Movies are made to entertain, inform, and occasionally teach us lessons. They can be inspirational, or meant to re-instill one’s faith in humanity, but the message seldom has to do with that which dictates so many aspect of our lives: money. But ever so often, there comes along a movie that teaches real money management, finance and business advice – if only as a byproduct of the movie’s major storyline. Here are some lessons learned, from ten movies that have taught us all about money, even if we didn’t realize it at the time:
Wall Street (1987)
“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.” – Gordon Gekko
Michael Douglas’ Oscar-winning performance in this film is not only his most memorable, but it is the reason why Wall Street is the quintessential 1980s business-themed movie. His famous monologue (above), illustrated the atmosphere of greed and corporate malfeasance so characteristic of the time. The Gekko character has become an international icon, synonymous with unchecked greed. Additionally, many have opined that today’s economic climate is a result of the mainstream having adopted this character’s teachings.
Shawshank Redemption (1994)
“Get busy living or get busy dying.” – Andy Dufresne
This critically-acclaimed film about a wrongly accused New England banker is one that has many messages. Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) eventually escapes from prison, due to his commitment to a meticulously choreographed escape plan and his ability to persevere. His dedication reminds one of the focus needed to effectively plan ones’ long-term financial future, especially in today’s economic climate. This movie also illustrates that no one person ever knows where life will take him, so it is best to be prepared. Take the good with the bad, and learn to adapt.
The Godfather (1972)
“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – Vito Corleone
The Godfather trilogy is widely considered a benchmark for filmmaking, and this timeless quote could not be more appropriate. Bluntly stated, money talks. Other lessons taken from this film include, taking a bold stance in decision making, and knowing the value of things for which a high price might sometimes need be paid.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
“Show me the money!” – Rod Tidwell
In this film about a high-powered sports agent on the rebound, Maguire learns to value people above money. His up and down path towards enlightenment teaches him to respect himself, others and the value of proper business ethics. While dissimilar to some of the films on this list, the message of this film is that there is more to life than money, and an important moment of self-awareness comes only when one realizes the value of their ability.
Field of Dreams (1989)
“If you build it, he will come.” – Shoeless Joe Jackson
To those entrepreneurs out there: if you have a good idea that you believe in, pursue it. Everyone has to analyze risk versus reward, but for those that aspire for more, bigger risks must always be taken.
Boiler Room (2000)
“And there is no such thing as a no sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close? You or him? Now be relentless, that’s it, I’m done.” – Jim Young
In business, there are winners and there are losers. Typically one’s winning is a preclusion of that of another. Even though not everyone works in sales, opportunity knocks on a regular basis. It’s those that take initiative that tend to succeed. This can be applied to personal finance, enterprise, and even in the workplace.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
“I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude.” – Walter Sobchak
This cult classic illustrates the absurdity with which people sometimes regard money: the things they do, the way they act, and the things they say. From those with keys to the city, to unemployed, amateur bowlers, the film’s characters show that it is important to be creative to get what one wants. Finding alternative ways to solve problems is especially pertinent in a downwards economy.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
“A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.” – Blake
This quote, taken from Blake’s (played by Alec Baldwin) angry speech is about the importance of continuing to sell – to sell harder, and to sell better – in a downwards economy. His character is brought in to coerce a group of failing salesmen into producing better numbers. While bordering on abusive, this speech was meant to inspire, to set the bar higher. The point being that no one with a high level of success is without a high level of confidence. Sometime drastic measures ought be taken, especially in order to pull oneself out of a precarious financial situation.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)
“If you have education, intelligence and ability, so much the better. But, remember that thousands have reached the top without any of these qualities.” – J.B Wiggley
This was spoken to a man that started out as a window cleaner, and eventually climbed his way to the top, This quote is meant to express that there are always a number of ways to succeed. For those with real ability (but maybe not the credentials that society places value in) hard work, determination and creativity are key.
Trading Places (1983)
“Think big, think positive. Never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy low, sell high. Fear . . . that’s the other guy’s problem.” – Louis Winthorpe III
This early 1980s comedic classic is about a high powered businessman being made into a criminal, while a street hustler is made into a legitimate businessman. Clever title, isn’t it? It’s interesting to note the different ways each character deals with the fate handed to them, and it touches on the Shawshank notion of how to cope with uncertainty. From this quote one could also learn another important pricnipal: without comprimising the well-being of others, look after, and always think about your own finances first. Definitely appropriate in these times.