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Financial Documentaries and Docuseries that are Streaming Now

Beginner

When done well, documentaries and docuseries are efficient and enjoyable ways of absorbing key information. Financial documentaries and docuseries are good ways of gaining greater insight into certain aspects of the financial system. We have compiled a list of some of the best documentaries and docuseries streaming now that you can watch to improve your base knowledge.

Inside Job

Inside Job (2010)

Narrated by Matt Damon, this documentary from Charles Ferguson examines the 2008 global financial crash in detail. In 5 parts it covers the systemic corruption that caused the crash, the impacts of the crash, and then goes on to include some policy recommendations to avoid future crashes of similar magnitudes. Fans of Adam McKay’s The Big Short will enjoy this, as this documentary delves into the more technical details of The Big Short’s subject matter. Released to critical acclaim, this documentary won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2011 and is a must watch for those wanting to understand the recent history of the financial sector.

Available to buy and rent on Amazon Prime

Available to buy and rent on Apple TV+

The Ascent of Money (2008)

Based on Niall Ferguson’s book of the same name (which is highly recommended), The Ascent of Money is a historical docuseries about key aspects of the global financial system. Ferguson covers 6 key concepts and focusses on examples throughout history, with those 6 concepts being: credit, war finance, asset bubbles, insurance, the housing market, and globalisation. Less technical, and certainly less “exciting” than other documentaries and docuseries on this list, the Ascent of Money is a very interesting watch and gives some insight into how the financial system has evolved in some ways and remained constant in others.

Available to stream on Youtube

Betting on Zero (2016)

Betting on Zero is a unique documentary that examines the behaviour of trader Bill Ackman as he attempted to short the alleged pyramid-scheme company Herbalife. This documentary is an interesting exposé of Herbalife as a company, focusing on the negative impacts the company has had on individuals, and explains Bill Ackman’s rationale for his short position. Another documentary that explores greed and opens the public eye to the financial goings on behind large corporations.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime

Available to rent or buy on Apple TV+

Dirty Money (2018- )

Dirty Money is a Netflix original Docuseries in which each episode covers a story of corruption, fraud, or greed. Although all episodes of this docuseries are worth a watch, the episodes that focus on the financial topics are: “Cartel Bank” (S1:E4), “The Wagon Wheel” (S2:E1), and “Dirty Gold” (S2:E4). “Cartel Bank” covers HSBC’s money laundering for different illicit groups, “The Wagon Wheel” reveals some of the unethical practices employed by Wells Fargo, and “Dirty Gold” examines the social and environmental impacts of gold. Dirty Money is a warning about the dangers of unregulated capitalism, and will open your eyes to ethical considerations of behaviour of financial institutions.

Available to stream on Netflix

25 Million Pounds (1996)

25 Million Pounds (sometimes referred to as Inside Story Special: £830,000,000 – Nick Leeson and the Fall of the House of Barings) is a documentary about how one man bankrupted a prestigious British banking institution. Nick Leeson was a trader for Barings Bank in Singapore and managed to rack up £830,000,000 worth of losses for his employer before eventually being imprisoned in Singapore. This story was the inspiration for the 1999 film Rogue Trader starring Ewan McGregor.

Available to stream on Youtube

Explained (2018- )

Similar to Dirty Money, Explained is a docuseries from Netflix that gives introductory explanations of broad topics. Most of these will be irrelevant to finance, but some episodes give concise but interesting introductions to key financial concepts. Episodes to watch out for are: “Cryptocurrency (S1:E5), “The Stock Market” (S1:E7), “Billionaires” (S2:E2), “Diamonds” (S2:E10), and “The End of Oil” (S3:E5). Definitely something to stick on when you have a spare 15 minutes, these mini episodes are interesting without requiring too much mental exertion.

Available to stream on Netflix

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the World (2005)

Another story about abusers of the financial system, this documentary is a follow up to the book of the same name by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, and examines the rise and fall of the company Enron. At one point, one of the most promising corporations in America, this documentary unveils how Enron managed to fraudulently overstate profits on their balance sheets and even manufacture an energy shortage in California, among other things. Another heavy-hitting documentary about the true cost of the unethical actions of a few individuals.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime

Life and Debt (2001)

Another film that examines the global financial system, this time focusing on the impact of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) and World Bank’s policies on Jamaica’s economy. This documentary reveals the everyday impacts of free market policies on sovereign economies, showing the true price of receiving loans from these international bodies. Life and Debt leans more into politics than finance but the two are closely interlinked on the international stage, and so it is still informative.

Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime

Available to rent or buy on Apple TV+



Michael Griffiths has recently graduated with an Upper Second-Class Honours degree from Churchill College, University of Cambridge, where he read Economics and Specialised in Mathematical Economics an... Continued

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