The world of business has always fascinated moviemakers. Tension, greed, money, power: it all makes for fantastic entertainment on the big screen and for language students, these films are more than just great entertainment – they’re perfect to learn business English too!
Watching films might not sound much like studying, but learning a language requires more than just reading and writing; it also requires solid listening and comprehension skills. This is where films can play a role in your language learning. By watching films with and without subtitles you’ll grow accustomed to a range of dialects and accents, improve your listening and comprehension skills, build your vocabulary, and learn more colloquial words and phrases that are used in English every day.
So we’ve picked out our top 5 movies that are set in the business world. Some are old, some are new, all are entertaining – and more than that, all are guaranteed to improve your business English, and teach you a thing or two about the business world too!
The Social Network (2010)
You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.
This film was a huge success a few years ago, charting the rise to fame of the world’s youngest billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, the creator and owner of Facebook. Adapted from the 2009 book, The Accidental Billionaires, by the critically acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin, its dialogue is tense, realistic and varied – and so well written that the film won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar at the Academy Awards.
As well as being an intense and exciting true-life tale of modern business and megastardom, this film is rich in its varied use of language. Taking you from the everyday college speak of Zuckerberg and his pals studying at Harvard through to the tough, clinical language used in the modern day corporate world, it’s guaranteed to improve your vocabulary.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Lie. Cheat. Steal. All in a day’s work.
This cinema classic was based on the excellent play by David Mamet, which won its author the Pulitzer Prize in 1994. Glengarry Glen Ross centres round a Chicago real estate firm that is holding a little competition for its employees – first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is you’re fired.
With an all-star cast of Ed Harris, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon, and Jonathan Pryce that bring a mix of ages, personalities and dialects means you’ll get to grips with sales talk as well as a range of accents. While some of the dialogue may be more dramatic than you’d hear in real life – it is based on a theatrical play, after all – it’s required viewing for people looking to get into the real estate business, and worth it just to hear Alec Baldwin’s famous motivational speech to the company employees – business English doesn’t get any colder than this.
Wall Street (1987)
Every dream has a price.
No list of business movies is complete without this classic. Wall Street has got it all – a great cast, Oscar-winning performances, an angry young director in Oliver Stone, and razor-sharp dialogue that exposes and satirizes the cutthroat world of finance and trading. Michael Douglas stars as the wonderfully-named bad guy Gordon Gekko, playing mentor to Charlie Sheen’s greedy and naïve stockbroker, Fox.
The fast-paced world of illegal stock trading makes for a thrilling movie, and in language terms is packed with so many great lines that are still quoted today. It’s responsible for popularizing plenty of tough-talking business phrases like ‘If you want a friend get a dog’, and ‘lunch is for wimps’. All this and Michael Douglas’ renowned, Oscar-winning ‘Greed is good’ speech, and you can brush up on understanding posh English accents thanks to Terence Stamp’s character too.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
It’s just business…
What could be a better way to learn business English from the movies than to check out a smart, modern business documentary? If you want to get to hear how people really speak in the corridors, offices, and meeting rooms of today’s business world, documentaries are a great way to do just that – and this is one of the most successful business documentaries in recent years.
Giving you a guided tour of the inner workings of one of the biggest corporate scandals in US history, it’s scary, engrossing and will teach you about the dangers of greed and big business as well as improving your English.
Office Space (1999)
So many business movies are set at the top of the business world – in the huge corporate offices of CEOs and billionaires, but Office Space is about everyday life for a man who becomes disillusioned with his office job.
Created by the same man who brought us Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, Office Space does a great job of poking fun at the new buzzwords and business jargon that companies were, and still are, so keen on foisting on their employees, as well as giving you a great insight into the way that work colleagues chat together in English-speaking offices.
What do you think? Have we missed out your favourite business movie? And how do you feel about learning English using movies as a learning tool – do you find that they help you? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.