7 Movies that make Finance Interesting

Movies to fall in love with Finance

Number crunching and subjects like mathematics were enough to give me nightmares during my school days. Sadly, those nightmares have lasted ever since.

During school, it was advance mathematics; come college- it was pure mathematics and then during university- it was finance.

I found it challenging to perform well in finance; literally I had to drag myself to attend that class and then the anxiety of passing the assessment was enough to kill my week’s appetite.

It was one fine evening that I discovered a simple formula to make finance more ‘palatable’ and my code was related to movies!

I realized one of the main reasons I did not enjoy finance was because of my lack of curiosity and interest in this subject, hence I embarked on a path to awaken that curiosity in a way which would keep me excited and interested.

So I got down to it and started watching movies which were based on financial concepts, strategies and background.

Obviously, it’s not so that these movies will suffice for your curriculum knowledge (you will have to refer to text books, class notes and lectures for it- duh!) but they sure would impact your level of curiosity and interest in this subject to a point where you want to know more.

Here are my 7 handpicked movies that every finance graduate should watch:

1. Big Short

Genre: Drama/Comedy-drama

For this movie be prepared to revisit the financial crisis of 2007/2008 that nearly collapsed the world economy.

The premise of the movie is based on a Wall Street guru (Michael Burry) realizing that a number of subprime home loans are on the brink of defaulting and the ‘US housing bubble’ is about to burst.

He makes a daring move by investing more than $1 billion of his investors’ money against the housing market with the banks who happily accept his deal for something they believe has never happened in US history.

His bold actions attract attention of banker Jared Vennett and hedge fund specialist Mark Baum along with some other greedy opportunists.

Big Short is a story of how these men make a fortune by taking advantage of the American Meltdown.

Terminology, technical jargons and process flows related to the financial crisis are aptly explained in the film using visual aid and tools to simplify those concepts for the audience.

The complexity of financial innovation is demonstrated in an easy-to-grasp fashion.

Watch this movie to understand dynamics of the housing market collapse, bursting of the credit bubble and how the greed of Wall Street triggered economic downturn and recession of the global economy for years.

2. Enron: The smartest guys in the room

Genre: Crime film/Indie film

This movie narrates the thrilling tale of Enron Corporation- how the firm became the 7th largest corporation in America on the basis of a Ponzi scheme and looted retirement funds of its employees to buy time during its last days.

Shocking discoveries like Enron creating a phony California energy crisis (when there was no power shortage to begin with) and records of Enron traders asking plant managers to ‘get creative’ and shut down plants for ‘repairs’– are enough to keep the audience hooked.

The movie is based on the best-selling book by the Fortune magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind.

It recounts one of the biggest scandals in American history on how a corporation which had $65 billion in assets went bankrupt in less than a month- driven mainly by the pride and greed of the top executives and at the cost of its employees and investors.

What makes this film interesting are the insider accounts and rare corporate audio and video tapes which reveal the corrupt hierarchy at Enron and utter lack of ethics in the firm’s corporate philosophy.

It is a recommended watch for people who wish to understand how the top management can twist corporate culture, play with financial tricks and gimmicks for showing inflated profits and concealing losses while masking corruption and showing utter disregard for morals for personal gains.

3. Wall Street

Genre: Drama/Crime film

Wall Street is a based on the story of Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) – a young stock broker based in New York who dreams to work with his hero- Gordon Gekko (Michael Doughlas), a legendary player on Wall Street.

Events take a sharp turn when his dream turns into an obsession and after Bud fails to impress Gekko during a pitch- he offers insider information on Bluestar Airlines (background: Bud’s father works there as a union leader).

The movie projects a powerful statement of greed blinding a person to an extent of disrupting his own life and the life of his loved ones to the point of destruction.

Desire to get to the top leads Bud to entice Gekko to mentor him in return for insider information. This move comes at a personal cost of sacrificing his own ethics.

Only when Gekko’s dealing triggers a tragedy at a personal level does Bud get his wake up call for reform and an opportunity to clear his conscience.

4. Inside Job

Genre: Crime film/True crime

This documentary film is split into five parts that identify elements that led to the global financial meltdown of 2008 which cost over $20 trillion and caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes.

