Money Never Sleeps: Top 10 Financial Films
Hollywood studios have always had a penchant for financial storytelling. From the college intern to market crashes, the plots and twists will never run out...even if they are recycled.
What can set films apart is the writing, the music and the acting. The stories may be redundant, but a great performance can turn the film from a bore to a success.
There have been finance and money-based movies from as far back as the 1940s, with the enduring banker's struggle in It's A Wonderful Life. It wasn't until the financial boom of the 1980s, along with the Yuppie culture it bread, where writers and directors could really set themselves off.
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are bringing the much-anticipated The Wolf of Wall Street to theaters next month. Here is a list of some of the other best fictional financial films.
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The Game (1997)
Michael Douglass and Sean Penn are siblings who have broken apart from each other. Penn's Conrad sets his older brother on a path that intertwines his emotions and his profession.
Douglass plays an investment banker, whose lifestyle and wealth have come at a cost. The visuals and suspenseful turns within the "game" helps keep this formulaic thriller stand out.
"You don't know anything about society, Marie. You don't have the satisfaction of avoiding it."(Photo)
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Barbarians At The Gate (1993)
A made-for-TV movie on the battle for RJR Nabisco, HBO (NYSE: TWC) had a smart take in the early days of the premium cable world.
Greed is again at the forefront, as the movie tells the true story of the tobacco and food company looking to go private after the failure of a smokeless cigarette.
Perhaps forgotten, the film may look like the 80s and 90s, but its story still holds up today.
"He got the art of the double-cross down real fast."(Photo)
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The Secret Of My Success (1987)
If Wall Street perfectly captures the Yuppie lifestyle of its time, ..Success does the same...as a 1980s comedy, complete with synthesizers, MJF and Yello.
Brantley Foster (Fox) is a recent college graduate eager to get his feet wet in the investment world. Of course, his lack of experience holds down his big city dreams.
His luck changes thanks to a distant relative who is the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation. Foster's secret adventures between the mail room and the stock market gives Wall Street some much-needed lightheartedness.
"Please God, help me get out of this. I swear I'll go all over the world telling people not to screw the boss's wife."(Photo)
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Rogue Trader (1999)
Based on a true story, this film shows the how that excess-driven mind can lead to ultimate failure.
Ewan McGregor helps tell the tale of the Barings Bank employee who gambled on Japanese futures, moves that crumbled the 230-year old London institution.
"Despite rumors of secret bank accounts and hidden millions, I did not profit from my unlawful trading. To be absolutely honest, sometimes I wish I had."(Photo)
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Margin Call (2011)
One of the first movies conceived following the 2007-2008 financial crisis, this Oscar-nominated tale takes audiences on that familiar journey of capitalism and fraud.
Backed by strong performances by Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons, its script lost out to Woody Allen on Oscar night.
Margin Call is an independent film that premiered at Sundance. It may not be very well-known today, but should grow to become a classic in the genre.
"There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat."(Photo)
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Boiler Room (2000)
Filled with a bevy of young stars, this 2000 crime-thriller was another stock flick that was boosted with solid writing.Screenwriter Ben Younger interviewed brokers for over two years to help tell the tale of college dropout looking to increase his wealth. He catches on with a brokerage firm, but eventually learns everything isn't as it may seem.
"A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can't. Either way, a sale is made - the only question is who is gonna close? You or him?"(Photo)
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Too Big To Fail (2011)
HBO has been the king of mini-series and made-for-TV movies over the last decade, and Too Big To Fail continued that string of success.
Based on a true story from the non-fiction book of the same name, the movie captures the 2008 crisis from the political side of things, from the Lehman Brothers to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Paul Giamatti, William Hurt and James Woods lead a stellar cast through one of the most uneasy time's in America's recent history.
"I don't really understand why there needs to be so much tension about this. The country is facing the worst economy since the Great Depression. If the financial system collapses, it will take every one of you down."(Photo)
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Trading Places (1983)
Two of the world's biggest stars came together for this hugely successful John Landis comedy, a loose, modern-day adaption of the "Prince and the Pauper" tale.
Dan Akryord is a commodities broker and Eddie Murphy is the street hustler. Together, they unknowingly help take down the Duke & Duke brokerage, while spinning a comedic take on racial and social relations.
As a testament to the film's popularity and intelligence, the 'Eddie Murphy Rule' of insider trading came into effect in 2010.
"I had the most absurd nightmare. I was poor and no one liked me. I lost my job, I lost my house, Penelope hated me and it was all because of this terrible, awful negro."(Photo)
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American Psycho (2000)
Patrick Bateman. His name and looks embody the successful American man. The dark soul underneath is what no one ever knows.
Based on the novel of the same name, American Psycho displays the vanity and shallowness of the Yuppie lifestyle. From its muted color palate to 80s pop songs, the movie is a terrific piece of fillmmaking.
Christian Bale is the star, but his fellow Manhattans are perfect in their loveless, money-driven lives.
"Do you like Huey Lewis and The News?"(Photo)
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Wall Street (1987)
The quintessential movie about 80s excess. It came at the height of the financial boom, with star-confirming performances to enhance its appeal.
Wall Street follows a junior stockbroker (Charlie Sheen) as he works his way through New York. His hero is the iconic Gordon Gekko, a role Michael Douglass absorbed to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Its box office numbers may not look like much in today's dollars, but 20th Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOXA) nearly tripled its budget ($15 million/$43.8 million).
"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good."(Photo)
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