Learning about finance does not have to involve sitting for hours listening to your boring professor go on about lectures about demand, supply, and hypothetical markets.
While they do not exactly confer a degree on you after watching, you can sure come away from some movies with a hundred MBAs’ worth of knowledge.
The Corporate world of finance is almost always eventful and dramatic.
Here are some of the movies that show the intricacies of the good, bad, and insightful world of finance and investment.
Best Finance Movies for Investors, Entrepreneurs & Stock Traders
If you want to learn new financial concepts, get a pen, paper, and maybe your calculators.
1) The Big Short
This movie is based on the collapse of the US mortgage market in 2008. It explores unconventional ways to explain financial instruments and trading techniques. It explains concepts such as sub-prime mortgages, collateralized debts, shorts, debt swaps, etc.
It begins in 2005 when Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager, suddenly discovers that the US mortgage market is heavily built on high-risk subprime loans, which are very unstable.
He predicts a massive collapse in the near future. He creates a credit-default swap instrument in the market, which allows him to take a position against mortgage-backed securities.
He makes long-term bets worth over $1bn. All were accepted by major investment banks, albeit having to pay very high monthly premiums.
This sparks an uproar among many clients. His major client, Lawrence Fields, accused him of wasting capital and requested that he sells the stocks immediately.
Michael is so convinced in his predictions that he refuses to listen to his clients. He goes as far as restricting withdrawals.
Eventually, he was right. By 2007, there was a dramatic rise in mortgage loan defaults, and the US mortgage markets collapsed as he had predicted.
The fund value jumped by almost 500%, making profits of over $2.5bn. Lawrence, who had previously gone as far as suing Michael over the trade, ends up making over $400 million in profits.
Cast: Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Steve Carrel, John Magaro, and Hamish Linklater, among others.
Rating: 7.7/10 on IMDB
Where to watch: The movie was first released on Home video, Blu-ray. It is also available on the HULU streaming service.
2) Margin Call
This story is based on the initial stages of the 2007 global financial crisis. It is set in a 24-hour time period at a top Investment Bank on Wall Street, focusing on how the bank and its employees reacted to and managed the early onset of the crisis.
The movie notably highlights how organizations make decisions for the welfare of their corporations only with no care for their staff or for the public good.
Watching this movie will give you tips on key finance concepts like risk analysis, stock volatility, portfolio management, mortgage securities, and asset classification.
Synopsis: After a downturn in the company’s stock on the trading floor, the unnamed Investment Bank begins to lay off its staff in mass. One of the notable employees laid off was their head of risk management, Eric Dale.
He tries to speak with the management about an unfinished project which he felt could uncover the real reason behind the company’s impending collapse.
The Human Resource staff refuses him this opportunity. While being escorted out of the premises, he hands a USB drive to one of his subordinate risk analysts, Peter Sullivan, asking him to look into it.
Sullivan works all night long to finish the project on the drive Dale handed him. He discovers that extremely high volatility levels in the firm’s current portfolio of mortgage-backed securities.
The employees also try to come together to devise new plans on how to turn the dire situation into a financial advantage for them individually.
The movie notably highlights. The company managers hold long emergency meetings to devise ways to deal with the looming crisis.
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Penn Badgely.
Ratings: the movie received a lot of positive reviews from industry critics.
Where to watch: You can catch Margin Call on Netflix and Disney+.
3) Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
This movie is about Jordan Belfort, a big-time stock broker who loses his job due to a sharp drop in the stock market. He gets a job at a smaller brokerage firm and makes a small fortune from his top-notch unconventional marketing skills and, sometimes, unethical trading practices.
Wolf of Wall Street offers key finance lessons on Marketing, Stock trading, Hard sell, Penny stocks, Pump, and dump.
Cast: Leonardo Di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Mathew McConaughey.
Ratings: 80% approval rating on Rotton Tomatoes
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
4) Inside Job (2010)
In the early 2010s, the global financial crisis of 2008 was the main theme for so many movies in Hollywood. Inside Job is yet another one of such.
The film is more of a documentary. It gives us an extensive history lesson on the different eras of the American Financial Industry and the different challenges that marked each era. It started from the era of a highly regulated financial industry of 1940 to 1981. The savings & loans crisis of the 1980s.
In the 2000s, there was a trend that saw few giant firms dominate the largely unregulated finance industry. The movie showed how these firms made several unethical dealings, putting investors at risk of huge losses.
In the end, the bubble burst, and the market collapsed, leaving many Investment banks with huge losses. Many went into bankruptcy. The Government took over some of them. A few that survived had to be acquired by bigger firms, and receive bailout funds from the Federal Reserve.
These events led to louder calls for stiffer regulation of the finance industry.
The film notably shows that there is very little accountability as the top executives of the failed companies all walked away with their personal fortunes intact.
“Inside Job” offers lessons on Recessions, Mortgage Loans, Wall Street Reform, Systemic Corruption, the Money market, Derivatives, The Internet, Stock Bubble, Bankruptcy, and Subprime loans. etc.
Cast: Narrated by Matt Damon, Directed by Charles Ferguson.
Ratings: 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu
5) Money Monster (2011)
Away from the global economic meltdown, this movie is mainly about stock trading, investing, and investment research.
It begins when Lee Gates, a Finance expert on his TV show, confidently endorses a company on his show. Encouraging his many viewers to invest in the company’s stock. The company stock dramatically drops in less than 24 hours, and investors suffer huge losses.
Mid-way through the next episode of the show, a delivery man walks and basically abducts Lee, explaining that he had lost his entire life savings by investing in the company stock on his recommendation.
He is prepared to blow him up and commit suicide unless he provides some answers. All of these happen right on National TV.
Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Meade
Ratings: Rotten tomatoes 6.0/10
Where to watch: Money Monster is available now on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
6) Enron- The Smartest Guys in the Room
This is another documentary-style film that is based on a true-life event. This is one of the events that shaped the global finance industry – The Enron Scandal.
The collapse of the Enron Corporation is one glaring example of corporate corruption and unethical practices such as irregular accounting methods, diversion of company funds into offshore accounts, cooking the books, and falsifying figures.
The company’s collapse leads to several lawsuits and eventually jail terms for the company’s top executives. Many of their employees also lose their pensions and eventually jail terms for their actions.
The Enron Scandal remains a key case study in MBA classes all over the world to date.
Other Finance-Related Movies.
Too Big to Fail
The China Hustle
The Banker (2020)
Top Finance Series, Documentaries & Autobiographies
Documentary about the debt crisis of the nation of Greece and how they grappled with the EU and neighboring countries to try to solve it. It leads to the country selling some of it ancient monuments and Islands to private individuals.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
8) Becoming Warren Buffet
Warren Buffet is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest investors of all time. This documentary gives us a window into his Investing and Entrepreneurial career.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video, Vimeo, and Netflix
This series delves deep into the world of the biggest companies in the world. We see hedge funds and stock traders as they compete, sometimes unfairly, with each other in the market. We see several legal squabbles, unethical trading techniques, information asymmetry, etc., at Play.
10) Silicon Valley
These series offer a window into the daily lives of startups, their founders, and venture capitalists. We see their cherry feeling of instant success and the nail-biting effect of stagnation and failure.
Are you thinking of investing in stock? Or do you have a budding startup idea inside your head or in your mom’s garage? Watching any of these movies will definitely offer you a great deal of knowledge to have a shot at success.