8 Movies With Great Leadership Lessons

Learn leadership from the big screen

One thing I love to do is watch the latest and greatest movie in the theater. Seeing a motion picture on the big screen provides a different viewing perspective.

You’re able to sit in the theater’s leather recliner. You’re able to hear the sound in THX. And you’re able to see all the details on the gigantic movie screen.

leadership lessons from the movies

Over the past years, I’ve seen plenty of movies in the theater. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hacksaw Ridge, and so many more were mind-blowing.

Not only were they thrilling to watch, they also provided leadership lessons if you looked close enough. That’s another reason I love movies.

You can watch, be entertained, and walk away with new insights into leadership or life.

Today, we’re going to look at 8 movies that provide leadership lessons.

8 Movies With Great Leadership Lessons

1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back:

In The Empire Strikes Back, we have the most profound of all Yoda quotes

Do or do not. There is no try.

We learn from Yoda that there is doing. And there is not doing. Trying does not exist.

I love this thought!

2. Doctor Strange:

Doctor Strange shows us that we can transition into new adventures. We may lose our edge in one area, but we can move into a new strength.

3. The Finest Hours:

A group of Coast Guardsmen had to make a treacherous voyage to a wrecked freighter. The Finest Hours can teach us that we don’t have to have the best equipment to succeed. We can go further and farther with what we have than we think we can.

4. The Intern:

The biggest leadership lesson we can take away from The Intern is that we need to have wise counsel around us. Ben was a former business executive who gets recruited to be the intern for the hip, up-and-coming owner Jules Osten. With his guidance, she was able to save the company and succeed.

5. Inside Out:

From Inside Out, you can take away the leadership lesson that we need to come to terms with our emotions. Riley was filled with conflicting emotions and she didn’t know how to deal with them.

Once she began working with her emotions, things began to change. Don’t fight your emotions. Work with them.

6. Captain America: Civil War:

With Captain America: Civil War, we see the team of Avengers split. They had to choose sides because of what they believed. Each member of the Avengers picked the side they believed best fit their personal convictions.

There will be times in your leadership that you have to stand up for what you believe. This is how you lead without losing your soul.

7. Die Hard:

On the list of movies with leadership lessons, I had to include what I consider to be my favorite Christmas movie. Die Hard is the story of John McClain (played by a young Bruce Willis) and his attempt to visit his estranged at Nakatomi Plaza.

The big leadership lesson from Die Hard I always see is that you need to listen to those under you. Sgt Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson or Carl Winslow, as I like to call him) tells his commanding officer what’s going on. The commanding officer brushes his concerns away and proceeds in a different direction. Had he listened to Powell, things would have gone much smoother.

Who do you need to listen to?

8. Hacksaw Ridge:

Such a powerful story. Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond Doss. He stays on the ridge to rescue wounded soldier after wounded soldier.

Doss repeated the line

Please Lord, help me to get one more

As leaders, we have to be concerned about those we’re leading. Are we willing to help one more person?

Movies are such a powerful tool to teach us valuable leadership lessons. Sitting through an hour and a half or longer movie, you can see multiple leadership lessons.

Don’t let the fact that movies are a form of entertainment deter you from partaking in them from time to time. You might be surprised what you learn.

Question: What’s one leadership lesson you’ve taken away from a movie? Share this in the comment section below (I won’t judge you).

Do you enjoy leadership lessons from the movies? Would you like more leadership lessons from the movies? Check out the Reel Leadership archives here for more leadership lessons from the movies.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Edge of Tomorrow: leading, is working on getting CHANGE or winning. No movie displayes so deeply in detail how long it takes to figure out WHICH WAY to go OR WHEN to start working on changing a bad situation. Lessons learned: if you can´t get any further at 1 point in your strategy, change the strategy and start 1 step BEFORE you started yesterday. THAT 1 different STEP combined with all the info out of the experience you gathered before will bring THE change (win) in the end!! Great leadership lesson!

    • That’s a movie I regret missing in the theater Rita. It looked good but couldn’t find the time to get there. Would you recommend the movie?

      • I bought the DVD (mainly, to learn some extra english on top of the story, as a German 🙂 ) and I like it very much. It is about repeating the day over and over again – but this is how life works in general: people do the same things every day except some little changes, so it´s possible to find a way through this organised process, called “life”, no matter whether on a battle field or in an office/company doing your job-tasks. It shows how much we have to do things again and again, before we understand what´s going on! YES, I recommend to watch it, at least twice (!) to get all the details. The story delivers a good portion of “truth” on top.

        • Awesome! I’ll be sure to put it on my list. I remember it looking intriguing but we just couldn’t fit it into our schedule.

  • Jane Anderson

    I don’t comment on these very often, but I read the posts you write with movies as content. I am in awe of how you can go to a movie and actually find the theme, the application, and the hidden meanings. I admire the way you can dig for the nuggets of truth and share them with your readers. I go to a movie and laugh or cry (sometimes both) or get angry (rare) but I am a failure at deriving plot or purpose. Fantastic job, Joe!!

    • Thanks Jane! I do my best to see the positive aspects of movies and not see them as a time-suck as so many other “thought leaders” refer to them as. If we go into them with an eye for leadership, we can find so many great insights!

  • I believe the best way for any leader to gain the support of those around him is to do exactly what most characters in these movies did. Jump in first, set the example, give your “troops” something to rally around. People don’t follow people blindly because they like them. No, people follow people because they feel that that person would do anything for them.

    • That’s a great point Joel. Leaders are people who take action first and inspire others to take action. How are you doing that?

      • Everyone has a story. Everyone has something they want to say. Unfortunately, most don’t have access to a platform to tell it.

        I reach out to people from all walks of life and help get them get their voice heard. Through my work, I have had the pleasure of talking to people from nearly every continent on our great planet. What I have learned is that some of the greatest people of our time will unfortunately go voiceless. This, among a few other things, is one of the biggest tragedies of life. I inspire these people to speak up and speak up loudly.

        To make a long story short, I give people a voice. 🙂