It might seem counter-intuitive, but these entertaining movies are a great way to understand the underpinnings of the financial world from the comfort of your own home. Expensive suits, shady dealings, and betrayal; throw in some drama, and you’ve got yourself a blockbuster that is not only entertaining but also factual. Though Hollywood portrays the financial realm with a sinister vibe, some of your lessons about risk-taking, greed, and difficult decisions are very practical.
Oliver Stone’s Classic movie revolves around the life of a corporate tycoon named Gordon Gekko (who is played by Michael Douglas), who takes a young stockbroker, Bud Fox (played by Charlie Sheen), under his tutelage. The condition was that Fox gives him any tips that come his way.
Fox, eager to get into the big leagues, discloses this inside information (Gekko then uses it to manipulate the market). His catchphrase accurately defines his character and his persona: Greed is Good. But in the climax of the film, however, this unbridled greed threatens the well-being of the people he cares about most. Namely, when Gekko threatened Blue Star Airlines (where Fox’s father worked) and their employees, fleecing them of their retirement money.
The movie’s concept embodies the epitome of what it takes to thrive in business and the consequences of being in the top tier. In the movie, Gekko says,
“Someone reminded me I once said greed is good. Now, it seems it’s legal.”
While the statement is true, it reflects another one of Gekko’s deep-seated philosophies: his belief in the power of money. Greed may be legal, but it does not mean that it is always good or in a person’s best interest to want more. Like in the movie, it usually comes at the cost of one’s relationships.
The other takeaway is to take calculated risks. Many investors and stockbrokers need to understand that they will not get a substantial return if they don’t first accept a certain level of risk. How much risk they can tolerate will dictate their financial status down the line.
This movie is often referred to as a finance classic by several movie critics.
This story is a humorous take on the Nature vs Nurture theory and puts it to the test. Mortimer and Randolph Duke are commodity brokers who enjoy a good wager whenever they can. For their latest bet, Randolph believes that any man will take heed and cease immorality for a better future when allowed to do good. For this, he sets up a criminal named Billy Ray to be given the job post and house of Louis. Later on, Louis is convicted of crimes he did not commit to finding out how he would respond to this unfavourable circumstance, and more importantly if he would actually resort to crime.
Though a comedy, it accurately represents life changes and shows that anyone can go from rags to riches and vice versa and is an excellent representation of a widely misunderstood concept: Short Selling.
The Big Short
In the movie, three investment bankers (starring Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Michael Burry, and Steve Carrel) are betting or shorting against the housing market. This means that they are betting that the housing or real estate market will go down in value.
The book by Michael Lewis follows the true story of a few investors who bet against the US mortgage market in 2006-2007. After conducting their research, they found that the US mortgage-housing security system wouldn’t survive, let alone prosper, in the coming years; so, they invested accordingly. However, they didn’t initially know how flawed the mortgage-housing system was, the extent of corruption in the market, and the impact of the fallout on the average person.
There are a few things you can pick up from this movie:
- First, it shows that a good investor will never take anyone’s word on a matter but thoroughly assess and study the situation themselves before deciding.
- Shorting a market is a precarious business, and you can never pull it off consistently. Yes, people have paid off their bets when a market crashes, but the risk hardly warrants the shorting. The Economist called the housing boom the “biggest bubble in history.”, so there was a lot at stake.
This thriller is also based on a true story. It captures the early hours of the 2008 financial crisis when an investment company’s employees ( Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, and Zachary Quinto) unlock information that could be detrimental to their firm’s future. A junior risk management employee finds that the firm’s trading will soon exceed the past volatility levels used to calculate risk. This meant that if the firm’s assets (in mortgage-backed securities) decrease by 25%, the firm will owe more than its market capitalization. This movie captures the effect that shorting could have on a firm and can be considered the repercussions of the previous film (The Big Short).
The concept of a margin call is complicated and warrants an explanation. A margin call is when an investor borrows money from a broker to invest. So, when the investor invests, he does it with a sum of his own money and the money borrowed from the broker. Now, in the finance industry, there is no such thing as risk-free trading, and like it or not, there is always a chance that investment can go down the drain. If it does and you were using borrowed money, you would be looking at a margin call.
When this happens, the stocker will demand that the investor deposit more money to bring the margin account back to the broker’s minimum requirement, known as the maintenance margin.
In short, a margin call will signify that one or more of the investments held in the margin account has decreased in value, and the investor must deposit more money in the account to bring it back to its original value. Alternatively, he can sell some of the assets in the margin account to even the odds.
