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Top 5 Hollywood Films All About Stocks and Money

Hollywood and money have always had a symbiotic relationship. It is called “show business” for a reason. It only makes sense that Hollywood would tackle films about money, finance, and the stock market. The financial market makes for great storytelling.

Whether you are looking to learn about the best tax free investments, understand how the financial crisis of 2007-2008 came to be, or just want to be entertained by the eccentric behavior of Wall Street brokers, these Hollywood films all have something to teach us about money.

The Big Short (2015)

The Big Short, directed by Adam Mckay and starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, is a film adaptation of the nonfiction book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, written by Michael Lewis. The film details the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the causes of the United States housing bubble.

The film begins when a brilliant hedge fund manager realizes the U.S. housing market is highly unstable and correctly predicts the 2007 financial crisis. The story consists of three major financial players, Scion Capital, Front Point Partners, and Brownfield Capital, and each of their roles before and during the financial crisis.

One of the most notable features of this film is its cameo appearances by various celebrities. Throughout the film “special guests,” interrupt the story (breaking the fourth wall) to explain complex financial concepts. For instance, Selena Gomez discusses subprime mortgages while lounging in a bathtub.

Rogue Trader (1999)

Based on the real-life 1995 collapse of Barings Bank, Rogue Trader follows the story of Nick Leeson (Ewan McGregor), the trader who single-handedly brought down the world’s second oldest merchant bank. Adapted from Leeson’s 1996 book Rogue Trader: How I Brought Down Barings Bank and Shook the Financial World, the film follows Leeson’s meteoric rise on the trading floor of the SIMEX (Singapore Exchange) to becoming one of Barings key traders.

Contrary to the success that Leeson portrays, he hides huge losses from his bosses, destroying the Barings Bank. The film is lauded for its lessons in risk management and financial oversight.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Many people may not know Jordan Belfort by name, but plenty have heard and seen his wild escapades in this 2013 blockbuster directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese. The Wolf of Wall Street stars Leonardo Di Caprio as the inglorious Jordan Belfort, an immoral stockbroker whose firm, Stratton Oakmont, ran an infamous pump and dump scheme on unsuspecting investors.

The film traces Belfort’s journey from a Wall Street broker with L.F. Rothschild until he loses his job due to Black Monday. From there, Belfort recruits a few friends and founds his Stratton Oakmont, and the rest as they say, “is history.”

The film is notable for its outrageous displays of wealth, explicit sexual behavior, and drug use, much of which Belfort wrote about in his memoir, The Wolf of Wall Street. Additionally, the film drew criticism for its lack of empathy for victims of Belfort, its extensive use of profanity, and questionable morality surrounding some of the events the film portrays.

Margin Call (2011)

Considered one of the most “accurate,” financial films, Margin Call portrays the story of a Wall Street bank on the brink of financial disaster. Loosely based on real-world events during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the film examines the reckless behavior of big banks during the lead-up to the financial collapse.

Starring Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Penn Badgley, and Demi Moore, Margin Call delves into the risky decisions banks made such as trading complex derivative instruments that they themselves barely understood. Further, the film tacitly calls out the banks, traders, and hedge fund managers who foresaw the financial crisis but did very little to mitigate the damage to the financial markets and ordinary citizens.

Wall Street (1987)

One of the best-known films about Wall Street and finance, Wall Street is a must-see film for everyone. Directed by the legendary Oliver Stone, Wall Street stars Michael Douglass and Charlie Sheen and showed the greed and hedonism of Wall Street unlike any film before it. The iconic character Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglass) spoke one of the most memorable lines of the 1980s “Greed, for lack of a better word, good.”

Many people credit their interest in finance and the stock market has been inspired by this film. The film tells the story of a young stockbroker named Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) who lands a job with his mentor Gordon Gekko after several unsuccessful attempts. Together the two embark on a journey of trades and stock buying through questionable means. The two eventually find themselves at odds over their dirty dealings.

Wall Street is lauded for its cautionary tale of greed, consumption, and dishonesty that permeated the excess of the 1980s.

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