It is often said that a true leader is someone with passion, vision and the ability to listen and understand others’ needs. Undoubtedly, there are more characteristics that define a great leader, since he has “the power” to inspire other persons become and do better. To find excellent ways to inspire others, leaders usually read motivational books about human values or online resources, as well as watching leadership movies.
Maybe leadership is a term that many of us find it easily to define, but how you manage to influence others and have a positive impact is harder and requires constant exercise. Since it’s still summer and you are enjoying your vacation time, why not getting some insights from an inspirational movie? Therefore, we though to recommend you an useful list of 15 must-see movies to get all leaders inspired; movies that illustrate some of the greatest leadership lessons from experts. If you want a daily dose of inspiration to become a better leader, you’ll love this post, as well as the movies.
There is a key to success for any type of movie, and leadership movies are no exception from this rule. It’s not just that they need to present scenes inspired from history or by extraordinary people, and it’s certainly not just about the stunning speech someone holds at a key moment throughout the movie (although let’s face it, leadership quotes from movies are not just awe inspiring, they also make for excellent motivation inspirations). There are countless ingredients that need to be mixed just right in order to achieve the most perfect of leadership movies. We’ve comprised a list of 10 great leadership movies that are bound to knock you off your feet:
15 Inspirational Leadership Movies
“I am William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen, here in defiance of tyranny! You have come to fight as free men. And free man you are! What will you do without freedom? Will you fight?! Yes! Fight and you may die!”
A fair list could only start with one of the best leadership movies out there- Braveheart. Showing the long struggle of the Scots against the English, the movie is centered around William Wallace who enters the war between the English and the Scots because his wife (who he had married in secret in order to prevent her from having to sleep with an Englishman, as was the Primae Noctis law) had defended herself against being raped and was executed for it. Wallace soon after becomes the leader of a small group of Scots who slaughter the English garrison and executes the sheriff who had executed his wife. The legend of this leader spreads throughout Scotland and Wallace’s army grows.
Also, Mel Gibson does one hell of a part in this film. He surely deserves all credit for the performance in the role of William Wallace, one of the Scotland’s best warriors. As its name says, he is brave enough to fight against the cruel English tyrants.
He sadly falls to the English many years later after leading his troops but being betrayed by two noblemen. However, it’s not the plot that make this one of the most exquisite examples of leadership in the movies, it’s the way William Wallace manages to inspire his countrymen. It’s how they all fight for him and with him, for the freedom of Scotland. Moreover, this movie has produced one of the most loved leadership movie quotes of all time: “You’ve come to fight as free men and free men you are, what will you do with that freedom? Will you fight? […] Tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom.”
Why recommended: Braveheart is a great example of leadership, because it highlights the idea of courage, freedom and the power to fight for a cause.
2. Men of Honor
Billy Sunday: Think you deserve to be here, don’t ya? Fraternizing among navy men? Think you’re as good as they are? How ’bout me, cookie? You better than me?Carl Brashear: You’re damn right I am!
We’ve all seen the movie where an outstanding African-American man not only dares to join the Navy, but also become a Navy Diver. After extreme training, cruel treatment and being marginalized by all but one of his colleagues, Carl Braschear does manage to graduate after spending 9 hours and 31 minutes in cold water, completing his last project. But what makes it absolutely special is the fact that it belongs to one of the few leadership movies where the character we all despise ends up delivering one of the best leadership movie scenes that we’ve laid eyes on: the moment where Carl has to walk 12 steps with his prosthetic leg and Leslie Sunday is the one pushing him to do it.
Why recommended: For anyone who is currently seeking a positive role model, inspiration for every obstacle in their life plus the idea of facing challenges with honor and never give up or less than the best. The movie highlights the importance of hard work plus the value pf tenacity, showing all challenges, failures and fate bring in these two persons’ life. You can this movie.
3. The Hunt for Red October
Captain Ramius: We will pass through the American patrols, past their sonar nets, and lay off their largest city, and listen to their rock and roll… while we conduct missile drills.
Also on the list of great leadership movies, The Hunt for Red October excels at being a study in leadership as it portrays the typical lone-wolf, one of a kind leader we’ve come to adore. The top captain of the Soviet Navy and an exquisitely clever mind, Marco Ramius is first and foremost a Lithuanian born in a free Lithuania who believes the Cold War to be a tragedy.
He will therefore, as he says, never allow the Red October to be used for its designed purpose- launching a missile. Moreover, Ramius is simply put an excellent leader: perfectly implacable, always in control of his crew, able to deny them any options other than those he sets out in front of them and the man that at a certain point stops being the manipulative tyrant and starts being the man whose principles are to be followed.
Why Recommended: It is the perfect example of a leader that becomes a leader without even knowing it.
4. The Patriot
Colonel Harry Burwell: Wars are not fought only by childless men.
