Athletes often watch a sports movie before a big game to get fired up, motivated, and inspired. (Alabama head coach Nick Saban says Gladiator is on his go-to list of films to show his football teams.)

Just like athletes, entrepreneurs can often use a little boost of inspiration and motivation -- and, in the process, learn more about starting and running a successful business.

Here are four great movies every entrepreneur should watch:

The Defiant Ones

Technically not a movie, but a four-part HBO documentary about Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, The Defiant Ones tells their story. Jimmy Iovine is a producer of classic albums for artists Tom Petty, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Pahrell, Katy Perry  and U2 as well as the founder of Interscope. Dr. Dre’s story is similar; starting from nothing and building his rap career against all odds while going on to develop and sign artists like Eminem and 50 Cent. Together, they founded Beats Electronics, the headphone company thy later sold to Apple for $3.2 billion.

The Defiant Ones speaks to the passion entrepreneurs need to make their ideas happen, about the belief required to innovate, the art of being creative and the drive build something amazing -- and most importantly, about how success and failure are inextricably intertwined.

Best of all, both Iovine and Dre started from nothing. If you feel hopeless because you’re starting from nothing, The Defiant Ones will not only show you that success is possible, it will also give you some ideas for how you can succeed.

The Founder

Richard and Maurice McDonald started McDonald’s, but Ray Kroc built the wildly successful franchise platform by focusing on middle-class investors willing to follow the McDonald’s formula -- and just as importantly, to work in the business rather than just on it.

As Inc. colleague Leigh Buchanan writes, The Founder follows a story arc familiar to almost every entrepreneur. Kroc immediately recognized the McDonald brothers have not only spotted a problem but found a winning solution. To turn that vision into a reality, though, required Kroc to sell, sell and sell some more. Success follows success until Kroc bites off more than he can chew and almost goes bankrupt. But then Kroc has an epiphany: he’s not in the food business, he’s in the real estate business. He can raise capital and make money by buying land and leasing it back to franchisees. (Which is still the way McDonald’s functions today.)

By the end of the movie you may find yourself admiring Kroc’s business savvy while not necessarily liking him, but that’s okay, because you’ll also have found yourself considering what business you’re really in -- and how you can use that knowledge to build a thriving business of your own.


You’re the boss. The buck stops with you. You’re important. But just because you’re the founder doesn’t make you exempt from smaller, less pleasant tasks. 

You’ll need to roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and dive into the details of things you not only don’t understand but often don’t even want to do.

Joy, loosely based on Joy Mangano, the creator of the Miracle Mop, shows how entrepreneurs build businesses based on solving common problems, no matter how small. (Early on, Joy wrings out a mop and cuts her hands on pieces of glass that were caught in the mop.)

It also shows the power of tenacity and perseverance. Ideas are important, but execution is everything.

And so is believing in yourself.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Ever heard the phrase, “Always be closing”? Thank the movie Glengarry Glen Ross.

While Alec Baldwin’s “always be closing” scene is a little over the top (okay, a lot over the top, but it’s still hugely entertaining), it does point out one essential truth of startup life: as an entrepreneur, you are always selling.

And not just your products or services. Your ideas. Your plans. Your targets. Your vision.

You’re always “selling,” but not in a stereotypically aggressive hard-charging, Type A way. You have to convince employees to follow where you want to lead them. You have to convince customers that what you provide will value them, not just you. You have to convince investors to invest, partners to partner, lenders to lend.

So yes, as an entrepreneur, you’re always selling.

But in a good way.

Because you believe in what you’re selling -- and because the first person you “sold” is you.

Inspiring, motivating and perhaps life-changing. Finding the message in a movie that resonates with your entrepreneurial spirit can be as enriching as it is entertaining.