Like the previous two entries on this list, Charles Ferguson’s documentary (starring Matt Damon) discusses the 2008 financial disaster. However, instead of focusing on who received the short end of the stick, it singled out the perpetrators and those responsible. It aims to find order in the chaos; to understand why the financial debacle transpired in the first place.
It’s split into five sections:
- How We Got Here, which explains the systemic corruption
- The Bubble (2001–2007), which explains the technical aspects of the housing bubble
- The Crisis, which explains what happened once banks started to realize what was happening
- Accountability, which explains how the U.S. government forced these institutions to face their misconduct and be held responsible
- Where We Are Now, which describes the current face of the financial landscape and the fallout from the debacle
The documentary’s goal is to provide insight into conditions that can lead to economic decline and the role of the government in its restoration. However, disaster can strike at any time, so it is better to be prepared and look out for signs that may indicate a crisis.
Barbarians at the Gate
Here is another example of a reverse classic. Take the character of Gordon Gekko from Wall Street (The first entry), but instead of a hostile takeover, make it is a corporate one. Again, all the key elements stay the same except that in this documentary film, the villain is a flamboyant, comedic slant.
That villain is F. Ross Johnson, who, despite his humble beginnings as a paperboy in Winnipeg, became an exuberant CEO based in NYC. However, when faced with an expensive project that teeters on the edge of failure, he decides to collect enough money to buy the company from shareholders himself. He might have even succeeded, but, unfortunately for him, a few sharks caught the scent of the bloody trail. And what ensued was an auction in a pool with sharks that counted their money in the billions.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the movie (based on a real event):
- Leveraged Buyouts (LBOs) began as a way for wealthy people to avoid taxes and quickly became a way for large businesses to buy out others and get richer. They have become a synonym for corporate greed.
- Rich people like Ross Johnson could use LBOs to increase their wealth, but, in doing so, they would hurt companies and employees that work for them.
- Jhonson continued his thriving career after leaving the LBO deal for RJR Nabisco while some lost their fortunes in it.
Here is a story about a former bank clerk that singlehandedly brought down one of the most prestigious banks in the world by gambling away his earnings and then trying to cover up his deceit. But, unfortunately, Nick Leeson (played by Ewan McGregor) gets caught in a vicious cycle where he tries to cover up his losses with unsanctioned trades.
A trader is an individual permitted to trade on behalf of their client or employer. When a trader makes unapproved financial transactions or mismarks security held by the employer without their consent, they are said to have gone rogue.
The main takeaway is that if you find yourself sinking in quicksand, try not to worsen your situation by doing something. This is the mistake that Nick Leeson (our protagonist) makes when he finds that his losses had amassed to 352 million dollars. To save himself, he invested in Japan’s Nikkei stocks. Unfortunately for him, they plummeted, and he ended up with a loss of 7 billion dollars.
Of course, this is an extreme case, but many investors new to the financial game make the mistake of digging a hole from which they can’t get out.
Boiler Room tells the tale of a 19-year-old named Seth (played by Giovanni Ribisi) that ran an illegal casino in his apartment before being caught by his father. In need of a source of income, his father set him up as a broker with Long Island, NY, where he learns to sell dubious or, otherwise, worthless stocks for a small fortune.
After watching this movie, you’ll be on the lookout for a few things in the financial industry:
- When you are buying something from a broker, remember that a broker is just an intermediary. The owner of the stock is, just like you, another investor. If you are buying, find out why the other person is so keen on selling. They may be doing it on the word of a financial advisor, an investment strategy, or cashing it in for their expenditures. It could also be that they are getting out of a sour investment while they still have time. Always do your research on the seller and buy accordingly; you don’t want to make the wrong investment decision.
- Without giving too much away, the characters in the story take a few hits to their personal lives when it starts to compete with their work. Becoming an investor means you will invest your most important commodity, your time and energy, into doing research and keeping yourself up-to-date on the latest fluctuation in stocks. But, unfortunately, it will sometimes pull you away from important and meaningful people.
Too Big to Fail
Here, we take a closer look at the inside workings of the Federal Reserve as they negotiate with Warren Buffett and other investors as well as members of Congress to save the economy during the 2008 crisis (March to October 2008). In the movie, Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke work together to save the Lehman Brothers by convincing the leaders of the biggest banks to underwrite themselves. However, any attempts at saving the company are futile, and Lehman’s lay on the verge of bankruptcy. Their subsequent collapse sends ripples throughout the financial market and stock exchanges.
