The financial world is making excellent cinema in all its incarnations. In the many financial movies that Hollywood has made over the years, tragedy, comedy, ingenuity, disaster, and redemption are all present. While most of the films depict economic experts in a less than flattering light, the incredible tales of excess, risk-taking and, of course, greed makes the cinema compelling and required viewing for anyone who thinks about or is already working in the biz.
The Big Short- Based on the nonfiction novel ‘The Big Short’: Inside Michael Lewis ‘ Doomsday Machine, the financial film follows some savvy X as they become conscious of the housing bubble that caused the financial crisis in 2007-2008, ahead of anyone else. For instance, it is renowned for its smart manner of breaking down advanced financial instruments by having Selena Gomez explain what synthetic CDOs are on a poker table, or having Margot Robbie justify mortgage-backed bonds in a champagne tub.
Barbarians at the Gates- A mainly forgotten 1993 TV film focused on RJR Nabisco’s leveraged buyout (LBO). While the film takes creative freedoms to portray this real-life event, the audience will be surprised and amused by Nabisco’s CEO F. Ross Johnson’s incompetence and greed, as well as the negotiations and skullduggery behind the scenes around this renowned LBO.
American Psycho- Christian Bale performs a rich investment banker with a dark secret, a brutal and thought-provoking thriller set in the background of finance. While in this film there is very little real finance, American Psycho sheds light on the surreal world populated by the elite class of finance, and the utter disconnection between themselves and reality.
Rogue Trader- This excellent movies on finance shows the tale of Nick Leeson, a trader who alone created Barings Bank’s insolvency, the second oldest merchant bank in the world. A growing star on the trading floor in Singapore, Leeson blew up as rapidly as he rose, hiding huge losses from his superiors in closely concealed accounts, eventually leading to the mom of all unsuccessful trades on a short straddle position on the Nikkei, which ends up experiencing a big sigma move. While the film itself is decently fun, the tale of Leeson provides a wonderful lesson in risk management and economic supervision.
Trading Places- This modern-day take on The Prince and Pauper features Eddie Murphy as a street-facing artist who gets tricked into becoming the manager of a commodities trading company while unwittingly replacing his successor, Dan Aykroyd’s blue-blooded CEO. Although real trading takes a chance to the characters transitioning into their new situations, in the orange juice futures pits, the final 15 minutes of the financial film has a very precise portrayal of a frenzied trading session. This scene alone is worth the admission price without revealing the details, but the supporting cast, the nostalgia of the 80s, and great acting from the leads make it a must-watch.