This list is to help you look inside yourself, the most important and often overlooked place for leaders to learn and grow. Pay attention to the emotional charge that the characters in these films give you. Then take the time to think about your own behavior patterns and how you would respond in a similar situation.
While logic will get you far along on your path to being a successful entrepreneur, it is understanding your emotions that really drives the engine of possibilities, and keeps you going when the going is rough.
These movies, some well known, others off the beaten track, are in no particular order of best to good. They are here for you to pick from and see what makes you tick at your core.
I believe we all need to "clear the past to free the future." Each of us develops a very specific road map to success. Watch others who faced big business or the power of the government and would not back down. And think about your own life, challenges and opportunities and how you move forward.
These films give us an opportunity to put ourselves in their situations while sitting with a cold beer on a hot night and answering the question: what would I have done or what will I do if the time comes to speak out and stand up?
Concussion (2015): Crusading, Nigerian born Dr. Bennett Omalu, researched neurological deterioration occurring in many NFL players as a result of constant head injuries during practice and games. He began a mission to raise public awareness about the dangers of football-related head trauma. Omalu was nave initially and believed the NFL would be receptive to his work. Not so. It took courage and determination to stay strong with the pressure of big business to get him to stop. Today: Dr. Omalu is now in process of helping develop better helmets for all players from high school to the big leagues.
Hotel Rwanda (2004): True story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over one thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia. As the U.N. pulled out of Rwanda, Paul must go it alone to protect these people against the genocide in the country. Today: He divides his time between Brussels, where there is a large Rwandan population, and San Antonio Texas. He is a tireless crusader for international human rights and democracy. While he was criticized for seemingly aiding the Rwandan officials he stated that he used his wits and connections to keep people alive. In January 2016, Paul said he wants to run for president of his country.
Eddie the Eagle (2016): Nicknamed "Eddie the Eagle" by the media when he competed in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary Canada. He showed the world how an underdog can make a major difference. While he was short on funds and long on determination he switched from downhill skiing to ski jumping for a better chance to enter the competition. While he came in last in his jumps he won the hearts of people around the globe for his upbeat manner and willingness to take risk. At the awards ceremony he was acknowledged for having the true Olympic spirit "an amateur who wanted to do his best regardless of his chances of winning." Today: Eddie remains upbeat with a large laugh, has been on many television programs, and has garnered good money from promoting all types of products in advertising campaigns. He also went back to school, received a law degree and was chosen as a torch-bearer for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver Canada. He encourages those he meets to take the chance to follow your dreams.
Truth (2015): Controversy surrounds major CBS news anchor, Dan Rather and producer, Mary Mapes after the network broadcasts a report about President George W. Bush's "spotty" military service in the Texas National Guard, "champagne unit," that sheltered privileged family and some Dallas cowboys from Vietnam combat. Pay special attention to the scene where Mapes learns her own father is talking against her. You can see how family matters show up in present work situations. There is no "happy Hollywood ending". However, the good news is movies are being made to show the impact of raising the truth against intimidating powerful people and organizations. Today: Mapes is writing and consulting with business companies and Rather is still voicing his opinion about the way of the world. They both admit there are still wounds that are healing from those days. They urge that reporting the truth means risking all.
Milk (2008): Harvey Milk was the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in California. He was an eloquent man who was outspoken when it came to fighting for his beliefs. His courage to speak up showed much of this country and the world the discrimination against the gay community at a time when there was no mass acceptance of a gay pride parade. His conviction to not be afraid and to stand firm, sadly led to his assassination, along with San Francisco Mayor Moscone, gunned down by a city supervisor. Today: The legacy of Milk's courage can be seen throughout the United States as communities come to grips with the challenge of permitting equal rights for all citizens.
