The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies (Book Review)

What do you think about when you watch a movie?
Unless it’s a complete dud, you’re probably not thinking about anything but the movie.

OK, turn that around. What do you think about when you’re not watching a movie? If you compare real-life events to movies, think of the right movie quotes for every situation, and see most movies the week they’re released in theaters, read on. A couple of movie buffs just like you put together what could be the ultimate compilation of business lessons from movies.

Many movies–even date movies and comedies–are full of lessons for business. Authors Kevin Coupe and Michael Sansolo cover the best of those lessons in The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies. In their new book, they share the business wisdom in 65 famous classic and modern movies. The Big Picture’s combination of clever business analysis with the joy of cinema makes it a fun, insightful read.


The Big Picture
is broken down into six parts, which in turn are divided into fifty-one short (4-12 page) chapters. Here’s how they divvy up the sections:

Part 1: Action/adventure movies like Jaws and Rocky
Part 2: Biopics/documentaries like Schindler’s List and Pumping Iron
Part 3: Classics like High Noon and Citizen Kane
Part 4: Comedy, including Tootsie and Charlie Wilson’s War
Part 5: Date movies, eg. Sex and the City and Julie & Julia
Part 6: Drama, including Amadeus and The Godfather

Every chapter is devoted to a different business lesson, indicated in the title section of the chapter. Lesson topics include branding, customers, strategy, leadership, ethics, and more. In each chapter, you learn what a certain movie is about, and what themes and scenes carry the relevant business lesson.

The most gratifying business lessons are the unexpected ones. For example, the authors derive a good lesson from Charlie Wilson’s War. In it, Congressman Charlie Wilson, only one person, managed to make a huge difference in Afghanistan’s Soviet resistance movement. Sadly, his efforts ultimately ended up being in vain, because Congress never passed a motion to rebuild Afghanistan afterwards. The lesson: One person can make a difference, but if you don’t see the job through, it can all go down the toilet.

Many of the authors’ movie selections are also refreshing. Who knew you could learn about the importance of delivering bad news as soon as it happens from Adam Sandler’s “The Wedding Singer”? Despite many clever and original movie choices, however, a few lessons, like build relationships in good times (shown through The Godfather), are rather obvious.

The authors sometimes banter with one another, or give you different individual insights in the same chapter. That keeps the book fun.


The Big Picture could be a great resource for presentations, speeches, training, and any other business activity that could use good movie references. The authors make it easy for you to find a cinematic example to express your business point. This may be a good book to keep around as a reference if you speak or team-build frequently.

The authors’ well-written commentary made me want to see a number of movies again—or for the first time. That said, I’m not a movie buff. I like movies, but it’s not a habit of mine to think about them outside of the movie theater. For that reason, the book felt more laborious to me than I think it would have to a true movie fan.

I also noticed that it was more fun to read about the movies I’d already seen than those I hadn’t. This also makes me think that someone who has seen–and remembered–a lot of movies would enjoy this book a little more than a casual movie watcher like me.

All in all, if you’re a movie buff, The Big Picture will gratify and instruct. It’s also useful if you want a good reference book for motivational, team-building, and training speeches. I recommend it for movie lovers, movie critics, and anyone with a heart for cinema.

Disclosure: We received a free copy of this book.

Written by Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.