There are many movies with a strategic component: many war movies have been made that cover some war strategy. Sports movies with a strategic component. And, of course, movies around business strategy. In this article, I will cover ten movies with a large strategic component, which I recommend to watch if you’re interested in strategy. In case you think I missed any movies that should have been included in the list, let me know in the comments!
I am aware that there is a difference between ‘tactics’ and ‘strategy’ (although they are also used interchangeably). Technically, some of the movies I mention might be more related to tactics than strategy. For the sake of this article, I am not going to distinguish the two. I am assuming that people who are interested in strategy, are going to enjoy some advanced tactics as well. Enough about that, let’s dive into the list of strategy movies!
1. The Godfather (1972)
This classic movie From Francis Ford Coppola, based on the book from Mario Puzo, has many strategic elements. It requires a lot of strategy acumen to bring a mafia family to the top, and to keep the empire ahead of all other families. Don Vito Corleone knows how to gain a competitive advantage over his competitors: the Tattaglia, Barzini, Cuneo, and Stracci families.
The Godfather contains many strategic quotes that are applicable to more contexts than just the mafia scene. Without wanting to give away any spoilers, here are two strategic quotes that I love:
“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”. In other words, keep a close eye on what your competitors are doing.
- “I am gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”. This quote is highly applicable to other contexts, for example when company A makes a bid to take over company B. You want to make sure the bid cannot be refused, right?
2. Moneyball (2011)
Sports Management requires a great deal of strategic insight & planning. Moneyball is a story about baseball team Oakland Athletics, and more specifically, how their head coach Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) uses an interesting strategy to make his team outperform the other teams, while having to deal with less (financial) resources. Head coach Beane uses statistical analysis to find players to strengthen the squad, to try and outsmart the other, richer teams in the MLB.
Interested in watching Moneyball? Via this link you can buy or rent the movie on Amazon.
3. A Bridge Too Far (1977)
If there is one type of strategy covered extensively in movies, it is war strategy. A Bridge Too Far is the first war movie in this list. The movie tells the story of Operation Market Garden: an allied mission in 1944 during the Second World War, attempting to capture several bridges of high strategic importance in the Netherlands, with the goal to end the war as quickly as possible.
What is interesting about Operation Market Garden is that there has been a lot of debate between allied leaders whether or not Operation Market Garden was the right strategy to win the war. There were alternatives that could have worked out differently. Aside from that, A Bridge Too Far is also just a great movie with an impressive cast.
Interested in watching A Bridge Too Far? Via this link you can buy or rent the movie on Amazon.
4. Rounders (1998)
While many people see poker as a game of luck, a gambling game, it is much more than that. The luck factor does play a part, but poker also requires a great deal of strategy. Unlike other card games, in poker you are not playing against the house. Instead, you are playing against other humans. If you generally make better decisions in the long term than your opponents, you are going to be a winning poker player. Rounders, released before the rise of online poker, focuses on the life of a high stakes poker player (played by Matt Damon).
There are many factors that professional poker players have to take into account when making strategic decisions: the playing style of the opponent, your own reputation, your position at the table relative to the other players, the stack size, the phase of the tournament, the size of the pot relative to the stacks, and the chance of improving your hand on the next card, just to name a few.
Interested in watching Rounders? Via this link you can buy or rent the movie on Amazon.
5. The Big Short (2015)
The Big Short is the first business movie in the list. The movie is set before and around the financial crisis of 2007/08, when the troubles in the housing market started, turning into the collapse of the financial world. The financial crisis is shown from the perspective of several outsiders. These men, who have an idea that is different than the media narrative, see the financial bubble coming and try to speculate against it, based on their own insights. The movie shows that strategic decision making takes balls. The best decision is not always the opinion of many. The movie also shows that strategic decisions should be founded on solid data. Along with that, it explains complex financial concepts with simplicity.
Interested in watching The Big Short? Via this link you can buy or rent the movie on Amazon.
6. Conspiracy (2001)
Conspiracy is a movie about the Wannsee Conference on January 20 of 1942. In this conference, senior Nazi leaders come together to decide upon a strategy to find a “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”. Shocking, as well as fascinating to watch: a boardroom full of Nazi leaders who discuss the best strategy to get rid of the Jewish. In the movie, they call it ‘evacuating”. Aside from the cruel, immoral and utterly wrong topic of discussion, the film shows that persuasiveness plays a big role in strategic decision making.
Interested in watching Conspiracy? Via this link you can buy or rent the movie on Amazon.
7. Inside Man (2006)
A successful heist requires a great deal of strategic planning. The perfect bank robbery requires perfect strategic planning. Inside Man is exactly about that: the perfect bank robbery. The movie shows the story of a criminal genius (Clive Owen) and a negotiator (Denzel Washington), who try to outsmart each other. Apart from the importance of strategic planning, the movie shows the difficulty of having to take strategic decisions under immense pressure.
Interested in watching Inside Man? Via this link you can buy or rent the movie on Amazon.com.
8. Margin Call (2011)
“There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat”. Set around the world financial crisis in 2007/2008, Margin Call revolves around a Wall Street Investment bank during a 24-hour period at the start of the economic meltdown. Although highly dramatized, I find this movie intriguing and informational. The movie shows elements of strategic decisions making & leadership in crisis situations (or a lack thereof). If you are interested in this topic, I also recommend Too Big to Fail (2011), which is centered around real companies and people during the time of the crisis.
Interested in watching Margin Call? Via this link you can buy or rent the movie on Amazon.
9. 12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Angry Men is a fascinating movie about a jury who needs to decide upon the faith of a young man, suspected of murdering his own father. The entire movie takes place inside the jury room. The strategic elements in this movie are especially the struggle and importance of group decision making, the power of persuasion and the need for consensus. Strategic decisions are rarely made by one person without consulting others. The movie also illustrates that decisions can have fatal consequences. Being the oldest movie in the list, it is filmed in black and white.
Interested in watching 12 Angry Men? Via this link you can buy or rent the movie on Amazon.
10. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Similar to Inside Man, Ocean’s Eleven is about a heist that has been planned strategically in much detail. Instead of a bank, the target is this time a casino. The movie is very different from Inside Man in the sense that it is much lighter, with comedic elements. Ocean’s Eleven also shows the importance of strategy execution: Not only is it important to define the right strategy, you also need capable professionals who are able to put the strategy into practice.
Interested in watching Ocean’s Eleven? Via this link you can buy the movie on Amazon.
Strategy Movies on Amazon: Overview
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Do you know other movies with a strategic component that should have made the list? Let us know in the comments!