Sometimes we forget that, even when the market is in the middle of a bull run, it can still kick you in the teeth. So the next time you look at your P&L and discover you had a bad day, turn off the computer, hide your smartphone, and relax while watching one of these classic films about the stock market, its investors, and those desperate to make a killing.
- "Boiler Room" stars young Ben Affleck in the story of a dishonest brokerage firm selling stocks that are sure to fail to unsuspecting buyers.
- "Trader" is a famous documentary about Paul Tudor Jones, set just before the stock market crash of 1987.
- "Trading Places" and "Wall Street" are both 1980s films that capture the excess and feature star-studded casts.
- The Cohen Brothers' "The Hudsucker Proxy" is set in the fast-paced business world of Manhattan in the 1950s.
This underrated flick from 2000 follows the character of Seth, played by the very talented Giovanni Ribisi, as he learns the ins and outs of selling speculative (and most likely fraudulent) penny stocks to what he refers to as "those suckers."
"Boiler Room" takes a deep dive into a fly-by-night brokerage firm filled with hyper-aggressive young stock jocks peddling "sure to fail" stocks to unsuspecting buyers over the phone. The film's highlights include a 28-year-old pre-megastar you'll recognize as Ben Affleck, and the "RECO" scene, which is brilliantly played by Vin Diesel.
This is the famed documentary that profiles a young Paul Tudor Jones, just as he is about to make one of the greatest calls in market history—the crash of 1987. At one point, it was nearly impossible for viewers to get their hands on a copy of this TV doc, but it has since resurfaced online.
The most compelling scene in this 1987 one-hour PBS documentary is when we watch Jones stay awake all-night, trading Hong Kong bonds while downing Budweisers. This is a fascinating look at the frantic, highly charged marketplace, seen from the perspective of a true legend of the markets.
"Trading Places" is a star-studded 1983 film featuring Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Ameche, and Ralph Bellamy. It's hard not to love this movie classic, especially the final scene that is set in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Here's an interesting film fact you might not know, even if you've watched the film more than once: in the final scene, when the Dukes are bankrupted, Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) and Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) are actually shorting orange juice futures to break the Dukes.
This granddaddy of them all is director Oliver Stone's ode to the late 1980's excess that ran rampant on Wall Street. The film's archetype of financial greed is Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, who nabbed an Oscar win for his performance.
Douglas shares the screen with a young Charlie Sheen. Sheen plays Bud Fox, an eager fanboy-turned-protégée, who slimes his way up the corporate ladder with Gekko until his conscience gets the better of him.
"The Hudsucker Proxy"
Not everyone wants to see a stock's price rise, and a scheme to drive down the value of a corporation forms the plot outline of 1994's "The Hudsucker Proxy." This film was co-written, produced, and directed by the Cohen brothers, who gave us other classic movies like "Fargo," "The Big Lebowski," and "No Country for Old Men."
Similar to the way "Fargo's" dialogue captured the regional accents of the Midwest, the dialogue in "The Hudsucker Proxy" creates a caricature of the fast-talking, wheeling-and-dealing business world of Manhattan in the 1950s. This movie won't help you learn how to run a company well, but you'll have fun watching shares of Hudsucker Industries tank on Wall Street.
Other Films to Watch
Some other good stock market and investor films include:
- "Barbarians at the Gate"
- "The Big Short"
- "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"
- "Inside Job"
- "Too Big to Fail"
- "Margin Call"
- "Rogue Trader"