When you think of movies, the genres of action, romance, or perhaps drama might come to mind. But what if I told you that some of the most compelling tales of risk management, decision science, and behavioural economics come packaged in the very films we cherish? This isn’t just about Wall Street dramas or high-stakes heist thrillers. Sometimes, the most profound lessons about risk lurk in unsuspected corners, from a romantic comedy to a sci-fi classic. In this article, I’ve created a list of movies that, knowingly or not, offer a masterclass on risk based decision making or what I call RM2. Movies hit us all differently, just like risks do. Check out my list and let me know which ones speak to you or if there’s a film that’s got you thinking about risk based decision making in a whole new light. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Lesson: The cutthroat world of finance depicted in “Wall Street” highlights the complex interplay between greed, ambition, and ethics. The film explores how a culture of risk-taking can lead to destructive behavior if left unchecked. It also illustrates the importance of long-term vision and ethical grounding in making sustainable financial decisions.
Lesson: Providing a glimpse into the high-stress environment of investment sales, “Boiler Room” teaches the necessity of transparency and integrity in business. The film emphasizes the dangers of short-term gains pursued without regard for ethics, legal compliance, or the well-being of clients. It’s a powerful warning against creating a business culture where ends justify means.
Lesson: Chronicling the rise of a fast-food giant, “The Founder” focuses on innovation, strategy, and entrepreneurship. It delves into the challenges of taking calculated risks and the potential perils of opportunistic decision-making. The story underscores the value of vision and determination but also warns of the risks in stepping over ethical boundaries.
Lesson: The harrowing account of a failed lunar mission, “Apollo 13,” teaches critical lessons in teamwork, leadership, and crisis management. It illustrates how complex problems can be tackled through collaboration, creative problem-solving, and the ability to make informed decisions under uncertainty. The success in handling the crisis emphasizes the importance of preparedness, contingency planning, and adaptability.
Lesson: “Sully” showcases the remarkable emergency landing on the Hudson River, emphasizing the vital role of human judgment and intuition in managing risk. Despite technological advancements and automated systems, the film shows that there’s no substitute for experience, intuition, and the ability to make rapid yet thoughtful decisions under intense pressure.
Lesson: In this thrilling tale of a runaway train, “Unstoppable” explores the urgency of rapid decision-making and the importance of coordination and teamwork. It demonstrates how unforeseen challenges require adaptability, clear communication, and understanding the potential risks and rewards of various strategies.
Lesson: “The Mercy” portrays an ill-fated yacht race, offering a sobering lesson in the importance of self-awareness, realistic goal-setting, and proper preparation. It highlights how over-ambition without adequately understanding and quantifying risks can lead to catastrophic failure. The film’s tragic outcome stresses the importance of humility and prudent risk assessment in pursuing any significant endeavour.
Air (2015), not the Nike one 🙂
Lesson: Post-apocalyptic thriller, “Air” is a study in human behaviour, resource management, and ethical decision-making under extreme scarcity. The film underscores the importance of strategic planning and highlights how poor risk assessment can have severe consequences. It’s a compelling exploration of how we prioritize and act when everything is on the line.