Biz Features

9 Must-See Documentaries For Your Entrepreneur Films List

by . December 26th, 2014

Take a break. You need it.

I admit that I’ve worked a lot lately. But every now and then, I like to just sit back, unwind, and do something I want to do. Everyone should take reasonable, productive breaks. After all, time is a non-renewable resource.

And what better way to spend your break than watching interesting stuff. Below, you would find a list of interesting business (and non-business) documentaries that you should watch to be a great entrepreneur.


What is it about?

[pullquote]Quotable Quote: When there’s an incentive to cheat, a small percentage of people always will.[/pullquote]

Freakonomics was based on the book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner.

It features four segments from the book.

A Roshanda By Any Other Name talks about the gap between “black and white names” and implications on what kind of person they would develop into.

Pure Corruption is about the culture of alleged match-fixing within the closely-knit community of sumo wrestlers.

It’s Not Always A Wonderful Life explores what factors contributed to the decline of crime rate in the 90s.

Can You Bribe A 9th Grader To Succeed shows an experiment on the effect of monetary incentive on a student’s grades.

Why is it a must-see?

Economics has always been one of those subjects better left alone to scholarly experts. Freakonomics provided a way to make this complex topic accessible to mainstream audiences. Plus, the overarching theme can be applied to anything, especially business: knowing the incentives that motivate people to action can give you advantage over them.

We Live In Public

What is it about?

[pullquote]Quotable Quote: The Internet’s like this new human experience. At first, everybody’s gonna like it. But, there will be a fundamental change in the human condition. One day we’re all gonna wake up and realize that we’re just servants. It’s captured us.[/pullquote]

We Live in Public is a documentary profile of the “greatest internet pioneer you’ve never heard of,” Josh Harris, founder of the website during the boom. Pseudo was the first internet streaming network during the late 90s.

The documentary also features Josh Harris’ art project Quiet: We Live in Public that placed more than 100 artists in a human terrarium with Japanese-style capsules for beds where everything is free. It explores the effects of technology and the loss of privacy in the internet age.

Why is it a must-see?

Josh Harris becomes his own lab rat at one point, setting up cameras and microphones in his own home where he and his girlfriend lived. It was fun at the start but the loss of privacy put a strain on the couple’s relationship and eventually Harris himself broke down.

It’s amazing how his exaggerated experiments resonate until this modern internet age. It’s something strangely prophetic.

See the internet before the internet you know.

Art & Copy

What is it about?

[pullquote]Quotable Quote: The frightening and most difficult thing about being what somebody calls a creative person is that you have absolutely no idea where any of your thoughts come from, really. And especially, you don’t have any idea about where they’re going to come from tomorrow.[/pullquote]

Did you know that Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan was inspired by a serial killer?

Art & Copy is an intriguing documentary, or perhaps more suitably, a celebration of advertising.

It features the creative genius behind ads that became iconic within the American consciousness such as Nike’s “Just Do It,” New York tourism slogan “I ♥ New York,” Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?,” Apple’s “Think Different,” and a lot more.

Why is it a must-see?

You’d get to know how creative people do those Super Bowl ads that people watch more than the actual game.

Just learning the process behind the creation of these ads makes the documentary worth watching. It might be a bit tedious and would probably lose half of the people who aren’t that interested in advertising. But if you share the same admiration and fascination with advertising as me, you would find this a great film.

Also, lemon.

This Space Available

What is it about?

[pullquote]Quotable Quote: The advertising industry is indicative of how we treat our society in general, we treat it as a commercial space…It is up to the public to retake control of our public space.[/pullquote]

If Art & Copy is a celebration of advertising, This Space Available is the critique that tackles the greed of the billboard industry and the effect of visual pollution that prevails in almost all urban areas in the world.

The documentary is set in 11 countries over 5 continents showing how each community respond to outdoor advertising.

Why is it a must-see?

