Last Updated on February 1, 2024
If a friend suggests that you watch a Wall Street or banker movie, you might be forgiven for thinking that there will be no action, drama or intrigue. What’s so exciting about a bunch of people trading, right? But in recent years, several films in the genre has taken the box office by storm and some are based on true stories that are almost too bizarre to believe!
1. The Big Short (2015)
In this star-studded movie, Christian Bale joins actors like Brad Pitt and Steve Carell to bring to life the true story of a group of traders who spotted the opportunity of a lifetime to join the super-rich.
Based on the 2007 US housing market crash, the movie follows the unbelievable events sparked by trader Michael Burry, who predicted the collapse before anyone had an inkling. Several others join him to profit off the coming disaster, a decision that could have dire consequences for the public.
2. American Psycho (2000)
Patrick Bateman has a perfect life. He is a wealthy banker in New York and has a cute fiance. But underneath the perfect veneer, Bateman’s psychotic urges are growing.
When a colleague shows him up, jealousy sparks his first act of random murder. But then Bateman begins to methodically lure victims to his apartment and the body count climbs.
3. The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006)
Another great film based on a true story, the viewer follows the inspiring rise of Chris Gardner as a poverty-stricken salesman to the owner of a lucrative multi-million dollar brokerage firm. But in 1981, Gardner is facing a failing marriage and the cost of living puts him and his young son on the street. Despite enduring heartbreaking hurdles, he accepts an unpaid internship at a firm and studies for his stockbroker license exam.
This is a truly inspiring story about a father who never gave up, a man who followed his passion for trading, and a businessman who went from selling scanners to doctors to living the American Dream.
4. Wall Street (1987)
While the movie supposedly plays off in 1985, it remains a riveting film to watch. The story begins as a young trader, Bud Fox, pesters his hero and legendary Wall Street player, Gordon Gekko, for a job. Out of desperation, Fox gives Gekko insider information about an airline – an illegal move that earns him a position in Gekko’s firm.
As Fox slides down the slippery slope of ruthless trading and illicit deals, he becomes a wealthy man and enjoys the perks of the elite. But when he learns that Gekko plans on taking over the airline and dissolving everyone’s jobs (something that will affect Fox’s father), he has a choice. Let it happen or stand up to Gekko and risk his riches and freedom.
5. Trading Places (1983)
This one is for the comedy fans! If you love Eddie Murphy as well, then strap in. Seen as one of the most successful movies of 1983, the story begins when the wealthy Duke brothers make a wager. Intent on discovering whether a man from a totally different social background can flourish in another’s life, they use false criminal claims to fire their brokerage firm’s manager, Louis Winthorpe III. The Dukes then take a poor man called Billy (Murphy) and give him Winthorpe’s job.
But when Billy overhears the Dukes discussing the experiment and that they plan on getting rid of him, he formulates a brilliant and hilarious plan of revenge.
6. Inside Job (2010)
If you would rather prefer to watch a financial documentary, then this Oscar-winning film is a must. Narrated by Matt Damon, the movie reveals what led up to the financial crisis of 2008. At times jarring, the documentary’s well-researched content explains how the housing industry became corrupt and purposely set out to defraud investors.
If you are intrigued by this but documentaries are not really your thing, then you can also watch a movie version of these events, complete with a star-studded cast. Just head on back up to the first movie on our list (The Big Short)!
7. Rogue Trader (1999)
Another true story, the man who eventually became known as the “rogue trader” was Nick Leeson. As a young employee at Barings Bank, he is successful enough to earn a new and more trusted position as the General Manager of the Trading Floor on the SIMEX exchange. Once again, he flourishes and becomes a key trader.
But not everything is as golden as it appears. Leeson is experiencing huge losses and he is hiding them from his employers. Unable to reveal what is happening, he continues to gamble away the bank’s money. After losing £800 million, Leeson flees to Malaysia and Barings Bank go bankrupt. The movie also follows his arrest and sentencing.
8. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Based on the 2007 memoir by Jordan Belfort, the movie follows the author’s life as he reboots his failing career at a new brokerage firm. After regaining his mojo and wealth, Belfort starts his own company which would later become known as the infamous Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm. The company relies heavily on illicit tactics and fraud to gain wealth.
As Belfort’s riches and influence grows, his life becomes filled with drugs, affairs, and trouble with the law. The movie follows his failing marriages, attempts to squirrel his wealth into places where the FBI cannot find it and his ultimate downfall.
9. Boiler Room (2000)
19-year-old Seth Davis is a disappointment to his father. As the son of a Judge, he runs an illegal casino for other college students. However, in an attempt to regain his father’s respect he accepts a job offer from one of his casino patrons and joins J.T. Marlin, a brokerage firm. At first, Seth believes that the work is legal but he soon discovers that it is nothing but a “boiler room,” a firm that exists to make huge profits by destroying its investors.
When Seth costs an honest man his business and family, he regrets his new life and decides to do everything he can to get the client’s money back. This offers him the chance to reconcile with his father but Seth has to navigate the FBI and his own bosses to atone for his sins.
10. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
In this sequel to the original Wall Street, Gordon Gekko is released from prison and he promotes his new book to warn people of an impending economical downturn. When it happens, 50 percent of stocks at Keller Zabel Investments (KZI) loses their value. However, Gekko informs Jacob Moore, a top trader at KZI and his future son-in-law, that KZI is really being sunk by malicious rumors being spread by a rival.
In order to salvage his career, Jacob has to overcome Gekko’s own criminal tendencies, his fiancee’s estranged relationship with her father and the shark-eat-shark world of trading.
11. Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)
If you love Michael Moore documentaries, then this film is definitely something to watch. Moore takes a hatchet to Wall Street, capitalism and how the US has become obsessed with both. He reflects on his childhood when life was indeed better with a free college education, guaranteed pensions and little debt existed to crush normal families.
The documentary raises some hairy questions and looks at the borderline illegal activities of banks and other companies that profit off employees while cutting their workers benefits to the bone.
12. Chasing Madoff (2010)
Based on the book by Harry Markopolos, this real-life story follows the hunt for Bernie Madoff. The film version shows how Markopolos and his team spend ten years trying to bring Madoff to justice after an investigation convinced them that he was running a massive Ponzi scheme. Despite interviews with victims who allegedly lost billions, Markopolos struggled to get the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to take the crimes seriously and a real SEC investigation was never done.
13. The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
This documentary gives viewers more insight into one of America’s biggest business scandals. Founded in 1985, the Enron Corporation is outed for criminal activity for the first time two years later when two traders make suspicious profits and also funnel money into offshore accounts.
Throughout the years, the company remains controversial and seemingly always manages to dodge prosecution. However, when Enron finally collapses in 2011, the beans are spilt – Enron had played an active role in the California electricity crisis, resulting in criminal trials for several top executives and thousands of job losses for employees.
14. Margin Call (2011)
Staged in the backdrop of the 2007 – 2008 financial crisis, the film follows a time period of 24 hours at a large Wall Street investment bank. In the world of a firm about to collapse, people are laid off or turned into scapegoats and cutthroat practices come to the fore in order to save the company. Hailed as one of the best Wall Street movies ever made, it’s a good choice if you like a fast-paced drama!