Think Finance Is Boring? Think Again.

We can all picture the following scene: it is an early Monday morning at an investment banking firm; employees are yelling at their clients - shoving a stock down their throat - and colourful numbers seem to be running up and down the TV screens that adorn the office. There are papers all over the desks, people all over the place; no pauses, no breaks, no time to breathe in this race for riches.


However, one often forgets that finance is not only about skyscrapers, telephones and pinstripe suits. Movies based on finance are not only about fast-paced lives and selfish con-men. There are various movies - with a range of different themes - that provide a very realistic and compelling depiction of the financial world. The movies on this list explore various financial ideas and are picked based on their relevance, precision, and other key quality measures of movies in general.


10. Boiler Room (IMDb: 7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%):

A college dropout, attempting to live up to his father's high standards, gets a job as a broker for an investment firm which makes him quick money. But the job might not be as legitimate as it first appeared to be. The nature of investment banking is cleverly woven into a film that focuses primarily on the strained relationship between a father and son. Although critics say that the ending was slightly abrupt, the film was generally well-received and is recommended for potential investment bankers.


9. The China Hustle (IMDb: 7.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%):

This documentary tells the story of how fraudulent American companies deceived investors using nondescript Chinese companies; the stock prices of these companies were heavily inflated initially; investors goaded clients into buying them. But when the values crashed to their real value, the world witnessed one of the biggest scams in US history. This documentary is precise, understandable and a must-watch for anyone willing to delve deep into securities fraud and financial markets in general.


8. Margin Call (IMDb: 7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%):

A financial services company’s management division head is suddenly fired; when his protege seeks to find out why he sees the downfall of the company coming very soon. As characters try to develop a solution, viewers learn that they are concerned solely by the welfare of their corporations. While the lack of ethics in the corporate world may be exaggerated, this movie could be extremely enjoyable for a wide audience.


7. Glengarry Glen Ross (IMDb: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%):

When an office full of New York City real estate salesmen only two will remain at the end of the week, the protagonists are thrown into a world of competition and crime. This movie is a realistic portrayal of life in high-pressure sales with all its highs and lows. The acting and screenplay contribute to making this movie a definite recommendation for anyone with an interest in the genres of business and crime.


6. The Wolf of Wall Street (IMDb: 8.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%):

This movie may not need an introduction; nevertheless, the movie is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort: his rise to a wealthy stock-broker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. Through flamboyant settings and dramatic scenes, director Martin Scorsese delivers an extremely convincing movie that is a must-watch for admirers of Wall Street.


5. The Shawshank Redemption (IMDb: 9.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%):

Two imprisoned men bond over several years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. While this film does not have a finance-based plot, it implicitly teaches a lot of personal finance. This includes managing taxes, forming plans, breaking down goals, taking risks, and so on. Although considered one of the best movies of all time, The Shawshank Redemption is not at the top of this list since it does not directly relate to a distinct financial idea. However, it brilliantly conveys the fundamentals of finance through a seemingly unrelated plot.


4. Moneyball (IMDb: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%):

Forced to reinvent his team on a tight budget, Billy Beane, manager of a baseball club, teams with Ivy League graduate Peter Brand, recruiting bargain players that the scouts call flawed, but all of whom can win games. This movie explores a reimagination of the player valuation system: how price does not always equate to value. It is an engaging, intelligent and entertaining film for even those with no interest in finance.


3. The Big Short (IMDb: 7.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%):

This movie explains how a few finance experts observe the instability in the US housing market and predict its collapse (and the start of the 2008 financial crisis). The Big Short is greatly entertaining and gripping but does not go overboard and distract viewers from the central issues. It is an eye-opening delight for all fans of finance.


2. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (IMDb: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%):

This documentary is about the Enron corporation: its faulty and corrupt business practices and how they led to its fall. Both critics and other viewers consider this film to be one of the best financial documentaries ever made. While providing a detailed analysis of what happened, the film also maintains the drama and shock that punctuates one of the biggest examples of corporate corruption in the US.


1. Inside Job (IMDb: 8.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%):

The top movie on the list provides a detailed examination of the elements that led to the financial crisis of 2008 and identifies key financial and political players. This documentary traces the story right from the beginning - with global evidence to establish the roots of the crisis. This movie evokes intense feelings of anger, disgust and disappointment with a dramatic representation of a massive web of corruption and crime. Inside Job has consistently earned excellent ratings and is a film that most definitely must be watched by finance fanatics and general audiences alike.


References:

Boiler Room movie review & film summary (2000)

The China Hustle | Magnolia Pictures

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Accounting Through the Ages: The Accountant of Shawshank Prison

Inside Job (2010)


Author: Kavan Shah

kavanshah15@gmail.com

A 16-year-old student pursuing the IB Diploma Programme at Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai. Passionate about finance and mathematics - and therefore, obviously, Moneyball and The Big Short.