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Top 10 Best Finance and Wall Street Movies and Documentaries

Best Finance and Wall Street Movies

Cinema is probably one of the best entertainment mediums for the general public. But what happens when Cinema and Finance come together? The result is a combination of comedy, ingenuity, tragedy, redemption, and resourcefulness in one Wall Street movie. There are many movies about the stock market produced in Hollywood over the years. 

While Wall Street movies like ‘The Wolf of Wall Street portray financial professionals in an unflattering light, the engaging story of greed, risk-taking, greed, and rags to riches make for compelling cinema. These trading movies are a must-watch for anyone involved in the finance or investment sector. 

This blog lists the top 10 best finance movies ever produced in Hollywood that perfectly portray the world of finance and its nuances. 

Best Wall Street Movies in Hollywood

#1 American Psycho

While the title of the film doesn’t seem like a Finance movie, Christian Bale and Reese Witherspoon have done wonders in this film. It is set in 1980s New York City and is a violent and psychological film adaptation of the critically acclaimed Bret Easton Ellis novel set in the financial world of Wall Street. 

Christian Bale, the protagonist plays a wealthy investment banker with a dark side. While the movie is set in the backdrop of finance, there is little about finance in this movie. However, the movie does a splendid job of shedding light on the financial industry’s elite class and the utter disconnect they have with reality and the common populace. 

#2 The Big Short

Based on the book- The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, this movie is a start-studded fest of Christian Bale, Steve Carrel, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Goslin. The movie follows a few savvy traders who become aware-before anyone else- of the housing crisis bubble that triggered the 2007-08 financial crisis. 

The genius of this trading movie is how subtly it presented explanations of complex financial instruments. For example- the movie has Selena Gomez talking about synthetic CDOs and Margot Robbie explaining what a mortgage-backed bond is in a hot tub. Not to mention, that this stock market movie also recounts the events of the financial crisis from the perspective of regular home buyers, regulators, investors, bankers and other players. 

#3 Panic: The Untold Story of the 2008 Financial Crisis

When it comes to the best finance movies and documentaries,  Panic: The Untold Story of the 2008 Financial Crisis stands at the top. It is about the 2008 financial crisis narrated by some of the most powerful people who governed major government institutions at the time. 

The documentary contains interviews with Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Warren Buffet, Nancy Pelosi, Ben Bernanke, Jamie Dimon and other heads of central banks and high-ranking government officials. 

Known as the Great Recession, the financial crisis of 2007-08 was one of the worst economic setbacks since the Great Depression of 1929. This finance documentary shows how the crisis spread like wildfire from the housing crisis to Wall Street. The documentary was released 10 years after the crisis, giving narrators the chance to analyze how the events unfolded and comment on its consequences. It is a must-watch for anyone working or indulging in the finance sector. 

#4 Rogue Trader

Most people know Ewan Mcgregor as the wise and powerful Obi-wan Kenobi, but did you know that before that he also portrayed a trader who single-handedly caused the insolvency of Barings Bank, the world’s second-oldest merchant bank?

Ewan McGregor plays Nick Leeson, a rising star on the trading floor of Singapore. He rose quickly as he recovered enormous losses from his superiors in carefully hidden accounts. He takes huge hidden bets with the bank’s money which eventually go wrong and the accumulated losses result in the bank’s solvency. 

While the movie is incredibly engaging and entertaining, it also stands as one of the best stock market movies, telling Leeson’s life story and a lesson for risk management and financial oversight. 

#5 The Wolf of Wall Street

Directed by Martin Scorcese, The Wolf of Wall Street is among the most entertaining and dark Wall Street movies ever made. This biographical dark comedy starring Leonardo Di Caprio, Jonah Hill, and Margot Robbie tells the story of a 1990s corrupt stockbroker, Jordan Belfort. 

It is based on real-life events and tells the story of Belfort when he worked at the infamous brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont, and a pump-and-dump scheme that helped launch the IPOs of several large public companies during the 1980s and 1990s. 

A pump-and-dump scheme involves issuing misleading information to inflate the prices of a stock and sell it at artificially high prices. These schemes happen mostly with small illiquid stocks called penny stocks. 