Rumours are a dangerous tool that can compromise the integrity of a bank and bring down even the biggest of them. For example, Continental Illinois was guilty of disarray and mismanagement, but that wasn’t the real reason for its downfall. It was only when an unfounded rumour (claiming the bank was bordering on bankruptcy) was published that they found themselves at the mercy of the Federal Reserve.
Many people don’t realize that the forefront of all business isn’t money or capital. It is, simply, human behaviour that guides them into certain predictable paths when they are met with incentives. In this movie, economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner host an anthology of documentaries that carefully examines how people react when they are met by an opportunity to gain, wittingly or otherwise.
You can pick up on a few social cues and get a better insight into the human psyche. So, you will see that:
- Incentives work, just not the way you planned them to.
- All incentives have an ulterior motive behind them. ‘A dark side,’ as the author would put it.
- Outcomes will change drastically depending on how much knowledge is given to subjects and how many subjects it is given.
It uses excellent case studies to prove its point.
Banking On Bitcoin
Banking on bitcoin is a documentary that delves into the sublime world of cryptocurrency. It offers many opposing views on the growing use and popularity of cryptocurrency, which, being decentralized, is considered illegal in many parts of the world. It can monopolize illegal activities like money laundering or buy or sell drugs/weaponry on the internet. The movie encapsulates everything you need to know about the burgeoning underworld of cryptocurrency, including how it began and how it works.
Young enthusiasts will describe the unprecedented growth of bitcoin and the dangerous risk associated with it as a fallacy. They argue that you take a risk every time you invest in a stock, knowing that it could plummet at any point. So why should bitcoin be treated any differently?
Bitcoin is also the solution for the monetary problems of third-world countries where the value of the currency fluctuates rapidly due to political policies and disputes.
Glengarry Glen Ross
Set in a Chicago real-estate office, it pits five sales associates against each other when their boss, Bleak, gives them a strong incentive to make the most sales. The prize – a Cadillac El Dorado. The insurmountable pressure and the ‘Winner takes all’ stake fuels their will to succeed even more.
“Coffee is for closers.” This statement reverberates throughout the movie and is an excellent reminder always to finish what you started. Push through and close the deal before giving up on a potential lead. Learn never to take no for an answer.
Nothing might be more helpful in this regard than Alec Baldwin’s AIDA acronym. It dictates the four stages of getting a client on board with your proposal and closing a deal.
Get their Attention
Develop their interest in the prospect
Put forth a Decision. Focus on how important their choice will be
Take Action. Write up an agreement and close the deal
The Wolf of Wall Street
The most famous entry on this list (starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie) and one of the highest-rated stock market movies ever, The Wolf of Wall Street, is based on a book with the same name is centred on the life of Jordan Belfort. He was an ambitious stockbroker who started a brokerage firm of his own and quickly rose through the annals of Wall Street. However, his success was followed by a life of opulence, substance abuse, and lies. This leads the firm to come under the scrutiny of the Federal Government. And to secure his fortune, Jordan had to cook up new schemes.
The best lesson to pick up from this movie is to make good friends with people at your company so that they work for/with you wholeheartedly. One of the main reasons that Jordan was so successful was that he could make good friends with his employees. He would even have strong relationships with them outside work, which brought about sincere respect for him.
The other important takeaway is to build more connections. Social gatherings were common sights in The Wolf of Wall Street, and such activities allow you to create a strong bond with people and make new connections that are an investment in and of themselves.
This is another documentary that looks at the 2008 financial crisis from a federal perspective. It captures the early moments of the crisis when Henry Paulson (Treasury Secretary) and Timothy Geithner (Federal Reserve Bank President) try to save the United States from an economic collapse.
The Federal Reserve tried in vain to buy up treasuries and mortgage-backed securities to curtail, what would be, an inevitable decline. These large-scale purchases had only made matters worse as the interest rates diminished and asset prices skyrocketed, leading to even greater inequality.
The consensus today is that we are much safer now than we were 10 years ago. But the truth is that we don’t know when the economy will break down again. There are only a handful of preliminary signs, and this case is a so-called ‘Black Swan.’ Metaphorically, it is like when cracks begin to appear on a wall, but before we can understand why, the entire structure comes tumbling down. So it is always better to err on the side of caution.
The Bottom Line
Finance movies are a great way to learn about the industry. Reading nuances of stocks, pondering the daring leaps, and understanding mistakes made by characters in the movie provide excellent case studies for us to think over, especially since almost all the movies listed are based on real people or real people events.
