15 Business Documentaries You’ll Learn Valuable Lessons From

If you’ve exhausted your Netflix and Prime subscriptions and are on the hunt for some new content to binge-watch, try the business documentaries below.

It’s not all grey suits and balance sheets – each one will inspire your mind, get your creative juices flowing and teach you valuable life lessons (good and bad).

Eat The Rich: The Gamestop Saga

25 January is a significant day for the American stock market. According to Dow Jones data, on that day in 2021, approximately 175 million shares of one particular retailer were traded, the second-largest total in a single day.

The retailer? Gamestop. Eat The Rich chronicles this bizarro stock market event – which had its roots in Reddit forums, the pandemic and the rise of cryptocurrency and so-called everyman traders – which sent shockwaves through Wall Street.

There are many lessons to be taken away. The ability to have confidence in yourself and jump on a movement, the importance of seeing signs and trends, and the innate power that larger institutions have to suppress the little guy, notably the Robin Hood App halting sales of Gamestop stock to the Redditors looking to cash in.

Of course, capitalism didn’t fall, but Bloomberg highlighted that short sellers lost a total of $6 billion in the Gamestop saga.

Watch now on Netflix

Keeping It Up: The Story of Viagra

Few drugs have ever been as controversial as Viagra. Often referred to as kickstarting the second sexual revolution, the little blue pill went from being tested in Wales (upon realising the power of the drug, many of those involved in the trial either refused to give the samples back or sold them on) to a multibillion-pound cash cow that pushed Pfizer into the pharmaceutical big leagues.

Keeping It Up explores the origins, controversies, gender implications, and misuse of the so-called wonder drug while also exploring the effective marketing campaign that launched it.

The lessons are myriad, from trusting R&D to the power of universal marketing and honing your message. It’s one thing to get US political household name Bob Dole for your commercial; it’s another to get him to say what you want him to say.

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

Bankrupt Billionaire

Benefitting from remarkable access to Quinn himself, Bankrupt Billionaire tells the extraordinary story of Sean Quinn, believed to be the world’s single biggest loser in the 2008 financial crash. Quinn went from being a school dropout to one of the world’s richest men, worth a reported €6 billion, to nothing.

Described by The Irish Times as “like Shakespeare meets Father Ted meets The Big Short,” the film sees Quinn recount his dramatic rise and fall.

Needless to say, there are lessons. Take your pick. A cautionary tale about investing, arrogance and greed, but also perceived security and risk. If you’re going to learn, you may as well learn from the best and worst to do it.

Watch now on Amazon Prime

Inside The Edge: A Professional Blackjack Adventure

There’s the blackjack you see in movies, and then there’s the blackjack you see in Inside The Edge. Similar, but different. Of course, we’re not suggesting blackjack is a legitimate business pursuit. Still, some people make it lucrative, and there are certainly lessons to be learned about body language, confidence and counting.

The documentary follows high-profile card counter KC as he travels the US, trying not to get banned from any more casinos as an ‘advantage player’, disguises included.

Inside The Edge captures the brief, intoxicating exhilaration of professional gambling as well as it does the boredom, loneliness and banality. The business lessons are in the commitment and the craft. The ability to function at a certain level, however boring or tedious, to accomplish lucrative feats.

Don’t be foolish, though; the house always wins.

Watch now on Amazon Prime

WeWork: Or The Making And Breaking Of A $47 Billion Unicorn

Another cautionary tale from the world of business. WeWork was possibly the world’s most disastrous exercise in the adage, fake it until you make it.

All of the tech startup red flags were there to be seen, and the documentary thus plays out as an exercise in cliches to avoid. If you see a poster that says something along the lines of ‘Punch today in the face’, it’s a smart idea to run for your life.

Needless to say, the billion-dollar unicorn collapsed, led by a man reminiscent of a Silicon Valley Loki. Megalomania soon set in for Adam Neumann, as did the private jets. The simplicity of the idea caught up with everyone, the delusions of grandeur became too much, and the rest is history.

Never, ever let your ego get the better of you. It’s bad for business.

Watch now on Amazon Prime

Inside Job

If you don’t fully understand one of the single biggest catastrophes in the world of business, then you need to start familiarising yourself. Inside Job, which won the 2010 Academy Award for best documentary feature, tells the story of the 2008 financial crisis and how changes in the banking and financial services industries created fertile soil for the most damaging market crash of the modern era.

Whether you’re running an Etsy account or a blue-chip corporation, it’s essential viewing and teaches valuable lessons on greed and risk-taking.

