Wondering what the best finance movies to watch in 2020 are? Maybe it’s for inspiration or you want to learn how crazy the world of finance and trading really is. Well, here’s our list of the best movies and documentaries about Wall Street, Finance, and Trading that are out currently in 2020!
Boiler Room (2000):
Like many movies about the world of trading and finance, Boiler Room is also inspired by true events. Specifically from a job interview the screenwriter – Ben Younger, had at a brokerage firm named Sterling Foster.
The film shows Giovanni Ribisi star as a 19-year-old college drop-out who’s running an illegal gambling den in his rented home on Long Island, New York. He struggles to gain the approval of his strict father and comes across a friend of a friend introducing him to a brokerage firm where everyone of the stockbrokers seem to be ridiculously young and rich. Through the movie, he makes friends and rivals at the firm while discovering the shady underbelly of how such a small brokerage out on Long Island and well away from Wall Street is making such huge commissions.
The film takes place in 1999, and it has an interesting and nostalgic take on the era. In present day, we can imagine how the Wolf of Wall Street (Jordan Belfort) founded his own brokerage in 1989. One can imagine how it paved the way for many more to enter the illicit, shady, yet lucrative side of finance with their own brokerages.
Margin Call (2011):
Margin Call is a movie that tells the story taking place inside a large Wall Street investment bank during the 2007-08 financial crisis. When the film begins, the financial crisis hasn’t started yet but the bank is aware of the web they’ve spun themselves in and are thus firing many traders on the trading floor.
Margin Call features Kevin Spacey as the trading floor head who comes up with a plan to save as much as they can, and shows how almost everyone on Wall Street as out to save themselves by hook or crook once the financial crisis hit.
As of now, the film is viewable on Netflix.
Wolf of Wall Street (2013):
The Wolf of Wall Street is a must-watch adrenaline-pumping story based on the exploits of Jordan Belfort. In fact, the movie is based on the book Belfort wrote while in prison for his crimes, and Belfort himself is played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
The film is comedic and holds the world record for the most use of a swear word. It portrays the rise and fall of Belfort as he discovers an alternate to the regular stock brokerage world – the penny stock market. It’s shown how he uses his sales skills as a Wall Street broker to make huge amounts of money selling pink-sheet / penny stocks of unsafe companies to investors. It’s a fun ride throughout the movie as Belfort navigates his jaded nature and unloose morals while indulging in copious amounts of drugs, alcohol, and fornication.
It leaves the viewer with disbelief at the extravagances Belfort indulges in while running a massively profitable brokerage indulging in shady dealings while there’s a lack of financial oversight. This movie is definitely a must-watch.
Trading Places (1983):
Yes, you read that right – Trading Places is a comedy movie from 1983 and stars Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. The premise of the film is that two extremely wealthy brothers who own a Wall Street investment bank decide to conduct a social experiment where they switch someone from a poor, uneducated background with someone who’s wealthy and from the upper class of society. To conduct this experiment, they frame their own Managing Director (Aykroyd) of theft and make him lose his social status by firing him and having his bank accounts frozen.
Meanwhile, they bail out a street hustler from jail and install him as the Managing Director (Eddie Murphy). What ensues is Aykroyd’s character trying to regain his status with the help of a well-meaning hooker, and Murphy’s character rising to his role by achieving successes in the financial world using his street smarts.
The movie is filled with mischief, humor, and even heart-touching moments. It leaves viewers with laughter and food for thought.
Wall Street (1987):
Wall Street is a legendary movie about finance that gave Charlie Sheen the big break of his career, and cemented Michael Douglas’. Sheen plays Bud Fox who is a young trader working for a stock brokerage in Wall Street who is ambitious and constantly looking for a big break. He comes from a middle class working family, and is shown to be pursuing a lead to make contact with Gordon Gekko (Douglas) who is a legendary wall street raider and trader.
With persistence and wit, Fox manages to start working together with Gekko only to soon realize that the big players on Wall Street all know something he doesn’t. The rest is a journey of Bud Fox enjoying the lavishness of success (including a hot new girlfriend), while struggling with how far he goes to maintain that lifestyle.
Wall Street is a classic tale about the wealth, luxury, corruption, and wit of well, Wall Street. Even though it’s an old movie, it’s still one of the best finance movies of its time and even today, with just the right amount of nostalgia.
