Less than two months after the global stock market crash in 1987, known as Black Monday, Wall Street was released in theaters. The film shed light on the amoral complexities of the financial world, captivating audiences and giving birth to a new genre of movies: finance films. Despite the seemingly mundane subject matter of the stock market, these films have managed to find success by drawing inspiration from real events.
The 2007-2008 global financial crisis alone has inspired a significant number of finance films, with nearly half of the films on this list being influenced by it. The most recent event to inspire a movie is the 2021 GameStop short squeeze, which is portrayed in the film Dumb Money, directed by Craig Gillespie. The movie tells the thrilling story of how Redditors drove up the price of GameStop stocks, challenging the traditional investment narrative.
To celebrate the release of Dumb Money, we have compiled a list of the best finance films since Wall Street first captivated audiences 36 years ago. These films delve into the world of finance, showcasing the glitz, glamor, and danger of Wall Street.
Wall Street (1987), set in the extravagant backdrop of 1980s Wall Street, depicts the story of Bud Fox, a young stockbroker, and his quest to establish a relationship with the legendary Gordon Gekko. Bud’s desperate attempt to impress Gekko leads him to share insider information, kicking off a toxic partnership fueled by greed and excess.
Rogue Trader (1999) is based on the true story of Nick Leeson, who engaged in unauthorized trading that led to the bankruptcy of Barings Bank in 1995. The film focuses on Leeson’s rise and fall as he hides massive losses, causing global financial distress. The most compelling part of Rogue Trader is Leeson’s attempt to escape Singapore after the bank’s collapse.
Boiler Room (2000) follows Seth Davis, a young man who joins a brokerage firm only to discover its fraudulent practices. In an effort to help the defrauded investors, Seth teams up with his father to scam the firm back. The film draws inspiration from the real-life experiences of Jordan Belfort, the subject of The Wolf of Wall Street.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) takes place during the 2008 financial crisis. Gordon Gekko is released from prison and predicts an economic decline in his book. Jake, a young prop trader, forms a relationship with Gekko in an attempt to reconcile with his estranged daughter. However, Gekko’s ulterior motives complicate matters.
Limitless (2011) may not seem like a typical finance film, but it explores the perception skills required to succeed on Wall Street. Eddie, a struggling writer, gains extraordinary cognitive abilities after taking a new drug. He uses his newfound skills to excel in stock trading, but soon realizes the dangerous consequences of the drug.
Too Big to Fail (2011), based on Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book, delves into the attempts to mitigate the financial crisis and stabilize the US economy. It focuses on the financial leaders who worked to bail out the big banks, but the lack of oversight in the Troubled Asset Relief Program leads to public distrust.
Margin Call (2011) takes place over a 24-hour period at an unnamed investment bank during the early stages of the financial crisis. The firm discovers its impending bankruptcy and decides to rid itself of toxic assets, despite the consequences. The movie exposes corporate greed and the disregard for public interest during the crisis.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), directed by Martin Scorsese, offers a captivating depiction of the Wall Street madness of the ’80s and ’90s. The film follows the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who indulges in excess and illegal activities. It serves as a cautionary tale of the consequences of greed and corruption.
These finance films have managed to transform the seemingly dull world of Wall Street into gripping narratives that resonate with audiences. They explore the dangers of greed, the consequences of financial crises, and the intricate workings of the stock market.