Best Stock Market Movies
When Louis Le Prince, the inventor of the film camera, made the first real movie in 1888, he had hardly an idea about what would become of his invention.
The very life of Le Prince would have been material for a movie. Introduced as a child into the technique of photography by Daguerre himself, the Frenchman Le Prince studied in Leipzig, worked in England and later became a US citizen.
Two years after his groundbreaking invention, Le Prince disappeared without a trace during a train journey in France. And his camera was part of an economic drama just as worthy of a movie. In 1908, the Motion Picture Patents Company was founded in New York.
Leading the way was none other than Thomas Alva Edison, a tough businessman who held all film patents for the US as a whole without ever having invented something on his own.
The company had an oligopoly on films, cameras and cinemas and enforced their rights even with the help of thugs. As a result, New York filmmakers moved far away from the company to a small town in California called Hollywood. The rest is history.
In the land of almost undiluted capitalism, legends became and still become reality.
Of course this includes tales about big money, the base for several stock market movies, many of which are based on true events like day trading success, market collapses, misspeculation and bankruptcies.
Stories of steep careers and bitter defeats centered around trading stocks, options, commodity futures and the rule of money. Here you will learn more about the most important stock market movies from the beginnings of the cinema until today.
Do those movies answer the question of how to invest in stocks? Well, not directly, but the entertainment factor is enormous, and some of the stories are eye openening regarding what can happen in the investing world.
Best Stock Market Movies
There are not only movies about Wall Street but also great finance and stock market movies with an impressive story and great actors guaranteeing great entertainment.
Some are based on real stories, some are fiction, and some are just great action thrillers or even comedies. Here are the top 10 Finance and Stock Market movies worth watching.
1. Edison, the Man (1940)
Nominated for 1 Oscar (1941)
In this stock market movie, the life and work of Thomas Alva Edison are biographically presented. In the main role, Spencer Tracy plays businessman Thomas A. Edison.
He causes a worldwide sensation with his developments and start-ups, especially in the electric supply sector. Incidentally, Edison had been involved as a shareholder in many companies, including General Electric.
Thomas A. Edison: “Funny thing about mistakes- they don’t have to be permanent. I had to find that out myself when I was a boy.”
2. Citizen Kane (1941)
Won 1 Oscar (1942). Another 9 wins & 13 nominations
Orson Welles shines in his unforgettable role as New York newspaper magnate, Charles Kane. The movie begins with the death of Kane in his castle Xanadu, where he mumbles his last word: “Rosebud”.
A reporter searches for meaning behind Kane’s last enigmatic word by taking us through his past as he developed into a newspaper magnate, who manipulated people and stock prices with his printing works.
Loosely based on the life of newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst, Welles’ masterpiece has become, what some have called, the greatest film ever made.;
Despite Hearst’s attempts to ban the film from ever being seen, Citizen Kane continues to be celebrated for its artistic and technical innovations.
Charles Foster Kane: “You’re right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in… 60 years.”
3. The Pursuit of Happiness (2006)
Nominated for 1 Oscar (2007). Another 11 wins and 24 nominations
Based on a true story, this 2006 film starring Will Smith is loaded with emotions. The single father, Chris Gardner (Will Smith) strives for happiness and freedom.
After his wife, Linda separates from him, Chris must take care of his son Christopher alone. The film realistically shows how hard it is to gain a foothold in investment banking.
Homeless and devoting time to an unpaid internship in an investment bank, Chris and Christopher have to fight for their bare survival.
Will the strong willpower and hard work ultimately pay off? Find out!
Christopher Gardner: “You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.”
4. Arbitrage (2012)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe (2013). Another 4 wins & 4 nominations
The movie Arbitrage, from 2012, is meant to be a criticism of the purely profit-oriented financial world. Robert Miller (Richard Gere) has everything one could want at first glance.
Robert is a successful hedge fund manager, who is about to sell his investment company for a lot of money. But suddenly $400 million are missing after Robert has speculated on a copper mine.
All attempted cover-ups do not help and problems in his private life start to arise.
Robert Miller: “When I was a kid, my favorite teacher was Mr. James. Mr. James said world events all revolve around five things. M – O – N – E – Y.”
5. Barbarians at the Gate (1993)
Won 2 Golden Globes (1994). Another 6 wins & 16 nominations
Barbarians at the Gate is about one of the biggest enemy corporate takeovers in US history. For $31 billion, KKR took over tobacco and food giant RJR Nabisco after a spectacular takeover bid.
