The Wolf of the Wall Street (2013) is based on the memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort. (Image: Wikimedia)
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” says Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas slipping into the shoes of the anti-hero with ease) in a scene that defines the attitude of Wall Street at the movies. Directed with his usual rebellious nature by Oliver Stone, this 1987 film continues to be held in high esteem even today. But if you have tasted this heady fare about the American corporate world, it is hard not to keep going for more. Here are a dozen movies that you can dig in.
The film features Anna Gunn (from TV’s Breaking Bad), an investment banker in-charge of IPOs, who is investigated by her own company, which suspects her of insider trading. While the movie is not as flashy as some financial thrillers, it has powerful performances led by Gunn. It’s more than definitely worth a watch.
American Psycho (2000)
It’s great to see a pre-Batman Christain Bale in full flourish. Are his colleagues too tied up with stocks to see Bale for what he is? Bale plays a psychopath who repeatedly murders all through the film and gets away with it scot-free. The violence is as revolting as it comes and the comedy is as black as it gets. This slasher film is a great way to jumpstart our list of films about the darker side of corporate America.
The Big Short (2015)
Christain Bale strikes again. This film won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Short on a shoestring budget of $50 million, the film grossed $133 million at the box-office. The film was produced by Brad Pitt, who is part of the ensemble cast in the film. The movie is based on the book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, written by Michael Lewis on the US housing bubble. The movie is about a group of people who make it big when the bubble bursts in 2008.
Margin Call (2011)
This movie like most others on this list is about the deep allure of power and the thirst for monetary gains. JC Chandor made his directorial debut with this film, which takes over a 24-hour period in a large Wall Street investment bank. Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, and Demi Moore are part of the ensemble cast. Upon release, it was hailed as one of the best Wall Street movies ever made.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Though very often criticised for glorifying the immoral behavior of Wall Street honchos, the film grossed $392 million at the box-office, becoming the highest-grossing Martin Scorcese picture ever. This film was also part of the long-running collaboration between Scorcese and Leonardo Di Caprio. The humour is fast-paced and the gags fly thick and fast in this dark comedy. On the downside, the use of drugs by the lead characters, including Jonah Hill’s Donnie Azoff, makes the movie as dark as they come. The movie is based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir.
Wall Street (1987)
We began this article with Wall Street, which has long been considered as the most compelling classic ever made on the stock market. The film chronicles the life of a young and upcoming trader (Charlie Sheen) as he is drawn into the world of a ruthless broker (Michael Douglas) even while they negotiate the world of money, power, greed, and ethics.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
The story is based on the life of Chris Gardner (an astonishing Will Smith) and his rise from homelessness to having his own multi-million dollar brokerage firm. Will Smith’s son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, aged 8, plays Will’s son, Christopher Gardner Jr. At the end of the movie, Gardner, despite severely crippling circumstances, manages to secure a coveted full-time position in a brokerage firm, where he used to work as an intern.
Trading Places (1983)
This screwball comedy pre-dated the financial crisis and was an early movie starring a rising Eddie Murphy who is paired with Dan Aykroyd. Through the eighties, Murphy became a huge star and a guaranteed box-office attraction. The plot of the story involves a switch made by the Duke brothers, who own a commodities brokerage firm, who swap the lives to two men to win a wager.
Boiler Room (2000)
Starring the inimitable Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Affleck, and Vin Diesel, the film shows a chop stock brokerage firm that runs a “pump and dump”, using its brokers to artificially jack up the prices of expired or fake companies. How Seth Davis (Ribisi) manages to evade the law even as he exits his company forms the core of the story.
This movie is more about drugs than about the stock market. But Bradley Cooper’s performance and the premise of the film are such that this film is practically rendered unmissable. Edward Morra begins to take a nootropic drug that soon renders him enough powers to join a brokerage firm where he does exceptionally well. Robert DeNiro plays a finance tycoon Carl Van Loon who takes advice from Eddie. As the movie gets closer to the inevitable climax, Eddie is shown to have enough potential to be the future President.
Company Men (2010)
Tells the story of the fictional Global Transportation Systems through the lives of its employees played by Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, and Kevin Costner. As the fortunes of the company change, Bobby Walker (Affleck) is laid off forcing him to sell his house and move his family to his parents’ home. How the men survive or fail forms the rest of the story.
Inside Job (2010)
This Oscar-winning documentary, narrated by Matt Damon, is an angry recording of America’s financial crisis of 2008. It was called a Michael Moore picture without Moore in it. Directed by Charles Ferguson, this film is thoroughly researched and delivers from the pulpit a strong argument against corrupt financial practices.