Ai Weiwei (2012): Ai Weiwei is china's most famous international artist and outspoken domestic critic. He expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media. Called a dissident for the digital age, his blog was shut down, he was beaten, his new studio bulldozed and he was held in secret detention. Film maker Alison Klayman was a journalist living in China for four years and did this outstanding documentary. Ai Weiwei (pronounced eye way way) spent his formative years in New York in the 1980's, where he learned to combine his life and art into a politically charged performance. He has used sculpture, photography, tweets and performance to keep people thinking about what really matters, at the risk of his own life. Today: He lives in a suburb of Beijing where people keep mostly to themselves and he continues to produce art that is symbolic of what is going on around him.
Trumbo (2015): Dalton Trumbo was a successful screenwriter who came up against the overriding fears in the United States in 1947 when communism was considered a major enemy to safety. He and other Hollywood figures were blacklisted for their political beliefs. Trumbo was unwilling to testify against anyone and spent some time in prison. In an act of defiance, Kirk Douglas (who is now 99 years old) insisted that Trumbo's name be on the credits for "Spartacus" rather than use a pseudonym. Today: The fight for the right to free speech is still front and center. Would you be willing to stand firm in your beliefs regardless of public opinion?
My Left Foot (1989): Christy Brown grew up in a rural town in Ireland. He was born with cerebral palsy and had only one limb he could control. This film depicts the power of a mother who believed in him, taught him to write, and a father who, initially disappointed in his disabled son, learned to admire and acknowledge him. Living in a working class area outside of Dublin Ireland, Christy was the 10th of 22 children, 13 who lived to maturity. Christy found success as an artist and writer using his left foot to his advantage. Today: While the film gave a happily ever after ending, Christy did marry a woman who was an alcoholic and neglected him. He died at the age of 49 and he leaves a legacy of the power to overcome amazing odds and gain delight in using his creative talents.
Norma Rae (1979): The true story of Crystal Lee Sutton, who had the courage to break the pattern of staying quiet and submissive in the 1970's South, where she was a minimum wage worker in a cotton mill in North Carolina. Poor working conditions and a wage of $2.65/hour made her decide to join the efforts to unionize her shop. Warned that she would be fired she took a piece of cardboard, wrote the word "UNION" stood on her work table and sparked something in her colleagues, who one by one, turned off their sewing machines. She was briefly jailed, fired and eventually went to work as a union organizer. Today: Sutton died at the age of 69 from inoperable brain cancer. She leaves a legacy for those who thought they had no voice and helped to lay the foundation for fair wages and healthy work conditions. Think about the real living and breathing people who are asking for a $15 minimum wage, and remember Crystal.
127 Hours (2010): The true story of adventurer, Aron Ralston, who became trapped when a boulder fell on his arm and trapped him. The story shows how he makes the decision to free himself. Gut wrenching and inspirational. This could be any one of us when we are pinned down--physically, emotionally, mentally--and how we take the next step to reevaluate and move forward. Today: Ralston is a motivational speaker about what happens when you come against a boulder in your own life. He had relationship issues that made the news with his girlfriend in 2014. Life has a way of continuing to put situations in our midst to learn and grow.
Erin Brockovich (2000): A legal secretary began to dig deeply into the reasons residents of a small town near Los Angeles, were getting sick, very sick, being poisoned by their own drinking water. Her persistence and determination to get to the cause of the issue led her into a battle to stand up to the business community even at risk of her losing a job she needed, and concerns for her safety. Today: Erin is now a major consumer advocate and helped bring the controversy in Flint, Michigan to a fever pitch. She speaks out about our national water crisis, and you can check her out on YouTube being interviewed by Bill Maher on February 5, 2016.
And a bonus for some delight you can watch with your children, or your friend's children.
Inside Out (2015): When 11-year-old Riley moves from Minnesota to her new home in San Francisco her emotions are turned inside out. Change is never easy and there are always competing feelings in each new situation making the old way almost seem better. Pay attention to your own core memories from childhood as you think about how you handle new situations today, both personally and professionally.
Enjoy, and let me know what some of your favorite true films are, and even more important, why they are your choices.