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Best movies to learn power dynamics

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Hello guys,

I think it would be cool to get a list of movies about power dynamics.

I see Lucio citing many times this movie in Power University: "Office Space", "the Godfather" and "Scarface". I mean movies where you can actually see "Power Moves" and learn from them directly.

Myself, I love leadership movies but they often rely more on showing integrity, character, grit, wisdom, courage and less than on political savy.

Do you guys have any favorite?

Kellvo, Stef and Gguwad have reacted to this post.

Great thread, John!

I might later turn this into an article if we get some good suggestions.

Some more from my side, some of whom I've also used in PU / articles:

  • Meet the Parents: this comedy could be called "social power comedy", the whole humor is about social pressure, social dominance, micro-aggression, and failures to draw boundaries against dominant men. Highly recommended, and the follow-up is also good
  • Spread: Ashton Kutcher plays a player. The nonverbals and facial expressions are wonderful
  • Taxi Driver: for an example of social negligence
  • Il Sorprasso ("The Easy Life"): for a different style of social dominance, what I'd call the "Dionysian dominance", the man who lives to enjoy life and just doesn't care (including breaking social conventions). I didn't put this style in the dominance lesson, but I might quickly mention it in the next upgrade
  • Fargo: great example of passive-aggressiveness, bottling up emotions, failing to act in any way that would help someone acquire social power. And good movie to understand the failure of mastering assertiveness, and wavering in between submissivness (95% of the time) and aggression (5% of the time)
  • Un Borghese Piccolo Piccolo (An Average Little Man): similar to Fargo, x10. Good to understand the frustrations, social failures, political failures, and mindsets of below-average folks. It's good to learn from a negative role, too, with all the mindsets and behavior you want to stay away from. The main character is your typical below average guy who's submissive and too nice in life, while being too aggressive and angry at home with the wife, unloading his frustrations (the wife still being the judge though: it takes some more advanced level of power awareness to catch that).
    Warning: it's one of the most emotionally painful movies I've ever seen. I had to stop watching and go out for a walk.

I will add more as I think of more.
In general, I think you are right that many leadership movies forget the political side of things.



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Intriguing thread indeed. A few suggestions of my own (largely TV shows):

  • House of Cards - Depicts a ruthless senator called Frank Underwood who strives for political power whatever it takes. Shows the mindset and strategies of the most power moves-based profession around - politics - in all its complexity and brutality, with betrayal, power turnarounds, one-on-one manipulation of others towards a personal goal and more.
  • Game of Thrones - Depicts Medieval Era politics and war with a thin veneer of fantasy and magic. Shows many individuals vying for power and trying to stay alive however they can. Includes many masterful political players as well as brutal examples of what can happen when power moves go terribly wrong.
  • Roman Empire, Vikings, and Political War Shows in General - As a famous saying goes, 'war is politics by other means'. These kinds of shows tend to show both overt warfare and court politics, how one can seamlessly blend into the other and what men and women have to become to survive in the harsh settings that demand that.
  • Death Note - If you're into Anime, I strongly recommend this show; it shows the battle of two genius masterminds trying to end each other, involving many manipulations, deceptions and strategic turnarounds along the way. The protagonist, Light Yagami, is one of the most brilliant manipulators I've ever seen.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II - A video game yes, but depicts shades of morality and the results of war terribly well while inviting deep contemplation. It shows how a powerful, charismatic protagonist can influence others for better or for worse. The mentor figure in the story, Kreia, controls many people throughout the game with ease.

Some of these involve leadership still, of course, but that's inevitable; both leadership and political savvy are about interpersonal power, with the biggest difference being how it is used. I suggest House of Cards first, as it sounds most relevant to your real-world needs, than branching out to any suggestions here or whatever else catches your interest. I'm looking forward to seeing what others come up with as well.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Death note is cool, i should rewatch it.

some suggestions

Shigurui or death frenzy about hierarchies and toxic submission to custom.

code geas: lelouch of the rebellion, they compare him to light yagami in being smart and politically cunning

Berserk, 1997 anime adaptation: the ascencion and downfall of the band of the hawk under their charismatic lider Griffith and his right hand the mercenary Guts. If you like anime berserk is a must watch (the manga is also superb). lot of similarities to game of thrones during the golden age arch. The show is also brutal (e. g. guts was born from the corpse of a hanged woman)

saga of tanya the evil: a psycopath girl with magic bullets that explode like bombs and who can fly unassisted going up through the ranks of the military by amoral methods.

Hunter Hunter: many smart psycopaths doing a lot of manipulation and power moves. A crowning achievement of shonen anime.

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Berserk is pretty cool, I watched the first episode last night. Besides the pleasure I got in seeing Guts rip apart his enemies, it shows what happens when someone's got no power; inevitably, someone with more power will use them for their often selfish ends. It also reminded me of Lucio's 'To be good, you first have to be bad' core thesis of this site, in that the protagonist seems to struggle with literal demons yet channel his darkness towards doing good. A fascinating (and just plain awesome 🙂 ) show that I definitely got to watch more.

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Kellvo, I promise you, It only gets better! jaja when you finished the 97 show, let me know your final verdict on it!

The Shield (TV series). Based on the real life Rampart scandal in Los Angeles, USA. Basically a team of police officers tasked with dealing with gang crime become more and more corrupt, while dealing with more powerful criminals.

Breaking Bad (TV series). A high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer has to find ways to make money to pay for cancer treatment. He ends up using his chemistry knowledge to produce methamphetamine to sell to the street. Ends up becoming a drug lord of sorts.

Basically any movie or TV series where someone becomes more powerful and influential, especially when starting from nothing.

Stef has reacted to this post.

HBO  clasic prison drama: Oz

Godfather: I'm blown away by this movie. Once you have done Power University course you see lots of stuff I had not seen nor understood before. Numero uno! Must watch after being more aware of power dynamics.

Stef has reacted to this post.

Godfather 2: blown away equally. Fascinating. Disturbing. Revealing. This movie is more about how to deal with enemies and the consequences of the quest for power on one's own interior life and intimate life: devastating. To me this movie is a reminder that power, just like status and money is an external value. Yes, it is the consequence of a behavior. Yes, it is valuable to increase one's own power as we all desire. However, just like money, it should not be sought as an end in itself. Otherwise, it becomes a never-ending pursuit where more is never enough. That is why greek philosophers, including stoics, advised to seek virtue as one's cardinal value. Power without virtue has the same taste as living without meaning: hollow pleasure. It also displays the superior intellect and detachment necessary to acquire and develop one's own power as the first move did.

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