It was termed as the worst recession since the Great Depression and pushed the global economic and financial system on the brink of collapse.

This film is backed with resourceful insights from key financial traders, journalists, politicians and academics apart from comprehensive research.

It appropriately sheds light on how the industry went rogue and trickledown effect was observed in form of corruption spreading to fields like politics and regulation.

Discussions on banking, rating systems, regulation of financial institutions, mortgage management and creation of burden of debt keep the momentum interesting.

The crisis is discussed in-depth by encompassing critical elements like mortgage fraud and collapse of Lehman Brothers.

All in all, this movie is a good watch which questions the concepts of institutional accountability, presence of corruption, need for regulation and the side effects of the crisis which left millions jobless and dented world economy.

5. Margin Call

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Margin Call is an intense movie which depicts events 24-hours prior to the financial collapse of 2008. Disastrous speculation, collapse of mortgage markets, downturn of economic structure and firms filing for bankruptcy one after another are few elements which the film covers.

What makes this movie a thriller  are the chain of events that set in motion after Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) discovers that the company he’s working for has been buying and passing on worthless packages of mortgages, and it is on the brink of the biggest bank collapse of all time.

How this breaking news travels up the chain of management hierarchy and grey areas come to light such as the CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) making the ‘margin call’ to order his company to start dumping worthless stocks before the word gets out that they are worthless- at the cost of betraying their customers.

It has been ascertained that some firms set up hedge funds to fail so that they can cash in gains by betting against them and that such stocks were sold to the customers knowing they were worthless.

The aftermath which includes rich getting richer, collapse of the free market concept and interest and wellbeing of the public getting compromised are captured well.

It reinforces the concept that corporations exist to compete, survive and succeed at any cost.

The film exposes Wall Street’s greed and deceit and renders financial talk into compelling dialogue.

6. The Wolf Of Wall Street

Genre: Drama/Biography

Wolf of Wall Street is based on the life of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Di Caprio) – a stock broker who made a fortune by indulging into shady sales of penny stocks and spent lavishly on drugs, sex and other indulgences before being put behind bars.

The film projects stock market fraud and how there is no such thing as ethics and morals when it comes to wealth accumulation.

Martin Scorsese’s direction captures the spirit of the movie in high energy by accurately showcasing Jordan’s reckless decision making, ease of embarking on illegal options, exploitative nature and lack of remorse when it came to double crossing the system.

Belfort’s character is demonstrated in a complex manner and Leonardo does justice to it by bringing a strong performance, firm grasp on character’s psychology and combining it with tenacious audacity.

Belfort loves to exploit clients, shift money from their pockets to his own and abuse his power for thrill and fun.

During 1998, Belfort was indicted for securities fraud and money laundering but got away with a brief sentence with the FBI by ratting out on his associates.

7. Boiler Room

Genre: Drama/Crime

Boiler Room is a 2000 American crime drama film written and directed by Ben Younger.

The plot is based on a 19-year old named Seth Davis who is a college dropout and runs an illegal casino from his rented apartment.

Frustrated with his father’s disapproval on operating an illegitimate business and driven by a desire to accumulate wealth, Seth takes up a daytime job as a trainee stockbroker with a firm on the outskirts of New York.

Seth is clearly impressed with Jim Young’s (co-founder at J.T Marlin played by Ben Affleck) performance that sets the tone of the firm to place money above anything else.

He discovers his love for hard sales and higher commissions and comes to odds with his father when the legitimacy of the firm’s operations are questioned as J.T Marlin comes under FBI investigation for using its brokers to create artificial demand in the stock of expired or fake companies.

The movie has an authentic screenplay which captures the spirit of companies who mesmerize young trainees with dreams of turning them into millionaires by the virtue of ‘under the table’ tactics (may be foul play) and the need to ‘adapt’, be exceptionally good at ‘phone sales’ and keep the end objective which is money making at the center of everything.

There may be many documentaries and movies related to finance but these 7 are the best! Although, I did manage to clear my financial courses my love for finance related movies has not died.

I absolutely enjoy the real world scenarios, spot on direction, narration, thrilling plots, superior performances and simplicity with which complex financial concepts are explained in the titles mentioned above.

I would strongly urge you to watch these movies and reignite your interest in this subject!



