Homework homework Available Movie Selections
With legal scandals concerning insider trading and employee theft making the news, it is no wonder that businesses are increasingly giving attention to the ethical basis of their business and how to lead in an ethical way.
There are huge organizational advantages from behaving ethically, with humanity, compassion, and with proper consideration for the world beyond the boardroom and the shareholders: customer retention, employee retention, productivity levels, reputation of the organization, attraction for potential investors, legacy, as well as the fact that ethics programs/policies can help avoid criminal acts and detect violations or ethical issues.
The films identified for this course were selected based on their potential to engage students in a exploration of business ethics. The films selected are quite diverse and cover adult content. Some are very recent films and some not that recent, but still very relevant. Some movies may be available on Netflix, YouTube, AmazonPrime, or other subscription-based platforms which may charge a fee. Please be mindful of this when selecting a movie to review.
Please keep in mind, certain movies may have content some viewers find disturbing, or contain explicit scenes and/or language, and are intended for mature audiences only. The opinions expressed in the list of movies do not necessarily reflect the views of your professor and/or the University.
With respect to ethics, we are seeking answers to various questions, including the following: Does the end justify the means? What is cultural relativism? What are the sources of discrimination? What is responsibility? How important are environmental issues? What are professional behavior and business standards? What is workforce ethics? What is greediness? What is bribery? What is whistleblowing? What is fraud?
Walmart, The High Costs of Low Prices (2005) Interviews with former employees, small business owners impacted by Walmart’s presence in their communities and archival footage of Walmart executives combined with statistics create a critical documentary and negative picture of Walmart’s business practices. This movie gives students an idea about how Walmart works as a corporation, how they treat their employees, their feelings toward union negotiations, and the overall strategy of the company.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005). This one is arguably the best of the bunch. Based on the book by journalists Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, the movie is a fun, accessible, and best of all plausible telling of the story of what is still the biggest and most complex business-ethics scandal of the century so far. Perhaps the thing that most attracts me to this documentary is its refusal to resort to easy answers. There’s no attempt to say it was “all about greed” or that “capitalism is evil.” The truth about Enron, and about capitalism more generally, is much more complex, and much more interesting, than that.
Desperate to please his father who is federal judge, Seth Davis, an ambitious, intelligent college dropout gets a job as a stockbroker for a small firm. Lured by big commissions and dreams of wealth, he becomes very successful at sales, but comes to question the legitimacy of his firm’s operations.“Boiler Room” is a movie about ethics in business during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s and the ‘get-rich-quick’ mentality that defined that period. It also teaches a lesson about the importance of thoroughly investigating a potential job before accepting it.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Involving crime, corruption and the federal government, this movie documents the rise and fall of Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort who served 22 months in prison for defrauding investors in a massive securities scam. It’s the story of corporate greed and excessive affluence in the late eighties. This movie could be used to discuss business ethics, emotional intelligence, power and leadership. According to Dr. Lewis, her students enjoy discussing Belfort’s charisma and how he used it to defraud others.
“Big Bucks, Big Pharma” (2006)
This documentary pulls back the curtain on the multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry to expose the insidious ways that illness is used, manipulated, and in some instances created, for capital gain. Focusing on the industry’s marketing practices, media scholars and health professionals help viewers understand the ways in which Direct-To-Consumer pharmaceutical advertising glamorizes and normalizes the use of prescription medication and works in tandem with promotion to doctors. Combined, these industry practices shape how both patients and doctors understand and relate to disease and treatment. Ultimately, Big Bucks, Big Pharma challenges us to ask important questions about the consequences of relying on a for-profit industry for our health and well-being.
Crime of the Century (2021)
HBO released the trailer for “Crime of the Century” in a two-part documentary examining the role Big Pharma played in the inception of and fueling the opioid crisis. With a YouTube trailer description that reads, “Big Pharma sold America a lie and made a killing,” the film explores the billions of dollars pharmaceutical companies gained, as well as the thousands of people who lost their lives, as a result of the opioid crisis. In the documentary, Big Pharma is charged with utilizing a substantial supply of money and political influence to skirt and manipulate government regulations that enabled the overproduction and unethical overdistribution of synthetic opioids, resulting in the abuse of opioids that ultimately led to the current opioid epidemic.
Black Gold (2014)
An award-winning Sundance-hit which changed the way millions of people drink coffee, Black Gold tells the story of Tadesse Meskela and his struggle to keep his 74,000 Ethiopian coffee farmers from Western exploitation. Black Gold exposes the truth behind each cappuccino and demands each and every one of us to wake up and smell the coffee. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/blackgold
Dark Waters (2020)
Based on the 2016 New York Times Magazine article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” by Nathaniel Rich, Dark Waters is about the fight for public health in a small town in West Virginia. Residents of the town notice a series of strange animal deaths and tie them to the chemical manufacturing corporation, Dupont. Robert Bilott, a corporate defense lawyer from Cincinnati, comes to the community to fight for the people.
