Hollywood has a habit of exploring the world of Wall Street on the silver screen. Over the decades, a large number of films have been made portraying brokers as self-made men or as villains.
This is not surprising, considering the excitement of financial markets, a world overflowing with some of the most appealing elements for an entertaining movie, such as power, money, and a lot of drama.
We took an in-depth look at some of the best stock market movies. And we are not discriminating by genre, our list features documentaries, that present some of the biggest scandals, but also fictional stories that attempt to give an impression about the dynamic that comes with being a broker.
Also Read: What Is Short Term Trading
How the Best Stock Market Movies get Selected
The title we are presenting, are not ranked by quality, every movie mentioned has left its mark in the film industry and the memory of fans. It’s a collection of the most entertaining and educational movies from a genre we can call stock market movies.
If you are not familiar with any of the titles, it’s time to make some popcorn and see what all the hype is about stock market trading. Maybe you will learn something about trading.
Wall Street (1987)
It’s impossible to make a catalog of some of the best finance movies, without starting with a great movie, such as Wall Street. This is the most popular movie about the intrigue of the financial world and greed as a motivating force in the industry.
The film is a fictional account of the exploits of Gordon Gekko, a tycoon played by Michael Douglas, and his apprentice, a young stockbroker played by Charlie Sheen.
Gekko is one of the million-dollar traders that are the envy of younger stockbrokers, and Bud Fox is desperate to get close to his idol and learn how to make huge transactions.
The older Gordon appreciates the boldness of the younger broker and decides to initiate him into the world of high stakes trading, where ethics are not a desirable quality.
The mantra “greed is good” has entered popular culture, although in the motion picture that attitude didn’t save the main protagonists from lengthy jail sentences for their practices.
Director Oliver Stone has revealed that he made the movie as a tribute to his dad, who was a stockbroker during the Great Depression. And the main character in the film is a combination of several real persons.
The main goal of the movie according to the filmmaker was to show the excess that was present in the American business community in the 1980s and how that affected society.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The popularity of Wall Street in the ’80s gets matched by the success of The Wolf of Wall Street, another movie helmed by a legendary director in this case Martin Scorsese. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and the plot got based on the real-life financier Jordan Belfort.
The film works with some of the elements that made Oliver Stones’ film story so appealing to audiences. Money, drugs, and greed are the motives that drive the actions of the main protagonist.
From a trading aspect, the film shows the pump and dump schemas implemented by Jordan, who artificially increases the stock value, by spreading positive news and selling the asset at an inflated price.
This practice did not go unnoticed by the authorities, and it was another example that greed doesn’t always pay.
Taking into account that the film got inspired by a true story, it can serve as a good entertaining resource to learn about over-the-counter brokerage firms.
Margin Call (2011)
Margin Call got inspired by a real story, and the plot unravels on the eve of the 2008 collapse of the financial system. This is a highly praised film by economists because of the realistic approach to Wall Street.
It’s informative and thrilling in large part due to the performance of Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, and Jeremy Irons. The entire plot happens in 24 hours
Before going into the story, it’s crucial to know that a margin call is when a margin account, which works by lending funds, falls too low, resulting in an overleveraged position, requiring more funds to get deposited in the account.
The film displays what are the repercussion of this type of situation relating to a company.
The Big Short (2015)
Financial crises have always provided a solid storyline for the film industry and the last turbulent period in 2008 has been a constant source of topics for screenwriters.
The Big Short was another in a string of movies that attempted to explain how the housing market collapsed.
This is a worth watching movie because it manages to present a very complex topic in an easily understandable way.
Something accomplished with a fantastic cast, which includes Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, and Steve Carrell. The storyline follows three separate but simultaneously developing stories that are indirectly connected by their actions.
Finance experts have voiced their approval of the film, that in their opinion very realistically elaborates on the events and causes of the financial crises in 2008.
Even the real people that got portrayed in the movie, have said the actors did a phenomenal job in presenting their activities. Making it a must-watch.
Barbarians at the Gate (1993)
This is a movie, that has probably gone under the radar for most movie buffs, and that’s understandable considering that is a television film from 1993.
But the format is not undermining the value of the film based on the book by Bryan Burrough and John Heylar.