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7 Movies that make Finance Interesting

Number crunching and subjects like mathematics were enough to give me nightmares during my school days. Sadly, those nightmares have lasted ever since.

During school, it was advance mathematics; come college- it was pure mathematics and then during university- it was finance.

I found it challenging to perform well in finance; literally I had to drag myself to attend that class and then the anxiety of passing the assessment was enough to kill my week’s appetite.

It was one fine evening that I discovered a simple formula to make finance more ‘palatable’ and my code was related to movies!

I realized one of the main reasons I did not enjoy finance was because of my lack of curiosity and interest in this subject, hence I embarked on a path to awaken that curiosity in a way which would keep me excited and interested.

So I got down to it and started watching movies which were based on financial concepts, strategies and background.

Obviously, it’s not so that these movies will suffice for your curriculum knowledge (you will have to refer to text books, class notes and lectures for it- duh!) but they sure would impact your level of curiosity and interest in this subject to a point where you want to know more.

Here are my 7 handpicked movies that every finance graduate should watch:

1. Big Short

Genre: Drama/Comedy-drama

For this movie be prepared to revisit the financial crisis of 2007/2008 that nearly collapsed the world economy.

The premise of the movie is based on a Wall Street guru (Michael Burry) realizing that a number of subprime home loans are on the brink of defaulting and the ‘US housing bubble’ is about to burst.

He makes a daring move by investing more than $1 billion of his investors’ money against the housing market with the banks who happily accept his deal for something they believe has never happened in US history.

His bold actions attract attention of banker Jared Vennett and hedge fund specialist Mark Baum along with some other greedy opportunists.

Big Short is a story of how these men make a fortune by taking advantage of the American Meltdown.

Terminology, technical jargons and process flows related to the financial crisis are aptly explained in the film using visual aid and tools to simplify those concepts for the audience.

The complexity of financial innovation is demonstrated in an easy-to-grasp fashion.

Watch this movie to understand dynamics of the housing market collapse, bursting of the credit bubble and how the greed of Wall Street triggered economic downturn and recession of the global economy for years.

2. Enron: The smartest guys in the room

Genre: Crime film/Indie film

This movie narrates the thrilling tale of Enron Corporation- how the firm became the 7th largest corporation in America on the basis of a Ponzi scheme and looted retirement funds of its employees to buy time during its last days.

Shocking discoveries like Enron creating a phony California energy crisis (when there was no power shortage to begin with) and records of Enron traders asking plant managers to ‘get creative’ and shut down plants for ‘repairs’– are enough to keep the audience hooked.

The movie is based on the best-selling book by the Fortune magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind.

It recounts one of the biggest scandals in American history on how a corporation which had $65 billion in assets went bankrupt in less than a month- driven mainly by the pride and greed of the top executives and at the cost of its employees and investors.

What makes this film interesting are the insider accounts and rare corporate audio and video tapes which reveal the corrupt hierarchy at Enron and utter lack of ethics in the firm’s corporate philosophy.

It is a recommended watch for people who wish to understand how the top management can twist corporate culture, play with financial tricks and gimmicks for showing inflated profits and concealing losses while masking corruption and showing utter disregard for morals for personal gains.

3. Wall Street

Genre: Drama/Crime film

Wall Street is a based on the story of Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) – a young stock broker based in New York who dreams to work with his hero- Gordon Gekko (Michael Doughlas), a legendary player on Wall Street.

Events take a sharp turn when his dream turns into an obsession and after Bud fails to impress Gekko during a pitch- he offers insider information on Bluestar Airlines (background: Bud’s father works there as a union leader).

The movie projects a powerful statement of greed blinding a person to an extent of disrupting his own life and the life of his loved ones to the point of destruction.

Desire to get to the top leads Bud to entice Gekko to mentor him in return for insider information. This move comes at a personal cost of sacrificing his own ethics.

Only when Gekko’s dealing triggers a tragedy at a personal level does Bud get his wake up call for reform and an opportunity to clear his conscience.

4. Inside Job

Genre: Crime film/True crime

This documentary film is split into five parts that identify elements that led to the global financial meltdown of 2008 which cost over $20 trillion and caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes.

