Movies About Leadership

PJ Media has a post that lists “10 films that teach important lessons for leading in tough times.”

I think there are quite a few other movies and TV series that could be placed in this category.  For starters:

Once an Eagle, which follows the comparative careers of Army officer Sam Damon–an excellent leader–and Courtney Massengale, an officer whose ambitions exceed his abilities and performance.

Friday Night Lights, focused on leadership in a sports, school, and community context.

The Caine Mutiny, which is indeed about leadership, albeit of a not very effective kind.  “No one is totally useless, you can always serve as a bad example.”



15 thoughts on “Movies About Leadership”

  1. There were some good suggestins in the list – I would nominate We Were Soldiers

    Twelve O’Clock High I’m told was used as a teaching tool at the Air Force Academy.

  2. “Twelve O’ Clock High” was also a true story. It was the story of the 306th Bomb Group and the name of the group in the novel and movie was 306 x 3. The role of Frank Savage, the commander, was based on the real life commander, Colonel Frank Armstrong .

    As a brigadier general in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, he was the inspiration for the main character in the novel and subsequent film, Twelve O’Clock High. After the war, he held a variety of senior leadership positions prior to and following the establishment of the USAF as an independent service in 1947. Promoted to major general in 1950, he advanced to lieutenant general in 1956 and retired at that rank.

    Armstrong commanded two B-17 Flying Fortress groups and a wing each of B-17 and B-29 Superfortresses in combat operations against both Germany and Japan. He personally led the first USAAF strategic bombing attack from England in August 1942, and the last strategic raid on Japan three years later. He also led the first attack by the USAAF against a target in Germany.

    That was not the only real person depicted in the novel and movie.

    As a “trouble-shooter” for Eaker, on July 31, 1942, Armstrong relieved Colonel Cornelius W. “Connie” Cousland of command of the inadequately-trained 97th Bomb Group, the first group of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers sent to England, and put it through an intensive training period at RAF Polebrook. He then led it in combat on six of its first 10 missions from August 17 to September 2, 1942. Armstrong led the first daylight heavy bomber raid made by the USAAF over Occupied Europe, receiving the Silver Star and an oak leaf cluster to the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was also awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross for the initial mission, the first U.S. officer to be so honored. Because he had not yet been checked out as a combat pilot in the B-17, Armstrong flew the first mission as the co-pilot of a Fortress piloted by Major Paul W. Tibbets, one of his squadron commanders.

    Tibbets, of course, flew the “Enola Gay” to drop the first atomic bomb.

    From January 4 to February 17, 1943, Armstrong commanded the 306th Bomb Group at RAF Thurleigh, England, and led the first mission by the Eighth Air Force to bomb Nazi Germany. His experiences with the 97th and 306th groups became the basis of Sy Bartlett and Beirne Lay Jr.’s novel and film Twelve O’Clock High. While in command of the 306th, Armstrong led the Eighth Air Force on its first mission to attack a target in Germany on January 27, 1943.

    Other leadership movies I would suggest are harder to find. One would be It’s a Wonderful Life a very rare positive look at a man in business.

  3. Bridges of Toko Ri. The leadership of Brubaker, the CAG, and the CARDIV Commander are all shown as the story unfolds.

  4. Let me offer an odd example – “Weed Wars” now on Netflix.

    It is a reality show about running a legitimate medical marijuana business in Oakland, California, the largest such in the world, certainly in the US.

    The place is run by two brothers – one is executive director, the other general manager, with other family members sprinkled throughout the organization. They have to fight, as a business, over-eager tax collectors, stopped-up toilets on their busiest sales day, poor morale, US District Attorneys hungry for the spotlight, employee thief, and mold in their buds.

    The interplay of the two brothers as they face the political and human challenges can be delightful, as is their slight hypocrisy about “self-medicating” on their own way to “wellness though cannabis.”

  5. “Surely there are at least a few of these around…”

    Pretty tough these days. Another suggestion from the great days of Hollywood would be The Bad and the Beautiful about a ruthless studio head who goes broke because of his refusal to release a bad film.

    There has been much debate as to which real-life Hollywood legends are represented by the film’s characters. Jonathan Shields is thought to be a blending of David O. Selznick, Orson Welles and Val Lewton.[2] Lewton’s Cat People is clearly the inspiration behind an early Shields-Amiel film (Doom of the Cat Men).[3] The Georgia Lorrison character is the daughter of a “Great Profile” actor like John Barrymore (Diana Barrymore’s career was in fact launched the same year as her father’s death), but it can also be argued that Lorrison includes elements of Minnelli’s ex-wife Judy Garland.[4] Gilbert Roland’s Gaucho may almost be seen as self-parody, as he had recently starred in a series of Cisco Kid pictures, though the character’s name, Ribera, would seem to give a nod also to famed Hollywood seducer Porfirio Rubirosa. The director Henry Whitfield (Leo G. Carroll) is a “difficult” director modeled on Alfred Hitchcock, and his assistant Miss March (Kathleen Freeman) is modeled on Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville.[citation needed] The James Lee Bartlow character may have been inspired by Paul Eliot Green,[citation needed] the University of North Carolina academic-turned-screenwriter of The Cabin in the Cotton.

    It’s one of my favorites.

  6. A film about a leader obsessing about a goal instead of taking an overview about purpose is The Bridge Over The River Kwai.

    Perhaps everyone should reflect on it when he hears some Business Führer rabbiting on about goals.

  7. “One would be It’s a Wonderful Life a very rare positive look at a man in business.”

    And a very crabbed, negative look as well.

  8. On the flip side is The American President, with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. The movie is one part romantic comedy, one part the case for gun control (never made), one part life in A Progressive White House.

    The big presidential national security decision drama sequence had the president responding to a Libyan terrorist attack by bombing their secret police apparatus HQ – and this is the important part – while no one was there, so no one would get hurt. Except the cleaning crew would be killed, but that was considered unavoidable. That was supposed to be seen as decisive action. The truly sinister and evil character was a Republican. Had the option been on the table to kill the Republican, I doubt they would have even flinched.

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