The Top 20 Leadership Movies Of The Last 20 Years

*Updated February 2014* July 4th is the biggest box office weekend of the year for the movie industry.  Therefore, for fun I am providing my list of the Top 20 Leadership Movies from the last 20 years.  The following was the criteria for selection:

  1. Servant Leadership
  2. Self Leadership
  3. Family Leadership
  4. Character
  5. Teamwork
  6. Passion
  7. Skill and Creativity
  8. Empowering Others
  9. Overcoming Obstacles
  10. Accomplishment

Ironically, 17 of the 20 films involve real-life individuals.  Feel free to disagree and provide your own list. Let’s get started:

  1. Passion Of The Christ – Mel Gibson’s legendary film captures the greatest example of sacrifical love in human history. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends…and everyone else as well.
  2. Son Of God – Produced and directed by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, this classic hit the big screen 10 years after Passion Of The Christ.  Let’s hope it is not another 10 years before Jesus hits the big screen again.  The life of Jesus is the greatest love story ever told.
  3. We Were Soldiers – Directed by Randall Wallace, Mel Gibson plays Lt. Col. Hal Moore.  The first boots on the ground.  The last one to leave.
  4. Lincoln – Steven Spielberg’s epic recount of our country’s greatest president and his efforts to pass the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery.
  5. Unbroken – The incredible true story of Louis Zamperini reminds us about the incredible power of resiliency and perseverance.  If you do not feel you can survive whatever you are facing, watch this movie.
  6. Forrest Gump – The hardest person to lead is yourself.  Gump’s positive outlook, practical insights, making the most of every situation, and unconditional love for others are great examples of self leadership.
  7. Fireproof – No movie captures the struggles of being a husband better than this independent film.
  8. Apollo 13 – The best film I have ever seen that demonstrates vision, sacrifice, commitment, talent, problem-solving, creativity, and passion in a team environment.
  9. Saving Private Ryan – The greatest opening scene in movie history shows us what courageous leadership is.
  10. Braveheart – William Wallace never compromised his values or his freedom.  “Every man dies.  Not every man truly lives.”
  11. Gladiator – Maximus reminds us that focused, passioned leadership centered on a single mission cannot be stopped.
  12. Captain Phillips – The 3rd film starring Tom Hanks, this movie is full of leadership principles including preparation, execution, and the importance of carrying out well-conceived plans under pressure.
  13. Lone Survivor – Each time I watch a movie based upon our the heroism of our American troops, those who protect the freedoms we so often take for granted, I am deeply humbled and thankful.  The level of skill, commitment, preparation, courage and bravery of these men and women is indescribable and deserves the highest respect.
  14. Lee Daniels’ The Butler – Forest Whitaker delivers the best acting performance of the decade.  An incredible picture of grace, restraint, self-control, sacrifice, and a true servant’s heart.
  15. Remember The Titans – Whether the divide between people is racial, gender, age, geographic, or spiritual, great leaders can bridge any gap and connect people.
  16. Secretariat – The story of Penny Chenery is the best example of empowered female leadership in the last 20 years.
  17. Moneyball – Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Oakland A’s innovative general manager Billy Beane gives all leaders a picture of what is necessary to navigate change.
  18. The Social Network – The story of the rise of Facebook provides for us a glimpse into the brilliant mind and potentially destructive personality of the most creative and talented NextGen business leader ever.
  19. Soul Surfer – No one overcame more than Bethany Hamilton who lost an arm in a shark attack.  “I could never have embraced this many people with two arms.”  Unbelievable!
  20. When The Game Stands Tall – How do you handle disappointment and adversity? This movie chronicles the De La Salle Spartans high school football team and their head coach Bob Ladouceur, played by Jim Caviezel, following their first loss after a 151 game winning streak over 12 years.

That’s my list. Let the debate begin.

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18 Responses to “The Top 20 Leadership Movies Of The Last 20 Years”

  1. Mike on 02/07/2011 #

    Some of these are truly excellent. Some are pure trash. Perhaps you’re just wanting to be provocative! But really Brian…Ricky Bobby? One of the most filthy movies I ever walked out of.

    • Brian Dodd on Leadership on 02/07/2011 #


      Thanks for the comments. Remember, the list is not there for artistic value. It is there to serve as films you can extract leadership principles from

      Ricky Bobby demonstrates absolutely the worst parental leadership I’ve seen. Therefore, it makes my list.

      I’m glad you felt the freedom to comment and disagree.


  2. Ralph Jr. on 14/07/2011 #

    Kingdom Of Heaven – Orlando Bloom
    Great story of a man struggling with the lose of his wife and his faith. Finds himself a noble in a strange land, and negotiates loyalty,responsibilty, and leadership with poise and kindness…..great movie!


    • briandodd on 14/07/2011 #


      Thanks for the suggestion. If I get a chance, I will check out the movie!


    • David Vacchi on 10/12/2012 #

      Ralph – Orlando Bloom’s character is an excellent leader in – Kingdom of Heaven, but the best exemplar is Salah ad Din – he could have wiped out Jerusalem entirely, but restrained his power to preserve the city and allowed the Britons to retreat.

  3. Kevin on 23/11/2011 #

    I thought 300 was a great movie on leadership, determination, loyalty and overcoming the odds.

    I meet a lot people who think you need big churches or a lot of people to manifest change. Sometimes it’s just the will and determination to follow through with what God has called you to do and do it with passion.

    Thanks, I appreciate your post!

    • briandodd on 24/11/2011 #


      Great comments and I loved how you tied the principles back to church growth. Great input!!! Have a great Thanksgiving.


  4. Marcie Bibow on 28/11/2011 #

    No 12 O’clock High, a 1940’s WW2 movie about redeption vs. maxium effort…and the cost. More recently, leadership themes in Captain America, regarding servants heart dispite bullies of various shapes, and The Twilight Saga, yes, we can learn from Wolves and non-conforming Vampires! Twilight teaches the next generation about the danagers of discrimination too as well as the fact that leaders rise above their own desires.

    In Christ,


  5. Joe Talent on 16/07/2012 #

    Great list, thank you.

    Other ideas include Inside Job, Crimson Tide, Invictus and The Lady

    • briandodd on 18/07/2012 #


      Everyone is great. Thanks for adding to the list.


  6. David Vacchi on 10/12/2012 #

    Hi Brian – nice list – something to consider is that there’s no such thing as “self-leadership” as leadership requires an interpersonal dynamic. Gump is really a Transformational leadership example, rather than a good example of self-management.

    You might also consider The Whale Rider as a good Transformational leadership example.

    I would also hope you’re not implying that Nathan Jessup somehow demonstrates characteristics anyone would want to emulate: total lack of ethics.

  7. Gustaaf Vocking on 30/12/2012 #

    Nice list and growing!

    I suggest to add “October sky”.

  8. Robert on 17/06/2013 #

    I suggest Kung Fu Panda – the best movie about leadership

  9. Renzo on 11/09/2013 #

    Funny enough I googled for a list like this after seeing ‘ I Declare War ‘


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