Rent now on YouTube

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

It all started so well. If you haven’t seen FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, sit back and watch in horror as what was supposed to be an exclusive luxury music festival unravels spectacularly before your eyes.

As much of a lesson in promising too much as it is the power of influencer marketing, when the inevitable shit hits the fan it goes everywhere. With a host of memorable interviews from those involved, it’s a cautionary tale of business plans going astray.

Watch now on Netflix

American Factory

Another Academy Award winner that sheds light on lesser-known aspects of the business world – specifically how foreign investment can transform ailing industries and what can go wrong.

The documentary tells the story of Chinese company Fuyao and its new factory on an old General Motors site in Moraine, Ohio. High-tech industry meets working-class America with huge culture clashes abound. Sobering, informative and a nod to impending automation everywhere.

Watch now on Netflix

Paul Smith: Gentleman Designer

A shorter documentary than others on the list, Paul Smith: Gentleman Designer delves into the life of the British menswear designer and his multimillion-pound fashion empire. Capturing Smith’s everyman charm and relentless creative appetite, the film highlights his innate ability to harness the every day and monetise it in his design process, as well as his lucrative early moves into the Japanese market.

Hard work is at the root of the brand’s success but Smith’s ability to turn creative ideas into cash is unparalleled.

Rent now on Amazon Prime

Abstract: The Art of Design

Design is essential to business. Of course, if you’ve got a product that is valuable or your service is crucial you’ll go far but at the core of everything is great design.

Netflix’s Abstract reinforces this viewpoint, looking into the minds of some of the world’s most renowned and fascinating designers – including Danish architecture superstar Bjarke Ingels and sneaker lord Tinker Hatfield – to understand how they think and how their world-beating work came to fruition.

Take on board some of these principles and your business or career will flourish.

Watch now on Netflix

The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley

Academy Award-winning documentary director Alex Gibney – whose previous work includes the likes of Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room and Going Clear – is a master of his craft and uses his magic touch to tell the story of Theranos, the one-time multibillion-dollar healthcare company founded by Elizabeth Holmes.

A Stanford dropout, Holmes was touted as the next Steve Jobs and, for a period of time, the youngest self-made female billionaire on earth. What followed next is a tale of colossal fraud and a titanic fall from grace as Gibney details how everything came crashing down with never-before-seen footage and testimony. An excellent exploration of the psychology of deception in business.

Rent now on Amazon Prime

Something Ventured

A great primer for American venture capitalism and offering genuine insight into global corporations like Apple, Intel, Cisco and Atari, Something Ventured is an independent film that looks at the power of 20th-century finance and entrepreneurialism.

Featuring Gordon Moore (co-founder of Intel), Jimmy Treybig (founder of Tandem), Nolan Bushnell (founder of Atari), Dr. Herbert Boyer (co-founder of Genentech), Mike Markkula (second president/CEO of Apple), Sandy Lerner (cofounder of Cisco) and John Morgridge (early CEO of Cisco), it’s a fascinating exploration of the ocean of factors that stand between a great idea and a multibillion-pound company.

Buy now on Amazon


93% on Rotten Tomatoes – your first clue that Startup.com is a documentary which needs your attention. Following two friends who want to make it big during the Dot Com era, they finally settle on building the interface for municipal parking ticket processing.

Very much chasing the internet dime as people around them catapult themselves onto rich lists practically overnight, the documentary follows their attempts to do the same with extremely mixed results. A welcome inside look at the bursting of the now-infamous dot-com bubble and something that should resonate with investors at a time where the tech market is again being decimated.

Rent now on Amazon Prime

Silicon Cowboys

“You can’t get to the iPhone without the original Compaq portable.” So the quote goes in Silicon Cowboys, a documentary which tells the David vs Goliath business story of Compaq versus IBM. The former was a plucky underdog on the personal computer scene who built a portable computer under the nose of the latter, then the world’s most powerful tech company.

Set up in 1982 in a Houston diner, Silicon Cowboys tells the story of the Texans’ rise and fall as one of the world’s great tech pioneers. An important lesson in never resting on your laurels and why continuous innovation is the secret to business longevity.

Rent now on Prime Video

Betting On Zero

The best business documentaries are so often the ones that examine the fine line between legal and illegal, and Betting On Zero is one such film. It follows hedge fund titan Bill Ackman and his billion-dollar short position based on the belief that Herbalife was a pyramid scheme which would fail.

The film also covers Ackman’s turbulent and controversial relationship with the Herbalife founder and the company’s governance and business practices. A classic tale of the rich getting richer and the small guy getting screwed, it’s a tale we’ve seen again and again but still never fails to shock.

Rent now on Prime Video