The 10 best movies about economy and investing

Embark on a cinematic journey through the dynamic realms of finance and stock markets with our curated list of the top 10 movies. Beyond mere entertainment, these films serve as a compelling gateway for beginners to grasp intricate financial concepts while offering seasoned investors a fresh perspective.

movies about trading

What better way to delve into the stock market, its evolution, and history than through cinema?

Here, we present a compilation of the 10 best stock market and finance movies of recent years, many of which focus on the great crisis of 2008 (such as ‘The Big Short' and ‘Margin Call') and the evolution of the iconic Wall Street.

Top 10 best movies to learn about the stock market

Any method is valid for training in stock market investment, and movies serve as a great and useful tool. Below is a list that, in our opinion, can teach you the most about this type of investment.

Best movies about the stock market
Trading Places. John Landis (1983)
Rogue Trader. James Dearden (1999)
Boiler Room. Ben Younger (2000)
Inside Job. Charles Ferguson (2010)
The Pursuit of Happyness. Gabriele Muccino (2006)
Too big to fail. Curtis Hanson (2011)
Wall Street. Oliver Stone (1987)
The Wolf of Wall Street. Martin Scorsese (2013)
Margin Call. J. C. Chandor (2011)
The Big Short. Adam McKay (2015)

#10 Trading Places. John Landis (1983)

What happens when a Wall Street magnate meets a street thief? This comedy film presents the misadventures of a con artist who swaps his lifestyle with a successful stock market investor.

Two wealthy businessmen engage in a discussion about the reasons for a person's wealth or poverty, considering social origin or genetics. Unable to agree, they decide to make a bet by impoverishing a rich man and giving all the benefits to a poor man, putting him in charge of their company.

Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Director: John Landis.

🏆 Awards:

  • Oscar Awards 1984
    • Best soundtrack: Elmer Bernstein
  • BAFTA Awards 1984:
    • Best supporting actor: Denholm Elliott (Coleman)
    • Best supporting actress: Jamie Lee Curtis (Ophelia)
    • Best original screenplay
  • Golden Globe Awards 1984
    • Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical: Trading Places
    • Best Actor – Comedy or Musical: Eddie Murphy (Billy)

#9 Rogue Trader. James Dearden (1999)

Nick Leeson, an employee of Barings Bank, revolutionised the Southeast Asian financial system in 1995. He was sent to Singapore to work in the futures market of Barings Bank, a distinguished bank with two hundred years of history.

Despite being rated as the best of the workers, he stole vast amounts of money from the bank to cover the losses of his financial operations. However, there came a time when the volume of embezzlement became exorbitant.

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Anna Friel, Tim McInnerny, Nigel Lindsay, John Standing and Lee Ross.

Director: James Dearden.

#8 Boiler Room. Ben Younger (2000)

A young man named Seth has dropped out of school and set up an illegal casino in his house. His father, who is a judge, does not view this occupation favourably, causing new tensions in their already strained relationship.

Everything seems to change when a client offers Seth a job as a stockbroker. In this role, he realises that not everything that glitters is gold.

It is an attractive world where most are young and ambitious. However, in the world of financial trading, loyalty clashes with ambition.

Cast: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nicky Katt and Ron Rifkin

Director: Ben Younger

#7 Inside Job. Charles Ferguson (2010)

Inside Job is a 2010 documentary about the 2008 financial crisis directed by Charles Ferguson and narrated by Matt Damon. It premiered on May 16 at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and received the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2011.

The Inside Job documentary delves into the 2008 financial crisis and the systematic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry, as well as the consequences of such corruption.

Cast: interventions by Gylfi Zoega, Andri Snær Magnasson, Sigridur Benediktsdottir, Paul Volcker, Dominique Strauss Kahn and George Soros.

Direction: Charles Ferguson

🏆 Awards:

  • Oscar Awards 2010
    • Best documentary film
  • New York Critics Circle 2010:
    • Best documentary

#6 The Pursuit of Happyness. Gabriele Muccino (2006)

Life is a struggle for Chris Gardner. After being evicted from their apartment, he and his young son found themselves with nowhere to go. Although Chris eventually landed a job as an intern at a prestigious financial firm, the position did not provide any income.

The two had to live in a shelter and faced many hardships, but Chris did not give up and fought for a better life for himself and his son. Until 2021 when Will Smith premiered “King Richard”, we might be talking about the best work of his entire career.

Cast: Will Smith, Thandiwe Newton, Jaden Smith, Dan Castellaneta and Brian Howe.

Direction: Gabriele Muccino.

#5 Too big to fail. Curtis Hanson (2011)

An adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin's best-seller, this film explores the eruption of the 2008 economic crisis and the responses of the powerful in an unexpected situation. The narrative centres on Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury, and the conflicts between Wall Street and the Washington government.

Cast: William Hurt, Ed Asner, Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti and Topher Grace.

Direction: Curtis Hanson

🏆 Awards:

  • Writers Guild (WGA) of 2011
    • Best adapted screenplay (long format)
  • Actors Guild (SAG) of 2011:
    • Best actor (Telefilm or Miniseries) for Paul Giamatti

#4 Wall Street. Oliver Stone (1987)

This film recounts the journey of a young broker navigating his way through Wall Street. By day, he works at a company, and in his free time, he attempts to connect with one of the great investment magnates he admires: Gordon Gekko.