Betting on Zero (2016):
Betting on Zero is a 2016 documentary available on Netflix. It follows the crusade of the billionaire hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman against the company Herbalife (HLF – NYSE Stock Quote). Of course, this is a documentary and studies facts while painting an interesting story for viewers – almost making us feel like we’re watching a gripping movie about finance.
The film is educational as it also shows how Bill investigates the depths of the company that promotes and sells supplements. The practices of the company are shown to be unscrupulous and they seem to run a blatant pyramid scheme selling their products and franchises to people under the impression that they can become wealthy reselling them.
In 2012, Bill Ackman takes a $1 billion short position against the Herbalife stock and sees it go against him. By 2020 we know now that in 2018 Bill closed his short position and took a sizable loss. We can see from the current stock chart price that HLF has maintained significant levels in its share price, which only goes to be a lesson to traders that a stock can remain irrational and ignore the facts longer than the wealthiest among us can bet against it. It leaves viewers with a good lesson in risk-management and food for thought about the kinds of practices even large listed companies indulge in.
The Big Short (2015):
The Big Short is a biographical comedy-drama based on the book with the same name by Michael Lewis.
The film looks at 3 different trading groups as they discover the mortgage-backed security fraud that lead to the 2008 financial crisis. The film stars high profile stars in leading roles and cameos including Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and even Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie making appearances.
The tone of the film is very informative and explains to the viewer all the complications of the financial crisis in a simple and humorous manner. Since the film is based on all true separate stories, it is very informational and educational. You will learn what the mortgage-backed securities were, how they were started, and how they mutated to cause one of the worst recessions in history. Once again, human greed and corruption on Wall Street are put in the headlights, and we can gain a perspective of how Wall Street may be one of the biggest wealth creators but also one of the shadiest places favoring the big institutions.
To re-emphasize, this movie will have you captivated in the first few minutes. The Big Short is undoubtedly one of the best finance movies of all time!
The China Hustle (2017):
The China Hustle is a documentary film on Netflix that takes a look at the explosive boom in Chinese companies that listed and still list on the American Stock Exchange.
We see how Chinese companies align with unscrupulous US brokers to list their stocks on American Exchanges by using loopholes such as reverse mergers. This gives them access to the largest capital market in the world, and since their company and assets are in China, they manage to lie about their financials and company projections – Thus running pump and dump schemes.
The film features activist investors as protagonists, including the formation of Muddy Waters which became a famous group for short selling stocks that are over hyped and outright fraudulent.
Even though Casino is not strictly a Wall Street or Trading movie, it is most definitely related to Finance.
This movie is a classic Martin Scorsese film and stars Robert De Niro as Ace Rothstein. The movie is based on true events and delves into the rise of Las Vegas as the epicenter of all things gambling and sinfully decadent. In a way, that’s what the world of trading is about as well.
Ace is shown to be a brilliant bookie who knows how to win bets by obsessively analyzing information involved (Similar to the world of trading as that’s what separates the successful traders from the gamblers). He’s so successful in fact, that the mafioso hire and send him to run a Casino they’ve opened with their ill-gotten money. What follows is a journey to success in the midst of balancing crazy ‘friends’, an unrequited love, and exploiting loop holes to keep the money machine flowing.
Not only does Casino bring Vegas to life in the roaring ’70s, but it teaches a few business lessons along the way about discipline, trust, and enterprise. It is a fascinating movie to watch that has a run-time of a whopping 3 hours.
Baazaar is an honorary mention on our list. It’s an Indian Bollywood movie that features Saif Ali Khan primarily. The movie clearly takes inspiration from Wall Street (1987). It shows the protagonist Rizwan Ahmed as an ambitious small-town young man who travels to Mumbai to make a name for himself in the biggest wealth creation machine there is – the financial market. Saif Ali Khan plays Shakun Kothari who is a big time stock market player who is ruthless. What follows are Rizwan’s successes and once again the fun times that accompany wealth, but as you can imagine, soon he finds out that getting to the top is sometimes easier than staying there.
Even though the movie got mixed reviews, we believe it’s a fun watch and differentiates itself enough from Wall Street (1987) to be enjoyable with a desi twist on things. The film is available to view on Netflix.