Sao Paulo in Brazil introduced Lei Cidade Limpa or Clean City Law in 2006 prohibiting outdoor advertising such as posters and billboards.

It’s fascinating to look at a city devoid of large billboards and bright neon lights selling you products or services. Even just the Sao Paulo segment makes this documentary a must-see.


What is it about?

[pullquote]Quotable Quote: Being able to show users that you understand their lives is more important than being able to just demonstrate your product.[/pullquote]

Startupland is a Kickstarter-funded six-part documentary series featuring 5 CEOs of LegCyteRidePostSNOBSWAPTrendPo, and Trip Tribe and their journey into the world of startups.

It shows the struggles of being a startup founder such as work-life balance, the difficulty of raising capital, and growing pains that they faced.

Why is it a must-see?

The documentary features interviews from big names such as Former AOL CEO Steve Case, investor Esther Dyson, and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian that serves some sort of mentoring segment.

Plus, the story of working in a startup is something that resonates with us.

Inside Job

What is it about?

[pullquote]Quotable Quote: You come to us today telling us ‘We’re sorry. We won’t do it again. Trust us.’ Well I have some people in my constituency that actually robbed some of your banks, and they say the same thing.[/pullquote]

Remember Lehman Brothers?

Inside Job is about the financial crisis of 2007-2008 that resulted to a loss of more than $20 trillion and caused millions of people to lose their jobs and almost resulted in a global financial meltdown.

Why is it a must-see?

This film would make you angry.

Not only for entrepreneurs, but for every American — heck, even for people from other countries! This is a well-argued documentary that tackles one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression that you should watch.

While this may seem to be a heavy finance film, I assure you that you will not find this boring.

The Startup Kids

What is it about?

[pullquote]Quotable Quote:  Entrepreneurship is the new smoking.[/pullquote]

The Startup Kids compiles interviews of well-known web entrepreneurs in the US and Europe. such as  Vimeo, Dropbox, and Soundcloud.

Why is it a must-see?

Similar to Startupland, but this time, we get to see some of the most successful web entrepreneurs and listen to them talk about their journey in the startup world.

It can be a bit tedious and you may feel like listening to a lecture, but the insights from some of the most successful sites in the web makes it worth the watch.


Jiro Dreams of Sushi

What is it about?

[pullquote]Quotable Quote: You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success… and is the key to being regarded honorably.[/pullquote]

Jiro Dreams of Sushi follows then 85-year old sushi master Jiro Ono and his son Yoshikazu as they manage Sukibayashi Jiro, the ten-seater sushi restaurant rewarded with three Michelin stars.

Why is it a must-see?

If your mouth didn’t water just with the sight of those savory sushi presented in the film, I don’t know what else could make you. I’d go to Japan just for that.

But more on the business side, the film provides a very good insight on how to be good at your work. Discipline and habit-forming are some of the Japanese qualities that are essential in business. It is very inspiring to see someone as old as Jiro Ono to continue improving himself to achieve perfection.

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

What is it about?

[pullquote]Quotable Quote: I don’t mind being wrong, and I’ll admit that I’m wrong a lot. It doesn’t really matter to me too much. What matters to me is that we do the right thing.[/pullquote]

After Steve Jobs left Apple, he went on working on his company NexT which would eventually be acquired by Apple. Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview is an uncut interview of Steve for another documentary, The Triumph of the Nerds, that was thought to be lost.

Why is it a must-see?

Whether you love Apple or hate it, you can’t contest the charisma and genius of Steve Jobs as a master entrepreneur.

This is probably the best interview of the man you would ever see.  After getting kicked from a company he founded and starting up again on his next venture, see Steve talk about his career starting from being a kid messing with electronics.

And that bit about him prank calling the Pope was funny as heck.


Kevin is a reader first, a writer second, and a gamer somewhere in between. When not rooting for Tyrion Lannister for the Iron Throne, he's probably writing some morbid short story. He enjoys some surreal art, clever advertising campaigns, and a warm cup of coffee while reading Murakami.