Based on the well-received, non-fiction book of the same name, the film was made by HBO in 1993. With 2 Golden Globes and an IMDB rating of 7.3, Barbarians at the Gate is one of the most popular films among viewers.
Ross Johnson: “We’re not talking just f*** you money. We’re talking f*** everybodys money.”
6. Working Girl (1986)
Won 1 Oscar (1989). Another 8 wins & 17 nominations
Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is waiting for her big break in the business world. Working as a secretary, she gets her big chance when her boss Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) breaks her leg on a ski vacation.
With a big deal on the horizon, Tess teams up with investment banker Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), but after her boss’ return, things get more complicated. The film had big success with a large turnover. In addition, the film received many Academy Award nominations in 1989.
Tess McGill: “I have a head for business and a body for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?”
7. The Bank (2001)
Won 1 AFI Award (2001). Another 8 wins & 21 nominations
This 2001 movie is about a financial software that can predict stock market trends. A young mathematician, Jim Doyle is hired by a corrupt investment banker Simon O’Reilly. He wants to use the software to his own advantage and the plot takes its course. Produced in Australia and Italy, the film has mixed reviews, but won the 2001 Australian Film Institute Award for its script.
Wayne Davis: “I guess if there’s a problem, the bank will let us know…”
8. The Wizard of Lies (2017)
Nominated for 2 Golden Globes (2018). Another 3 wins & 17 nominations
This film brings up, once again, the spectacular financial fraud of Bernie Madoff. Barry Levinson directs Oscar winner, Robert De Niro as the dazzling big swindler in the field.
In 2018, the film was nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Other roles in this HBO film are played by Michelle Pfeiffer, as his wife Ruth and Nathan Darrow and Alessandro Nivola as his children. The film also shows how the family of Bernard L. Madoff falls apart amidst the scandal.
Bernie Madoff: “I took money from some people, I gave it to others and I’ll never… now there’s nothing left. There’s supposed to be 50 Billion, there’s absolutely nothing, it’s all gone.”
9. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Nominated for 1 Oscar (1993). Another 8 wins & 12 nominations
Glengarry Glen Ross is one of the top-rated financial films in our in-depth review. Starring Al Pacino as Ricky Roma, Jack Lemmon as Shelley Levine and Alec Baldwin as Blake, the characters are intensely charismatic and extremely well-acted.
The struggle for power and influence between the staff of the real estate office is fanned after top manager, Blake calls a sales competition. The loser should be fired and the winner rewarded with a luxury car.
Suddenly, all means are allowed and a merciless fight for the customers begins. Plots of land are sold at high pressure to customers and resorted to the fear of existence by methods that previously seemed unthinkable.
Ricky Roma: “What you are hired for, is to help us… does that seem clear to you? To help us, not to… F*** us up… to help those who are going out there to try to earn a living… You fairy. You company man.”
10. Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve (2013)
We have always wanted to take a look behind the facade of the U.S. Federal Reserve and finally the movie Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve gives us that insight.
The film explains the structures and tries to promote investors’ confidence. Ultimately, the film serves to show the viewer that the FED is helping to stabilize the American financial system.
However, the interviews with Paul Volcker (Chairman of the FED from 1979 to 1987) and Janet Yellen (Chairman of the FED from 2014 to 2018) show a critical perspective of what happened in the context of the economic crisis in 2008 and following.
Best Wall Street Movies
Movies about Wall Street attract people from all over the world who are interested in the stock market and finance. That’s not surprising considering all the stories about people who have made enormous amounts of money on Wall Street. After all, it’s the number one hot spot to trade stocks in the United States. Here are the Top 6 Wall Street movies of all time.
1. Trading Places (1983)
Nominated for 1 Oscar (1984). Another 3 wins & 4 nominations
Eddie Murphy plays a homeless man named Billy Ray Valentine, who becomes a financial manager following a bet between two successful stockbrokers. His predecessor, Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) of Duke and Duke Commodities Brokers is the initial loser.
Ultimately, the two team up and plot a payback against the stockbrokers, who earlier used them both as pawns in their bet. In the end, they drive the financial jugglers into ruin by dealing with orange juice contracts. A very entertaining and funny comedy based on a short story by Mark Twain: “The Million Pound Bank Note”.