The film follows a multimillionaire and CEO Ross Johnson, who upon learning that the new product his company is preparing to launch, will probably be a failure, decides to take the company private to boost the stock price.
Greed is a reoccurring theme in movies about Wall Street Warriors, and Barbarians at the Gates is another example, with the main protagonist attempting to make a big payoff at the expanse of his employees.
If trying to get a better understanding of a leveraged buyout the film provides a comprehensive example of how a public company can go private, something that is no longer very attractive. But as a tactic used in the 1980s, and is a good reminder for investors or traders to understand.
The book is also a good read, but the movie provides a concise and entertaining version of the story.
The China Hustle (2017)
The China Hustle is a documentary that explores the activities of US investors that attempt to benefit from the massive growth of China’s economy.
Yet most of them found out that the China miracle was fueled by a lot of scam Chinese companies. That managed to circumvent the rules that govern the stock exchange in the U.S. This is important because those Chines companies were listed on these exchanges.
Some of the revelations about the financial services industry are quite shocking, only quite a few movies have managed to tap into the unseen world of the financial system.
It’s one of the best stock market documentaries that will keep you at the edge of your seat, with its disturbing information.
There are a lot of interviews with investors and whistleblowers, but also appearances by Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
The all-star cast and the screenplay by David Mamet are the key ingredients for the cult status of Glengarry Glen Ross. The plot is a fictional story about real estate salesmen that are employed by a scrupulous company.
The management is constantly placing pressure on the lives of people that are forced to break moral norms, just to keep their jobs.
It’s one of the rare films without a female cast member, and nearly the entire plot happens in the company’s offices.
The cast includes Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, and Kevin Spacey.
There is a lack of technical references about the mechanisms of the markets in the movie, yet it’s important to know that psychology plays a big role, and the movie does an excellent portrayal of the power of greed.
Too Big to Fail (2011)
The 2008 financial crisis produce a lot of documentaries, and Too Big to Fail is among the first to try to reveal why the demise of the banking sector happened and the theory that modern financial institutions are so interconnected that they can’t fail.
The documentary is based on the book by the same name by author Andrew Ross Sorkin, disproves the theory and demonstrates the catastrophic consequences an unregulated market can have on the economy and lives of millions, proving that a financial professional can make significant mistakes.
Chasing Madoff (2011)
One reason for substantial financial losses incurred by investors is a fraud, and the stock market is full of brokers that try to bend the rules or exploit situations in their favor.
The concept of a Ponzi scheme comes to mind when thinking of fraud. Interestingly the method used in the original Ponzi scheme, was a strategy used by hedge fund manager Bernie Madoff, the subject of the documentary film Chasing Madoff.
Although a documentary, the style of the film is reminiscing of a thriller, chronicling how investigators discovered the scheme practiced by Madoff.
It took a decade of work to expose Madoff, and the documentary is an interesting look at how some people manage to get away with criminal activities for so long. People not familiar with the concept of the Ponzi scheme can learn how the model works and not become a victim of similar financial schemes.
Enron – The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
The modus operandi that we have encountered in other cases of fraud is present in the case of Enron, the biggest energy company in the USA. The corporation was used by unscrupulous managers to enrich themselves, and in turn, they caused one of the largest economic failures in the U.S.
In 16 years since its funding, Enron grow to the level of the biggest player in the energy sector, but also filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
The accounting fraud resulted in thousands of people losing their jobs and the plundering of the pension fund worth $2 billion.
As a documentary, it’s a great window into the arrogance and greed that was practiced by the managers of Enron.
Interestingly many see this documentary as a messenger of things to come. It was released three years before the housing bubble of 2008, which was caused by the same lack of financial oversight.
Inside Job (2010)
The modern economy sustained a huge shock in the 2008 financial crisis when the largest recent speculative bubble burst.
Many people were not able to grasp the seriousness of the event that undermined many lives.
Millions of people lost savings, their jobs, their savings, and the roof over their heads. As a finance documentary Inside Job, covers many aspects that contributed to the crisis, and Matt Damon does an excellent job narrating the story.
The film shines the spotlight on the systemic corruption of financial services and the consequences that follow when hedge fund managers think they can do nothing wrong.
Looking at wall street traders making trades without proper risk management that eventually disrupted the global economy.
