hour from their original home. They learn that this property is a shutdown zoo in need of much love and care. Benjamin decides this is just the change they all need and moves himself and the kids to the zoo, much to the chagrin of his depressed and angry teenage son Dylan. The family works closely with the small zoo management team to get the zoo up to regulation before opening day. Meanwhile, Benjamin is faced with money troubles, his deteriorating relationship with Dylan, and his own grief. Will the family come together in time? Will the zoo open? And if it does, will anyone even come? This movie shows all stages of grief and rejoices in new starts and redemptive relationships with family and friends.
The Imagineering Series featured on Disney + (2019)
This series is an artistic documentary covering the history and development of Disney World and Disney’s imagineering department. Not only is the cinematography stunning, but the story itself is an intriguing, twisting tale that covers hitherto unknown aspects of the business and people that made Disney the success it is today. Each episode is almost an hour long, so it is not a series you can watch in one sitting, however it is family friendly and fascinatingly detailed and worth the watch time invested.
The Founder (PG-13, 2016)
The Founder is a dynamic film which tells the story of one of the largest food industry moguls in the world. It’s the 1950s and Ray Kroc (Micahel Keaton) is on the road again attempting to sell a new, more efficient milkshake maker to fast food restaurant owners. After an unsuccessful pitch, Ray notices an order on his sheet for several milkshake makers, as this is unusual he calls the story only to learn that they need a few more machines than previously ordered. Intrigued, Ray drives to southern California to meet the men who run such a successful restaurant that they need multiple milkshake machines. Enter Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) McDonald, the proprietors of McDonald’s, their drive-in burger joint. Ray entranced by the efficient rhythm of the team and the speed at which such delicious food is delivered to him. From that moment on, he must have a McDonald’s of his own. The film continues to follow the story of Kroc working with the McDonald’s brothers to franchise the company and build an empire far more extensive than they ever anticipated. This movie shows business at its best and worst. It shows the desperation, the sacrifice necessary for successful entrepreneurship along with the dangers of greed and success. While it is not exactly a “feel good” film, it is a well written story and beautifully shot. This movie will make you ask the question, “was it worth it?” and help you reflect on your own actions in business.
Joy (PG-13, 2015)
Inventor, business woman, entrepreneur, mother, caretaker, daughter; Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is all these things and more. A promising creative since childhood, Joy is always thinking of better, more efficient, ways to make life better. She manages her problematic family with grace, her only support is her grandmother, who inspires her to be more and to draw the family out of the squalor they live in. This film is based on the true story of Joy’s journey to success. While mopping up a mess of wine and glass, Joy is inspired to create a mop that she does not have to wring out with her hands. She takes the idea to her father’s wealthy girlfriend, Trudy, for investment and is challenged to put everything she has into this product. Joy believes her product is worth the risk, so she agrees to Trudy’s terms and begins the process of designing molds and finding a manufacturer. Throughout her journey, Joy is battered on every side by problems both with her business and her family, but she perseveres through it all. Joy is an inspiring tale of a powerful, intelligent woman who seeks to achieve more than what life has set for her.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG, 2013)
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a photo asset manager for Life magazine. He spends much of his time daydreaming of a more adventurous life in which he is charming, confident, and in some ways superhuman. This has been a habit of his ever since his father passed away and his dreams of traveling Europe were replaced with a minimum wage job to support his family. Now, with his job on the line due to the conversion of Life to a strictly online magazine, Walter finds himself searching for the picture to grace the front cover of the final issue Life. This search takes Walter on a journey, not just to find the picture, but also to discover himself and remind him that life, even the everyday activities we do, is an adventure. This film is an artistic masterpiece. Each shot is stunning and the soundtrack reflects both the scenery and the emotions of Walter Mitty as he covers the globe in search of negative 52.
Ford vs. Ferrari (PG-13, 2019)
This film is not your average racing movie. While the car-speak and the high speeds are both fascinating and thrilling, this movie also shows the complicated business side of the racing industry. Ford is failing. In an effort to save the company, Lee Iacocca suggests designing an American made race car that rivals the high end European models, specifically Ferrari. He enlists the help of businessman, and former racer, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) who draws in his friend, Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a temperamental mechanic and professional race car driver. Together they attempt to design a race car that is worthy of the ‘24 hours of Le Mans,’ a race that tests both car and driver. Throughout the process, inefficiency alongside enlarged egos and superiority complexes in corporate create massive issues in the field for both Ken and Carrol. However, through the strength of friendship, love for the sport, and pure grit, Ken and Carroll develop a car worthy of the competition.
Tucker: the man and his dreams (PG, 1988)
An oldie, but a goodie. This movie follows the story of Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges) an endlessly optimistic inventor, who habitually designs products to be better than what people want and are therefore rejected because investors reject models that appear too good to be true. This particular story looks at the Tucker 48 sedan, a car designed for safety and designed to last. Preston uses his charms to sell the idea to investors after which he opens the largest manufacturing plant in the country. While his design has some issues, Tucker’s team, headed by himself, works with dedication to produce the promised product. Investors become dissatisfied with Tucker’s design and begin butting in. Unfortunately, when Tucker objects to the changes the company board makes, he is forced to go to court where he is accused of not delivering the agreed upon product. Will he win out? And will the Tucker sedan change the automobile industry? To find out, you’ll have to see for yourself. This film has a unique soundtrack and cinematography choice. It is an artistic telling of the Preston Tucker story, but addresses many of the issues in corporations and manufacturing at the time.
In curating this list of CFI’s Top Ten Film Recommendations, we pray for each member of our community as you continue practicing safe social distancing and we discover how to care for one another well in these changing times. We hope this list leaves you with the discovery of a new story which inspires you to keep going in face of the challenges being thrown our way. So, cozy up, relax, and take some time to seek quality entertainment. Make it a goal to consume media with intention and avoid feeling guilty for taking time for yourself.