This post originally appeared in Yahoo Finance’s “The best movies and TV shows about business we watched in 2019.” Another Yahoo Finance pick, “Succession,” won big recently at the Golden Globes.
“Ford v Ferrari” is a fun movie for the racing scenes alone (it’s definitely why I went) but underneath it’s also a memorable portrait of the corporate world in the 1960s.
James Mangold’s latest begins with a business deal gone wrong. The Ford Motor Company (F) tried to buy the nearly bankrupt Ferrari in 1963. In pitching the deal, a young Lee Iacocca (played by Jon Bernthal) goads Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) by telling him, “Enzo Ferrari will go down in history as the greatest car manufacturer of all time.”
The deal goes spectacularly wrong. Enzo does a last-minute deal with Fiat instead and the rest of the movie is about the company getting its revenge. Ford eventually does win with the real-life 1-2-3 finish in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
It was an era (according to the rules of the movie, at least) when even a giant corporation could be pulled kicking and screaming to “think like Ferrari” but you had to fight through plenty of corporate bureaucracy.
There’s a scene partway through when Ford takes Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to the window of his office to reverentially show where the company built planes for World War II. It’s a nice encapsulation of the moment being examined: the halcyon war days feel almost as distant to the movie’s characters as the mid-1960s business world feels to a modern audience. Shelby, it’s worth noting, had just finished complaining to his bosses about the red tape involved in working at Ford.
Christian Bale plays Ken Miles, the hero of the movie and Shelby's closest ally. Miles is introduced to the audience as he berates a paying customer at his garage. The real-life racing legend is repeatedly derided by company executives as not fitting the Ford mold but he, in the end, is how they win.
Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.