The Oscar for best documentary was won by Inside Job in 2010. Many critics praise the structure of the film, with five chapters that offer a great overview of the trading world and the reasons for the stock market crash.
Trading Places (1983)
Most of the movies on our list discuss serious topics, but trading has also been the subject of comedies. There is not only drama in a commodities trading firm, but humor can also play a role. Starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd there is no better duo for the main protagonist in Trading Places.
You will get a lot of laughs from this movie, and learn the value of having insider information when stock trading even when going overstock prices for agricultural products.
Eddie plays a homeless man that by accident gets thrown into the financial world, managing to live up to the exception of the new career. It also shows how wealthy people lose touch with reality, and believe they can toy with people for their entertainment.
Wall Street Money Never Sleeps (2010)
Following the success of Wall Street, and the status of a cult classic it was only a matter of time before a sequel made its way into movie theaters.
It took two decades, but the story of Gekko received another chapter after the greedy broker was released from prison and tries to rebuild his life and be part of his estranged daughter’s life.
Only to succumb to the ego that got him into trouble in the first place. Sacrifice their relationship with his family to climb the corporate ladder, only to reach the top and figure out that having his family is more rewarding than the power that comes with running a brokerage firm.
The movies released flowing the financial crash of 2008 and attempt to play on some of the themes that caused the crisis. Michael Douglas reprises his role legendary role, and the rest of the cast is made up of Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, and Susan Sarandon.
Becoming Warren Buffett (2017)
Running an investment firm is not an easy task, just ask Warren Buffett a legend that is a role model for every trader, and with a worth of $80 billion, it’s not surprising why many idolize the successful investor.
Despite his enormous success, Warren lives a frugal lifestyle, something obvious from the documentary Becoming Warren Buffet.
This is a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes and see how the investor developed his career. There are enjoyable moments that can be informative for young traders that are interesting in advancing in the profession.
Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)
Director Michael Moore has always tried to pursue provocative topics, and with Capitalism: A Love Story the filmmaker attempts to demystify the opinion that Wall Street is predominantly right-leaning, but shows that in reality, it’s left-oriented.
The reputation Moores has as a filmmaker that is capable of crafting thought-proving movies is justified with Capitalism A Love Story.
The finance movie shows the implications of capitalism, and the stock market is the best representation of some of the worst aspects.
For novice investors, the documentary is a great option to receive a better perspective on the industry, especially things that are not discussed in the book and other films.
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019)
Venture capitalists search for young inventors that promise to disrupt the current order in a given industry with new technology. The tech industry together with medical companies is the most valued stock on the market.
Logically when Elizabeth Holmes biotech company, Theranos can on the market investors flocked to get a pice of the company that many believed will create a revolution in blood diagnostics with a simple finger prick.
The concept made Elizabeth a billionaire, the only problem was the technology she advertised was a lie, there was no working model of the idea she offered.
The documentary shows how the entire story evolved and the surprising fact that so many investors were susceptible to the lie, that created a company valued at 10 billion dollars.
This is not the first time the stock exchanges are influenced by hype, which turns out to be only false promises.
The story of Theranos is getting several other adaptations, and a few books have been written on the fascinating case.
Boiler Room (2000)
Part of the attraction of trading movies is the glamour that comes with a high-paying profession and the excitement of trading with millions daily.
But that is only true for a limited number of investors, most traders don’t have spacious offices and secretaries, and they work in cubicles and earn a more modest income.
In other words like with any industry, the perspective from the bottom is very different, and for many not an attractive place to be in.
Boiler Room is the best trading movie from a more realistic aspect showing the reality of the trading floor for regular traders. There are no boardroom meetings and people in expensive suits.
Although the story is fictional, the content is informative, with actors Vin Diesel and Ben Affleck bringing some start power.
It’s a movie that shows the value of fundamentals and transparency. This is not a roller coaster ride of a movie, but it shows how a dump scheme works.
Rogue Trader (1999)
The real-life story about derivatives broker Nick Leeson, played by Ewan MacGregor, who hide the losses he had accumulated with unsuccessful trades, that eventually caused the bankruptcy of Barings Bank is the subject of Rogue Trader.
It is a good example of the lack of oversight in some of the most important financial institutions.
