Few things in life compare to the rush of adrenaline from closing a sale. Every salesperson knows that feeling. It’s a thrill that those outside the world of sales will scarcely comprehend. More than the money or prestige, this is what keeps career salespeople coming back for more.
Art has a way of capturing emotion, bottling and distilling it. The following ten movies are must-see cinema for everyone who’s ever worked in sales. Even if you’ve never sold a thing in your life, these movies can show you what it’s all about.
10. American Psycho (2000)
This dark comedy is set in the ritzy late-80s New York City. Wall Street broker Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a competitive businessman by day. By night, he wraps himself in plastic and commits atrocious, bloody murders.
The film features standout performances by Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Chloë Sevigny, and Reese Witherspoon. Highly stylized, it sets a surreal tone with very effective use of its 80s pop soundtrack.
While not a traditional sales film, it’s a scathing commentary on the soulless corporate world.
9. Layer Cake (2004)
In this film, Daniel Craig plays an unnamed drug dealer planning his exit from the game. Increasingly complicated situations see Craig with guns out, brokering deals between hostile parties.
Double-crosses and plot twists continue to make Craig’s retirement seem farther and farther away. Craig breaks the fourth wall with poignant advice on being a middleman in the world of drugs.
While not the most conventional sales movie, Layer Cake packs invaluable tips for any good salesman. Whether you’re moving contraband or ink toner, being a middleman works much the same way.
8. The Pursuit of Happiness (2006)
In this classic sales tearjerker, Will Smith plays real-life aspiring stockbroker Chris Gardner. Facing a complicated financial and personal situation, Gardner juggled his son and his dreams.
After getting a golden opportunity to be an unpaid intern at a prominent office, Gardner and his son struggle. Their plight reaches dramatic heights over the two-hour film, chronicling the year Gardner was a single homeless father.
This inspirational movie showcases the best and the worst the sales world has to offer.
7. Thank You for Smoking (2005)
This dark comedy is an adaptation of a brilliant novel from author Christopher Buckley. It covers the saga of Nick Naylor, a big tobacco lobbyist played by Aaron Eckhart.
Naylor is a competent lobbyist and a loving father. Selling poison to the masses troubles him, as a role model for his son. When a senator introduces a bill Nick must torpedo, a sudden plot twist flips the script on the salesman.
Thank You For Smoking is an intelligent exercise on the consequences of the deals we make.
6. Wall Street (1987)
This classic Oliver Stone drama presents iconic Wall Street shark Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas. Gekko takes aspiring stockbroker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) under his wing.
Ethics, the letter, and spirit of the law, Gekko abandons it all in the search for greater profit. When Gekko’s risky moves put Fox’s father’s life in danger, the young stockbroker begins to unravel.
With its memorable catchphrase of “Greed is good”, Wall Street is an unforgettable essay on money and power. It’s a movie every salesperson should watch at least once.
5. Boiler Room (2000)
Boiler Room is a movie that perfectly captures the essence of its namesake sales floors. This thrilling film stars Giovanni Ribisi as Seth Davis, a young rookie at a massively successful brokerage firm.
A group of young, aggressive salesmen man the phones, peddling questionable stocks to easy marks. The law isn’t too far behind, though, and the pressure in the boiler room becomes explosive.
This movie reminds us that, no matter the differences between Millennials and Gen Z, nobody ever chased a buck like Gen X.
4. The Big Kahuna (1999)
In this 1999 classic, a group of salesmen sit in a hospitality suite, waiting for a big potential client. Danny DeVito plays Phil, the man caught between a jaded colleague and a fresh-faced new hire.
The movie has the intensity of a theater performance, with most of the action taking place in a single room. The salesmen touch upon many themes before their big pitch, including life and religion.
It’s a movie that can pull at the heartstrings of everyone who’s ever had to make a sale.
3. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
This instant sales classic from 2013 features one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s strongest performances. As real-life Jordan Belfort, Wall Street penny stock shark, DiCaprio showcases the excess and depravity brought by abundance.
Paired up with Jonah Hill and a number of other brokers, DiCaprio’s Belfort devours the market. His gargantuan appetite has him scamming whales for millions of dollars. All the while, the authorities are breathing down his neck.
This Martin Scorcese film captures the thrill of the sales game like no other.
2. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
In this timeless 1992 sales movie, a group of salesmen find out that all but two will be fired by week’s end. The pressure begins, as a salesman with a sick daughter will do anything to keep his job.
The salesmen decide to steal a famous set of leads from their boss. With one of Alec Baldwin’s most iconic speeches in his career, it’s an insider perspective into corporate America.
A talented cast and a brilliant script make this sales movie stand out from the rest.
1. Jerry Maguire (1996)
Jerry Maguire is the ultimate sales movie. Full of inspirational pitches, powerful musings on the nature of business and more, it never fails to deliver.
A brilliant performance from Tom Cruise as the titular character and a star-studded cast set the movie apart.
A salesperson that hasn’t seen Jerry Maguire is missing out on one of the most compelling works on the matter.
Movies Worth A Mention
There’s a few movies that didn’t quite make our list, but are still outstanding. Check them out below.
- Death of a Salesman: This classic play turned into a movie covers the final hours of a salesman’s life. It deals with themes of identity, changes within and changes without.
- Tommy Boy: This hilarious Chris Farley and David Spade romp will have you laughing and crying as a disappointing son’s inheritance sees him desperate to make a big sale.
- Tin Men: In this story of door-to-door aluminium siding salesmen, Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito have an intense rivalry that goes from professional to deeply personal.
- Lord of War: Jared Leto and Nicolas Cage are brothers in the dangerous world of contraband, selling guns to violent despots. Consequences are quick to catch up.
- Moneyball: Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill team up to make a mediocre baseball team with a shoestring budget the next champions, using the power of statistics.
The path of the salesperson is filled with opportunities and risks. The thrill of chasing the next big sale, the fiery passion of competition.
Whether you’re a door-to-door salesperson or a Wall Street hotshot, these movies will unleash the sales beast within. If you need to relight your inner sales fire, catch a couple flicks on this list, and get inspired!