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The Best Business Documentaries to Watch This Weekend

May 24, 2019, 1:35 PM UTC
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Two employees of Christie's auction house manoeuvre the Lehman Brothers corporate logo, which is estimated to sell for 3000 GBP and is featured in the sale of art owned by the collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers on September 24, 2010 in London, England. The "Lehman Brothers: Artwork and Ephemera" sale will take place on September 29, 2010, on the second anniversary of the firm's bankruptcy, and comprises of artworks which hung on the walls of Lehman Brothers' offices in Europe. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Photograph by Oli Scarff

If you’re like me, there’s nothing you enjoy doing more than drinking a fine glass of wine while watching your favorite business documentary.

Two that I’ve seen recently seen and enjoyed include Panic and Minimalism. (As my editor said, “Polina, you need a hobby that doesn’t involve financial services…”) ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I recently asked Term Sheet readers for their recommendations of the best business documentaries, and they did not disappoint. If you don’t have plans for the long weekend, these are excellent choices:

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

This documentary details the fall of the Enron Corporation, which became one of the largest business scandals in American history.

“Kind of obvious, but I’ll send it anyway.” — Everett

“Best business documentary.” — Frank D.

[The film was based on the best-selling 2003 book of the same name by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. Read McLean’s feature from 2001 that was the first to raise serious questions about Enron’s opaque accounting.]

General Magic

In 1990, a new company called General Magic spun out from Apple. It took Silicon Valley by storm, but the mid-’90s tech landscape wasn’t ready for an innovation so far ahead of its time.

“Cautionary tale of the most influential startup to fail — only to have housed and incubated future creators of all our digital gadgets: iPhone, Android, iPod, iPad, eBay and more. Lessons learned from early 1990s Mac/Apple folks. Can apply to the people of now like Tesla, Uber, Lyft, and then some. Entertaining, celebratory and cautionary.” — David M.

“General Magic is not only a remarkable story of innovation but a story of innovators/entrepreneurs that have forever changed our world as we know it. Powerful footage that will change how you look at Silicon Valley. It gives you chills, makes you think, and leaves you with a different take on failure and societies readiness for new technologies.” — Elise H.

Something Ventured

The film investigates the emergence of venture capital by following the stories of the earliest investors who backed companies like Apple, Intel, Genentech, Cisco, Atari, and Tandem.

“Investigating the emergence of American venture capitalism in the mid-20th Century, Something Ventured follows the stories of the venture capitalists who worked with entrepreneurs to start and build companies like Apple, Intel, Genentech, Cisco, Atari, Tandem, and others. Something Ventured is a full-length independent film which includes interviews with prominent American venture capitalists and entrepreneurs of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, as well as archival photography and footage. — Brad S.

The Men Who Built America

Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford are names synonymous with innovation and big business in America. This series profiles the lives of the businessmen who transformed the U.S into a global superpower.

“This series may be classified by some as a historical documentary but it presents important lessons on the driving forces behind successful business, enterprises, explaining the role of risk taking, capital, innovation, management, labor and customer relations and regulations in a historical context.” — John L.

“It shows the risks taken and the near defeats of four men who, in their day, were richer than the 40 richest people in the world today — combined.” — Stanford C.

Art of the Steal

This film examines the controversy surrounding the art collection of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, a millionaire who amassed a remarkable selection of significant works during the early 20th century.

“Art of the Steal: How a small college, powerful businessmen, “charitable” foundations and politicians conspired to effectively steal the a $25B art collection from the estate of a leading art collector.” — Bob L.

The Pixar Story

The story of the pioneering computer animation studio Pixar, featuring contributions from the studio’s bosses and a host of actors who have lent their voices to their creations.

“Amazing look at organizational behavior and how to accommodate and manage a company that is both creative and technical.” — Phil P.

The documents the rise of the Internet investment frenzy and the subsequent burst of the dot-com bubble.

“This was a thoroughly enjoyable documentary about a group of ambitious 20-somethings going for it during the early 2000s tech bubble. It has it all — equity buyouts, leadership change/arguments, meeting with Kleiner Perkins, etc. Although it’s from two decades ago, a lot of the same principles are generally still applicable now.” — Owen L.

Other honorable mentions:

Inside Job: A deep look into what led to the global financial meltdown that took place in fall 2008 and plunged the United States into a deep economic recession.

Requiem for the American Dream: Using interviews filmed over four years, Noam Chomsky discusses the deliberate concentration of wealth and power found in the hands of a select few.

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley: Elizabeth Holmes became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, heralded as the next Steve Jobs. Then, just two years later, her multibillion-dollar company was dissolved.

Betting on Zero: The film chronicles Bill Ackman’s crusade to expose global nutritional giant Herbalife as the largest pyramid scheme in history, while Herbalife executives claim Ackman is a market manipulator out to bankrupt them.

Want more? Check out more documentary recommendations here.