Banking Frauds and Financial Collapse – Finance In Film

October 31, 2018
The world of finance lends itself well to film. Money interests us all in one way or another, and like it or not, the financial system is an integral part of the world we live in. The dramas and scandals that take place at the level of high-finance are made for the big screen.

You couldn’t make up some of the stuff that takes place, whether it be stock market frauds or speculative bank investments.

Then there’s the exciting mix of work and play. The parties and the outrageous hedonistic escapism of those at the top. You definitely don’t want to be them, but you can’t help but be interested in their world. Here are a few of the top films about finance.

Wall Street Films

There have been many films about Wall Street, but the highest grossing and still most successful is the 1987 Wall Street by Oliver Stone. The film exposes the financial world in the 1980s, which to be honest wasn’t much different from today. Same debauchery and scandals, different faces.

Michael Douglas picked up an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance, and the movie grossed over $43 million, making an impressive $28.8 million profit.

Since then, there have been many more attempts to portray Wall Street, the most recent being The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), a highly successful film in its own right and well worth a watch for both entertainment and to learn more about the story of stock scam artist Jordan Belfort. Wolf of Wall Street shows the fraud and ego of modern day Wall Street brokers, brought to life by an animated Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Financial Crash

Many films about finance in the past decade have focused on the recent financial crisis. The crash left many unable to pay off credit, leaving them with bad credit ratings. During and after the crisis, people often turned to bad credit loans to gain finance. Many movies depict how the people at the top managed to carry on making profits.

The Big Short (2015)  follows three separate stories of top cats who predicted the crash of the housing market before it happened, and managed to capitalise and prosper. It is based on the non-fiction book by Michael Lewis, and while it is highly entertaining it is also finance savvy, giving lessons on topics such as mortgage-based bonds.

Inside Job (2010) takes a more direct approach. It delves into key players of the financial crash, how it benefited them, and how it affected the rest of the world. Inside Job won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, and it offers an intense view of the realities of the financial world.

Honourable Mentions

Honourable mention goes out to Rogue Trader (1999), which covers the story of Nich Leeson’s speculative trading, and how it caused the crash of the world’s second oldest merchant bank. By hiding enormous loses and eventually losing it all in one huge failed trade, Nick Leeson brought down Barings Bank, and Rogue Trader is based on his memoirs.

Trading Places (1983) is a modern adaption of the classic tale ‘Prince and the Pauper’. In it, a homeless man and a broker trade places, with hilarious and revealing results.

Films connect us to worlds that we otherwise wouldn’t understand. Finance is an industry that is thrilling and entertaining, full of secrets and special cases. It’s what movies are made for!

Photo by Henry Han // CC BY-SA 3.0

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