Top 10 films about money

Published by Rob Goodman on 01 May 2014.
Last updated on 01 May 2014

Cinema screen

While here at Moneywise we wouldn't necessarily agree with Gordon's outlook, that doesn't mean we don't love the best money-inspired flicks that have hit the big screen over the years.

Here is our selection of the best films about money you'll find:

1. Wall Street (1987): Director Oliver Stone, starring Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah

The aforementioned classic tells the story of ambitious junior stockbroker Bud Fox (Sheen) and his dreams of emulating his hero, unscrupulous trader Gekko (Douglas). He becomes richer than he can possibly imagine, and enjoys all the benefits that goes with it – fast cars, plush apartments, women - but is the price he pays to reach the top too much?

2. Wolf of Wall Street (2013): Director Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie

Based on the real-life, hell-raising tales of American stockbroker Jordan "the Wolf" Belfort, who made millions before landing up in jail, Scorsese's latest epic features drug-taking, dwarf-throwing, and a whole lot more inappropriate and debauched behaviour.

The film has been criticized in some quarters for failing to show the implications of Belfort's crimes – defrauding investors – but it certainly reveals just how wealthy and glamorous Belfort's life was.

3. Trading Places (1983): Director John Landis, starring Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy

Another 80s classic, the Duke Brothers, owners of a successful brokerage firm, investigate what would happen if they were to swap the lives of two people at opposite ends of the social spectrum.

Often compared to Mark Twain's the Prince and the Pauper, the film explores the idea of whether success – and wealth – is due to circumstance or talent. And if you don't know about pork bellies before you see the film, you certainly will afterwards.

4. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005): Director Alex Gibney

One film which is sadly all too real, this documentary gives viewers the inside story on one of the biggest corporate scandals of all time – the collapse of Enron in 2001 and the subsequent criminal trials that followed.

Based on the book of the same name, the story of dishonesty, greed, and manipulation remains a lesson for corporate America even today.

5. Boiler Room (2000): Director Ben Younger, starring Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi

The film, inspired by Jordan Belfort's real-life business – Stratton Oakmont – tells the story of college dropout Seth Bennett (Ribisi) who makes his fortune at a brokerage business that uses cold-calling techniques to sell to investors.

But it quickly becomes clear the business might not be as legitimate as it seems. With Ben Affleck at his fast-paced best, this is a revealing glimpse into a macho sales environment that eventually damages the fraudsters as well as their victims.

6. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992): Director James Foley, staring Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Jack Lemmon

It's not just Wall Street that has been the setting for the best money films. The all-star cast tells the tale of four increasingly desperate estate agents who have to take part in a brutal sales contest, with the worst performer sacked.

Based on a play of the same name, the film is notorious for its, again, macho portrayal of the sales world – and its bad language too. Although it features a tour de force performance by Alec Baldwin as the big boss flown in to ‘motivate' the dejected sales force, it was Al Pacino who got the Oscar nomination for his work as top salesman Ricky Roma.

7. Capitalism: A love story (2009): Director Michael Moore

Scourge of the American right, Michael Moore's critique of capitalism focuses on the recent financial crisis, its negative impact on ordinary citizens, and the behaviour of both politicians and corporations.

As well as the normal targets, Moore also explores whether Jesus would have been a capitalist, interviewing a number of priests who believe the capitalist system to be contrary to the teaching of Christianity. It's hard-hitting stuff.

8. Up in the Air (2009): Director Jason Reitman, starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick

Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizer who travels across the United States sacking workers on behalf of their employers.

His work is threatened when the firm hires a new member of staff (Kendrick) who aims to implement a new policy of firing via video conferencing instead. To find out more, Kendrick accompanies him on one of his many trips across the country and is shocked to discover how uncomfortable she is when firing people face to face.

It may be remembered best for the scenes where Bingham enjoys his frequent air miles, but it's also a lacerating look at faceless, corporate America.

9. Rogue Trader (1999): Director James Dearden, starring Ewan McGregor, Anna Friel

While most of money films are set on the trading floors of Wall Street, we couldn't leave out the story of one of Britain's most notorious bankers. McGregor stars as Nick Leeson and details his role in the collapse of the UK's oldest investment bank – Barings.

After making unauthorised speculative trades, Leeson managed to run up loses of more than £800 million before fleeing from the authorities in 1995. He was arrested in Frankfurt and eventually sentenced to six and a half years in prison.

10. Margin Call (2011): Director JC Chandor, starring Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany

Another insight into the financial crisis of 2007-08, the story focuses on a large Wall Street investment bank, its employees' actions and how they attempt to limit the company's exposure to toxic assets – at a cost of their own careers and reputations.

It follows a number of characters, from the younger employees who are first to be given the boot when the firm runs into trouble, to the amoral hotshots who are happy to keep on trading regardless. Spacey is good as the older divorcee who has seen it all before.

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