Billy Ray Valentine: “Hey, we’re losing all our damn money, and Christmas is around the corner, and I ain’t gonna have no money to buy my son the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip! And my wife ain’t gonna f… my wife ain’t gonna make love to me if I got no money!”
2. Wall Street (1987)
Won 1 Oscar (1988). Another 9 wins and 4 nominationsIt is the pre-eminent stock market movie that shows the glamorous, but also dirty side of trading with stocks. Michael Douglas plays financial shark, Gordon Gekko.
He convinces the young stockbroker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) to get insider information about the company in which his father is employed. As befits a Hollywood blockbuster, the story picks up speed. Gordon Gekko and Bud Fox are superbly directed and the movie is undoubtedly worth watching more than once.
Thanks to its cinematic perfection, the film inspired many young people to get involved in the stock market. However, critics berated director Oliver Stone for overplaying the game of stocks and focusing too much on the beautiful, glamorous side of the people involved.
Gordon Gekko: “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.”
3. The Big Short (2015)
Won 1 Oscar (2016). Another 37 wins & 79 nominations
The film by Adam McKay describes in great detail the events that led to the Financial Crisis in 2007 and 2008 when about 8 million people lost their jobs and about 6 million lost their homes.
In the U.S. real estate market a huge bubble burst with mortgage loans, which were awarded to virtually anyone. The film shows that it was even possible to borrow money in the name of one’s own dog.
Hedge Fund manager Michael Burry, played by Christian Bale, recognizes the situation and foresees the financial crisis coming. He uses his findings to his advantage and soon the entire house of cards collapses as predicted.
The financial film is based on one of the best stock trading books by Michael Lewis “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine”.
Ben Rickert: “If we’re right, people lose homes. People lose jobs. People lose retirement savings, people lose pensions. You know what I hate about f***ing banking? It reduces people to numbers. Here’s a number – every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die, did you know that?”
4. Boiler Room (2000)
1 win & 9 nominations
With an outstanding cast from the year 2000, the dark side of Wall Street and stock market trading are impressively directed in this film. The 19-year-old college dropout, Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) opens an illegal casino in his apartment.
After one of his buddies tells him to contact J.T. Marlin brokerage, he senses big money and sees his dream of becoming a millionaire closer than ever. Barely settled in his job, he soon discovers that his employer is involved in illegal activities and the firm is an epicenter for unscrupulous greed and immeasurable profits.
Jim Young: “They say money can’t buy happiness? Look at the f***ing smile on my face. Ear to ear, baby.”
5. Margin Call (2011)
Nominated for 1 Oscar (2012). Another 8 wins & 23 nominations
The high-finance thriller Margin Call entered movie theaters in 2011 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) works as an analyst in risk management at a New York investment bank and receives a USB flash drive containing explosive material from Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci).
The mechanisms of the financial industry are revealed in an impressive way and the anticipatory moments make the stock trading movie worth watching until the end. Demi Moore, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany and Jeremy Irons were well-received by audiences everywhere for their outstanding performances.
John Tuld: “There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat.”
6. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Nominated for 5 Oscars (2014). Another 38 wins & 165 nominations
Using ingenious selling methods, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) made a $200 million fortune by persuading 1,500 investors to invest in worthless, cheap securities that he had previously bought. His clients’ investments drove prices higher and higher, Belfort sold his holdings with high profits, and eventually the investors lost their money after the price collapsed.
The true life of Jordan Belfort served as the basis for Martin Scorsese’s most successful film to date and is definitely a “must-see” for any movie lover. Every viewer should consider the stock trading movie itself as a warning. I’m sure the private investors who were cheated out of their savings would have given a lot to have seen the film before they blindly invested out of greed and naively trusted in an unknown individual.
Jordan Belfort: “Still, give them to me young, hungry, and stupid. And in no time, I will make them rich.”
Best Finance Documentaries
On Wall Street 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 stock market documentaries are the best choice when you want to take a closer look behind the scenes.
Most of the finance documentaries you find next are available for free on YouTube or accessible with your Netflix or Amazon Prime account.
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.
Of course, movies about the stock market, about entrepreneurs and enormous wealth are extremely interesting to the public. Who doesn‘t dream of juggling millions or even billions and simply being able to afford everything beautiful and exquisite in this world? Accordingly, all stock market movies are set in the world of high finance, with the scenery corresponding to the income of the main players.