Top Leadership Movies

Top Leadership MoviesTop leadership movies…you may be thinking “can anything about leadership actually be learned by watching movies?” You bet. I was recently asked for my opinion about which movies I felt were the top leadership movies of all time. After thinking about my answer for a few minutes, I realized that while not all leaders are fans of cinema, all leaders can certainly learn valuable leadership lessons by watching movies with a critical and discerning eye…In the text that follows I’ve put a list together of more than 40 outstanding leadership movies. While most of them have not won an Academy Award, they all contain valuable lessons for leaders.

You’ve likely surmised by now that this post will not be a real brain-teaser, however it will nonetheless offer you the opportunity for leadership development. While the most natural leaders possess a large number of innate qualities and characteristics, the best leaders refine their leadership skills over time through a variety of learned behaviors, experiences, and activities. There are certainly more academic, substantive, and challenging ways to acquire leadership insights, but you’ll find few methods of learning more enjoyable than popcorn and a movie. I must confess to being a bit of a movie buff, so when it came to putting together a list of top leadership movies it didn’t take too long to come up with the following list of favorites (in no particular order of preference):

  1. Braveheart
  2. Remember The Titans
  3. Invictus
  4. The Great Escape
  5. 300
  6. The Last Castle
  7. Schindler’s List
  8. Lord of the Flies
  9. Apollo 13
  10. We Were Soldiers
  11. Blind Side
  12. Pistol Pete
  13. Miracle
  14. Saving Private Ryan
  15. Amazing Grace
  16. Hoosiers
  17. Chariots of Fire
  18. To Hell and Back
  19. The Alamo
  20. The Last of the Mohicans
  21. K19 Widow Maker
  22. The Mission
  23. The Green Berets
  24. Dead Poets Society
  25. Glengarry Glen Ross
  26. Mr. Holland’s Opus
  27. Glory Road
  28. The Shawshank Redemption
  29. Twelve O’clock High
  30. Band of Brothers
  31. Ben-Hur
  32. Blackhawk Down
  33. Rocky
  34. The Longest Day
  35. Rudy
  36. The Lion King
  37. Passion of Christ
  38. Men of Honor
  39. The Last Samurai
  40. Deliverance
  41. The Patriot
  42. Bridge Over The River Kwai
  43. The Guardian
  44. The Ten Commandments

If you feel something has been left off the list (which I’m sure is the case), please let me know and I’ll add to the list…Enjoy!

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    July 1, 2009 at 8:11 am

    In my Air Force career, two movies were used in several leadership courses. They were “Twelve O’Clock High” and “Twelve Angry Men” (just noticed the common word there). Both these flicks are studies in leadership using totally different approaches. Movies, in general, have the tendency to emphasis theatric moments such as when someone jumps on top of the car, yells out to the crowd and gets them to cheer. And although those moments are important, I have found that strong leaders actually gain their position using much more subtle techniques. For example, a friend of mine was telling me about how none of the other “leaders” at his level, got it. They were all managers, not leaders. We were both former Air Force test pilots while all the “leaders” he was talking about had civilian management backgrounds. He laughed as he told me his story about how he would park at a different spot each morning and walk through random hangars and buildings on the way to his office. On his walk, he observed what was going on and eventually after being “accepted” by the various workers, they would call him over to talk to him. He was the only manager in the organization who knew what was actually going on. Within two years, he was the guy in charge of the entire organization. Never had to jump on top of a car!



    July 1, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Hi Lance:

    Thanks for your comment…I agree with your thoughts and think your observations are spot-on. You might be interested in reading two previous posts which touch on these topics in greater detail: Leaders vs. Managers (http://hub.n2growth.com/leaders-vs-managers) and CEOs Get Out of Your Office (http://hub.n2growth.com/ceosget-out-of-your-office)

    Thank again Lance

    Sagun Kristinejoy

    July 29, 2011 at 8:34 am

    thanks for putting this website, it’s such a great help for the students in the university of makati office management students sy 2011-2012


    August 4, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    I feel that the movie Patton should also be included in this list.  It is a movie showing one of Americas greatest generals, how he lead, the way he lead, and his ability to show humility when the time arose.  It shows the pride that is needed in leadership as well as the fortitude that is needed to give orders to troops.  Also it shows that his troops were well prepared for every situation and that his troops may not have liked him but respected him as a leader.


    October 12, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    “Coach Carter”. Great basketball movie with good leadership & management change roles.

    Jan Esensjo

    December 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Thank you for your list, I will look into some of them. My all time favorite leadership movie when facilitating leadership workshops- this far! – is 12 Angry Men (Henry Fonda). Yes, it is old, it is black and white, but it is GREAT for leaders to watch and reflect upon.
    Best regards,
    Petrina & Partners, Sweden.


    July 2, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Fedex makes all its new managers watch the movie Glory on the 1st day of their training at The Leadership Institute. We actually watched it twice the 1st day there.

    Lynda Hawkins

    September 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    The Great Debaters, Akeela and the Bee, Courageous, Fireproof and Hurricane Season

    Vince Cooper

    July 21, 2014 at 10:22 am

    To Kill a Mockingbird… Atticus Finch standing up for what it right against the odds. Amazing Leader. I enjoyed your list, excellant. Using your influence not the position of authority to change minds. thank you

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