These movies cover various subjects related to finance, such as the 2008 economic downturn, the stock market, and individual financial planning.
Whether you work in finance or just have an interest in the field, these films provide an engaging opportunity to broaden your understanding and knowledge of finance.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street is a biographical black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese and based on the memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort. The film follows the rise and fall of Belfort, a stockbroker who becomes involved in financial fraud and corruption in the 1990s.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort, the film features a talented cast including Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and Matthew McConaughey. With its fast-paced editing, outrageous humor, and over-the-top performances, The Wolf of Wall Street has become a modern classic and a cultural touchstone, exploring themes of greed, excess, and the darker side of the American Dream.
Inside Job (2010)
The documentary narrated by Matt Damon presents a compelling analysis of the economic meltdown and its root causes through well-presented graphics and factual evidence.
Despite the lack of cooperation from top-tier culprits, the interviews with second-tier players reveal how money can corrupt even the most respected institutions.
The film exposes the extent to which greedy business people and corrupt politicians prioritize money and power over values like fairness, decency, and compassion, leading America towards a society where the pursuit of wealth is all that matters.
The documentary highlights how Washington is complicit in this culture of greed and how American citizens are left defenseless against their predatory ways, threatening the very fabric of the nation.
The Big Short (2015)
I was fascinated by “The Big Short” and was eager to watch it, especially since it tackled complex and serious topics that needed to be depicted on screen.
The talented cast and critical acclaim further piqued my interest. While I wouldn’t consider it one of the best films of the year, it definitely deserves the recognition it received for its exceptional quality and tackling an important subject matter that remains relevant today.
Although the film’s structure can be a bit convoluted and confusing at times, it’s still well-made and features slick photography with great attention to detail.
The direction is smart and engaging, keeping the viewer invested throughout the lengthy runtime.
All of the performances are outstanding, with Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling in particular standing out for their confident and challenging portrayals. Even the smaller roles and cameos are well-executed.
The script is the backbone of the film’s success, delivering a story that’s both entertaining and informative, all while evoking the appropriate emotions in the audience.
Despite some issues with the structure, the interconnected subplots and characters are well-developed and compelling.
“The Big Short” tackles a brave and serious subject matter that’s not easy to bring to the big screen, but it succeeds remarkably well. It’s both funny and informative, and it left me feeling shocked, angry, and emotional as the events unfolded.
Breaking the Bank (2009)
The story revolves around Kelsey Grammar’s character, Charles Bunbury, who is a dull bank chairman married to the principal shareholder of the bank, Penelope (played by Tamsin Greig).
The movie takes an absurd turn when Charles is tricked into investing a large amount of money into a worthless venture, which leads to disastrous consequences for many people.
However, you found the comedic elements to be flat and uninteresting, which made it difficult for you to sit through until the end. In your opinion, it would be better to explore other movie options.
American Casino (2009)
American Casino is a documentary film directed by Leslie Cockburn, released in 2009.
The film examines the causes and consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, focusing on the role of the banking industry and government policies in fueling the housing bubble that eventually burst.
Through interviews with economists, industry insiders, and homeowners affected by the crisis, American Casino sheds light on the predatory lending practices, securitization, and deregulation that contributed to the collapse of the housing market and the subsequent recession.
The film serves as a call to action, urging viewers to demand greater accountability and reform from the financial industry and government.
Let’s Make Money (2008)
To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with Wagenhofer’s previous documentary “We Feed The World” which dealt with the food industry.
However, his latest film takes on the much more challenging task of documenting the financial system and he does an excellent job of exposing its flaws.
The documentary highlights several egregious examples of the global financial system going awry and Wagenhofer does an excellent job of selecting the right cases to illustrate his points.
The abandoned Spanish golf course castles and the poverty-stricken cotton pickers and granite workers in Burkina Faso are particularly memorable.
While the film is heavy on emotion, it provides a few mental stepping stones and motivates viewers to research the topics further. All in all, it’s a great documentary that accomplishes what it sets out to do.
The Ascent of Money (2008)
“The Ascent of Money” is a captivating documentary film released in 2008, based on Niall Ferguson’s book with the same title.
It delves into the fascinating history of money and finance, from the ancient times to the present era, highlighting the significant role played by financial systems and institutions in the growth and decline of empires, the rise of capitalism, and the transformation of modern society.
The movie touches on diverse topics such as the invention of money, the emergence of banking, the importance of debt and credit, and the effects of globalization and technology on the financial landscape.
