15 documentaries on Netflix that will make you smarter about business
Netflix has vast cache of business and tech documentaries that anyone with a subscription can watch instantly. The topics range from profiles of great innovators like Steve Jobs and Henry Ford to the psychology behind human behavior.
Each of these 15 documentaries offers an entertaining storyline, as well as valuable insights into business success.
1. How lifelong dedication and obsession with quality can pay off
The 2011 documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" profiles Jiro Ono, a Japanese sushi chef and restaurant owner who is widely revered for his skill and $300-a-plate dinners. It follows the now 90-year-old master as he works with vendors to secure the finest ingredients, manages and mentors his staff, and prepares his son to succeed him when he retires. The movie brings viewers inside the dedication, obsession, and decades of hard work it takes to achieve perfection.
2. The best tricks to transform your life
"TED Talks: Life Hacks" is a collection of popular TED lectures that offer tips and insights for success in life and business. You'll learn body-language secrets from Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, research-backed productivity tricks from positive-psychology expert Shawn Achor, and more.
3. How to adapt constantly to stay relevant
"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" takes viewers deep inside the business of the late Joan Rivers. After following the comedian for a year, filmmakers reveal the highs and lows of Rivers' decades-long quest to stay relevant. What does it take to get to the top and stay there? From meticulous organization systems to her willingness to take any job to make sure her staff got paid, the movie shows the fierce determination necessary for success.
4. Behind the scenes of the business world's biggest scandal
The 2005 documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" is a cautionary tale. It's a deep dive into the fall of Enron, the energy company that was at one point valued at $70 billion but filed for bankruptcy in 2001. It's become one of the most well-known cases of financial corruption and accounting fraud, and this film explores the psychology behind and fallout of the collapse of an empire.
5. How a farm boy rose to become one of the greatest innovators of the 20th century
From PBS's documentary miniseries on American history, "American Experience: Henry Ford" chronicles the life of the famous automobile maker. It follows Ford from boyhood to mogul and reveals how he forever changed the way we work and manage businesses.
6. How economics explain what motivates people
Why do people do the things they do? "Freakonomics," a 2010 film based on the book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, explores the scientific and economic concepts behind human behavior. It will open your eyes to what motivates your customers, employees, and coworkers.
7. Why showmanship and great marketing is just as important as the products you sell
Steve Jobs was one of the most revered entrepreneurs and designers of our time. In the PBS documentary "Steve Jobs: One Last Thing," the filmmakers trace Jobs' inspiring career and lasting legacy in technology and retail, as well as his legendary product presentations.
8. How early venture capitalists helped build American tech giants
"Something Ventured" portrays some of the most successful and prolific venture capitalists, who through genius or luck made big early-stage bets on tech companies like Apple, Google, Atari, and Intel. For a crash course in venture capital or a modern-business history lesson, this 2011 documentary shows how entrepreneurs partnered with investors to build some of the greatest American companies.
9. How a personal-care line became an accidental success
The face on Burt's Bees products belongs to the late Burt Shavitz, a beekeeper who never anticipated that he'd found a billion-dollar international brand. "Burt's Buzz" tells the story of Shavitz's career, starting from his days as a young New York City photojournalist. Viewers also learn about Shavitz's complicated relationship with cofounder Roxanne Quimby, who eventually bought Shavitz out and sold the business to the Clorox company.
10. How to turn your vision into the next big thing
The original Netflix documentary "Print the Legend" takes viewers inside the budding 3-D printing industry. It follows young companies like MakerBot and Formlabs as they race to be the next big consumer tech giants, printing everything from footwear to human organs to handguns.
11. How "big business" affects everyday Americans
When "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" debuted in 2005, it highlighted many of the company's negative business practices, like underpaying its workers. Since then, Wal-Mart has made a number of changes, including raising wages for workers and stocking some organic foods. It's a compelling — albeit controversial — look at the effects of big business in America.
12. How to turn your passion into a profession
"Somm" follows a group of four men preparing for the master sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. Their obsession with getting ready for the exam consumes them as well as the people closest to them. The film will inspire you to pursue your own ambitions, however lofty they may seem.
13. What it looks like behind the scenes of the food industry
A word to the wise: Don't plan on snacking while you watch "Food, Inc." — you might feel sick. The 2008 film is based on the premise that virtually everything we eat comes from corporations that value their own profit over consumer and environmental health. It raises questions about what companies should do when their financial interests conflict with their customers' well-being.
14. How one company revolutionized the music industry
Napster and its creators are the stars in "Downloaded," a 2013 film about the rise of file sharing on the internet. Viewers learn how the company developed, about the impact it made on the music industry, and how it was eventually acquired by Rhapsody. Most importantly, they get to hear the narrative from multiple perspectives — Napster's founders as well as musical artists and legal experts.
15. Pulling back the curtain on one of the world's greatest fashion brands
Produced by James Franco's company Rabbit Bandini, "The Director" goes behind the scenes of world-renowned fashion house Gucci. It follows the career of Frida Giannini, the Italian fashion designer and Gucci's creative director. Viewers see how a collection goes from concept to runway to closets, and can learn a lot about building a venerable brand.