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What are the best movies for a training event?

This question regarding the best movies for training was posted on both the ASTD National LinkedIN group and the Training & Development LinkedIN group. If you’re not a member of those groups, you many not be able to access the raw material, and if you are a group-member, you may still have found the discussion cumbersome to follow. Either way, you’re in luck.

What follows is a synthesis of the favorite movies for a variety of training topics, as selected by our community of trainers.

Change Management / Time Management / Motivation

  • The Desk Set – dealing with change (1957 Tracy/Hepburn)
  • Monkey Management – one of the best on Time Management
  • Monsters Inc. – at the beginning when they collect the screams and it shows on the score-board, for starting a discussion on performance management and measurement.
  • The World’s Fastest Indian – for motivation in sales training and following through on your dreams, thinking big, focus and creativity, at the end of the film people break into spontaneous clapping, leaves a whooping effect.
  • What about Bob? — specifically, the segment on “baby steps

Communication and Presentations

  • The Mirror has Two Faces – when Jeff Bridges comes to Barbara Streisand’s lecture. To illustrate effective presentation techniques. AND the scene where mother Lauren Bacall and roommate daughter and NYU Professor Barbra Streisand have dinner together is an example of “bad” communication.
  • Young Frankenstein with Gene Wilder for communication skills.
  • “Who’s on First” sketch – for comedic play on words, illustrating the importance of deliberate communication and clarity.
  • Caddyshack – kill the gophers (gophers) for communication.
  • Dances With Wolves – Teepee scene where Sioux discover that Costner, a white man, is manning the outpost

Customer Service

  • Dharma & Greg – I think it was during the last season, in which Greg is trying to tell the Insurance company that they paid a claim twice. The company’s customer service tagline is “We Listen,” but, despite their best intentions, they really aren’t listening. It is a great way to illustrate that customer service isn’t just about the script, it is also about the behavior.
  • What Women Want – (understanding your clients needs – Mel Gibson using all the products in the box)
  • Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Holly and the gent are in Tiffany asking for the ring from a Cracker Jack box to be engraved.  You’ll notice that the Tiffany’s staff never says NO, and he never makes them feel belittled.


  • Anyone and Everyone for diversity concerning gay/lesbian.
  • The Paperclip Project on ethnicity and culture.
  • Mad Hot Ballroom for ethnicity, male/female, teacher/student.
  • Tale of O is another classic for diversity.
  • Remember the Titans – to reinforce healthy group dynamics and basing opinions on performance; not stereotypes or misconceptions.
  • School of Rock –  it shows how each one of us has different skills which can be used collectively to achieve something great.

Effective Meetings

  • What Women Want – Use the clip where Helen Hunt is introduced in the board room for the first time. She is very much in charge and it is extremely effective for this type of meeting/introduction.
  • Big Business – clip from Your Show of Shows, to illustrate how not to run a meeting.
  • 12 Angry Men – for Group Dynamics.

Leadership & Teamwork

I’ve highlighted the titles that seem to be repeated frequently.

  • 300
  • 12 O’Clock High for Leadership Principles.
  • 12 Angry Men
  • A Bug’s Life – teamwork/conflict
  • A Few Good Men – for leadership, team building and integrity
  • Antz
  • Any Given Sunday – the language is a bit hectic but the leadership and motivation is awesome. In particular, see the scene with the locker room speech.
  • Apollo 13
  • Armageddon
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Where Butch “fights” the really big guy for leadership of the group – resolving conflict…funny
  • Cain Mutiny
  • Coach Carter – for leadership training.
  • Days of Thunder (scene where Tom Cruise first does some NASCAR racing and gets banged into a lot and he’s miffed and spouts off to Duvall, pit chief, who replies. “Rubbin’ is racing.” – for storming Phase of Team development.
  • Dead Poets Society
  • Defiance – is about the Jews who lived in the forest to escape the Nazis. One man emerges as a leader, even though he is not exactly sure he wants the role.
  • Dirty Dozen
  • Facing the Giants where the coach was having a troublesome team member and “leader” do a craw to the 50 yard line when he actually makes it across the entire field. Great to focus your leaders on what influence they really have.
  • Gandhi, various scenes, for Leadership Principles (My favorite scene is the 1930 Salt Walk to the sea, to illustrate leading by example, and communicating by doing).
  • Gladiator – leadership/team/trust
  • Glory
  • The Guardian
  • Gung Ho – yes, the comedy with Michael Keaton
  • Henry V – conflict, loyalty, motivation, stress mgt, leadership, and negotiation;
  • Hoodwinked – is an excellent example of perception
  • Hoosiers
  • Invictus – excellent for leadership, conflict resolution, and influencing. It explores the life of Nelson Mandela and how he inspired the South African rugby team to win the world cup. Here’s a snippet:
  • Jaws, specifically the boat scene, can inspire discussion of Brodie’s range of leadership styles.
  • Kung fu Panda
  • The Last Castle with Robert Redford
  • League of their Own – coaching/feedback – no crying in baseball segment
  • Lord of the Rings – The first one where they’re arguing about who’s going to take the ring to be destroyed. Frodo steps up. We use it for stepping up to leadership…we are all volunteers.
  • Master and Commander – to illustrate the concept of situational leadership and/or leadership traits.
  • Memphis Belle – 19 year-olds are confronted by awful conditions in the war at a time when the stats for longevity of the average rear gunner in a B52 bomber was a couple of hours.
  • Mr. Holland’s Opus (scene where red hair girl wants to quit clarinet and Holland just came to the realization that helping students’ lives is meaningful even though the opus is not yet written) – shared vision. One trainer writes: “It demonstrates all four of the Leadership Styles at various stages with individuals and the ‘team’ or orchestra. Favorite scenes include:  Style 1 scene where he is teaching the boy how to play the drum and the Style 3 scene with the girl playing the clarinet. It’s also great to reinforce the concept of matching styles to development levels as they change with increased competence and commitment. Participants can also diagnose the development level of Richard Dreyfuss as a leader.
  • Oceans 11
  • Patriot – scene where Mel Gibson addresses the Continental Congress as to why he does not want to go to war – another Shared Vision and Communication example
  • Patton – opening speech is great for a Train the Trainer / Leadership program
  • Platoon
  • Remember the Titans – evolution and power of leadership, teamwork and creating change. (NOTE scene where the co-captains at summer practice at Gettysburg are in one anothers face during a break and tip over a table of gatorade; and NOTE scene where all players are woken up in the middle of the night for a run to the national cemetery of Gettysburg and Denzel Washington’s exhortation to the team.
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Sister Act:  the scene in which Woopie Goldberg is told she is now in charge of the choir shows coaching in action
  • Scent of a Woman – leadership, communication, teamwork.
  • U-571
  • White Squall, a Ridley Scott film with Jeff Bridges in the main role.