Through interviews with renowned economists, historians, and business leaders, as well as global footage, the documentary provides a compelling and educational account of how money has influenced human civilization over time.
“The Ascent of Money” was praised for its engaging and easy-to-understand approach to a complex subject, and its relevance to present-day issues.
Darren Aronofsky’s 1998 film “Pi” is a psychological thriller. The film follows a brilliant but reclusive mathematician named Max who becomes obsessed with finding patterns in the stock market through his self-designed computer program.
As his work draws the attention of various groups, including a Wall Street firm and a Hasidic sect, Max’s paranoia and delusions begin to escalate, blurring the line between reality and hallucination.
Shot in black and white, Pi explores themes of obsession, madness, and the search for meaning in a chaotic world.
The film received critical acclaim for its innovative style and storytelling, earning Aronofsky the Best Director award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Wall Street (1987)
The movie “Wall Street” has sparked much discussion as it portrays the moral struggle of a young trader torn between the traditional values of hard work and creating something of value, versus the “creative destruction” tactics of his mentor who succeeds through corporate raiding.
While some see this as a liberal versus conservative viewpoint on business, the reality is that the economic system has evolved over time, benefiting the wealthy and leaving the majority of workers in a wild-west economy with limited opportunities for advancement.
This is evident in the way bankruptcy laws have changed to favor the wealthy, creating a Soviet-style planned system for the haves, while leaving the have-nots to compete for scarce resources.
Therefore, “Wall Street” is just the beginning of a larger discussion on how economic forces and attitudes have changed over time.
Commanding Heights (2002)
The topic of globalization is often divisive, and this documentary was made before the economic downturn of 2008, which discredited some of the hypotheses presented.
The documentary accurately portrays the replacement of Keynesian economics in Western economies with free-market solutions but fails to mention that some Western powers continued to follow certain Keynesian parameters.
The documentary portrays the positive sides of globalization without sufficiently addressing its negative aspects, and few dissenting opinions are presented.
While a good starting point for beginners, those interested in the topic should read further to fully understand the issues surrounding globalization.
The technical quality and amount of information presented are good, but the documentary has a slight rightward tilt.
Despite being incomplete, the documentary does deliver a rational argument about the contemporary political debate on globalization.
Too Big to Fail (2011 TV Movie)
It’s important to recognize that the portrayal of Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulsen as a hero in “The Big Short” is not entirely accurate.
The film, while informative in its description of the events leading up to the financial crisis, is a dramatization rather than a documentary.
Therefore, the depiction of Paulsen as a somewhat naive figure who does not fully comprehend the extent of human greed should be viewed with skepticism.
The movie provides a detailed explanation of how the big banks and investment houses contributed to the crisis, as well as how AIG, the insurer of these institutions, became entangled in the mess.
The film also suggests that the banks, after receiving a massive infusion of cash from the government, failed to loan it out and instead hoarded it, leading to a severe economic downturn and widespread mortgage foreclosures.
While “The Big Short” can provide a basic understanding of the financial crisis, it’s essential to keep in mind that the movie has a specific narrative to follow and needed a hero figure, whether accurate or not.
Therefore, it’s crucial to complement the film with additional research to gain a more nuanced understanding of the events and individuals involved.
The World’s Greatest Money Maker: Evan Davis meets Warren Buffett (2009 TV Movie)
The World’s Greatest Money Maker: Evan Davis meets Warren Buffett is a television documentary directed by Chris Durlacher and released in 2009. The film follows journalist Evan Davis as he interviews Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors in the world, and delves into his investment strategies and philosophy.
Through their conversations, Davis and Buffett explore the principles that have guided his success, including value investing, patience, and a long-term approach to building wealth. The film also provides insight into Buffett’s personal life and philanthropic efforts, highlighting his commitment to giving back and sharing his wealth.
The World’s Greatest Money Maker offers a unique and engaging portrait of one of the most influential figures in the finance industry.
Life and Debt (2001)
“Life and Debt” is a powerful documentary that sheds light on the negative effects of globalization on Jamaica’s economy and agriculture.
It contrasts the idyllic views that tourists see with the harsh economic conditions experienced by locals.
The film exposes the cold, profit-driven motives of big US companies, as well as the empty rhetoric of international organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Stephanie Black’s film highlights how capitalism and competition can be exploitative and calls for a more compassionate approach.
It urges viewers to consider the impact of their actions on others, particularly those in developing countries. It also explains the reasons behind protests against globalization.
I found the film thought-provoking and essential viewing for anyone interested in global economic issues. It made me question my own consumption patterns and consider the consequences of my choices.
