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Top 10: Finance Movies

Our favorite films about making (and losing) money

American Psycho
Before Christian Bale was a caped crusader in Gotham City, he was the titular character in Mary Harron’s 2000 film American Psycho. Bale played Patrick Bateman, a well-to-do Wall Street investment banker, who also happens to be a serial killer. Greedy and materialistic, Bateman’s homicidal actions are driven by his own self-induced feelings of inadequacy—a hyperbolic representation of the status-obsessed finance class in the 1980s. Based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, the film adaptation also stars Justin Theroux and Josh Lucas.

Trading Places
This 1983 John Landis comedy follows two commodity trader brothers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy) as they swap a wealthy broker (Dan Aykroyd) at their company for a homeless hustler (Eddie Murphy). All goes according to plan until Aykroyd and Murphy use insider information on a business deal to plot revenge. 

Boiler Room
Inspired by Jordan Belfort and his firm Stratton Oak—names you might recognize from Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street—this film follows 19-year-old college dropout Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) as he lands a job as a broker at an investment firm. What he believes is his ticket to success turns into a pump-and-dump scheme, in which brokers misleadingly sell worthless stocks to increase its price before selling their own shares. 

The Wolf Of Wall Street
The life and story of Jordan Belfort is so compelling that it led to not one, but two movies. While Boiler Room delivers the perspective of one of the firm’s brokers, Scorsese’s film—starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the titular broker—takes you straight to the source. Based on Belfort’s revealing autobiography, Terence Winter’s adaptation, starring Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie, is an exercise in pure excess.

Wall Street
If there’s one thing Bud Fox believes, it’s that money is power. A young stockbroker willing to do anything to climb to the top of the finance food chain, Fox (Charlie Sheen) becomes quickly captivated by ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), and convinces him to take him under his wing. Before long, Fox finds himself betrayed by Gekko, tangled in his shady schemes that involve trading on illegal inside information. The Oliver Stone-directed drama, in which Douglas also earned an Oscar, portrays Gekko’s “greed is good” mentality to its fullest.

Margin Call
Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci and Demi Moore take audiences behind the scenes into a fictional bank during the beginning stages of the financial crisis. Using the real-life economic meltdown as his springboard, writer/director J.C. Chandor captures the nitty-gritty workings of financial institutions and the people that work within those walls.

It’s A Wonderful Life
While Fran Capra’s 1946 feel-good classic is traditionally thought of as a Christmas movie, it’s also a story about banking in the early part of the 20thcentury. James Stewart plays George Bailey, a savings-and-loan owner so overwhelmed by his financial obligations that he contemplates taking his own life. At that moment, he meets an angel, who lets him in on how he’s made the world a better place.

Inside Job
In 2008, the stock market crashed leaving millions jobless and homeless in the United States. Directed by Charles Ferguson, this Oscar-winning documentary traces the triggering factors that fueled that collapse. It’s split in five parts, narrated by Matt Damon, and incorporates detailed accounts from financiers, politicians, journalists, and academic scholars. Shot on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China, audiences can expect a comprehensive top-to-bottom analysis of one of the most cataclysmic days on Wall Street.

Other People’s Money
Norman Jewison’s 1991 romantic dramedy gives new meaning to the saying for love or money. When Lawrence “Larry the Liquidator” Garfield (Danny DeVito) threatens to take a struggling cable company and sell off the parts for a profit, the business’ owner, Andrew Jorgensen (Gregory Peck), requests his attractive stepdaughter lawyer Kate (Penelope Ann Miller) step in. Completely smitten by her, Garfield becomes torn between love and greed—that is, Kate or the cash. 

The Big Short
This is not your average old fogey financial flick. For starters, Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez, and Margot Robbie all make entertaining cameos, breaking the fourth wall to talk finance terminology. Co-written by Adam McKay and based on the Michael Lewis book of the same title, this Oscar-nominated biographical comedy-meets-drama features a group of guys who predict the impending credit and housing bubble collapse, and subsequently decide to take full advantage of the corrupt banks. Plus, it comes with all-star cast including Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and Steve Carell.