Last month I wrote about why watching business documentaries is both enlightening and motivating. I thought it would be fitting to supplement that post with a list of the best business documentaries to watch. So here we are!
In this post, I present a curated collection of the 15 most powerful business documentaries. Each one promises unique insights and invaluable perspectives. These films offer profound revelations and aren’t just fancy narratives, they are studies in ambition, ethics, and innovation. They also reveal the precarious balance between these elements.
So, cancel your plans, dim the lights, and prepare for a deep-dive into the true, ruthless, and absolutely wild side of the business world.
1. The Social Dilemma (2020)
A powerful documentary that exposes the dark side of social media platforms and the ways in which they are designed to exploit our attention and manipulate our behavior.
It serves as a reminder of the ethical considerations involved in business, especially in the tech industry. The film is eye-opening and disturbing, but it is also essential viewing.
2. The China Hustle (2017)
This documentary uncovers the biggest financial scandal you’ve never heard of: Wall Street’s involvement in inflating the value of Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock markets.
It also alleges that the Chinese government is complicit in the fraud. It has a history of allowing fraudulent companies to list on American stock exchanges. The film serves as a wake-up call on the importance of due diligence and transparency in finance.
3. The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019)
A gripping tale of ambition and deceit, this documentary tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her biotech company, Theranos.
It’s a cautionary tale about the culture of innovation and the dangers of unchecked ambition. It also underlines the reality that facades can often be deceptive and success in business typically demands an unwavering commitment to ethics.
4. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
This classic documentary takes a deep dive into one of the most infamous corporate scandals in history. It chronicles the rise and fall of Enron, an energy company after it was revealed that the company had been engaged in widespread accounting fraud.
The film argues that Enron’s collapse was not simply the result of a few bad apples, but rather a culture of greed and corruption that permeated the company. The lack of inadequate regulatory oversight only made matters worse.
A must-watch for understanding the importance of business ethics.
5. Dirty Money (2018-2020)
This eye-opening, investigative series exposes brazen acts of corporate corruption and greed, with each episode focusing on a different case.
The series offers real accounts of victims and wrongdoers. From payday loans and money laundering to scandals and controversies surrounding famous figures like Jared Kushner and Donald Trump, Dirty Money covers it all.
As a viewer, you’re drawn into a world that uncovers corporate fraud’s inner workings. It shows how businesses may deceive consumers, regulators, and investors.
6. Print the Legend (2014)
Print the Legend is a captivating dive into the high-stakes world of start-up culture, innovation, and cutthroat competition. Our main players are two start-ups – MakerBot and Formlabs. Both are racing to bring 3D printing to the masses.
But, this isn’t just a story about technology; it’s a Shakespearean drama about ambition, power, and the price of success.
What’s fascinating is how the film digs into the human stories behind the headlines. Founders clash, friendships fray, and the dream of making it big tests personal and professional relationships to the limit.
7. The Bleeding Edge (2018)
If you’re one of those who think a documentary about the medical device industry might make an ideal cure for insomnia, think again. The Bleeding Edge jolts you awake and holds you in a grip as firm as a surgical clamp.
This investigative docu-feature uncovers the often-overlooked dangers lurking in the name of cutting-edge medical advancements. It exposes the systemic flaws and shady marketing tactics that put profit above patient safety.
The filmmakers put a human face on the cold facts and figures, making the documentary both deeply moving and horrifying.
8. Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (2019)
Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates is a three-part documentary series that promises a tour through the labyrinthine intellect of the Microsoft co-founder.
It is a masterclass in storytelling, deftly weaving together interviews and archival footage to bring the viewer closer to Gates than ever before. One moment you’re exploring his childhood passion for reading; the next, you’re grappling with his crusade to eradicate global diseases.
This one is a far cry from your standard biographical documentary. Rather than just recounting Gates’ life story, it delves deep into his thought processes.
9. The Startup Kids (2012)
This documentary follows a group of young entrepreneurs in the US and Europe and their experiences starting and running successful tech companies.
What sets The Startup Kids apart is its unflinching honesty. It doesn’t just focus on the unicorns and rainbows of entrepreneurial success; it delves into the gritty reality of sleepless nights, financial struggles, and the constant fear of failure.
It’s a must-watch for aspiring entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, or anyone who loves a good underdog story.
10. The Code: Story of Linux (2001)
This 2001 documentary is a lot like Linux itself – unassuming at first glance but packed with passion, innovation, and the spirit of rebellion under the hood.
The Code chronicles the story of Linus Torvalds, a curious college student who took on the titans of tech and changed the game forever. It’s a David vs Goliath tale, except here David is a mild-mannered Finnish programmer and Goliath is the entire tech establishment.
It offers a fascinating look at the origins of an operating system, the world of programming, and the revolutionary idea of open-source software. It’s available on YouTube, watch it here.
11. Saving Capitalism (2017)
Saving Capitalism takes the mystery out of the fiscal world and lays it bare for all to see. Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor and public policy professor, hosts it.
Reich does to economics what Indiana Jones does to archaeology – makes it exciting, accessible, and utterly compelling.
This film sheds light on the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the power of big corporations, and the role of democracy in balancing the scales. It is an essential watch for anyone wanting to make sense of the economic disparities that define our times.
12. Generation Wealth (2018)
Generation Wealth is a visual feast of excess, exploring the heights of affluence and the often disturbing quest for more. It is a thought-provoking reflection on consumerism, societal norms, and the illusion of prosperity.
It’s a sobering reminder of the age-old wisdom that money can’t buy happiness and that true wealth lies in the richness of experiences and relationships.
But don’t worry, Generation Wealth isn’t a solemn lecture on the pitfalls of wealth. It balances its serious undertones with a dose of entertainment that keeps you hooked from start to finish.
13. The Great Hack (2019)
Ever wondered what happened to all those personality quizzes you took on Facebook? No? Check out The Great Hack for answers. This film unveils the dark underbelly of the internet, where your data are the most valuable commodity.
It explores the notorious Cambridge Analytica scandal, which showed just how deeply intertwined our digital and real lives have become.
The Great Hack combines jaw-dropping revelations with intimate human stories, making it both an educational watch and an emotional journey. It’s a call to arms for digital privacy and a stern reminder of the adage: if you’re not paying, you’re the product.
14. American Factory (2019)
American Factory takes you on a deep dive into the complex world of global economics, labor relations, and cultural clashes. It’s a roller-coaster ride set in an abandoned General Motors plant in Ohio that finds a second life after it’s bought by a Chinese billionaire.
So, think of it as a little bit of Wall Street meets Main Street, sprinkled with a dash of culture shock and a generous serving of the human spirit.
So whether you’re a student of business, a lover of culture, or just someone who cares about the fate of everyday folks, American Factory is a must-watch.
15. Becoming Warren Buffett (2017)
It’s the life story of Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha,” a man who turned a childhood paper route into a multi-billion-dollar empire.
Becoming Warren Buffett offers an intimate portrayal of his journey. It’s not just about how Buffett made his money; it’s about the principles, ethics, and idiosyncrasies that make him who he is.
If you’re looking for a documentary that offers invaluable lessons on money, life, and the pursuit of success, Becoming Warren Buffett is the ticket.
Finally, these 15 power-packed business documentaries offer more than just an intriguing watch. They serve as a gold mine of insights, lessons, and inspiration for anyone keen on boosting their success mindset.
From the gritty realities of corporate fraud to the inspiring journeys of industry giants, these films cover a vast terrain of experiences and perspectives. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, a seasoned professional, or just an avid learner, there’s something here for you.
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