I highly recommend “Life and Debt” to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the complexities of globalization.
Wall Street Warriors (2006)
Definitely give this series a viewing! It’s a lot of fun and great to have a peek into the lives of people working in New York on Wall Street.
I’ve always been interested in that world, but never knew anything about it. This show takes you there in a big way and shows you around.
The subjects have a variety of different jobs, so we get a good cross section (i.e. hedge funds, trading floors, day traders, etc.). Sandra, the hot corporate lawyer, is a great character.
I just love to watch her. And Guy, the hedge fund manager, is a rich stud with interesting thoughts on the market.
Timmy, the day trader, is entertaining and I loved watching him make a fool of himself on national television. All together, one of the most enjoyable TV shows I’ve seen in while.
Check it out for sure. I highly recommend it.
The Warning (2009)
This PBS documentary from the ‘Frontline’ series highlights the efforts of Mrs. Brooksley Born in warning of the 2008 financial crisis.
Despite being appointed as head of the CFTC, a regulatory agency, Born’s warnings about the lack of regulation of derivatives trading were ignored, leading to her resignation in protest.
The film shows how the power of Big Money has corrupted governments and how people like Born, who tried to save the financial system, are disregarded.
It is a sobering illustration of the decline of Western civilization due to the greed of its leaders. Despite her failure, Born is a heroic figure who did her best to prevent catastrophe.
Maxed Out (2006)
Americans are known for being heavily focused on consumption and being weighed down by debt, but what many people don’t realize is that banks and credit card companies actually profit the most by lending mass amounts of credit to those who can least afford it.
The documentary “Maxed Out” sheds light on this reality, holding those in power accountable for their actions.
The film, directed and written by James D. Scurlock, presents heart-wrenching stories of average citizens who have fallen prey to the consumer-credit nightmare.
Some are hard-working people who were scammed by debt-consolidation lenders, while others are college students who are prime targets for credit card companies.
Even those who have filed for bankruptcy are sought after by lending institutions, knowing that these individuals are legally unable to file a second time.
Scurlock interviews both indifferent debt collectors and compassionate economists who fully understand the gravity of the problem.
One of the film’s most severe criticisms is directed at politicians like George W. Bush and members of Congress who passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.
This act made it harder for Americans to escape their debt burden and easier for creditors to hound their debtors, sometimes leading to suicide.
The film also highlights the government’s flippant attitude towards the nation’s own debt situation.
Margin Call (2011)
Margin Call is a drama film directed by J.C. Chandor and released in 2011. The film takes place over a 24-hour period at an investment bank during the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis.
After a mass layoff, junior risk analyst Peter Sullivan (played by Zachary Quinto) discovers that the bank’s portfolio is dangerously over-leveraged and could result in catastrophic losses.
As the news travels up the chain of command, the firm’s top executives (played by Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, and others) must grapple with the ethical and financial implications of their actions, ultimately making a fateful decision that will have far-reaching consequences.
With its tense atmosphere and impressive cast, Margin Call offers a nuanced and thought-provoking exploration of the ethics and culture of the finance industry, and the human impact of financial crises.
The Company Men (2010)
This movie deals with the impact of unemployment on men, particularly the loss of their sense of self-worth and identity.
While it has the potential to be insightful and engaging, the characters’ affluent backgrounds make it difficult for some viewers to fully empathize with their struggles.
The main character’s arrogance and lack of financial responsibility can be grating, but the older characters’ stories provide some emotional depth.
The talented cast, including Affleck, Jones, and Cooper, deliver strong performances, though some may find their star power distracting. Overall, The Company Men falls short in fully exploring its characters’ experiences and ends on a overly optimistic note.
Arbitrage is a movie released in 2012, directed by Nicholas Jarecki and starring Richard Gere as Robert Miller, a wealthy hedge fund manager who is embroiled in a complicated web of deceit and corruption.
Miller is in a rush to sell his company before a major fraud is uncovered and must also conceal his involvement in a fatal accident.
Along the way, he must cope with personal family issues and the persistent investigation of a police detective portrayed by Tim Roth.
The film is a captivating exploration of the finance industry’s high-stakes world, delving into the moral complexities that arise when personal and professional interests intersect.
It raises important questions about the true cost of ambition and the nature of success through its well-executed storytelling and superb acting.
Capital is a drama film directed by Costa-Gavras and released in 2012. The film is based on the novel “Le Capital” by Stéphane Osmont, and follows the story of a newly appointed CEO of a French bank, Marc Tourneuil (played by Gad Elmaleh), as he navigates the cutthroat world of international finance.
