12 Best Finance Movies That Tell A Lot About Money

Everyone – or, maybe, almost everyone – is looking to make more money. No doubt, one of the most favored sources from which to gain the inspiration for financial smartness is by watching money-themed movies. So, to help you choose rightly, we have here the 12 best finance movies that really tell a lot about money. Many of the movies that made the list are non-fiction (documentaries and finance book adaptations). This is to be understood since money issues are so real that they make their best sense in non-fiction. However, there are one or two that are fictional films. Here they are.

12 Best Finance Movies That Tell A Lot About Money

1. Barbarians At The Gate

Barbarians at the Gate best finance movies
A Section of the back cover of the book on which the film is based showing a New York Times review: Image source

This was a 1993 TV movie that showed on the HBO Channel. It mixed elements of biography, comedy, and drama, and was based on the book Barbarians At The Gate: The Fall Of RJR Nabisco co-authored by the investigative journalist cum Vanity Fair correspondent Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. The book itself was in turn based on a series of articles which the authors wrote for the Wall Street Journal. The movie is a documentary about the underhand dealings behind the leveraged buyout (LBO) attempts by the CEO F. Ross Johnson at the Manhattan-based tobacco/food company RJR Nabisco, Inc starting from 1988.

2. The Corporation

The Corporation
A movie poster of The Corporation: Image source.

One thing that marks out the 2003 Canadian documentary film The Corporation is that its script was written from a purely academic point of view by no less a person than the Professor of Law Joel Bakan. Even at that, the professor who is also a jazz player succeeded in using the movie to expose how modern corporations work to the understanding of the street. As one of the best finance movies you will find, The Corporation exposes the understanding of establishments as legal ‘persons’ with financial and other obligations as any individual.

3. The Ascent Of Money

The Ascent of Money
A movie poster of The Ascent Of Money: Image source

Understanding the history behind anything goes a long way in lighting up many grey areas around it. So, if you are looking to understand the history of money, then you have to watch this documentary movie adapted from the book The Ascent Of Money: A Financial History of The World authored by the Scottish historian and former Havard professor Niall Ferguson.

4. The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street best finance movies
A movie poster of The Wolf of Wall Street: Image source.

The Wolf of Wall Street is not only one of the best finance movies ever made in the US, but it is possibly the most well-known having garnered $392 million at the US Box Office with a budget of $100 million. Based on an autobiographical book of the same name by the ex-New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort, the film is about deep sharp practices that go on in the American stock market as exemplified by Belfort’s former stockbroking firm Stratton Oakmont, Inc.

5. Inside Job

The Inside Job movie
A movie poster of Inside Job: Image source.

While many people hate to remember the global financial crisis that came to its heights between 2007 and 2008, this film keeps the memory alive. But it does more than just keeping the memory alive because it tries to expose the systemic corruption in the finance sector of the US economy that was behind the meltdown. We name this among the best finance movies because it alerts all of us to what hurt our finances before so that we can all avoid it in the future.

6. Limitless

Limitless trailer
A scene from a Limitless trailer showing Bradley cooper and his co-stars: Image source

Unlike all the movies already accounted for above, Limitless is a fictional account. It tells of a character Eddie, a New York City book author, and his dramatic rise from financial hero to zero via the use of a nootropic drug known as NZT-48. Before he encountered the drug, Eddie was a struggling writer who had no friends and who was jilted by his girlfriend. But once he started consuming NZT-48, his writing skills, social skills, and sex appeal improved significantly and he became an intelligent investor, making huge sums from the stock market.

7. Too Big To Fail

Too Big To Fail HBO
A scene of Too Big To Fail: Image source.

This is yet another movie that was themed on the 2007/2008 Global Financial Crisis. The TV film that aired on HBO on May 23, 2011, was based on the 2009 book Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story Of How Wall Street and Washington Fought To Save The Financial System – and Themselves by the New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin. This is one of the most well-received finance movies ever. It got 10 nominations during the countdown to the 2011 Emmy Awards and 3 Golden Globe nominations in 2012. It has won 1 Screen Actors Guild award and 1 Writers Guild of America award.

