Career Advice from 4 Oscar-Winning Films

It’s Oscar season, and the awards are upon us. With that in mind, we took a look back at some of the Best Picture winners looking for bits of career advice. Here’s what we found.


On the Waterfront: Always stay true to YOUR dreams.

You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am.” Among the most famous lines ever spoken by Marlon Brando, it’s also essential career advice. In our lives and careers we face expectations from a wide assortment of people, bosses and otherwise.

In the end you have to answer to yourself and live with the decisions you’ve made. So be true to yourself and your goals. With that you’ll always be able to face yourself in the mirror and be proud you never compromised your principles.  

jack cuckoo

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Never lose your voice.

At it’s heart this is a story of the struggle between self-expression and oppression. In this case the self-expression is embodied in Randall Patrick McMurphy, portrayed, in one of his greatest roles, by Jack Nicholson. In the film, McMurphy struggles to maintain his individuality in an oppressive mental institution armed with electro-shock treatments. While we don’t face such terrifying things in our careers, there is the danger of going along with the crowd, to be a yes-person in your office. This won’t help you get ahead in any meaningful way.

The greatest asset we have in our careers is our voice. Maintaining our unique points of view and bringing it to the table will ensure we’re irreplaceable.


Annie Hall: Find inspiration in even the darkest places.

Although writer/director Woody Allen has long maintained that Annie Hall wasn’t an autobiographical film about his relationship with star Diane Keaton, she claimed otherwise. The similarities between the film and Allen’s own life are hard to ignore. But if we are to assume that his inspiration for the film was his relationship and breakup with Diane Keaton there’s a great nugget of advice in the film’s success.

In our lives and career we should look for inspiration in even the saddest places. A breakup, for example, although most often a somber event, can lead to a burst of creative inspiration. So stay tuned into your emotions and be open to inspiration, regardless of the source. If you experience a career setback, look see if there’s a way to look at it as an opportunity.


Gladiator: Even the greatest career obstacles can be overcome.

If Maximus Decimus Meridius could stand up the emperor of Rome and avenge the murder of his family, what challenges are really insurmountable? Honestly, in our careers, while things may seem difficult, challenging or even impossible, there is always a solution.

Always stay determined, even when facing the greatest adversity, and good things will happen. As long as you don’t resign to defeat you will find a way to succeed.