Tourneuil must balance the demands of his board, shareholders, and clients, while also dealing with personal challenges such as a crumbling marriage and an affair with a journalist.
The film offers a critical examination of the financial industry and the power dynamics at play within it, as well as the social and political consequences of corporate greed.
With its sharp wit and engaging performances, Capital provides a compelling and thought-provoking commentary on the morality and ethics of the financial world.
Rogue Trader (1999)
Rogue Trader is a movie released in 1999, directed by James Dearden and starring Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel.
The plot of the film is based on the real-life story of Nick Leeson, a British trader who caused the downfall of Barings Bank, one of the world’s oldest and most esteemed banks, due to his unauthorized and high-risk trades.
The movie depicts Leeson’s rise as a trader in Singapore and his eventual descent into fraudulent behavior and deceit as he tries to conceal his mounting losses.
Rogue Trader provides a peek into the world of high finance and the immense pressure and allure that traders encounter in their pursuit of success and profits.
The film touches on the themes of ambition, greed, and the repercussions of uncontrolled risk-taking in the finance industry.
Critics acclaimed Rogue Trader for its compelling portrayal of Leeson’s story and its ramifications for the financial sector.
In 2010, a team of filmmakers directed a documentary called Freakonomics, based on the popular book by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner.
The film examines various subjects concerning economics and human behavior, using a blend of interviews, animations, and real-world experiments.
It delves into topics like how incentives can affect teacher performance, the economics of drug dealing, and the connection between abortion and crime rates.
The film takes a unique and captivating approach to exploring intricate social and economic issues, urging viewers to think critically about the world they inhabit.
With its mixture of humor and insight, Freakonomics provides a new and entertaining perspective on economics and its influence on our lives.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a drama film directed by Oliver Stone and released in 2010.
The film is a sequel to the 1987 film “Wall Street” and stars Michael Douglas reprising his role as Gordon Gekko, a former stockbroker who is released from prison after serving a lengthy sentence for insider trading.
The film follows Gekko as he tries to repair his relationship with his estranged daughter (played by Carey Mulligan) while also getting involved in the world of high finance once again, this time as an advocate for renewable energy.
The plot also involves a young trader (played by Shia LaBeouf) who becomes romantically involved with Gekko’s daughter and seeks revenge against a rival investment banker (played by Josh Brolin).
The film explores themes of redemption, morality, and the impact of greed on individuals and society.
With its strong performances and timely subject matter, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps offers a compelling look at the world of finance in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
The Last Days of Lehman Brothers (2009 TV Movie)
This is a docu-drama by the BBC that focuses on the 2008 US banking crisis. It may seem a little rough around the edges since it was made quickly, but it was the first of its kind.
The story revolves around Lehman Brothers, an old and established bank that was on the verge of collapse due to toxic assets.
In an attempt to save the capitalist system from Russian and Chinese influence, the US Treasury Secretary, played by James Cromwell, assembles a team of the best minds on Wall Street to prevent the banks from failing.
However, the situation is complicated as many of the individuals in the room have their own toxic assets to deal with.
The drama intensifies with personal conflicts, backstabbing, and plotting as they all try to save Lehman Brothers and possibly themselves.
Cromwell’s character, Hank Paulson, urges and even begs them to work together to resolve the crisis.
Although the deals that caused the crisis are complex, it’s the raw emotions of the characters that carry the story forward.
The drama concludes with the realization that the wealthy and powerful individuals involved, aside from Lehman Brothers, managed to emerge from the crisis relatively unscathed.
All the banks, except for Lehman Brothers, were bailed out, and Paulson, an insider in Wall Street, was instrumental in orchestrating the rescue efforts.
The cast comprises a mix of North American and British actors, with Cromwell’s commanding presence being particularly noteworthy.
Despite having political views that differ from Paulson’s, he convincingly portrays the urgency of the situation.
Money for Nothing (2013)
The US Federal Reserve created almost a century ago, wields immense power today. Its every move and statement is watched closely by markets and governments worldwide.
Despite this, the average person knows very little about this powerful financial institution.
The documentary explores the Fed’s history from the Great Depression to the repeal of Bretton Woods and the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
It delves into Alan Greenspan’s association with Ayn Rand and explains technical concepts like “quantitative easing.”
For most people, this film serves as an excellent introduction to the Federal Reserve, which fuels not only the US economy but also the global economy.
