Suggested Films

A list of suggested films, tagged wtih leadership themes, helps provide a jumping-off point for course assignments, papers, research, group work, and class discussion.

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Born into Brothels – Photographer Zana Briski travels to Calcutta planning to film a documentary about the life of prostitutes.  Unexpectedly, she discovers the many children living in the brothels and redirects her efforts into teaching them photography and getting them an education. Leadership themes: Mission, path-goal theory, transformational leadership, women in leadership, leadership traits.

Band of Sisters – Documentary about Catholic nuns in the Chicago area and their work for social justice since Vatican II. Leadership themes: Women and leadership, power bases, transformational leadership, servant leadership, ethical leadership, values.

Brave – Animated film set in Scotland, where an independent-thinking young woman named Merida resists her clan’s tradition to choose a marriage partner for her. To avoid this fate she asks for a witch’s spell on her family, which backfires. Merida then uses her bravery and archery skills to attempt to undo the witch’s spell. Leadership themes: Women in leadership, culture and leadership, trait approach, power bases.

Braveheart – Fictionalized account of one of Scotland’s heroes, William Wallace, who fought English control of Scotland in the late 13th century. Leadership themes: Power and politics, trait approach, emergent leadership, charisma.

Captain Phillips – Retelling of the attack on the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates in 2009. Leadership themes: Fear, heroism, trait approach, skills approach, Situational Leadership®.

Danny Deckchair – An offbeat comedy based on a true story. An Australian construction worker ties a bunch of helium balloons to his deck chair and is transported to another part of the country where he takes on a new persona and is welcomed as a celebrity. Leadership themes: Emergent leadership, authentic leadership, culture and leadership, leadership contexts.

Erin Brockovich – A single mother becomes a legal assistant and through her persistence and relational skills uncovers major pollution by a California power company.  Leadership themes: Women in leadership, trait approach, skills approach, ethical leadership.

Gandhi – Film biography of one of the 20th century’s greatest leaders. Leadership themes: Trait approach, servant leadership, transformational leadership, charisma, ethical leadership.

Lord of the Rings – Based on the Tolkien trilogy, the first film of the series shows how Frodo takes on the burden of carrying the “ring that rules all others” to Mount Doom, hoping it will be destroyed, thus saving Middle Earth. Leadership themes: Servant leadership, leadership as resistance, group roles, team leadership, trait approach, skills approach.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Historical naval drama set in 1805 during the Napoleonic wars. In pursuit of a French warship, English Captain Jack Aubrey displays multiple leadership styles with his crew with varying effectiveness. Leadership themes: Styles approach, leader-member exchange, assigned vs. emergent leadership.

Norma Rae – A North Carolina cotton mill worker faces great opposition as she seeks to organize employees into a union, fighting for safer working conditions. Leadership themes:  Women in leadership, emergent leadership, situational approach, contingency theory.

North Country – A fictional retelling of the first major sexual harassment lawsuit in the U.S. that was successfully prosecuted, where a female coal miner reports the range of abuse she has experienced in her work and sues the company. Leadership themes: Power, fear, female empowerment, allies, trait approach.

Patch Adams – Comedy-drama based on the life of Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, who struggled to get through medical school, resisted traditional approaches of treating patients, used humor as a healing agent, and developed numerous innovations in patient care, founding the Gesundheit! Institute in West Virginia. Leadership themes: Transformational leadership, humor, charisma, leadership as resistance, values.

Remember the Titans – Feel-good drama based on a true story of a newly appointed African American high school football coach and his attempts to racially integrate the team and make them work together effectively. Leadership themes: Transformational leadership, culture and leadership, trait approach, skills approach, team leadership.

Saving Private Ryan – American war film set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. Graphic portrayal of the landing on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. The film follows Captain Miller leading his squad to search for Private First Class James Ryan, who is the last surviving brother of four servicemen.  Leadership themes: Situational Leadership®, power bases, leadership in conflict, assigned vs. emergent leadership.

Stand and Deliver – The true story of Jaime Escalante, a high school math teacher in L.A. who inspired and taught his underachieving students to learn and excel in calculus. Leadership themes: Trait approach, styles approach, Situational Leadership®, transformational leadership, culture and leadership.

The Beauty Academy of Kabul – Documentary about American women who move to Kabul, Afghanistan, to open an American-style school for beauticians. Some of their students maintained secret beauty salons in their homes while the city was under Taliban control. Leadership themes: Women and leadership, culture and leadership, Situational Leadership®, power bases.

The Godfather – The crime film series based on Mario Puzo’s novels traces the Corleone family’s use of power across several generations to control Mafia business in NYC. Michael Corleone is a reluctant participant at first but becomes Mafia boss after the death of his father. Leadership themes: Emergent leadership, trait approach, leader-member exchange, bases of power.

The Hunger Games –Futuristic drama based on a novel by Suzanne Collins where boys and girls between 12 and 18 are required to participate in the Hunger Games, an annual televised event, where they fight to the death until only one remains. The female protagonist is Katniss, who volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the competition.  Leadership themes: Women in leadership, servant leadership, trait approach, team leadership.

The Motorcycle Diaries – Recounting of the life-changing motorcycle trip through South America taken by Che Guevara in the 1950s, where he become politically radicalized. Leadership themes: Power and politics, values, ethical leadership, trait approach, servant leadership, charisma.

To Kill a Mockingbird –Based on the novel by Harper Lee, the story covers life in a small southern town, where local lawyer Atticus Finch is hired to defend an African American man accused of raping a white woman. Leadership themes: Trait approach, ethical leadership, children’s leadership, culture and leadership.

V for Vendetta - Futuristic drama based on the British character of Guy Fawkes where a freedom fighter solicits the help of a companion to overthrow a tyrannical government. Leadership themes: Power and politics, transformational leadership, ethical leadership, values, leadership as resistance, emergent leadership.

Whale Rider – A young Maori girl fights to fulfill her destiny as a tribal leader despite her grandfather’s resistance. Leadership themes: Culture and leadership, emergent leadership, trait approach, authentic leadership.