Best Finance Movies and Documentaries
In finance, things are not always as great as they seem to be nor as the best Wall Street movies try to make us believe. The opposite holds more truth and finance movies and documentaries are the best choice when you want to take a closer look behind the scenes.
Best Finance Movies and Documentaries
1. Enron – The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
Nominated for 1 Oscar (2006). Another 3 wins & 10 nominations
In this finance documentary, director Alex Gibney tells the story of ENRON. Enron, the U.S. energy company that had one of the biggest economic failures in the U.S. Founded in 1985, ENRON was a playground for the managers of the company who tried to enrich themselves, until bankruptcy in 2001.
Ultimately, accounting fraud, money shifts and entrepreneurial adventures cost more than 20,000 people their jobs. In addition, the staff’s pension fund of $2 billion was plundered. In the end, ENRON’s debts amounted to about $30 billion.
Jeffrey Skilling: “Oh I can’t help myself. You know what the difference between the state of California and Titanic? And this is being webcast, and I know I’m going to regret this – at least when the Titanic went down, the lights were on.”
2. Inside Job (2010)
Won 1 Oscar (2011). Another 7 wins & 26 nominations
In 2008, the biggest speculative bubble of recent years burst. Within a very short time, gigantic monetary values disappeared as a result of the price decline on the stock exchanges. Millions of people lost their jobs, their savings, and their home ownership.
Inside Job, the documentary by Charles Ferguson does not reveal all the drawbacks that led to the crisis, but it does cover many interesting aspects that definitely make the film worth watching. Narrated by Matt Damon, Inside Job won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2011 and is among the top rated financial films on IMDB.com
Andrew Sheng: “Why should a financial engineer be paid four times to 100 times more than a real engineer? A real engineer build bridges. A financial engineer build dreams. And, you know, when those dreams turn out to be nightmares, other people pay for it.”
3. Quants: The Alchemists of Wall Street (2010)
The YouTube channel VPRO documentary publishes a background report on various topics every week. Quants: The Alchemist of Wall Street was a report published on March 4, 2010, which addressed, among other things, the risks associated with algorithm-based trading decisions on Wall Street.
4. Money and Speed: Inside the Black Box (Flash Crash 2010)
The report released on 12-13-2012, Flash Crash 2010 (original title, Money & Speed: Inside the Black Box) is comparable to a suspense-packed thriller. The Flash Crash of May 6, 2010 counts to this day as one of the biggest mysteries the stock market world brought to light.
Where did it come from? The team at the VPRO documentary investigates this and shows how legislation lacks the transparency that people are looking for.
5. The Wall Street Code (2013)
The Wall Street Code is the third part of the VPRO Backlight series on the YouTube channel VPRO documentary, released on 11-4-2013. Money & Speed: Inside the Black Box from 2012 tells the story of High Frequency Trading with “The Wall Street Code.”
Specifically, it is about Haim Bodek, who worked for years in the financial industry and found irregularities in the system. Due to the abundance of technical details, it is sometimes difficult to completely follow the story for the first time.
But the finance documentary is worth repeat viewings if you would like to better understand the power of computer programs, which today’s stock exchange trading primarily relies on, and grows year by year, along with the increasing lack of transparency.
Particularly exciting is that Haim Bodek reveals that HFT companies were unfairly benefiting from the order execution with a newly created order type, “Hide not Slide” (incidentally, Direct Edge had to pay a $14 million penalty).
6. Too Big to Fail (2011)
Nominated for 3 Golden Globes (2012). Another 5 wins & 28 nominations
Based on the bestseller by Andrew Ross Sorkin’s, “Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves.” This documentary explores the 2007 financial crisis that eventually led to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.
Politics are, and remain, seemingly powerless against the innocence of the economy. The documentary tries to explain the mechanisms behind the crisis and help the viewer understand how it could get that far. The big question remains, what has been learned from it and how could the next crisis (if it comes) be averted?
Michele Davis: “They almost bring down the US economy as we know but we can’t put restrictions on how they spend the $125 billion we’re giving them because… they might not take it!”
7. Floored (2009)
The financial documentary by James Allen Smith vividly talks about the hustle and bustle on the futures exchange in Chicago.