Leeson was one of the most productive traders, yet the results he was showing were fake. The trader was able to hide the losses, and the bank become a were of the problem when it was too late to react.
This British film is a biographical look at the life of Nick and the bizarre case of fraud that initially began with an unintentional mistake, that in an attempt to cover it up resulted in a collapse of a bank.
Nick was imprisoned for his criminal activities, by hiding enormous losses he caused the investment bank to lose nearly a billion dollars.
Traders are benefiting from software platforms that incorporate indicators that interpret charts and data enabling investors to make more educated decisions.
This streamlined process of trading is making some jobs redundant, not to mention that following the crisis in 2008 employment opportunities were reduced.
Floored is a documentary that shows how technology is affecting Chicago-based traders that are in danger of losing their job because of the electronic revolution in trading.
The best trading movies focus on hedge funds and managers but rarely do we see how the regular workers in the industry handle financial disasters that drive soaring unemployment.
If you want to be a trader, you show not focus only on the titans of the industry.
Watching a documentary about Waren Buffet can be educational, but also it important to know how the hundreds of regular traders function and live.
Billion Dollar Day (1986)
The most liquid market in the Forex market that transact with foreign currencies, and this is the subject explored in Billion Dollar Day.
It’s an old documentary, but a very detailed, following traders in the main financial center of the world, markets such as New York, Hong Kong, and London.
The film explains how each trader faces the issues that come with every market day, and the strategies used to resolve challenges and make a profit.
The 2008 Financial Crisis
Most of the feature films and documentaries on our list are focused on the events that lead up to or after the financial crisis in 2008, which is also gets referred to as the Global Financial Crisis. This was the most severe economic crisis after the Great Depression.
The crash was a result of the housing bubble in the USA that burst in the period between 2007 and 2008 and lead to the subprime mortgage crisis.
The crisis was years in the making, thanks to lax lending standards. In 2007, the cheap credit is going to result in a need for reckoning, which arrived with the collapse of Bear Stearns hedge funds, initiating cascading effect.
Many financial institutions turned to their governments to bail them out of the collapse that affected Wall Street’s giants and caused a recession.
The epic financial collapse affected many ordinary that lost life savings and homes. Estimates reveal that in the USA the unemployment rate reached 10%, and nearly four million Americans lost their homes.
The blame for the economic troubles, according to many economists is due to mortgage lending policies, that made it possible for people to borrow more than they could have realistically afford. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg that constituted the crisis.
Many financial professionals actively took advantage of the unreasonable regulation for personal profits. Working as predatory lenders offering homeownership to people that were not able to pay their mortgages.
There were also a lot of investors that claimed to have made a revolution in the industry, by actually buying and resealing bad mortgages to investors. Many investors did not inspect the ratings, or focus on resealing the bundles before the entire bubble burst.
Oversight by government institutions was also weak, and it created the opportunity for investors to exploit the situation that was advertised as safe.
Also Read: Best Time To Buy Stocks
Stock market movies are not going out of fashion. The financial history is full of examples of hedge fund managers trying to manipulate stock prices, and filmmakers are always happy to barrow a case and create an interesting crime drama.
The financial world incorporates all the elements for a thrilling cinema experience. Ingenuity, redemption, crisis, tragedy, and even comedy are the building block for some of Hollywood’s biggest successes.
Unfortunately, the financial world is not learning from previous mistakes, and the audience is always interested in learning how could have things gone so wrong.
The effects of bad financial practices affect the lives of everyday people and it’s not surprising that most of the characters in the film the explore the world of Wall Street are presented in a negative light.
Yet there are also stories about professionals that played by the rules, and manger to climb the business ladder with risk-taking.
All the movies on our list are required viewing for anyone considering starting a career as a trader on the stock market. See how money transformed people, and learn from the past performance of a hedge fund management.
Which movie is based on stock market?
There are many movies based on the stock market, Wall Street is the most famous movie on the subject, but The Wolf Of Wall Street is also popular.
What should I watch for day trading?
Billion Dollar Day is a good documentary about day trading.
Where can I find movies to invest in?
Producers are constantly seeking investors, platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer the opportunity to invest in a movie project.
Can you invest into movies?
Yes if you have the necessary funds, you can be a producer and finance a movie.