It was termed as the worst recession since the Great Depression and pushed the global economic and financial system on the brink of collapse.

This film is backed with resourceful insights from key financial traders, journalists, politicians and academics apart from comprehensive research.

It appropriately sheds light on how the industry went rogue and trickledown effect was observed in form of corruption spreading to fields like politics and regulation.

Discussions on banking, rating systems, regulation of financial institutions, mortgage management and creation of burden of debt keep the momentum interesting.

The crisis is discussed in-depth by encompassing critical elements like mortgage fraud and collapse of Lehman Brothers.

All in all, this movie is a good watch which questions the concepts of institutional accountability, presence of corruption, need for regulation and the side effects of the crisis which left millions jobless and dented world economy.

5. Margin Call

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Margin Call is an intense movie which depicts events 24-hours prior to the financial collapse of 2008. Disastrous speculation, collapse of mortgage markets, downturn of economic structure and firms filing for bankruptcy one after another are few elements which the film covers.

What makes this movie a thriller  are the chain of events that set in motion after Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) discovers that the company he’s working for has been buying and passing on worthless packages of mortgages, and it is on the brink of the biggest bank collapse of all time.

How this breaking news travels up the chain of management hierarchy and grey areas come to light such as the CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) making the ‘margin call’ to order his company to start dumping worthless stocks before the word gets out that they are worthless- at the cost of betraying their customers.

It has been ascertained that some firms set up hedge funds to fail so that they can cash in gains by betting against them and that such stocks were sold to the customers knowing they were worthless.

The aftermath which includes rich getting richer, collapse of the free market concept and interest and wellbeing of the public getting compromised are captured well.

It reinforces the concept that corporations exist to compete, survive and succeed at any cost.

The film exposes Wall Street’s greed and deceit and renders financial talk into compelling dialogue.

6. The Wolf Of Wall Street

Genre: Drama/Biography

Wolf of Wall Street is based on the life of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Di Caprio) – a stock broker who made a fortune by indulging into shady sales of penny stocks and spent lavishly on drugs, sex and other indulgences before being put behind bars.

The film projects stock market fraud and how there is no such thing as ethics and morals when it comes to wealth accumulation.

Martin Scorsese’s direction captures the spirit of the movie in high energy by accurately showcasing Jordan’s reckless decision making, ease of embarking on illegal options, exploitative nature and lack of remorse when it came to double crossing the system.

Belfort’s character is demonstrated in a complex manner and Leonardo does justice to it by bringing a strong performance, firm grasp on character’s psychology and combining it with tenacious audacity.

Belfort loves to exploit clients, shift money from their pockets to his own and abuse his power for thrill and fun.

During 1998, Belfort was indicted for securities fraud and money laundering but got away with a brief sentence with the FBI by ratting out on his associates.

7. Boiler Room

Genre: Drama/Crime

Boiler Room is a 2000 American crime drama film written and directed by Ben Younger.

The plot is based on a 19-year old named Seth Davis who is a college dropout and runs an illegal casino from his rented apartment.

Frustrated with his father’s disapproval on operating an illegitimate business and driven by a desire to accumulate wealth, Seth takes up a daytime job as a trainee stockbroker with a firm on the outskirts of New York.

Seth is clearly impressed with Jim Young’s (co-founder at J.T Marlin played by Ben Affleck) performance that sets the tone of the firm to place money above anything else.

He discovers his love for hard sales and higher commissions and comes to odds with his father when the legitimacy of the firm’s operations are questioned as J.T Marlin comes under FBI investigation for using its brokers to create artificial demand in the stock of expired or fake companies.

The movie has an authentic screenplay which captures the spirit of companies who mesmerize young trainees with dreams of turning them into millionaires by the virtue of ‘under the table’ tactics (may be foul play) and the need to ‘adapt’, be exceptionally good at ‘phone sales’ and keep the end objective which is money making at the center of everything.

There may be many documentaries and movies related to finance but these 7 are the best! Although, I did manage to clear my financial courses my love for finance related movies has not died.

I absolutely enjoy the real world scenarios, spot on direction, narration, thrilling plots, superior performances and simplicity with which complex financial concepts are explained in the titles mentioned above.

I would strongly urge you to watch these movies and reignite your interest in this subject!



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