It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of an army knowing that your men are certainly going to die, but it takes an outstanding leader to have part of his men sacrifice themselves in such a way so as to win a battle such as the one at Cowpens- it’s only when they sound the retreat that Tavington charges with his Dragoons towards the militia and meets his death in his fierce duel with Benjamin. If you’ve not yet seen The Patriot, have a look at one of the most moving leadership movie clips you’ll ever see:
Why Recommended: It teaches us that there is no courage without fear, and that heroes are born in the strangest of moments, and that hope never dies.
5. The King’s Speech
For the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war. Over and over again we have tried to find a peaceful way out of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies. But it has been in vain. We have been forced into a conflict. For we are called, with our allies, to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world. Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right. For the sake of all that we ourselves hold dear, and of the world?s order and peace, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge. It is to this high purpose that I now call my people at home and my peoples across the seas, who will make our cause their own. I ask them to stand calm and firm, and united in this time of trial. The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield. But we can only do the right as we see the right and reverently commit our cause to God. (Source: rotten tomatoes)
Telling the story of King George VI, the movie is unique in so many ways, not just because of the unlikely leadership role they cast on a king with a stammer but also because of the fact that he himself considers that he is unfit to be king. Nevertheless, with the help of his speech therapist named Lionel Logue, the king manages to lead his country through war with boldness and admirable leadership skills.
Why recommended: This film is a must see for any leaders out there and his journey with ups and downs, as well as his special relationship with the coach bringing his great contribution so the King finds the voice. True leadership lessons can be taught by watching this masterpiece such as admitting he has a problem, seeking for help and trusting others to succeed.
His last speech has become one of the most known movie clips about leadership:
6. Freedom Writers
“Don’t let the actions of a few determine the way you feel about an entire group. Remember, not all German’s were Nazis.”
“No matter what race we are, what ethnic background, sexual orientation, or what views we may have, we are all human. Unfortunately, not all humans see it that way.” (Source: Goodreads)
Leadership has thus far been connected to armies and militia, to wars, submarines, or the navy, but does that mean that leading a group of teenagers is easier than all other such leadership positions? And when this particular group is filled with hate, rivalry and the threat of violence, does a high-school teacher at her first job stand a chance? When we’re talking about Erin Gruwell in Freedom Writers, she does.
Thanks to her tenacity, persistence and talent at turning around the attitudes of her students, she manages to deal with the situation perfectly. Where movie clips on leadership are concerned, this is one showcasing not only wits but also empathy, and leaders need them both to become great.
7. The Iron Lady
Margaret Thatcher: Watch your thoughts, for they will become actions. Watch your actions, for they’ll become… habits. Watch your habits for they will forge your character. Watch your character, for it will make your destiny.
Seldom is it that we come across women who have been portrayed as great leaders in movies comparable to those in our list, but the Iron Lady does it marvelously. It is of course first and foremost because Margaret Thatcher was herself a leader worth noticing: holding office for 11 years as the only female prime-minister of Britain. And where movie clips showing leadership are concerned, here is a leader who actually speaks immense truth:
8. Dead Poets Society
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
“If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – Carpe – hear it? – Carpe, Carpe Diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.” (Source: goodreads)
There are few quotes that have stuck with us as the famous “Oh Captain, my captain!”-an ultimate form of respect for the leader who didn’t actually strive to be a leader, for the teacher who came to be adored by the students who at first couldn’t understand his ways. But there are also few teachers who would have encouraged their students to be exactly who they are, in spite of the status quo back in the 1950s.
This is precisely why Robin Williams’s role could might as well be leadership in this movie since, without actually trying to be one, he pulls of one of the best such roles in a movie to date. Inspiration is in fact the most valuable aspect of leadership.
9. Schindler’s List
Oskar Schindler: I know you have received orders from our commandant, which he has received from his superiors, to dispose of the population of this camp. Now would be the time to do it. Here they are; they’re all here. This is your opportunity. Or, you could leave, and return to your families as men instead of murderers. In memory of the countless victims among your people, I ask us to observe three minutes of silence.
This movie is a testimony to the fact that the beautiful flower of mercy can grow even amongst hatred and violence (as that used by the Nazis in the Second World War). Using Nazi bureaucracy, Schindler decides to use Jewish workers instead of Poles in his factory (as the work they do is not paid directly to them, small wages go towards the Reich) as a well-conceived plan to save innocent lives. Jews that were employed in his factories were not only not shipped out to lagers like Auschwitz or Birkenau, they were also treated kinder. According to the Nazis, a Jew working as a servant was deemed essential and would not be killed. It was therefore easy for Schindler to increase his workload so that he would always need additional workers.
