At a glance
Updated 8 March 2023
By Jennifer Neal
Business has long been a running theme in popular films, leaving us with memorable dialogue that has made its way into how we talk about business today.
While you take the time to decide which online TV streaming service you want to buy, here are nine great business speeches in movies that you might also enjoy.
1. Citizen Kane
The Orson Welles movie about newspaper publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane has been heralded as one of the greatest movies of all time. Ranking number 65 on IMDb's 250 greatest films, this 1941 drama puts on full display the often tempestuous relationship between wealth and power, as one man attempts to use his media influence in order to control his political and social environments.
While the state of news and media has changed dramatically since 1941, the film still pops up as a point of comparison when modern-day media moguls find themselves embroiled in scandal.
This speech on “how to run a newspaper” has proved timeless its ability to provide perspective on the transience of news and the price it takes to produce it effectively.
2. Other People's Money
Before business movies were all about computers and special effects, there was Danny DeVito.
Immortalised as the inimitable “Larry the Liquidator,” a cunning, smart, ruthless businessman, DeVito plays a successful corporate capitalist who preys off of smaller companies by buying them up and selling their parts.
In this classic speech, Larry invokes British-born American investor Benjamin Graham by explaining value investing.
3. Boiler Room
Before there was Bernie Madoff, there was Jim Young. Played by Ben Affleck in one of his most memorable roles, Young portrays a hungry recruitment manager to a room full of ambitious upstarts who want to be just like him.
Set against the backdrop of unethical brokerage firm JT Marlin, Affleck’s speech shows how the reckless folly often associated with youth can sometimes lead to reckless business practices as well.
Even though Affleck only has a small role, his speech stole the show and has even been used by real-life penny stock trader Timothy Sykes to promote his own business.
4. The Social Network
Business leaders look very different today than they used to. Silicon Valley has given birth to young tech entrepreneurs, Harvard University dropouts and the innovators of tomorrow.
In this clip of up-and-coming social media mogul Mark Zuckerberg, as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, the Facebook founder-in-chief conveys how original ideas, and not money itself, are now the currency of the realm.
5. Glengarry Glen Ross
Based on David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, this movie tells the story of a New York City based real estate firm where two men find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to close the most deals by the end of the week, less they find themselves unemployed.
Alec Baldwin heats up the competition in classic style by giving a speech that every salesperson today knows by heart; the mantra of "always be closing” can even be found on Microsoft’s essential selling guide.
Even though Peter Finch won the Oscar, Ned Beatty had an equally memorable part when he gave this timeless speech on how the world is a business.
Foreshadowing a global economy where national borders are increasingly circumvented by the convergence of technology, Beatty outlines how large corporate entities aren’t subject to the same rules as regular citizens, because their survival and success depend on macro thinking.
7. Wall Street
What list of famous movie speeches would be complete without Gordon Gekko’s infamous line about the virtues of greed? This business movie is so iconic that it’s the only one on the list to merit a sequel, Money Never Sleeps, starring Shia LaBeouf in 2010.
Inspired by real life insider-trader Ivan Boesky and still active investor Carl Icahn, Gekko [played by Michael Douglas] embodies the voraciousness and charisma of a true rock star, and does a spectacular job of convincing his audience why business is all about survival of the greediest.
8. Jerry Maguire
A great speech for entrepreneurs who are ready to strike out on their own, Tom Cruise plays an idealistic sports agent who has had enough of corporate life and decides to start his own business.
This movie is full of quotable moments that still resonate today, one of which gave Cuba Gooding Jr. an Oscar. Jerry Maguire fully shows how business loyalty is indeed a very fragile thing.
9. There will be blood
Set against the backdrop of the American oil boom in the early 20th century, Daniel Day-Lewis plays an oil-obsessed businessman who will do anything and maim anyone in order to get what he wants.
In this speech, he introduces himself as the charismatic oil expert who wins over a small town struck hard by economic destitution, to gain their trust and exploit their natural resources.
Even though the movie is based on the 1927 novel by Upton Sinclair entitled Oil!, economists are still deriving lessons from this story today.
Even Cambridge University law professor Brian Cheffins sees the film as a realistic portrayal of the relationship between competition and corporate mergers.