8. Freakonomics: The Movie

A poster of Freakonomics: The Movie

This 2010 documentary film is based on a 2005 book entitled Freakonomics: A Rogue Scientist Explores The Hidden Side Of Everything by the University of Chicago economist Steven David Levitt and the New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner. In line with Steven Levitt’s signature approach of linking economics to the street and everything else, the movie – just like the book – is an attempt to reveal the huge role and contributions of pop culture to modern economy. Again, almost like the book which sold over 4 million copies, the movie was well-received among the viewing public, garnering 65% fresh rating on Rottentomatoes. Hence, its place among the best finance movies you can find.

9. The Big Short

The Big Short best finance movies
A tensed scene from The Big Short: Image source.

We can hardly ever have enough movies that explain aspects of the 2007/2008 economic meltdown to help us forestall any future reoccurrence of it. The Big Short is yet another one of such movies. The 2015 film is based on a 2010 book The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine by the financial journalist cum Vanity Fair contributor Michael Monroe Lewis. Just like the book which lasted 7 months on the New York Times Bestseller List, the movie too was well received. Made with a $50 million budget, the movie racked up $133 million at the box offices worldwide. This financial success surely arose from how the movie (toeing the line of the book) brought in a remote cause of the historic economic meltdown by holding the 2006 US real estate bubble responsible as its first and foremost trigger. The Big Short was also loved for employing unconventional approaches in explaining financial instruments and for its high historical accuracy levels.

See Also: These Are The Most Expensive Things In The World Right Now

10. The China Hustle

The China Hustle
A movie poster of The China Hustle: Image source.

The US-China Trade War has escalated since mid-2018 and one of its major triggers may have been this 2017 finance documentary The China Hustle. The documentary claims to expose the underground financial deals by certain US investment banks as they take advantage of the widespread desperation among US investors which has been trailing the 2007/2008 economic meltdown. As revealed in the movie, those investment banks have been taking undue advantage of the meltdown by getting small nondescript Chinese firms listed on the New York Stock Exchange overnight. How in fact? They do a reverse merger between those Chinese firms and defunct American firms while inviting respectable Americans to the investment conferences where the merger holds to give it a semblance of acceptability. As one of the best finance movies around, The China Hustle currently has an audience score of 84% on Rottentomatoes from 198 reviews.

11. Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room
A poster of Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room: Image source.

In 1985, two small regional American corporations (Houston Natural Gas and InterNorth) finalized a merger deal and became Enron Corporation which rose speedily to become one of the happening mega-corporations in the country. With 29,000 workers on its payroll, Enron suddenly became a major economic stakeholder in the energy, communications, and commodity markets. It was named ‘America’s Most Innovative Company’ for a record six years consecutively by the New-York-City-based multinational business magazine, Fortune. Enron quoted a revenue of over $100 billion during the year 2000 and became one of the few internet-based corporations that survived the bursting of the dot-com bubble that year. Then, in December 2001, the company was officially declared bankrupt.

The 2005 documentary film Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room which was based on a bestseller of the same name published two years earlier and authored by two Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, looks back at the events (especially behind-the-scene ones) that led to the rise and fall of Enron. The film has been acclaimed for its reputation for piquing viewers interest as it takes you through the endless intrigues and sharp practices which many comments claim as the most shocking example of modern corporate corruption. It currently has 87% audience score on Rottentomatoes from 32,514 reviews while garnering 97% on the official Tomatometer rating with 119 counts.

12. Banking On Bitcoin

Banking On Bitcoin
A poster of Banking On Bitcoin: Image source.

A Change (especially an ambitious change in the economic landscape) is usually difficult to accept. But risk-takers who are customer lucky enough to be the first to embrace an economic change that eventually works, usually become the leaders in a new phase of the economy. As a result, the 2016 documentary film Banking On Bitcoin makes this list of the best finance movies you can lay hands on today for taking on the rise of the cryptocurrency economy that is currently upon the world. The documentary essentially chronicles the history of Bitcoin from its earliest beginnings while also using the opportunity to introduce the viewer to cryptocurrency and what it entails. Although the current rating of this film on Rotten Tomatoes is 66% from 95 reviews, many online comments attribute this to the fact that both the movie and the theme on which it is based are relatively new.

Chinedu Nweke
Chinedu Nweke
A graduate of Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome, Italy, Chinedu Desmond Nweke is a computer teacher, writer and a humanist.


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