Most of us love watching movies for entertainment. But movies can be a great source of knowledge too! Finance can be very, very boring except for the geeks who enjoy it. ‘Financial’ movies come to the rescue. These movies highlight financial concepts as part of a story, along with a dose of drama/action/thrill/romance etc. It gives the viewer a sneak peak into the real world of finance, and at least gets them curious enough to want to learn more about the finance concepts that drive the on-screen action. Or so we hope.
In that spirit, we offer below a list of some such movies (not documentaries) along with a small description and a mention of the financial concepts around which they are based.
- The Crash (1932):
Rich couple loses their fortune in stock market crash.
Key concepts: Stock Market Crash of 1929.
- It’s a wonderful life (1946):
An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.
Key concepts: Loan underwritings, Liquidity Management, Banking
- Stavisky (1974):
Stavisky is the filmed biography of Serge Stavisky (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a con man whose schemes sparked a series of riots in the 1930s that nearly ruined the French government.
Key concepts: Stavisky affair, Municipal Bonds
- Silver Bears (1978):
Doc Fletcher is sent to Switzerland to purchase a bank for his Los Angeles boss, Joe Fiore. However, when he attempts to carry out his instructions, Doc finds himself the victim of someone else’s underhanded scheme.
Key concepts: Banking, Money laundering, Commodity markets
- Rollover – (1981):
The wife of a murdered petrochemical company chairman and a banker investigating the liquidity of his new bank stumble upon an international financial scheme that could lead to global economic collapse.
Key concepts: Bank liquidity, Mortgage broking
- Trading places (1983):
A snobbish investor and a wily street con artist find their positions reversed as part of a bet by two callous millionaires.
Key concepts: Insider trading, short selling, Commodity futures.
- Quicksilver (1986):
Jack was doing great trading shares until he wasn’t. He gets a job on a bike at Quicksilver speed delivery. There he befriends Hector and the cute Terri. Jack gets an enemy in the criminal Gypsy.
Key concept: Share trading
- Wall Street (1987):
A young and impatient stockbroker is willing to do anything to get to the top, including trading on illegal inside information taken through a ruthless and greedy corporate raider who takes the youth under his wing.
Key concepts: Insider trading, Stock broker
- Working Girl (1988):
When a secretary’s idea is stolen by her boss, she seizes an opportunity to steal it back by pretending she has her boss’ job
Key concepts: Investment banking, Mergers and acquisitions.
- Limit Up (1989):
Casey Falls is the assistant of commodity trader Peter Oak, but wants to get a license herself. When the diabolic Nike appears and promises to make her successful by use of her supernatural abilities, Casey hesitantly accepts. By correctly predicting the price of soybeans, she manages to make a career, but the price that Nike demands is high: she wants Casey’s soul!
Key concepts: Commodities trading
- The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990):
After his mistress runs over a young teen, a Wall Street hotshot sees his life unravel in the spotlight and attracting the interest of a down and out reporter.
Key concepts: Life of the Manhattan elite
- Dealers (1989):
The London branch of Whitney Paine, a major American investment bank, is in the midst of a crisis; after the loss of $100 million, one of their leading traders commits suicide. Many of the firm’s staff are eager to step into the vacant position and get credit for saving the company.
Key concept: Investment banking
- Other people’s money (1991):
A corporate raider buys up shares in an undervalued company and falls in love with the founder’s son’s lawyer/step daughter. Let the battle begin.
Key concepts: Hostile takeover, algorithmic trading
- Glengary Glen Ross (1992):
A group of desperate real estate agents who compete in a sales contest where the losers will be fired. The agents work their same tired leads, until one hatches a scheme to burglarize the office, steal the leads, and sell them to a rival.
Key concept: Real estate investment
- Barbarians At The Gate (1993):
The president of a major tobacco company decides to buy the company himself, but a bidding war ensues as other companies make their own offers
Key concepts: Leveraged buyout (LBO’s), Stock and bond valuation
- The Associate (1996)
A comedy about making it on Wall Street. Prejudices are hard to break and Laurel Ayres quickly learns that in order for people to take her seriously she has to work for an older white man or be one.
Key concepts: Investment banking
- Pi (1998):
A paranoid mathematician searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature.
Key concept: Mathematical constant π.
- Rogue Trader (1999):
The story of Nick Leeson (Ewan McGregor), an ambitious investment broker who singlehandedly bankrupted one of the oldest and most important banks in Britain.
Key concepts: Risk management, Derivative strategies.
- Boiler Room (2000):
A college dropout, attempting to live up to his father’s high standards, gets a job as a broker for a suburban investment firm which puts him on the fast track to success. But the job might not be as legitimate as it first appeared to be.
Key concepts: Stock broking, pump and dump.
- American Psycho (2000):
A wealthy New York City investment banking executive, Patrick Bateman, hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he delves deeper into his violent, hedonistic fantasies.
Key concepts: Investment banking
- The Bank ( 2001)
The Bank is a thriller about banking, corruption and alchemy.
Key concepts : Stock price modelling, foreign exchange risk, Banking
- Gafla (2006)
It is a film inspired from the stock market scam of 1992 which mainly involved Harshad Mehta that rocked the Indian economy and changed lives of thousands forever.
Key concepts: The Harshad Mehta scam.
- The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
A struggling salesman takes custody of his son as he’s poised to begin a life-changing professional career.
Key concept: Stock broking, sales.
- Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps ( 2010)
Now out of prison but still disgraced by his peers, Gordon Gekko works his future son-in-law, an idealistic stock broker, when he sees an opportunity to take down a Wall Street enemy and rebuild his empire.
Key concepts: 2008 Financial crisis, Market manipulation
- Margin Call (2011):
Follows the key people at an investment bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis.
Key concepts: 2008 Financial crisis, Mortgage backed securities.
- Capital (2012):
A fast-paced, darkly comic, suspenseful drama set in the high stakes world of global finance
Key concepts: hostile takeover, international finance, hedge funds.
- Arbitrage (2012):
A troubled hedge fund magnate desperate to complete the sale of his trading empire makes an error that forces him to turn to an unlikely person for help.
Key concepts: Hedge funds.
- Cosmopolis (2012):
Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager’s day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.
Key concepts: Forex market trading, speculation.
- Supercapitalist (2012)
A maverick New York hedge fund trader with uncanny analytic abilities moves to Hong Kong and orchestrates a mega-deal that swiftly escalates beyond his control
Key concepts: Hedge fund, deal making
- The Wolf of Wall Street ( 2013):
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort from his rise to a wealthy stock-broker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.
Stock broking, pump and dump, IPO.
- Assault On Wall Street (2013):
Jim, an average New Yorker, lives with a sick but loving wife. Suddenly, everything changes when the economy crashes and causes him to lose everything. Filled with anger and rage, Jim goes to seek revenge for the life taken from him.
Key concepts: 2008 financial crisis, Portfolio Management, Financial Advisors.
- The Big Short (2015):
In 2006-2007 a group of investors bet against the US mortgage market. In their research they discover how flawed and corrupt the market is.
Key concepts: 2008 financial crisis, Subprime mortgages, Collateralized debt obligations (CDO), Credit default swaps (CDS), Hedge funds.
- Equity (2016):
Senior investment banker Naomi Bishop is threatened by a financial scandal and must untangle a web of corruption
Key concepts: Investment banking, IPO, Insider trading.
- Money Monster (2016):
Financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor takes them and their crew as hostage.
Key concepts: Algorithmic trading,
- Baazaar (2018):
After moving to Mumbai, an ambitious young man becomes the stock trader for a notorious businessman.
Key concepts: Stock broking, insider trading, market manipulation.