Movies with Leadership Insights

 

 

In this section we recommend a number of movies that provide insights into some superb exemplars of leadership.

Invictus

Starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon

Wonderful--and true--story of how newly-elected President Nelson Mandela helped inspire South Africa's national rugby team as the country played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Although for most black South Africans the team (known as the Springboks) had been a symbol of Apartheid, Mandela saw rugby as a way to bring all South Africans together. Provides many insights into Mandela's inspiring leadership and his strategy for healing his country in the aftermath of Apartheid. The name of the movie comes from William Ernest Henley's poem Invictus, which provided inspiration toMandela during his inprisonment on Robben Island.  Read More...

Letters from Iwo Jima

Starring Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya

Leadership lessons abound in this beautifully made film about the battle for Iwo Jima told from the Japanese perspective. The story revolves around a cowardly baker-turned-soldier who just wants to survive the war and a brilliant General who has trouble getting some key officers to buy in to his strategy for defending the island against a much larger American force. Provides many great insights about the importance of communicating a vision, building loyalty, and understanding your adversary.  Read More...

Band of Brothers DVD coverBand of Brothers

Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg

This HBO mini-series chronicles the actions of Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, during World War II, from their time in basic training, to their insertion behind enemy lines right before the Normandy landing on D-Day, to their heriocs at Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge. This is a remarkable story of leadership (both great and terrible) and courage. Includes interviews with the real men depicted in the mini-series. Amazing. Read More....

Cover of 4242

Starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford

Inspiring film about Jackie Robinson's transition as the first black player in Major League Baseball. Robinson's courage and the example he set were extraordinary. Several others, including Branch Rickey and Pee Wee Reese also demonstrated tremendous integrity in doing the right thing despite intense criticism. Read More...

A Man for All Seasons

Starring Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw, and Orson Welles

Sir Thomas More was a lawyer, statesman, and social philosopher who served as Lord Chancellor under King Henry VIII from 1529 to 1532. A Man for All Seasons, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1966, depicts the dilemma More faced when pressured by King Henry VIII to support his divorce from his the Queen. Unwilling to violate his own beliefs in order to support the King's break with the Catholic Church, More serves as an amazing model of courage and integrity.  Read More...

Apollo 13

Starring Tom Hanks and Ed Harris

Tells the true story of the third manned mission to the moon, which had to be aborted when an explosion severely damaged the ship. The effort to get the crew home safely was a tremendous example of teamwork. Provides many wonderful lessons of crisis leadership, especially from Commander James Lovell and Flight Director Gene Krantz.  Read More...

Gettysburg

Starring Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen and Jeff Bridges

This stirring depiction of the battle that turned the tide of the American Civil War has numerous leadership lessons. On the Confederate side it highlights General Longstreet's efforts to speak truth to power and try to convince General Robert E. Lee that it was foolhardy to attack the Union's fortified hilltop positions, while General Lee's hubris over his past successes against long odds made him think the Confederate Army was nearly invincible. On the Union side, it showcases the leadership of Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, including how he earned the loyalty and respect of his troops and then lead them brilliantly during the defense of Little Round Top. Chamberlain and Gen. Buford (who used his own initiative to delay the Confederate troops until the Union could occupy the high ground) are both sterling examples of how empowered mid-level leaders can make all the difference between success and disaster.  Read More...

We Were Soldiers

Starring Mel Gibson

Inspiring story of Col. Harold "Hal" Moore, commander of the first unit in Vietnam to make heavy use of helicopters for transportation and air support. Moore and his battalion were ordered into what turned out to be a Viet Cong trap. Moore had built a superb team and led by example, promising to be the first to set foot on the battlefield and the last to step off. Shows many terrific examples of how leaders build the trust and loyalty of their followers.  Read More...

Amazing Grace

Starring Ioan Gruffudo and Albert Finney

William Wilberforce (1759-1833), as a Member of Parliament, struggled for over 20 years to build support for the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire.  He did so at the expense of his health and political fortunes.  Amazing Grace shows us the incredible integrity and persistence he brought to the struggle.  His ultimate success demonstrates how a small group of determined people with a clarity of vision can truly change the world.  Read More...

The Chorus

Starring Gerard Jugnot (In French with English Subtitles)

Clement Mathieu is a musician who becomes a teacher at a boys' school run by a strict disciplinarian.  Mathieu displays a knack for developing trust with the boys and reaches many of them through music.  Includes some great examples of mentoring, leading up, and protecting those below.  The music is great too (the soundtrack sold over a million copies in France).  Read More...

Shackleton

Starring Kenneth Branagh

In 1914, explorer Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to Antarctica in hopes of becoming the first to cross the southern continent.  When their ship, the Endurance, became stuck in--and then crushed by--the ice, the crew was left stranded on an ice floe. Thanks to Shackleton's leadership, not a single crew member was lost. Based on the journals of the crew, this mini-series by A&E is a gripping portrayal of the crew's 27-month struggle for survival.  Read More...

Gandhi DVD coverGandhi

Starring Ben Kingsley

Winner of eight Academy Awards in 1982, including Best Picture, Gandhi is an inspiring study of how Mohandas Gandhi rose from being a humble lawyer in South Africa to become a political activist who would ultimately lead India's push for independence. Beautifully portrays how Gandhi's life serves as a great example of the power of living one's values. Read More...


Twelve O'Clock High

Starring Gregory Peck

In World War II England, Brigadier General Frank Savage takes over a troubled bomber group after its commander has a breakdown.  Determined to keep his distance while re-establishing a sense of pride and discipline in the group, Savage helps improve the bomber group's performance dramatically.  Includes many great insights about leadership transitions, bureaucracy, and the stresses of command.  Read More...

Miracle

Starring Kurt Russell

True story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, which defeated the heavily favored Soviet team and won the Gold Medal.  Miracle portrays how Coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) built the team, including how he selected the players (he didn't necessarily choose star players) and then taught them to play together as a cohesive and well-conditioned unit.  Read More...

12 Angry Men DVD cover12 Angry Men

Starring Henry Fonda

In this classic drama which takes place almost entirely in a courthouse jury room, Henry Fonda plays the lone jury member out of 12 who is not convinced of the guilt of a teenager accused of killing his father. Despite the odds, he has the courage to be true to his convictions and speak up. This is a riveting study of integrity and group dynamics. Read More...

Stand and Deliver

Starring Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips

When Jaime Escalante became a math teacher at Garfield High School in east Los Angeles, he challenged his underachieving students to take Calculus--and try to pass the AP Calculus test.  Accused by his colleagues of setting up his students for failure, Escalante worked long hours with his class and inspired them to apply themselves. A terrific story about the power of high expectations and inspiring goals.  Read More...