We love movies…so much so that we’ve been known to tweet out asking to bring back movie futures, compared the 60/40 portfolio to Top Gun, and put out the greatest infographic of all time aligning 20 investments with Star War characters.
Movies have the innate ability of breaking down barriers and making almost any subject digestible (here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble path proving that), and have been especially good at taking an entertaining look at the investment world. Without further ado, the definitive list:
Wall Street / Stock Trading / Pump&Dump Scheme Films:
No trading movie list is complete without Wall Street. It’s a little stock heavy for our taste, but there is that one scene where Bud Fox is trading some sort of currency in the middle of the night. Our quick plot synopsis: boy meets man crush, man crush makes him rich, rich makes him meet girl, man crush makes boy screw father, boy screws man crush, man crush goes to jail.
Our advice? Avoid the sequel. We weren’t impressed.
Arguably the most popular *new* movie on this list – Wolf of Wall Street depicts the true story of Jordon Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) playing big and defrauding the wealthiest investors in the game. Does it totally glamorize the industry? Maybe.
We did in fact write a whole whitepaper on the investment strategy and group of people who didn’t make into this film. But regardless, it’s one of the top investing movies ever, which is why it sits at the top of our list.
If you ever get really upset seeing some young hot shot driving a car that costs more than you make in a year – watch this one. It’s a look at the shady side of Wall Street and the pump and dump boiler rooms which have been known to pop up from time to time. If remade for today, it would be called “Forex Factory.”
(A Vin Diesel movie worth watching)
An under the radar 80’s classic. It’s the story of a former Wall Streeter turned bike messenger who returns to trading for an afternoon to make a hot dog vendor rich. And he trades solely from watching the ticker – that’s old school. Plus, watching this improves your odds of doing well in the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game dramatically.
Kevin Bacon circa 1986
If you enjoy really dark and disturbing movies, it might be worth your time. Featuring shady Wall Street stalkers, some really angry Hasidic Cabalistic sect, and an unfortunate scene with a drill, this Darren Aronofsky flick watches one man’s obsession with trying to predict the stock market turn ugly and, well, just crazy. AND it’s in black and white. Points for being eclectic.
He takes being a “numbers guy” to a whole new level…
2008/2009 Financial Crisis Films
Based on the book written by Michael Lewis, the movie takes on some of the most complex and mind-numbing details of the 2007-2008 housing bubble/financial crisis, breaking them down into something anyone could understand through the lens of “edu-tainment”.
One of the most interesting aspects of the movie is that these characters all came to their own individual conclusions about the housing bubble, with no idea each other existed and were looking to profit from the same thing while everyone else was oblivious. They saw that housing prices were soaring, no money down mortgages were being approved without income verification, all while Wall Street was packaging them into mortgage backed securities (groups of mortgages) stamped with high credit ratings. What could go wrong?
One of the only movies on the list to be titled with self-described industry jargon, Margin Call is one of the most obvious to make this list. Going inside the pit after the first 24-hours into the 2008 financial crisis – this movie portrays a junior analyst who saves the company from drowning like everybody else. Plus this is a cool little indie film that touts some big names.
The perfect complement to Margin Call, this documentary, narrated by Matt Damon, provides a 20,000 foot view of the financial crisis. Boasting interviews with some pretty heavy hitters that expose more than the subjects probably intended, you’ll find yourself uncomfortable with reality’s bite. Required viewing, in our minds.
Based on Andrew Sorkin’s book: Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of how Wall Street and Washing Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves, this movie focuses on the “story-behind-the-story” of the 2008 economic crisis. It centers on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the tricky relationship between Wall Street and Washington.
Futures and Derivatives:
Trading Places, which is likely the reason why 90% of people who hear you work in the futures industry come back at you with ‘Pork Bellies’, ‘Frozen Concentrate Orange Juice’, and ‘It was the Dukes, it was the Dukes’.
One of the funniest movies of all time starring commodities trading (although we’re not sure why the big trading house was in Philadelphia), a ‘bet’ very much like the one made between Richard Dennis and William Eckhart that created the turtles, and a character looking eerily similar to our very own Walter Gallwas – Trading Places is a must see if you are anywhere around the futures trading business.
(Throwback of THE Walter Gallwas himself; the resemblance is uncanny)
An error account, some Singapore exchange futures on Asian stock indices, and some very bad trades. Rogue Trader details the true story of Nick Leeson and the trades which he did, then hid, which brought down Barings bank in 1995. Ewan McGregor looks great in that trading coat.
PS – The yellow/black trading coat pattern wasn’t so popular in Chicago pits following this.
Ok, ok…. So 99% of the movie has absolutely nothing to do with trading or Wall Street. But in the 90s, and early last decade – when you told someone you worked in the futures trading pits in Chicago, and they looked at you like you were an alien, the only way to explain what you did for a living was to say: “you know that scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day off where they are doing all those crazy hand signals through the glass at the guys in the colorful coats? I’m one of those guys in those coats.”
This movie is as close to the Chicago trading pits as most of the world will ever get.
Discussing the finer points of life in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange visitor’s center.
This one was filmed in our very own backyard (potentially when a couple of our RCM employees might have still been on the floor), Floored is a documentary of Chicago floor traders who are dealing with the changes of integrations of the electronic trading revolution. It’s a look behind the curtain of what was once the most sprawling trading floor in the U.S.
The floor definitely doesn’t look like this anymore.
There’s a great piece on Slate’s Blog MoneyBox delving into the economic and political undertones of the famous James Bond Classic: Goldfinger.
“…Goldfinger, you see, really liked gold (as the song says “he loves only gold”) [but] the Bretton-Woods system of semi-fixed exchange rates [meant] ordinary citizens couldn’t just own gold. …Goldfinger, being a gold enthusiast, bears little love for an economic policy regime that restricts his ability to obtain it. Thus he isn’t shy about exploiting the arbitrage opportunities that arise under the system…using his industrial permits to obtain gold in Britain and then spiriting some of it off the island for sale in other countries where the price of gold is higher…”
And back to frivolity… this was a movie about a private equity hedge holing up in the Beverly Hills Hotel for a few nights as he pored over the financials of a ship building outfit he was going to buy and sell off, piece by piece. Wasn’t it?
With a character professing that she had, “a head for business and a body for sin,” this movie had to go on the list. When a secretary gets a shot at pushing her career to the next level after her boss is put out of commission by a skiing accident, her unconventional approach to handling an investment bank’s approach to mergers turns quite a few heads- including a young Harrison Ford’s.
(Side note – we’re starting the grassroots campaign to bring this style back in 2020)
Corporate corruption, illegal scheming, public blow out. Yeah, all the markings of a great docu-film in our eyes. Focusing on the infamous Enron corporation, this film gets a ton of the major players in the scandal to interview for this one-of-a-kind documentary.
Not necessarily a movie – but an interesting watch in itself. One of the most famous hedge fund managers in the world – Bill Ackman put it all on the line to take down what he thinks is the largest pyramid scheme in history – Herbalife. This must-watch documentary follows Ackman’s billion dollar short on Herbalife and talks to finance industry experts and will leave you with one certainty – not everyone can be a winner.
Echoing one of our favorite sectors of the industry, Wall Street Code is a documentary-style movie that dives into the inner-workings of the algos that make the global financial system run. It kind of plays algos and quants like the bad guy, but it’s interesting enough to mull over the impact that they have on the way the market runs. It also has a 7.7 rating on IMBD, which for a documentary, spells out a pretty good watch.