Best Movies About Money And Finance
The quest for capital and all of the advantages that it brings has consumed man since we developed opposable thumbs. While many movies deal with money as a peripheral issue, there are some great movies that deal with the mechanics of making money. I have always been fascinated with the inner workings of our society…exploring what happens in the real corridors of power. However, what sets movies about money and finance apart from movies about politics is that movies about finance are set in much more insular worlds. These worlds can also be disparate. Watching Bud Fox penetrate the insular world of Wall Street titans provides different insights than carefully dissecting the inner workings of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood.
This list is by no means exhaustive. I enjoyed these movies because they add something of tremendous artistic value to our culture. Yet, I feel that these stories, in light of our current economic situation, offer a sort of “I told you so” to those who displayed reckless disregard for our economy and a cautionary tale to those who would take the reins of power into their own hands.
1.) Boiler Room
Boiler Room plays like a hip, wannabe Wall Street. What it lacks in gravitas it more than makes up for in convincing, overly aggressive performances. While Boiler Room does not add much to our understanding of how the market works, it accurately captures the greed and testosterone addled mentality of the young brokers who helped get us into this mess. Depending on your perspective, you will either find Ben Affleck’s speech rousing or terrifying. Ultimately, the film goes off course towards the climax. But as a fun ride and a guilty pleasure, you could do much worse.
“The truth is stranger than fiction” is another well-worn cliche. Yet, when it comes to this documentary, the truth is scarier than fiction. Based on the New York Times best-selling book of the same name, The Smartest Guys In The Room details the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of one of the world’s largest companies. Displaying an almost completely unbound hubris, the Enron executives manipulated entire markets and created elaborate accounting schemes to hide massive debt and post phantom profits.
There are many harrowing stories told in this documentary. Yet, the low-light has to be when you see Enron energy traders manipulate an energy shortage and then laugh and congratulate one another when California has to resort to rolling blackouts, some of which may have cost lives. While the movie does go into considerable detail about the dysfunctional business practices of Enron, it is not dry and pedantic. This is simply a documentary that must be seen to be believed.
Ostensibly set in the mundane world of salesmen, Glengarry Glen Ross is an outstanding movie that encapsulates the vicious nature of capitalism. Set in a dingy sales office, it centers on some Average Joes “trying to make a buck” by selling real estate. They have bad leads and have had trouble making their quotas. Alec Baldwin comes to the office and gives the guys a much needed pep talk and the plot continues to unfold from there. While David Mamet’s script, which turns profanity into poetry, is more concerned with exploring honor and the nature of masculinity, it does a terrific job of capturing the dog-eat-dog ethos of modern American life.
There Will Be Blood is a masterful study of egomania and greed set during the oil rush of the early 20th century. Daniel Day Lewis becomes Daniel Plainview, a man who moves from one obsession to another in a single-minded quest for financial success. Everyone and everything succumbs to, and is eventually destroyed by, his obsession. This is a wonderful, but harsh movie that ably demonstrates the lengths that some people will go to in order to achieve their goals. More importantly, this movie also observes what happens to a person once their obsession is satiated; and there is nothing else animating their inner life.
5.) Wall Street
This movie has been written about and debated for two decades now. Hailed for its prescience at the time of its release (it was released two months after Black Monday), Wall Street defined the culture of 1980s greed. Michael Douglas won an Oscar for his depiction of corporate raider and financial titan, Gordon Gecko. Charlie Sheen played the smart, ambitious, and naive Bud Fox. Fox is lured by the siren call of wealth and is willing to sell his soul in order to achieve his dreams. There are many memorable performances, including, inexplicably, a terribly off-key and one note performance by Darryl Hannah. Yet, Wall Street more than stands the test of time and stands as one of Oliver Stone’s seminal films. It is a shame that many of the film’s lessons were ignored or forgotten so soon.