Updated March 12, 2019 – Film added to list.
Who doesn’t draw inspiration from an underdog whose grit is tested on tumultuous journey scaling a treacherous cliff toward entrepreneurial success? In search of any movies on this subject from a Black perspective one realizes, with a few exceptions, there is no shortage of drug dealing and scheming gangster films depicting Black folks rising and quickly falling from “success.”
Undeniably, there are strong and admirable qualities from our Queen Madam S. Clair, played with poise and resolute business savvy by Cicely Tyson in the biopic Hoodlum. We of course can appreciate the humanization of the Black American struggle in the biopic American Gangster as Frank Lucas, powerfully portrayed by Denzel Washington, built a drug empire so expansive and sophisticated, the US government dare not conceive a Black person was cunning enough to erect it. Those films portray Black life in a racist white dominated American reality wherein we did exactly what every other group of immigrants did to survive and thrive, even if by illegal means when necessary.
Paid In Full, Set It Off, Belly, and New Jack City are Black cinema classics about survival in a racist and ghettoized society and the grind to make money. Though entertaining and offering worthwhile lessons, most of them rank low on the inspiration scale, considering they all end tragically. Where’s the story on maverick entrepreneur and activist Maggie Lena Walker? Walker was attributed as the first African American woman and woman in America to preside as President of a Bank, St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. Where’s the movie on Atlanta’s mega restauranteurs of the civil rights era, James and Robert Paschal? We need stories of Black entrepreneurs across our ethnic Diaspora diversity, to influence the next generation of business builders and wealth creators who embody our values for our people to emulate.
Here’s a list of movies sure to sharpen your investor and business savvy. Though most on the list are comprised from European narratives, there is much to learn. It’s recommended while watching, that one deeply contemplates what are our African economic values, strategies, ethics, and objectives? Is there another and better way to build an economy that is right, fair and sustainable?
Adaeze steps up to run the family business, alongside her uncle, when her father prepares to step-down. This is a story of grooming for leadership, preparation for succession and building a business based on integrity maintaining a level of sovereignty of a family institution.
2. The Associate
This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing, without a woman or a girl. – James Brown
When it comes to big business, it’s still mostly a man’s world, a white man at that. This comedy takes you on the journey of a single, Black shrewd businessperson, Laurel Ayres, played by Whoopi Goldberg. See how she outwits the good ole boys on Wall St. and what fuels her motivation. Black people know we’re the best, it’s just a matter of how we employ our ingenuity to accomplish our vision despite the intended roadblocks.
3. Pursuit of Happyness
Christopher Gardner went from homelessness while caring for his 5-year-old son, Christopher Jr. to multimillionaire and owner of Gardner Rich & Co. When defeat looks inevitable, Christopher remains unconquered becoming an investor under arduous circumstances. If you find yourself at the bottom, not feeling educated enough or privileged enough, watch this film. Plus, Will and Jaden Smith deliver a phenomenal father and son performance.
4. Barber Shop Franchise
Yes, you quite possibly seen all of them, however, watch again with a purposeful eye. There are plausibly some forsaken jewels of wisdom cemented in this comedy about a Black barbershop owner attempting to do right by his family and stay true to his community on Chicago’s Southside.
5. The Family That Preys
You won’t sleep on this Tyler Perry drama even with the Madea caricature missing. Alfre Woodard plays Alice Pratt, a small diner owner proving building brick by brick with patience and attention to detail, can position one to become the unsuspected millionaire next door. In The Family That Preys “the meek inherit the earth.”
6. Wall Street
“Greed is good,” until the house of cards fall from financially immoral, unethical, and illegal practices. This movie takes you into the world of investing through one characters quest to escape the working class and how greed corrupts and negatively impacts yourself and those you love.
7. Margin Call
What happens when we naively invest and trust the US stock markets built on a corrupt foundation, the backs of enslaved Africans being one of the first traded commodities? What do we expect from multinational corporations whose primary aim is satisfying its shareholders unsustainable greed for ever-increasing profit margins? What happens when the margin falls? Margin Call is based on the 2008 housing market crash which investors foresaw but ignored. Invest wisely.
8. The Social Network
Everyone at Harvard is inventing something. Harvard undergraduates believe that inventing a job is better than finding a job. – Larry Summers, Harvard University President
While many of our Black students are matriculate and graduate in search of jobs and careers, laudable indeed, we need our students educating themselves into building companies and launched preceding graduation. The Social Network will spark your mind, further developing ideas and relationships into fruition while increasing your Black net worth.
9. Baby Boom
If you are a single Black mom struggling between life as a mother and career woman, check out Baby Boom. It’s an 80’s comedy dramatizing Diane Keaton as J.C. Watt, a successful businesswoman who suddenly inherits a relative’s child, hurling her into mommy hood. In a male chauvinist world, she clumsily juggles her new-found role into disaster until discovering a creative balance for her child and career.
You don’t have a successful business without a solid team. Discover how Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill cast as Billy Beane and GM Peter Brand transform a lack luster Oakland A’s baseball team under a constrained budget into a competitive powerhouse. You may have all the resources you need within your means, but overlooking your cousin’s talent and potential.
11. The Defiant Ones
Who made studio headphones mainstream? Dr. Dre’s Beats by Dre. Watch the story of rapper turned superstar entrepreneur on the journey from DJ/MC to tech entrepreneur whose brand net worth approaches billionaire status.
12. The Founder
What happens when you invite the fox into the hen house? It’s often said business partnerships are akin to marriage. Meet the McDonalds brothers, who pioneered the concept of the assembly line and restaurant creating “fast food.” Learn from their strengths and shortcomings depicting how they lost it all right under their feet. Protect your vision and business from sharks.
13. The Company Men
In the corporate world, only the few are lucky enough to land safely with a golden parachute upon hearing the words “downsizing” and “layoffs.” Watch how quickly life can change when you’re not prepared for the unexpected unemployment interruption to one’s career. The Company Men follows the lives of corporate associates to high level execs and owners navigating their lives after being laid off in their mid-30’s to late 50’s.