Movies About Finance
The film portrays the life of a real estate salesman whose morality is undermined by working for an unscrupulous company. It is an Oscar-winning documentary and one of the best documentaries about the 2008 financial crisis and its causes on the world in general. The film is an entertaining film to watch if you want to have a good laugh.
While economics and finance in the film take a back seat, the impact of the great economic downturn caused by the 2008 financial crisis is felt by one man’s society. Whether you’re for or against the millions of people laid off in the wake of the financial crisis, the film is relatable, insightful, and emotional to watch. Gekko’s Speech highlights the film, which summarizes today’s generation’s current economic and financial conditions.
The film follows the downsizing of a GTX shipbuilding company and the lives of three laid-off employees. The film is about Jordan Belfort, a major stockbroker who loses his job due to a steep fall in the share price. However, he gets a job at a small brokerage and earns a small fortune from his top unconventional marketing skills and unethical trading practices.
Christian Bale is a violent and thought-provoking thriller set against the backdrop of the financial world. In this forgotten 1993 television film, he plays a wealthy investment banker with a dark secret about Nabisco’s leveraged acquisition of LBO RJR. This film has very little real finance, but it sheds light on the surreal world in which the financial elite lives and the total disconnect between them and their reality.
The film stars Robert De Niro as Bernad Madoff and shows the unravelling of his $65 billion Ponzi scheme during the 2008 financial crisis. Based on Jordan Belfort’s life, “The Wolf of Wall Street” tracked the rise and fall of one of the most powerful men in the financial world. Although he holds the world record for most f * cked up movies, some complain that the movie is long and boring, while others, especially men, find it amusing and entertaining.
In my humble opinion, there are many more films about the financial world. In selecting the best films about finance, here are the ones that are worth seeing. The criteria are not fixed in any particular order, but the margins of Wall Street, the so-called Boiler Rooms, Arbitrage and The Wolf of Wall Street are in a league of their own.
The film is based on a non-fiction book written by Micheal Lewis and directed by Adam McKay. The Oscar-winning documentary Get Me Out of Here is the best film ever made about the financial crisis. Filmed in the United States, England, Iceland, France, Singapore and China and narrated by Matt Damon, the film features haunting scenes and powerful interviews with scientists and politicians.
High-profile interviewees, a fast-paced and gripping narrative by Matt Damon, explains what happened before the financial crisis and how great fear and greed were. It is a 2015 film that tells the story of a man who profited from the impending economic crisis by making massive profits on the stock market. High-profile interviews and great cinematography pack a gripping true story.
It is an informative documentary focusing on the real estate and banking crisis of 2008. It’s a great film that describes the failure of investment banks and institutions that didn’t even understand the product they were building. The Margin Call is the most famous investment film Netflix is known for and shows the clever ways in which professionals can break up complicated financial instruments.
The Margin Call is one of the best films based on the prehistory of the 2008 financial crisis. The story describes what happened during a 36-hour period at a major Wall Street investment bank and sheds light on the early stages of the crisis. This is the film for you if you’re interested in what happened to financial firms during the financial crisis.
The film is based on the true story of a derivative broker named Nick Leeson, played in the film by Ewan McGregor, who caused the 1995 bankruptcies of the 233-year-old Baring Bank in England. Leeson’s reckless trading and false accounting led to his conviction and imprisonment in Singapore. This film will help you gain an insight into the nuances of investment banking and IPOs.
I have seen countless films, financing films, documentaries, and television programmes in the last few months. Of course, the films about stock exchange entrepreneurs with enormous wealth are always interesting for the public. But there is only one film that has made it onto my list, and it’s a wonderful life that shows financial professionals in a positive light, even though it came out in cinemas in 1946.
The stock exchange films are set in the world of high finance, where the scenery corresponds to the income of the main actors. What struck me about the portrayal of finance in these films is that few films or documentaries suggest how to repair the industry and the financial system our country is committed to. Nevertheless, the films that comprise my Top 20 list are enjoyable to watch and informative, offering an insider’s perspective on options and futures, leveraged buyouts and the slow-motion collapse of global investment banks.
I am sure that the private investors who cheat with their savings get to see a lot about stock trading in the film itself because they invest with greed and trust in an unknown person.
The Wall Street thing is not always as great as it seems, despite what the best Wall Street movies would have us believe. But, on the contrary, there might be more truth in it, so stock market documentaries are a good choice if you want a closer look behind the scenes.