It’s a reminder that despite its crucial role, many people still don’t understand what it does.
In late 1986 and early 1987, a fascinating short TV documentary was filmed, showcasing the small company owned by futures trader Paul Tudor Jones and his associate, Peter Borish.
The documentary highlights their research on comparative analysis of 1928 and 1986, which predicted a massive stock market crash. They had foreseen the crash to happen in March 1988, but it actually occurred in October 1987.
Contrary to the stereotype of 1980s stock market traders, the documentary portrays Paul and Peter as individuals who genuinely care about others.
They express their commitment to assisting with economic recovery after the crash and helping the community, with Paul dedicating one night every week to support students’ college education in Bed-Stuy.
Their philanthropic efforts have continued since then, with the establishment of the Robin Hood Foundation in 1988.
Throughout the documentary, a young NYSE floor trader in his early thirties is interviewed.
He reveals that he has lost everything three times over the nine years of his trading career but hopes to retire in the next five to six years. Unfortunately, as we now know, he was about to face a harsh reality.
The documentary showcases how Paul and Peter used statistical analysis to predict the catastrophic crash that almost no one at the time saw coming.
It reminds me of Moneyball, where a couple of men relied on statistical analysis to achieve great success, challenging conventional wisdom.
25 Million Pounds (1996)
25 Million Pounds is a television movie released in 1996, directed by Les Blair.
The film is based on a true story and follows the events leading up to the largest cash robbery in British history, which took place in 1995 at the Bank of England.
The film focuses on the planning and execution of the heist, as well as the investigation by the police and the Bank of England officials.
Through interviews with the robbers and their associates, as well as reenactments of the crime, the film provides a detailed and engaging look at the mechanics of a sophisticated robbery and the psychological motivations of the people involved.
With its suspenseful plot and realistic portrayal of a high-stakes crime, 25 Million Pounds remains a popular and entertaining movie for fans of heist films and true crime stories.
The Wizard of lies (2017)
The Bernie Madoff story teaches us not to steal from the very rich.
The film depicts Madoff’s story through flashbacks, starting with his incarceration and interview with a reporter. The movie portrays Madoff’s wife and sons as unaware of his Ponzi scheme until he told them just before his arrest.
While the film focuses on the small investors who lost everything, many with hundreds of millions left over were able to hire lawyers and even recover money from those who withdrew their funds before the scheme’s collapse.
De Niro’s portrayal of Madoff shows him as a man who compartmentalizes his theft from investors, even from family and friends, and who distributes his remaining funds to his family and loyal employees before turning himself in.
The film also shows Madoff’s odd quirks, such as being animated about a dirty dish and the way lobster is served at a society dinner.
An unusual scene features Madoff and his wife attempting to commit suicide using Ambien and other pharmaceuticals while watching TCM and Robert Osborne introducing Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Boiler Room (2000)
“Boiler Room” is a 2000 crime drama film that tells the story of Seth Davis, a college dropout who finds work at a brokerage firm in Long Island.
As Seth climbs the ranks, he uncovers the firm’s unethical and illegal activities, which involve cold-calling potential investors to sell them stocks of fake or failing companies.
The movie stars Giovanni Ribisi as Seth, alongside a talented supporting cast that includes Vin Diesel, Nia Long, and Ben Affleck. “Boiler Room” is highly regarded for its realistic portrayal of the corrupt finance industry and its snappy dialogue.
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019)
“The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” is a thought-provoking documentary film from 2019, directed by Alex Gibney.
It explores the story of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos, a healthcare technology company that claimed to have created a revolutionary blood testing system using just a small drop of blood.
The film reveals how the company’s fraudulent claims ultimately led to its downfall and criminal charges against Holmes.
Through interviews with former employees, journalists, and industry experts, as well as footage of Holmes’ public appearances and testimonies, the film delves into the toxic culture of hype and deceit in Silicon Valley.
It also serves as a cautionary tale about the risks of blindly embracing innovation without questioning its veracity.
The film has been widely praised by critics for its thorough research, engaging storytelling, and timely relevance to contemporary issues.
So, which of the best finance movies and documentaries have you watched?
Please let us know in the comments section below which of the above movies have you seen and out of them which one is your favorite?
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What is the best investment bank movie?
Margin call is one of the best investment bank movie that you must watch.
Hi there, my name is Shivani and I’m the founder of Fuelcoin and co-founder of Thefinanceopedia. I created this blog to share my knowledge and experience in cryptocurrency, banking, personal finance, and the stock market, and to help others build wealth.