Depending on your humour, this movie is one of the most funny and entertaining trading movies and was nominated for five major Academy Awards. The movie also set a world record for most profanity in a film. 

#6 Inside Job

Inside Job is another documentary on the financial crisis of 2007-08. The documentary was written and directed by Charles Ferguson and stars acclaimed actor Matt Damon. The finance documentary explores how changes in policy and banking practices helped in the creation of one of the worst financial catastrophes in the United States. 

The movie interviews some of the most powerful and influential individuals at the time, but since it was released just one year after the crisis, it lacks some substance. Nevertheless, the documentary managed to bag the Oscar for Best Documentary and was praised by a lot of critics for its research of complex topics. 

Read Also:- A Guide to Trading Hours of the World’s Major Stock Exchanges

#7 Boiler Room

The popular dialogue “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” originated from this movie. Boiler Room is a fictional stock market movie based on the pump-and-dump scheme. The term refers to unethical brokerage firms boosting the price of a stock with misleading information and selling their own holdings of the security, leaving investors with a worthless stock. 

While the movie is fictional, pump-and-dump schemes are very real and every investor should be cautious of them. This finance movie offers a lesson for those investing in the stock market and advocates sticking to solid companies. 

#8 Barbarians at the Gates

Based on the best-selling book by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, Barbarians at the Gates is a 1990 American drama stock market movie. The film explores the story of the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco by KKR. The film features prominent stars like James Garner as Henry Kravis, Peter Riegert as Jerry Kanter, and Jonathan Pryce as Robert Palmer.

At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film made for television with a budget of $32 million. The Wall Street movie won five Emmy Awards. 

While the movie does take some creative liberty and exaggerates some parts, the audience would be shocked at the greed and incompetence of Nabisco’s CFO F.Ross Johnson. 

#9 Margin Call

When talking about the best finance movies in Hollywood, we can’t leave out Margin Call. It is probably one of the most financially accurate movies on this list. The film stars Jeremy Irons and Demi Moore, along with Kevin Spacey. Margin Call takes place in the span of 24 hours at a large Wall Street bank during the initial phase of the 2008 financial crisis. 

It highlights the trading of complex derivative instruments that most investment banks did not understand themselves. The bank realizes a bunch of assets that it owns are worthless and sells them to its customers claiming they are valuable to avoid bankruptcy

What followed was utter disaster and severely unethical actions that ultimately led to the financial crisis of 2007-08. 

#10 Wall Street

One of the most critically acclaimed stock market movies that every investor and trader should watch is Wall Street. Starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen in lead roles, the movie explores the illegal insider trading scandals of the 1980s. 

Insider trading is when you obtain private information about a particular company and use it to trade its stock to your advantage. The famous line “Blue Horseshoe loves Anacot Steel” influenced thousands of college graduates as they rushed to their Series 7 exams. 

The other popular dialogue was “Greed is God” delivered in a legendary speech by Michael Douglas, bagging him the Oscar award for Best Actor. 

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Final Words

If you are interested in the world of finance or have just started trading, these Wall Street movies are a must-watch for you. Even if you have no relation with the field of finance, these stock market movies can provide valuable insight into the nuances of the financial industry. 

And as events of the 2007-08 crisis, the insider trading scandals of the 1980s, or the LBO of RJR Nabisco shows, real life can be far more unbelievable than fiction. 

Read Also:- What Is an Index? Types, How It’s Used, and How to Invest in Index Funds

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Q. What are the best finance movies about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency?

Ans. Yes, there are some documentaries and movies about cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin. Our top pick would be Crypto(2019) which is a crime thriller about money laundering involving crypto.

Q. What are some of the other movies about the stock market?

Ans. Some of the other movies about the stock market include Moneyball, The Banker, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Working Girl, Bonfire of the Vanities, and The Arbitrage.

Q. What is the best documentary about hedge funds?

Ans. Betting on Zero is a great documentary that explores the financial industry’s inner workings and investigates the story of a hedge fund manager who bets against a controversial company. We won’t provide any spoilers. It is better you watch the documentary for yourself.