The 30 Greatest Fictional Entrepreneurs
Hank ReardenMilo Minderbinder Daniel Plainview Jerry Maguire Mildred Pierce Willy Wonka Homer Simpson Charles Foster Kane Tony Stark Harold Hooper Maxine Lund Stringer Bell Fred and George Weasley Bree Van de Kamp Rick Blaine Lorelai Gilmore and Sookie St. James The Once-ler Seymour “Swede” Levov Bill Henrickson Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett George Jefferson Calvin Palmer Benjamin Horne Yermolay Lopakhin Frenchy Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, and Egon SpenglerPaul DombeyForrest Gump Julia SugarbakerTony Soprano
John Galt is the über-capitalist in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, but steel magnate Rearden is easier to take.
Other Catch-22 characters see war as hell. But in the classic Joseph Heller novel, Minderbinder sees war as a hell of an opportunity.
The oil tycoon in There Will Be Blood, as portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis. Is that milk-shake speech being taught in b-schools yet?
He’s got one employee and one client. He had better make them love him.
Played by Joan Crawford, the heroine of this namesake film builds a restaurant chain so she can give her daughter everything. The hospitality industry treats her well. The daughter doesn’t.
The entrepreneur as magician. Seriously, is there a company you would rather own?
He has been a snowplow entrepreneur, sugar tycoon, Internet consultant, grease recycler, tabloid publisher, bar owner, bounty hunter, talent manager, and on and on. All without quitting his day job.
Orson Welles’s great tragic character gains the world but loses his soul.
Bruce Wayne is also a self-made industrialist. But Iron Man’s alter ego has stronger R&D cred.
The genial Hooper establishes Sesame Street’s general store as a pillar of diversity—and succession planning. Jewish himself, he leaves the business to his African-American assistant.
When this character in Being John Malkovich (played by Catherine Keener) discovers that the business at which she works is a portal into the movie star’s brain, she starts calculating how much she can charge for tickets.
The Wire’s pusher-cum-real-estate-developer attends business school and instructs his corner boys in marketing theory.
You can’t fail when Harry Potter spots you seed capital.
Played by Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives’s domestic goddess goes from catering start-up to emerging national brand.
Is there a more elegant embodiment of international entrepreneurship than Casablanca’s expatriate café owner? Or a finer reminder that some things are bigger than business?
Stars Hollow, the setting for Gilmore Girls, is the most small-business-friendly town in America. Its heart is the Dragonfly Inn, creatively managed by these voluble neophytes.
This Dr. Seuss villain is well named. Once, it was easy to despoil the environment in pursuit of riches. Now, corner offices abound with self-proclaimed Loraxes.
The hero of Philip Roth’s American Pastoral is the epitome of a virtuous second-generation business owner—a disciplined, one-time high school athlete from Newark, New Jersey. Alas, the ’60s were not kind to capitalists—or to Newark, New Jersey.
The paterfamilias of HBO’s Big Love has two stores and three wives. Work-life balance is a challenge.
Upstairs, he cuts hair and throats. Downstairs, she bakes the corpses into pies. They collect revenue at both ends.
He is forever movin’ on up, leaving his non-self-employed former neighbor, Archie Bunker, in the dust.
The hero of Barbershop, played by Ice Cube, thinks the family business is a pain in the neck. Then he learns to love his clients and employees. Too late! He has already sold it. A cautionary tale for all business owners who like to fantasize about moving on.
Location, location, location. Twin Peaks’s major business owner (played by Richard Beymer) knows the downside of setting up shop in a creepy mystical vortex.
The change agent in Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard. A shame about those trees, though.
In Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks, this Tracey Ullman character opens a cookie store to provide cover while her husband tunnels into the bank next door. Turns out there’s more dough to be made in dough.
The most implausible aspect of the Ghostbusters’ business model? They never patent those proton packs.
On issues of succession, Dickens’s doomed shipping magnate could learn a lot from Hugh Hefner. The book should have been Dombey and Daughter!
To succeed in business, you need smarts and luck. Or at least one of them.
In the ’80s, Republicans had Dallas and Dynasty. Democrats had Designing Women, and Dixie Carter, who portrayed the caustic and spirited managing partner of as Atlanta interior decoration firm.
We know; you’re offended by the comparison. But Tony is the master of getting to yes.