Top 10 Trading Movies

Beginner

Financial markets have always been dramatic, full of fear and greed, disaster and redemption, tragedy and comedy, creativity and stupidity! And this makes for great cinema and has attracted Hollywood over the years.

Many movies portray the individual the market participants, the traders, in a somewhat negative way, the villains of the film, with incredible stories of superfluous risk-taking, excess and greed. 

These films are NOT just purely aimed at a very base level, however, with some movies being critically acclaimed. “Wall Street” and “The Big Short” were both Oscar winners.

Whether you are a budding trader or a seasoned investor, below we look at the must-see financial markets movies.

Top 10 Trading Movies

Wall Street

Wall Street Poster

This unmissable Oliver Stone classic might have been released in 1987 but its tale of insider trading and the associated moral dilemma of stockbroker Bud Fox are timeless.  Michael Douglas plays the high-rolling billionaire Gorden Gekko who is the arch-villain with unforgettable one-liners “Greed is Good” and “Money never sleeps”.  Gekko takes the youthful and eager Fox (Charlie Sheen) under his wing but soon Fox is so desperate to impress that he will do anything (legitimate or not) to get to the top.  The movie portrays 1980’s extravagance and self-indulgence superbly, but the real legacy is its insight into disreputable ways for traders to make quick money.

Run time: 126 minutes
Directed by Oliver Stone
Release date: 1987

Available to buy and rent on; Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple, Google Play, Sky

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street Poster

Leonardo DiCaprio portrays the infamous Jordan Belfort in this true story.  It follows the rise of shady New York stockbroker, Belfort, as he climbs the ladder, enjoys life at the top but dramatically falls back down.  Director Martin Scorsese shows how Belfort made a fortune on suspect sales of penny stocks in the nineties and then lived a high life brimming with drugs, sex, money, crime and eventually the federal government. A must-see movie!

Run time: 180 minutes
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Release date: 2013

Available to buy and rent on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple, Google Play, Sky

The Big Short

The Big Short Poster

An entertaining comedy drama based on the book by financial journalist Michael Lewis “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine”.   It follows three separate storylines about a group of investors during the housing bubble that caused the global financial crisis in 2007-2008.  The filmmaker’s ingenious way of explaining the complicated financial corruption in the US mortgage market results in a compelling drama that the audience understands.  Who can forget Margot Robbie explaining sub-prime loans while sipping champagne in a bathtub?

Run time: 130 minutes
Directed by Adam McKay
Release date: 2015

Available to buy and rent on; Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple, Google Play, Sky

Trading Places

Trading Places Poster

This early-80’s comedy is a contemporary take on The Prince and Pauper tale.  It follows two brothers, Randolph and Mortimer Duke, who own a successful commodity futures brokerage.  The brothers place a bet to decide whether nature or nurture is more significant in influencing someone’s disposition. In order to test their theory and settle their wager, they trick street hustler (Eddie Murphy) into trading places with their managing director (Dan Aykroyd). The result is a hilarious movie with a particularly noteworthy ending, where there is an authentic portrayal of a frantic trading session of the orange juice futures pit.

Run time: 118 minutes
Directed by John Landis
Release date: 1983

Available to buy and rent on; Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple, Google Play, Sky

Rogue Trader

Rogue Trader Poster

Based on the true story of the rise and fall of investment broker Nick Leeson (Ewan McGregor).  This movie is a crime drama that exposes how Leeson single-handily bankrupted the world’s second oldest bank, Barings Bank.  Full of thrills and tension, it reveals how Leeson’s ambition and reckless investment decisions combined to create substantial losses, which he concealed from his mangers using hidden accounts.  Serious lessons to be learnt here!

Run time: 101 minutes
Directed by James Dearden
Release date: 1999

Available to buy on; Amazon

Working Girl

Working Girl

A romantic comedy, Working Girl tells the story of intelligent and assertive Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) trying to break through in the financial world.  McGill gets her opportunity to shine when she starts a new job as a stockbroker’s secretary in the Mergers and Acquisitions department of a Wall Street investment bank.  There is plenty of comedy as McGill discovers that her boss (Sigourney Weaver) is planning on stealing her ideas and she falls for executive, Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) who just happens to be her bosses’ partner.

Run time: 115 minutes
Directed by Mike Nichols
Release date: 1988

Available to buy and rent on; Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple, Google Play, Sky

Other People’s Money

Other People’s Money

This comedy drama provides a great introduction into the world of business takeovers.  It follows the story of Lawrence Garfield or “Larry the Liquidator” (Danny DeVito), a successful corporate raider that buys up shares in undervalued companies and sells off their assets.  He identifies New England Wire and Cable Company as his next acquisition, but the plot thickens when Garfield falls in love with the founder’s stepdaughter who is a highflying lawyer.  As she defends against the hostile takeover, there is plenty of sparring between the two, but will they end up together?

Run time: 103 minutes
Directed by Norman Jewison
Release date: 1991

Available to buy and rent on; Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple, Google Play, Sky

American Psycho

American Psycho Poster

Based on the controversial novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis.  This movie is a violent horror thriller about the wealthy and successful stock trader Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale).  Bateman is an ambitious and shallow narcissist living the 80’s yuppie lifestyle.  It soon becomes apparent that Bateman is hiding a dark secret and is in fact a psychotic serial killer whose crimes also include rape, torture and cannibalism. The performance of Bale is superb as he manages to portray Bateman as terrifying but also comical.  This may leave you with nightmares!

Run time: 102 minutes
Directed by Mary Harron
Release date: 2000

Available to buy and rent on; Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple, Google Play, Sky

Boiler Room

Boiler Room Poster

Seth Davis is a smart and ambitious 19-year-old college dropout that runs an illegal casino from his apartment.  Trying to impress his father he gains employment at a New York brokerage firm and quickly becomes a super salesman making cold calls to prospective clients from “the boiler room”.  However, the reality is, that he works for a pump and dump firm that sells valueless or dubious stock through high-pressure phone tactics.  Davis comes to realise that his firm might not be as legitimate as he first thought and that his fast track to success comes at a price, as many people are suffering as they are scammed out of their money.  

Run time: 119 minutes
Directed by Ben Younger
Release date: 2000

Available to buy and rent on; Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple, Google Play, Sky

Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross Poster

Base on the award-winning play, this drama is probably the most quoted movie from our top ten.  It has a star-studded cast with Alec Baldwin, Al Pacino, Jack Lemon, Kevin Spacey and Ed Harris.  The movie depicts the lives of four desperate and downtrodden real estate agents who are visited by a “sales motivator” (Baldwin) who informs them that they must compete in a sales contest and the losers will be fired.   We see the tremendous pressure the men are under and the movie highlights the underhand tactics that they are willing to undertake in order to win at all costs. 

Run time: 96 minutes
Directed by James Foley
Release date 1992

Available to rent on Amazon

We hope you have found our Top 10 Trading Movies list and reviews useful and trust you enjoy watching the films. Just be careful about possibly following the paths of some very unsavoury characters.
Enjoy!

Editor

Luke is currently a student in his final year studying A levels in Economics, Maths and Physics at The Bishop’s Stortford High School. He has a strong interest in economics and financial markets,...continued

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