Whether the movies want to admit it or not, trading is a great way to build wealth through smarts and savvy. On the other hand, that doesn’t make the stories they tell and the controversies they depict any less entertaining. Here are 10 films that will make your exciting career choice look boring in the best way possible.
Not all Hollywood depictions of trading activity are rife with righteous condemnation. Sometimes they need Eddie Murphy to carry their message. In this early-80’s comedy, two brothers who run a commodity futures brokerage make a bet to determine whether nature or nurture determine someone’s character. The money-savvy siblings pluck Murphy, a street hustler, out of his day-to-day and swap him with their elitist executive in order to test their theory. Without spoiling the movie, suffice to say that the brothers find more than they bargained for.
From the US film industry to the journalists at the BBC, financial markets are an area of intense interest. In this documentary, three foreign exchange traders based in New York, Hong Kong, and London are filmed as they carry out their trading activities. The work is a fascinating look at where forex trading and technology stood in the late 80’s, and how far they’ve come in the years since.
The trading floor has often been sensationalized as a traders jungle, littered with papers and the tears of shattered traders. It’s also a place where few can be found anymore. This 2009 documentary speaks with Chicago traders, complete with swearing and cigars, and examines the unique social cliques and idiosyncrasies built around the practice. This pit-style trading has become nothing more than a relic of a time gone by, but this look into the lives of the original financial warriors is well worth a look.
A list of Wall Street movies without Michael Douglas’ signature film is hardly worth its salt, and for good reason. While placing its feet staunchly in the “traders as con men” category, Gordon Gekko and his firm turn trading, elicit or otherwise, into an activity worthy of the silver screen. Its magnetism is inescapable, including lines like “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” but its true legacy is as an educational tool for traders looking to make a quick buck in unsavory ways.
While not dealing directly with the rigors of trading, Glengarry Glen Ross is a cutthroat look at the essence of stock trading: sales. Alec Baldwin, Jack Lemon, Kevin Spacey, and Ed Harris head up a star-studded cast that looks at wheeling and dealing from the salesman’s perspective, constructing a narrative of win-at-all-costs attitudes and lavish bonuses. Whether you’re a trader by trade or you’re interested in the profession, this movie will put the money-first mentality in harsh perspective.
Before Vin Diesel became Pitch Black, Dominic Toretto, or Triple X, the muscle-bound actor was instrumental in one of the largest securities scandals to grace the theater. Boiler Room is yet another cautionary tale, featuring a high-powered firm using pump and dump tactics to pledge millions to its loyal minions. The sketchy stock brokers look at every sales call as a closed deal. Whether the salesman closes stock or the customer closes on an excuse, a sale takes place, and money is all that matters.
Meet Jordan Belfort, the now-notorious penny stock mastermind who works his way to the top before his meteoric fall back down the ladder. Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorcese collaborate on unmitigated rocket ship of a film that makes NBA stars look like boy scouts. Littered with drugs, money, betrayal, and deception, Wolf takes trading to its highest highs, before placing it firmly back in stark reality.
To say that Capitalism ruffled feathers is an exercise in understatement. Made by controversial filmmaker Michael Moore, the documentary looks at our system of making money and sends it through the ringer. A politically charged joyride as brazen as it is revealing, it takes the financial crisis and places it on a pike, preaching ethics and prudence whether you’re making money, or spending it.
When you’re looking to take a profitable position, your analytics are your friend. For those looking for shortcuts, skill is for suckers. Inside Job looks at the financial crisis and regulation of financial markets and conducts a series of interviews with journalists and academics in order to discern the reality of the event. Spanning the US, England, Singapore, China, Iceland, and France, Inside Job is a kick in the teeth, and a reality-check to boot.
From money as a tool to money as a weapon, trading movies run the gamut, but few hit the absurdly sublime heights of American Psycho. In a role that put the future Batman on the map, Christian Bale depicts a successful stock trader with two very clear passions: Huey Lewis and the News, and murder. The psychopath’s antics will only take 104 minutes of your time, but the impression it leaves will make you glad that the sharpest thing in your trading toolkit is your mind.
Whether your a horror fan, a social critic, or a fan of financial fiction, Wall Street movies will satisfy your cinematic cravings. From Wall Street to American Psycho, take a break with one of these ten films, and be glad that your own practice, while occasionally a bit banal, keeps you in the black and out of prison.
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