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The financial world makes for great T.V. Comedy, ingenuity, skill, and tragedy are all intertwined on the big screen.
That’s what makes stock market movies so entertaining.
So, whether you’re looking for pure entertainment or some stock market education, here are the 10 best stock market movies to watch today.
#1: The Big Short
The Big Short is the best stock market movie without a doubt.
This stock market movie depicts the story of a few groups of savvy investors who became aware of the housing bubble before anyone else and made billions of dollars betting on its demise.
The bursting of this bubble led to the financial crisis which began in 2008 and is now referred to as The Great Recession.
The Big Short is known for its clever way of breaking down sophisticated financial instruments and industry jargon such as synthetic CDOs and mortgage-backed securities.
As an investor, The Big Short will make you want to take a deeper look into things everyone believes are true but may not be as secure as we all think. It will make you think critically and seek contrarian views.
#2: Too Big to Fail
Another stock market movie about the 2008 financial crisis, Too Big to Fail takes the opposite viewpoint of The Big Short and focuses on the crisis faced by the biggest banks and the Federal Reserve, the United States’s central bank.
Instead of generating massive profits, many of the financial institutions in the film lose billions and become insolvent, forcing the Fed to take massive action to keep the American economy afloat.
These institutions are so large, interconnected, and integral to the entire economic system that they are “Too Big to Fail” and must be bailed out when tragedy strikes.
The complex relationship between private enterprise, politics, and the average American is a theme throughout the movie.
The question from this stock market movie remains: what did we learn from this economic crisis?
Are we better prepared for next time?
#3: Wall Street
Wall Street is about a young stockbroker who gets involved with a wealthy corporate raider who pays well to do some shady business.
As the story goes, the stockbroker (Charlie Sheen) quickly starts living the good life while sacrificing his morals along the way.
Unsurprisingly, the “good life” only lasts so long but by then it’s too late.
Wall Street paints a perfect picture of the greed and hedonism associated with high finance.
More than 30 years after its release, the movie is still a powerful recruiter and warning for young would-be financial professionals.
The film captures the 2 halves that live within each of us: The greedy side and the good side.
When confronted with the situation Bud Fox originally faced, which side would you choose?
#4: Trading Places
Time for a lighter stock market movie, and one starring Eddie Murphy.
A street-smart con artist gets tricked into becoming the manager of a commodities trading firm who is in above his head.
Although actual trading takes a backseat to the characters interacting in their unlikely new circumstances, the final 15 minutes of the film includes a hilarious scene about a frenzied trading session in the futures pits.
The 80s nostalgia and phenomenal acting make Trading Places a must-watch stock market movie.
You’ll want to watch Trading Places for the light-hearted entertainment and character development — it doesn’t have much merit in the educational department.
#5: Margin Call
Margin Call is one of the best stock market movies for the quantitatively-oriented financial professional and it may be the most accurate movie on this list.
This film will take you through the inner-workings of a large investment bank on the brink of disaster.
It documents a 24-hour period of discovery, decision-making, and implementation of a dubious strategy of selling a massive position.
The producers of Margin Call do not hide their contempt for the reckless risk-taking by the largest banks leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.
Margin Call does well to illustrate the collision of cold corporate decision-making and the individuals tasked with carrying out the orders.
#6: Chasing Madoff
Chasing Madoff is the story of how an investigator spent 10 years trying to expose Bernie Madoff’s elaborate Ponzi scheme that scammed nearly $20 billion from investors.
Madoff pulled off his scheme by faking investment returns and receiving massive deposits into his fund.
The movie chronicles how the investigator and his associates attempted to get the SEC to acknowledge and act on their investigative proof into Madoff’s scheme. Despite a series of meetings, the SEC ignored the evidence until acting on it several years later.
Chasing Madoff is another example of the greed which humans are capable of and the dramatic failings of the U.S.’s regulating agency.
#7: The Ascent of Money
The Ascent of Money is a documentary on the financial history of the world.
The movie depicts why our modern societies are structured and behave as they do, drawing a direct correlation between increasing complexities in financial systems leading to larger and more complex global economies.
You will find the history of money, credit, and banking in this episode of the six-part series created by Niall Ferguson exploring the mysteries of stock markets and the globalization of the western world.
For a financial history lesson, check out the Ascent of Money.
#8: The Wolf of Wall Street
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (who spent 22 months in prison for his crimes against investors), the Wolf of Wall Street is likely the most well-known stock market movie of all time.
This movie chronicles the rise and fall of a prolific stock scammer and his band of misfits. The group starts Stratton Oakmont, an unscrupulous OTC brokerage firm that sells penny stocks to unsuspecting investors
The Wolf of Wall Street is entertaining at every turn.
Greed, ingenuity, girls, drugs, and men accumulating fortunes based on smooth-talking and clever sales tactics — this movie is the epitome of Wall Street stereotypes.
This stock market movie makes it very evident that there’s a wrong way to make a fortune.
#9: Barbarians at the Gate
Ever heard of a leveraged buyout (LBO)?
After watching Barbarians at the Gate, you will know exactly what it entails and have a deep understanding of how the process affects the target company.
Barbarians at the Gate depicts the infamous LBO of RJR Nabisco.
Released in 1993, it’s not as fast-paced as the movies we’re used to today and it’s about a very specific event. If you stay engaged throughout this stock market movie, you will be shocked and amused at the greed and incompetence demonstrated throughout this film.
Most importantly of all, you will learn how not to run a business.
#10: Rogue Trader
Rogue Trader tells the story of Nick Leeson, a stock trader who single-handedly caused the insolvency of Barings Bank.
Leeson went from being a rising star on the Singapore trading floor to being the poster child for oversight training seminars.
The trader hides enormous losses from his superiors and eventually loses a massive sum on a single trade which unravels all of his secrets.
Leeson’s story is a great lesson in risk management.
The Bottom Line: Stock Market Movies
If you’re considering a career in finance or are even remotely interested in the subject, these 10 stock market movies are must-watches.
Get a glimpse into life on Wall Street with any of these films in a wildly entertaining and surprisingly educational way.
The Great Recession in 2008, the fall of Enron, the Bernie Madoff scandal, Jordan Belfort — there is a movie from every financially-charged event that has happened in the last 100 years.
When there’s money on the line, real life can be far more unbelievable than any fiction a Hollywood producer could dream. And the fact that these events actually took place makes the stories even more compelling.
You may find yourself wanting to watch these movies over and over again.
Or, if you'd rather read a book, check out these stock investing books that can equally educate and entertain.