In New York’s Wall Street, it’s like a big business war. Fancy-dressed bosses try to outsmart each other by making big decisions that can either make them super rich or really poor.
In this article, we listed 13 films about the biggest money moves (and crises) in history—and the cunning but often calculated schemes behind them.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street” stars Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the most famous actors of all time.
Tracing the real-life story of John Belfort, the high-rolling stockbroker behind the successful Stratton Oakmont firm, the movie depicts his crude lifestyle of excessive partying, abusing vices, and swindling schemes. Belfort’s voice-over adds a comedic touch to the flamboyant scenes—until he gets into trouble with the FBI.
The star-studded cast, including Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill, and Matthew McConaughey, contributed to the film’s five Oscar nominations.
2. The Big Short (2015)
Christian Bale takes on the main role in “The Big Short,” a film following a team of investors who predicted the downfall of the mortgage-backed U.S. real estate market.
The opportunist group (comprised of familiar faces Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt) hastily sets up the situation to their advantage. They strategize just in time for the economic crash of 2008, racking up immense profits while the rest of the world scrambles to sort out the catastrophe.
Based on Michael Lewis’ bestselling book titled “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” this satirical comedy exposes the flimsy foundation of the American housing market.
3. Margin Call (2011)
Set in an investment firm, “Margin Call” throws audiences headfirst into the nerve-wracking first day of the 2008 financial crisis. Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), a junior analyst, is the first to sense impending chaos. He alerts the higher-ups (Paul Bettany and Kevin Spacey), setting off a frantic chain of events that saves the company from disaster but burns bridges with their clients.
This thriller by J.C. Chandor raises questions of morality in a tough world where fate hinges on the relentless pursuit of wealth.
4. Wall Street (1987)
Michael Douglas’ Oscar-winning performance as corporate raider Gordon Gekko makes “Wall Street” as impressive today as it was decades ago. Joined by Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox, the mentor-student duo takes the cutthroat world of finance by storm, using manipulative tactics and unethical practices to get rich.
With every morally ambiguous step, they embody the catchphrase “greed is good,” showcasing the dark side of the industry.
5. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” is the sequel to Oliver Stone’s critically acclaimed 1987 film. Michael Douglas returns as Gordon Gekko, whose story continues as he is released from prison. In between book promotions and university lectures, Gekko teams up with a young trader named Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) to strike back at an old nemesis. Meanwhile, his relationship with his pregnant daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) appears strained beyond repair.
The film concludes with a satisfying redemption arc from a character once thought to be merciless by nature.
6. American Psycho (2000)
Meet the materialistic and bloodthirsty Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) in “American Psycho.”
Adapted from the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, the film portrays Bateman juggling an office day job with the hunt for his next target. His handsome face conceals ruthless greed and violent tendencies; a psychopath in its purest form.
7. Inside Job (2010)
“Inside Job” revolves around the worldwide financial collapse of 2008. Narrated by Matt Damon, the documentary film uses interviews with politicians, journalists, and researchers to explain what caused the market to crash.
Director Charles Ferguson was awarded a Best Documentary Oscar for this comprehensive look into the powerful yet invisible forces that define global economics.
8. Boiler Room (2000)
In the drama “Boiler Room,” the brokerage firm J.T. Marlin conducts pump-and-dump scams that trick people into buying overvalued stocks, artificially inflating prices to secure a huge profit for the sellers. Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) is a broker fresh out of college who quickly excels at cold calls and earning commissions but also discovers the shady aspect of the business.
9. Trading Places (1983)
With Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in the lead roles, “Trading Places” is a tale of a goofy social experiment that will make you laugh out loud.
Beggar-turned-broker Billy (Eddie Murphy) switches lives with Louis (Dan Aykroyd), who loses his mansion and prestigious job. Delivering a clever plot and hilarious acting performances, “Trading Places” proves that movies can tackle themes like social inequality while maintaining a lighthearted and eccentric tone.
10. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Enter the high-pressure environment of real estate, where aggressive tactics are the order of the day. “Glengarry Glen Ross” follows salesmen in fierce competition for premium leads, though everything changes when a robbery shatters the office’s routine.
The story prompts reflection on the personal costs and professional sacrifices required to achieve success and sparks debate on whether this pursuit is worthwhile.
11. Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)
Michael Moore’s documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story” illustrates how unjust systems in America widen the gap between the rich and poor. Through interviews with citizens who lost their homes or suffered wage cuts due to the 2008 economic crisis, Moore sheds light on the impact of corporate greed on everyday workers.
12. Too Big to Fail (2011)
The HBO TV movie “Too Big to Fail” is a detailed account of the 2008 Wall Street disaster from the perspective of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. As the national banking system crumbled, Paulson worked with members of Congress to stabilize the economy.
This vivid retelling unveils pivotal moments that occurred behind closed doors: confidential discussions among key figures, under-the-table negotiations, and discreet solutions.
13. Arbitrage (2012)
Featuring Richard Gere as Wall Street executive Robert Miller, “Arbitrage” presents ethical dilemmas about family, business, and the value of honesty. The main character, an affluent 60-year-old struggling to sell his trading company, does everything in his power to cover up incriminating records, an extramarital affair, and even murder.
So, which Wall Street film will you watch next? How many of these films have you already seen?
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Marga is a freelance content writer based in the Philippines. She mainly works with blogs to craft informative yet engaging articles spanning lifestyle, travel, and entertainment topics.
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