Learning / Teaching

  • Bambi – when the rabbit teaches Bambi to skate; for OJT coaching tips. I also  use Jungle book when Baloo sings and teaches Mogli how to live in the jungle, for the same thing.
  • Dead Poets Society – several snippets with Robin Williams using novel approaches with students.
  • Karate Kid – for illustrating the four employee development levels.

Management Styles

  • Working Girl – with Sigorney Weaver who takes credit for her employee’s ideas, treats her like an underling, etc.
  • Horrible Bosses – with Kevin Spacey

Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

  • Jerry McGuire – the “show me the money” scene with Tom Cruise/Cuba Gooding Jr.
  • The Negotiator: a 1998 action thriller film directed by F. Gary Gray, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Some great examples of attempts to negotiate in challenging circumstances. And the scene when Kevin Spacey tries to negotiate his wife out a locked bathroom.
  • Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) – shows negotiation skills at work where insurance salespeople are forced to compete when they are given the news that all but the top two will be fired at the end of the week.
  • Fifth Element (Bruce Willis) – link hereStardust (Ricky Gervais)
  • The Internship – the sales negotiation at the end
  • American President – The scene where Michael J Fox tells off the congressman who took away his support on the phone. Also the scene where Annette Benning plays hardball in the MTG and doesn’t realize the President is behind her
  • Thank you for Smoking – I have used the intro scene from this movie in a workshop, it was fantastic. Very comical and has great points to take away.
  • Captain Phillips — high drama, lots of negotiating and talking about strategy for tense negotiations
  • Lincoln
  • Erin Brocovich (about negotiations of all kinds)
  • In Good Company – the scene towards the end plays a creative negotiation where the characters bluff through a negotiation
  • Moneyball
  • Draft Day
  • Rainmaker
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Proof of Life — not the hit that was expected but its about a negotiator (Russell Crowe) trying get back a U. S. executive kidnapped in Colombia
  • The Mouse that Roared
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Civil Action with John Travolta. There are many scenes with great negotiation.
  • The West Wing (TV) – almost any episode
  • The Good Wife (TV)
  • M*A*S*H (TV)
  • Shark Tank (TV)
  • Bridge over River Kwai – for discussions on higher authority, building rapport, use of silence
  • Auction Hunters – (TV season 3 episode 23)
  • One more Guardian – (TV season 1 episode 1)
  • Lie to Me (TV first season)
  • Sledge Hammer or 3rd Rock From The Sun (TV to show how NOT to negotiate!)

Problem Solving & Decision Making

  • Cast Away is great for creativity and problem solving–what would you have used the Fed Ex box content for?
  • 12 Angry Men – Eleven jurors are convinced that the defendant is guilty of murder. The twelfth has no doubt of his innocence. How can this one man steer the others toward the same conclusion? It’s a case of seemingly overwhelming evidence against a teenager accused of killing his father in “one of the best pictures ever made”
  • The Missiles of October (1974) for decision making and negotiation.
  • Cast Away – getting the coconut open for perseverance

Sales and Marketing

  • Glen Garry Glen Ross
  • Boiler Room – for telephone/communications/selling


  • The Edge. That clip is powerful although one time I used it with a group and a woman who was involved with animal rights and welfare gave me a hard time!

More Recommendations

These books have also been recommended as good sources for movie recommendations:


To all who weighed in on our tagline . . .
We did a poll of customers who stopped by the booth.
Here’s how they voted on the tag lines:
enliven learning! – 2 votes
energize learning! – 35 votes
liven up learnign! – 14 votes
After this, we stopped asking . . .
I think we’ve got to go with “energize” — our customers have spoken!

7 thoughts on “What are the best movies for a training event?”

  1. Chittranjan says:

    Its a fabulous list. I wish if some one could add some Hindi clippings of this type.

  2. Daniel Young says:

    Excellent article, and I totally agree that you have to put out great content that your audience will find valuable on a regular basis.

  3. Edward says:

    I am currently drafting a field training officer lesson plan/powerpoint. One great movie that comes to mind on how NOT to train someone in the field is Training Day with Denzel Washington.

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