While there were 500 employees in the 1980s who accepted orders to buy and sell in PIT, today there are only a few because digitization and computerization are replacing the previous kings of trading more and more.
In this financial drama, Allen Smith shines a light on the fate of some truly bizarre stockbrokers from the Chicago trading floor.
8. The Corporation (2003)
Won EMA Award (2004), Another 11 wins & 1 nomination
This Canadian financial documentary examines the consequences of the economic trade of large companies. Here, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky show and talk about a very complex and thoroughly critical picture of the modern economy. The film illuminates 8 different themes, which vary through a mix of TV footage, feature film clips and archive recordings.
Richard Grossman: “We can change the government. That’s the only way we’re going to re-design, re-think, re-constitute what capital and property can do.”
9. The China Hustle (2017)
3 nominations (e.g. Golden Starfish Award 2017)
With the stock market crash of 2008, sophisticated financial maneuvers did not come to an end. With the help of Chinese companies, bankers cheated a variety of investors with new strategies.
The profit margins were huge, but they posed a huge threat to the stability of the global economy. The producers of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, reveal another stock market scandal and show, in a frightening way, how investors are getting their money despite extended regulations.
10. Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)
Won SLFCA Award (2009). Another 3 wins & 12 nominations
Michael Moore describes, in his own style of humor, how the financial crisis came about and how the government ultimately saved those who caused the financial crisis. The criticism is clearly pointed at the unscrupulous behavior of globally active banks and companies that take risks in profit led motives, which the public must ultimately secure with their own money.
Michael Moore points out who the profiteers are and what the potential connections between business practices and politics are. With an IMDB score of 7.4, Capitalism: A Love Story is one of the better-rated financial documentaries.
Michael Moore: “This is capitalism. A system of taking and giving… mostly taking.”
11. The Ascent of Money (2008)
In this documentary, Niall Ferguson travels around the world. He is examining the mechanisms of the financial industry from Wall Street, across South America, to Europe. With a rating of 8.0, the financial documentary released in 2008 has received very good ratings (570 votes). The documentary received an International Emmy Award in 2009 for Best Documentary.
12. Wall Street Warriors (Season 1-3 | 2006)
The lives of various Wall Street personalities are examined in more detail in this reality TV series. With a total of 3 seasons and 26 episodes overall, countless videos with varying levels of information content are available on the Wall Street Insider YouTube channel.
In any case, good entertainment is guaranteed outside the framework of the Hollywood industry and exposes the financial life of traders, investors and corporations.
13. Million Dollar Traders (2009)
Hedge fund manager Lex van Dam’s three-part British reality TV series was conducted under real conditions to teach a group of absolute novice traders how to successfully buy and sell assets in the financial markets.
With a $1 million budget, the aspirants were able to trade actively over a period of six weeks. Much to everyone’s surprise, the group as a whole performed better than the pros. But within the test group, there were big differences. The 3 best participants included a student, a soldier and a mother of 2 children.
Finance is such a complex matter that too much detail would be counterproductive. For example, which movie goer would care to know what exactly hides behind the already mentioned term credit default swaps?
But it is just as true that banks and stock exchanges like to create financial instruments that ensure simply by their complexity that only insiders know what is going on. Watching the life and times of financial sharks, bankers and stockbrokers from the comfort of a sofa or cinema chair is certainly the most enjoyable way to immerse yourself in the world of high finance.
The fascination of playing with big money can be enjoyed without risk of default. But it is often too beautiful a scenario that is enacted for the audience. Of course, Hollywood is out to produce stock market movies that are popular with the public and therefore viewed and re-viewed often. After all, the big Hollywood studios themselves are all joint-stock companies obliged to their shareholders. In this case too much reality might backfire.
14. Age of Easy Money (2023)
The financial documentary from Frontline PBS focuses on the Federal Reserve’s (FED) “easy money” policies that dominated the financial markets for over a decade after the banking collapse in 2008 until 2022.
The documentary builds a bridge between the FEDS low interest rates policies to today’s looming recession and economic uncertainty.
Was the easy money a monetary experiment that led to today’s crises? The two-hour documentary investigates the FED’s movements and explains what it means with the easy money policies being over.
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