The Social Network (2010)
In truth, there were several creative liberties taken with David Fincher’s The Social Network. Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, this dramatized retelling of the birth of Facebook, and what inspired one of the biggest, most prominent social media platforms on the planet, provides a Citizen Kane-esque look at one of our most influential media moguls. It explores the reasons why he made it and how personal failures inspire professional fortunes — even if they don’t provide true happiness along the way. Whether or not Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin truly got to the heart of Mark Zuckerberg’s real-life character doesn’t take away from the movie’s impeccable craftsmanship.
The Social Dilemma (2020)
This documentary-drama hybrid explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations. You have a new notification: you’re being mined. At least, that’s what the creators of social media are cautioning in the hottest new documentary on Netflix, “The Social Dilemma.” From the creator of the “like” button to Google data ethicists, some of Silicon Valley’s greatest minds speak out on the Frankensteinian nature of social media that preys on users’ mental health, addiction, and now threatens our democracy. One thing’s for sure: after watching this documentary, you’ll want to go through your privacy settings with a fine-toothed comb.
“On the Basis of Sex” (2018)
In the film, Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) begins her first day at Harvard Law School as she faces discrimination at every level and eventually takes on the first landmark cases defining gender discrimination. Reminders of inequity in and out of the courts are glaring: From being made the butt of a joke in a class of male peers to being told she is not fit for a position at a law firm to spare the feelings of other attorneys’ wives, Ginsburg faces gender discrimination in a number of ways. Even the number of scenes in which Jones is the only woman in the shot is telling.
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020)
Universally acclaimed, “Crip Camp” is a documentary about a 1971 summer camp (Camp Jened) that was touted as a kind of Woodstock; it became associated with a magical summer that led to disability rights activism and the fight for accessibility legislation. Poignant and moving, Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company were the executive producers on this film, which won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
The True Cost (2015)
If you haven’t yet watched this staple documentary exposing the exploits of the fast fashion industry, stop everything you’re doing and go watch it now. Produced in 2015, “The True Cost” tells all about the hidden human and environmental impacts behind that $5 t-shirt. It interviews garment workers, factory owners, and entrepreneurs creating ethical fashion brands to pave the way for change. Fun fact: This movie even inspired the founding of The Good Trade. *The True Cost is no longer on Netflix, but you can still watch it online
or possibly find it on another streaming platform.
Prepare yourself if you choose to stream “13th,” an intense documentary by Ava DuVernay about the criminalization of African Americans and the prison problem in the US. Racial inequality is a heavy problem, and this piece spares no detail. Critics have called it a “powerful, infuriating and at times overwhelming” documentary that will leave you seeing America from a sobering perspective and likely impassioned to take a stand.
If it’s not already obvious from the title, this documentary unpacks the food supply chain from the perspective of those at the start: farmers. Featuring generations of farmers and Chicago-favorite chef Rick Bayless, this documentary on the history of the sustainable food movement evaluates the impact of how we eat in the modern age. If you’re a farm-to-table advocate or want to learn how to make your grocery shopping list more sustainable, check out this award-winning documentary that’s bound to make you care more about the food you’re eating.
Human Nature (2019)
The biggest tech revolution of the 21st Century isn’t digital, it’s biological. A breakthrough called CRISPR has given us unprecedented control over the basic building blocks of life. It opens the door to curing diseases, reshaping the biosphere, and designing our own children.
Seaspiracy is a 2021
documentary film about the environmental impact of fishing directed by and starring Ali Tabrizi, a British filmmaker. The film examines various human impacts on marine life and advocates for ending fish consumption. Seaspiracy examines the global fishing industry, challenging notions of sustainable fishing and showing how human.
The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015) In 1971, psychological professor Philip Zimbardo conducted an experiment where eighteen male students participated in a 14-day prison simulation where they either became a prisoner or guard. In the mock prison, the roles are assigned somewhat arbitrarily, but the results are almost immediate. As reality and fiction blur and the simulation seems like reality, the guards act morally superior and become abusive towards their fellow students — simply because they got one title over the other. The controversial real-life experiment became revealing in many of the worst ways, providing a harrowing, haunting framework through which director Kyle Patrick Alvarez makes a chilling, relentless drama based on this true story.
Hidden Figures (2016)
This film features the power trifecta of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe playing Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—three black female mathematicians (and complete rockstars) who broke racial and gender barriers to help NASA send astronauts to space in the 1960s.