With the help of a keen mind, he bribes SS officers and enjoys their support and protection in building a camp for his workers outside of Paszow. When Amon Göth is given the order to ship every Jew to Auschwitz, Schindler manages to convince him to move the factory to Zwittau-Brinnlitz and begins making a list of all the workers he requires (thus saving them from the one-way trip to Auschwitz). The list is actually a life or death sentence for those being considered, being on the list meant living and being off the list meant dying. In total, he saved over 1100 Jews from concentration camps. If that isn’t a true leader, we don’t know what is.
It is definitely one of my favorite leadership movies of all time and a great masterpiece where you can watch two famous actors perfectly playing their roles: Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes. Schindler’s List won no more than 7 Oscars and the main story is focused on the character Oskar Schindler, a brave man who fights for his Jewish workforce, because the workers were explored by the Nazi law.
Why recommended: The film presents the characteristics of a transformational leader who is brave to fight for his people’s rights, risk his wealth and safety to help others. The story of a man who transforms from a greedy person into a kind, charismatic and assertive businessman, being a great example of leadership in today’s world.
10. Rocky I and II (1976 and 1979)
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
This series most certainly need no introduction, since Sylvester Stallone is memorable for his performance in both parts. The movie presents the career path of a small time boxer who gets a onetime chance to fight an important champion and facing lots of challenges for the matches. Although the road is difficult he never gives up and does all he can to achieve his dreams.
Why recommended: The main leadership lesson: You should never give up on your dream.
11. Saving Private Ryan
Corporal Upham: “War educates the senses, calls into action the will, perfects the physical constitution, brings men into such swift and close collision in critical moments that man measures man.”
While on the topic of the Second World War, there is another movie worth mentioning- Saving Private Ryan. It shows the story of a group of US soldiers that try to save a paratrooper who was behind enemy lines. The US soldiers must cross through Nazi occupied territory and they clearly face grave peril- one by one they get picked off until they finally find private James Francis Ryan (after having found another private Ryans in previous locations). At the cost of the lives of these brave men, Ryan is returned to his mother and lives a long life- however, he never forgets what captain Miller and his crew have given him.
Commodus: The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor. Striking story! But now, the people want to know how the story ends. Only a famous death will do. And what could be more glorious than to challenge the Emperor himself in the great arena?
Maximus: You would fight me?
Commodus: Why not? Do you think I am afraid?
Maximus: I think you’ve been afraid all your life.
Another must-see movie to get all leaders is Gladiator, a spectacular film with an exceptional distribution such as Russel Crowe or Joaquin Phoenix that presents the Roman period focusing on a truly warrior, a gladiator who comes to Rome for seeking revenge, since his family has been murdered. What makes this movie even more incredible is the Enya soundtrack that will not soon be forgotten. To be honest, the Gladiator has changed my childhood forever and it is one of the leadership movies that I will always re-watch with pleasure.
Why recommended: This movie is a real leadership lesson that shows the courage of a hero seen as a great leader, his duty, integrity, strength, courage for the justice and you can
13. Life is Beautiful – La vita e bella
Eliseo Orefice: You’re serving. You’re not a servant. Serving is a supreme art. God is the first servant. God serves men but he’s not a servant to men.
A movie that needs no introduction, La vita e bella presents the life of a Jewish man who succeeds to conquer a woman’s heart with the help of his humour. A memorable family movie that shows the relationship between a father and his son, as well as the importance of imagination and what it takes to be a loving parent.
Why recommended: This comedy has made the list of must-see inspirational movies for leadership thanks to the characters’ simplicity, the role of humor and imagination for a father-son relationship plus the real definition of family and love.
14. The Lion King
“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance, and respect all the creatures from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.”
Are you shocked by this choice? Animations also belong on our list of inspirational movies for leadership and The Lion King is a real example of leadership that presents the story of a lion cub called Simba who abandons his identity as the future King. Tricked by his uncle with the idea that he killed his father, the lion begins a real journey where he learns to appreciate true friendship and the circle of life. The story appeals to little ones, and it will help them understand what it means to be a true leader, without exposing them to the violence and cruelty of the world. Even if it is an animation, the film has incredible depth and emotion.
Why Recommended: It can help children understand the importance of making the right decision in life.
15. The Shawshank Redemption
Probably one of the best movies ever made, starring Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption is also one of the most inspirational movies for leadership, as it tells the story of a beautiful friendship between two imprisoned men. There are literally no words to describe it, and considering that it is the number one movie on the IMDB tops, you can be sure that it will inspire you in many ways.
Why recommended: To see what real friendship really means and how important is to trust someone when most needed. A must-see and inspirational movie for everyone who wants to become a leader.
We hope you enjoyed our Top 10 Inspirational Leadership Movies that Moved the World list. If haven’t had chance to see them, you should download them as soon as possible, and enjoy the thrilling drama that unfolds in each, and the touching stories which will make you understand what true leadership means. What is your favorite movie? Do any of these inspirational leadership movies qualify for you or not? Please feel free to share your thoughts in a comment below.