Big Short entrepreneur movies
Christian Bale as Michael Lewis in The Big Short. — Jaap Buitendijk/Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Hollywood loves to recount the lives of famous entrepreneurs on the big screen, and the last few years have seen a steady stream of biopics that take a behind-the-scenes look at how contemporary innovators found success. In the process, these films often serve up helpful advice and a jolt of motivation for business leaders.

Here are the top five movies entrepreneurs should watch for inspiration.

Joy (2015)

This biographical film is about New York-native Joy Mangano, who went from single mother to mop millionaire in the 1990s. She got her start by creating a new product called the Miracle Mop, a self-wringing mop that required less effort to use than its competitors.

One of the most dramatic moments in the film is when Mangano, portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, is devastated to learn that her mop is underperforming on home shopping network QVC and will soon be pulled. In a last-ditch effort, she agrees to pitch it herself on live television, arguing that she knows the product best. The gamble worked, and after overcoming several more hurdles, Mangano’s company finally broke through. She would go on to become a millionaire and create several other successful products.

Lesson: Make sure you love what you make, remember that you may have to be your own cheerleader at times, and seek out new platforms for exposure. Although, the most important message, however, is to never give up. Mangano battled a fickle industry, family betrayal, and money problems before achieving success. Her continued belief in her product—and herself—ended up being her biggest strength.

The Big Short (2015)

The U.S. housing crash played a starring role in "The Big Short," which was based on Michael Lewis’ nonfiction book of the same name. The movie adaption tells the story of a group of Wall Street fund managers and investors that was able to predict and profit from the collapse of the country’s overheated housing market. After the collapse, the U.S. subprime housing mortgage crisis went on to spark a global financial crisis and a series of well-publicized government bailouts for American banks.

One of the movie’s main characters, Michael Burry, portrayed by Christian Bale, was the first to discover that financial institutions had been bundling shaky mortgages into triple-A-rated fixed income products. He established a credit default swap to bet against those bonds that would pay out a lot of money if the housing market tanked. Most banks thought that the housing market was unwaveringly stable, and thus they were more than willing to take the other side of the bet.

Lesson: Understand what you’re investing in, follow your gut, and never take another person’s advice as gospel. In the movie, Wall Street banks and Burry’s own investors scoffed at his attempt to bet against what at the time was considered an unbreakable market. Burry stuck to his guns even when investors were pulling their money from his fund left and right, and his strategy paid off.

Steve Jobs (2015)

The story of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ rise in the tech world has been well documented. After the entrepreneur’s death in 2011, Hollywood churned out three feature films in quick succession about his life, including last year’s award-winning drama featuring Michael Fassbender.

That most recent film took a hard look at the entrepreneur’s personal and professional struggles. His paternity dispute over his daughter Lisa and his fights with co-founder Steve Wozniak and ex-Apple CEO John Sculley shed light on a side of Jobs that much of the public didn’t know existed.

The movie also portrayed his forced exit from the company in 1985, a closer look at NeXT – the computer company he founded after his ousting, which was later acquired by Apple—and his triumphant return to Apple in 1997. After his return, Apple would later go on to dominate the consumer tech market and release a series of innovative products, including the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Lesson: Don’t abandon your vision. The film didn’t gloss over the entrepreneur’s early career setbacks—which includes parting ways with Apple and product setbacks—and serves as an important lesson for entrepreneurs facing tough business challenges and competing outside opinions.

The Social Network (2010)

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s story isn’t a rags-to-riches tale. However, it’s no surprise that the behind-the-scenes struggles at his social media company—which now has more than a billion users around the world—was turned into a movie and ended up on this list.

Although director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin mixed both fact and fiction to create what some have called a less-than-accurate picture, the film nonetheless gives entrepreneurs great insight into how to succeed in the cutthroat world of startup entrepreneurship.

While he became a successful entrepreneur, Zuckerberg had his fair share of problems back in the day. He battled a lawsuit from fellow Harvard students Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, for example, who accused him of using their idea for a Harvard social dating site to help build his own business.

In addition, Zuckerberg hit hurdles while trying to find funding in the company’s early years, ran into serious problems with co-founder Eduardo Saverin, and stumbled when working with Facebook’s first president Sean Parker, who was portrayed as unreliable and egocentric.

Lesson: Learn to be flexible. Facebook changed and evolved over time to suit the needs and desires of the users it served. To this very day—for better or worse—Facebook continues to experiment with new features and add-ons.

Bonus tip: Always get everything in writing. This movie offers up several great tips for entrepreneurs, but one of the best lessons exemplified over and over again is how important it is to have a binding contract in place. Zuckerberg and his co-founders could have avoided a lot of unnecessary hassle by clearly outlining and putting on paper their decision-making processes, and what role each person held at the company.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

What should you do when your back is up against the wall? If you’re Chris Gardner, the founder of private brokerage firm Gardner Rich & Co., you simply work harder.

The biopic about Gardner’s life shows how the entrepreneur struggled with homelessness while raising his son as a single father in San Francisco. After his work selling bone density scanners came to an end, Gardner lived in homeless shelters and once even a subway station bathroom while he fought for an internship as a stockbroker.

The film doesn’t hold back any emotional punches when it highlights how Gardner’s wife left the family and the IRS garnished his wages over unpaid parking tickets, leaving him virtually penniless. Through sheer perseverance, things worked out in the end: Gardner wins the stockbroker position and uses that job to eventually launch his own firm.

Lesson: Never be afraid to reinvent yourself and work hard for what you want. Successful entrepreneurs often go to extreme lengths to succeed, and Gardner’s case is no exception. There’s also something to be said for playing the long game. Though he and his son were homeless and struggling day-to-day, Gardner pursued an unpaid internship, confident that it would pay off in the end.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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