Editor’s note: Be sure to check out The Worst Business Documentaries on Netflix Right Now and 5 Great Wall Street Movies Available on Netflix Streaming.
“I think documentaries are the greatest way to educate an entire generation that doesn’t often look back to learn anything about the history that provided a safe haven to so many of us today” –Steven Spielberg
I’ve always loved documentary films. They expose things that we never thought existed. They show us what really goes on behind the scenes. And most importantly, they try to make sense of a sometimes nonsensical and crazy world. While all kinds of documentary films are great, ones that highlight business are particularly relevant to the investment community in general. Therefore, we here at www.equities.com thought it would be fun and informative to make a list of the most interesting and compelling documentary films, streaming on Netflix (NFLX) , that highlight the business world: for better or worse. Also, check out our list of these 5 Great Wall Street Movies.
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005)
Directed by Robert Greenwald, this documentary highlights unethical and unkind business practices by the corporate giant. Some of the highlights from this film include the staggering low average wage that Wal-Mart pays its employees, its putrid record on caring for the environment, its abuse of human rights (here and abroad), and the effects that Wal-Mart (WMT) has on small business.
Critically speaking, the film was well received earning a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Food, Inc. (2008)
This documentary film highlights the nefarious behavior of the food industry in general. In particular, director Robert Kenner examines the industrialized production of chicken, beef, and pork showing heart-breaking pictures of chickens cluttered together and packed so tightly into small coops that they can barely move.
The film also takes a critical look at the production of grains and vegetables, particularly the production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Again, this was a critically acclaimed film and it received a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
This is a documentary, directed by Alex Gibney, based on one of the most famous business scandals in American history. The film starts with a profile of Kenneth Lay, who founded Enron in 1985. The film shows how Enron used mark-to-marketing accounting, which enabled the company to record potential profits on projects immediately after the contracts were signed, to fool the world into thinking it was a good, successful company. It didn’t matter if Enron's reported profits never actually panned out. All that mattered was that Enron had the appearance that it was profitable.
It also shows Enron’s brutal work environment, which annually graded all of its employees and fired the bottom 15% every year. This created what some would describe as a “hostile” work environment.
The film received a 97% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
Something Ventured (2011)
Following the lives of 20th century venture capitalists, this documentary film, directed by Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller, interviews prominent American venture capitalists ranging from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. It shows how important capital is to the success of a small company. Companies like Apple, Intel, and Atari (HAS) are companies that had great ideas when they first started, but without the money and the trust they received from prominent venture capitalists, they never would have become this big.
Some of the prominent names featured in this film include Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel (INTC) , Mike Markkula, second president and CEO of Apple (AAPL) , and Sandy Lerner, co-founder of Cisco (CSCO) .
Directed by Marc Simon, Unraveled is a documentary film about a prominent lawyer named Marc Dreier. Dreier was arrested for orchestrating a massive fraud scheme that took hundreds of millions of dollars from hedge funds.
The entire documentary is set during his house arrest and shows the internal struggles Mr. Dreier is facing as he waits to find out if he’s going to be hauled off to prison.
This film received a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman (2005)
Directed by Barry Avrich, this documentary follows the life of Lew Wasserman, one of the most instrumental players in the creation of Hollywood. Wasserman’s career spanned six decades in Hollywood. His deal-making skills are legendary and his influence in Hollywood changed the way films were produced and studios were run. Also legendary was his authority and power. Nobody wanted to double cross Lew Wasserman.
The ultimate story of rags to riches, Lou Wasserman grew up in the mob-controlled city of Cleveland in the 1920’s and eventually went on to become the “undisputed king of Hollywood.”
The film was very well received by critics and earned a score of 81% from Rotten Tomatoes.
Downloaded tells the story of Napster, an infamous peer-to-peer music sharing service that operated from 1999-2001. Napster had about 80 million users at the peak of its popularity, but was forced to shut down after it faced copyright infringement lawsuits filed by the recording industry.
The documentary also tells the story of Napster’s controversial leaders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. Parker, of course, went on to enjoy success through Facebook (FB) meteoric rise. Furthermore, it contextualizes the monumental changes in the digital music industry the past two decades, much of which can be accredited to the rise and fall of Napster.
The documentary received a 67% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
The popular sea animal theme park SeaWorld (SEAS) is the subject of this documentary. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite hopes to disillusion viewers about the cruel conditions that Sea World imposes on the animals it holds captive.
The documentary features the story of Tilikum, a bull orca that has been involved in the death of three people including a SeaWorld trainer in 2010. The documentary conveys that perhaps Sea World has driven their creatures to the brink of psychosis, causing violent and dangerous behavior.
Blackfish received a 98% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.