He decides to work for Gekko and discovers that in this world, everything revolves around money, luxury, and fun. However, he soon realises that his admired Gordon Gekko is a man without scruples, caring only about money and willing to do anything to achieve his goals.

At a critical moment, Bud must decide whether to accept a very attractive operation that violates ethical rules. The movie has a sequel: Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.

Cast: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Terence Stamp, Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook

Direction: Oliver Stone

Awards:

  • Oscar Awards of 1987
    • Best actor for Michael Douglas
  • Golden Globe Awards of 1987:
    • Best actor for Michael Douglas
  • David di Donatello Awards of 1987:
    • Best foreign actor for Michael Douglas

#3 The Wolf of Wall Street. Martin Scorsese (2013)

In the late 80s and 90s, Wall Street experienced exponential growth, with new millionaires emerging daily from its offices.

Money was abundant, and Michael Wilkin invented the so-called “junk bonds”. Later on to be called on of the top investment scams.

Jordan Belfort, an executive of the investment firm Stratton Oakmont, became one of the famous figures in finance: a cunning and brilliant “dealer” of stocks who served as the head of an office in Long Island.

During the day, he earned thousands of dollars per minute, but when night came, he spent them on trips around the world, sex, and drugs. The movie is based on the autobiography of Jordan Belfort.

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Cristin Milioti, Rob Reiner, and Matthew McConaughey.

Direction: Martin Scorsese

🏆 Awards:

  • Golden Globe Awards of 2013:
    • Best comedy actor for Leonardo Dicaprio.
  • Critics Choice Awards of 2013
    • Best comedy actor for Leonardo Dicaprio
  • National Board of Review (NBR) of 2013:
    • Top 10 films and best-adapted screenplay
  • American Film Institute:
    • Top 10 – Best films of the year

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#2 Margin Call. J. C. Chandor (2011)

This film chronicles the lives of eight workers at a powerful investment bank during the 24 hours leading up to the onset of the 2008 financial crisis.

When Peter Sullivan, a novice analyst, reveals data that could lead the company to ruin, a cascade of both moral and financial decisions is triggered, causing an earthquake in the lives of those involved in the impending disaster.

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, and Demi Moore.

Director: J.C. Chandor

🏆 Awards:

  • New York Critics Circle 2011:
    • Best first work.
  • National Board of Review 2011:
    • Best new director.
  • National Board of Review (NBR) 2011:
    • Top 10 films and best-adapted screenplay
  • Independent Spirit Awards 2011:
    • Best first work and Robert Alman award
  • San Francisco Critics Circle 2011:
    • Best original screenplay

#1 The Big Short. Adam McKay (2015)

If you are a contrarian in the financial markets, this is undoubtedly one of the best movies you should see. Based on true events, it tells the story of several investors who found a market niche in the arrogance of the big American banks.

The film narrates the most critical moments of the financial crisis unleashed in 2008 and mainly focuses on people who believed the bubble was going to burst, such as Meredith Whitney, who predicted the disappearance of Citigroup and Bear Stearns; Steve Eisman, a hedge fund manager; Greg Lippmann, a Deutsche Bank trader; Eugene Xu, a quantitative analyst who created the first CDO market, matching buyers and sellers; the founders of Cornwall Capital, who started a hedge fund in their garage with US$110,000 and increased it to US$120 million when the market collapsed.

Dr. Michael Burry, a former neurologist, created Scion Capital despite suffering from blindness in one eye and Asperger's syndrome.

Without a doubt, this is a highly recommended film to understand the operation and dynamics of credit default swaps (CDS) and collateralised debt obligations (CDO).

Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock and Brad Pitt

Direction: Adam McKay

🏆 Awards:

  • Oscar Awards of 2015:
    • Best adapted screenplay
  • BAFTA Awards of 2015:
    • Best adapted screenplay
  • Critics Choice Awards of 2015:
    • Best comedy, comedy actor (Bale) and adapted screenplay.
  • Producers Guild (PGA) of 2015:
    • Best film
  • Writers Guild (WGA) of 2015:
    • Best adapted screenplay
  • Satellite Awards of 2015:
    • Best supporting actor for Christian Bale.
  • Chicago Critics Circle of 2015:
    • Best adapted screenplay.

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Conclusion

This top 10 list showcases some of the best movies to provide an engaging and insightful journey into the complex world of finance, economics, and the stock market. From the gripping tales of the 2008 financial crisis in “The Big Short” and “Margin Call” to the ruthless allure of Wall Street in “Wall Street” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” each film offers a unique perspective.

Whether a seasoned investor or a novice, these cinematic gems not only entertain but also educate, making them essential viewing for anyone intrigued by the dynamics of the financial realm.

FAQs

How do these movies portray the ethical aspects of finance and investing?

The films explore the ethical dilemmas faced by characters in the finance world, offering a thought-provoking perspective on the moral considerations within the industry.

How can watching these movies benefit my financial literacy?

They enhance financial literacy by illustrating practical scenarios, terminology, and the consequences of financial decisions, fostering a better understanding of how the financial world operates.

How accurate are the depictions of the stock market in these films?

While some creative liberties are taken for storytelling, these movies are generally well-researched and offer authentic glimpses into the workings of the stock market and finance industry.

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