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!
Margin Call (Business/Drama)
Lesson: The consequences of inadequate risk assessment. The film provides an intense examination of the financial crisis and the ethical challenges faced by those at the centre of it.
Lesson: The power of data-driven decision-making and challenging conventional wisdom. Billy Beane’s approach to assembling a team teaches us to question established norms and make decisions based on empirical evidence.
Dr. Strangelove (War/Comedy)
Lesson: The catastrophic consequences of poor communication and decision-making in high-stakes environments. It’s a satirical take on the risks of nuclear conflict during the Cold War.
The Big Short (Business/Comedy)
Lesson: A deep dive into the complexities of the financial market and the perils of groupthink. This film elucidates the subprime mortgage crisis and offers a critical perspective on risk assessment.
A Quiet Place (Horror)
Lesson: Every action, or lack thereof, has consequences. This survival horror film demonstrates the importance of situational awareness and the consequences of poor risk assessment in a high-stakes environment.
Silver Linings Playbook (Romantic/Comedy)
Lesson: Personal risk management and the unpredictability of human behaviour. The story underscores the challenges of personal relationships and mental health, and how our decisions, even in love, require a certain assessment of risks and rewards.
The Hurt Locker (War/Drama)
Lesson: Decision-making under extreme stress. As a bomb disposal technician in Iraq, the protagonist constantly weighs the immediate physical risks against the broader strategic goals.
Lesson: The unintended consequences of automated decision-making systems. It showcases how reliance on technology without human judgment can lead to unforeseen and disastrous outcomes.
Trading Places (Comedy)
Lesson: Behavioural economics at play in the real world. A bet between two wealthy men results in a social experiment, highlighting how environment influences decision-making and behaviour.
Lesson: The role of chance in life decisions and the inherent risks in relying on fate. The protagonists’ decision to leave their future to destiny poses questions about how much of our lives we leave to chance versus how much we control.