Oscar season is finally over, so this is the perfect time to catch up on some of the award-winning films that you missed first time around. And one of the most popular topics in modern cinema just so happens to be finance.
The global financial crisis put a dramatic spin on some of the most boring and complicated financial transactions, and Hollywood has been quick to take advantage of its big screen potential.
With a little help from Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Damon, and Margot Robbie, we can all become financial experts in record time, thanks to the magic of film.
If you want to feel like a financial genius in record time, sit down with one (or all!) of these films and allow yourself to be educated while being entertained…
1. The Big Short
Still not sure exactly what went on during the financial crisis? This movie will clear everything up for you – with a little help from Margot Robbie in a bathtub.
The Oscar-winning screenplay manages to make complex concepts such as sub-prime mortgages and collateralised debt obligations seem palatable, as it lays out the conditions that led to the 2007 housing crash.
An all-star cast (Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt are just a few of the leads) will keep you hooked, and by the end of the film you’ll be dying to talk to someone about your newfound expertise in property long/short plays.
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2. Wolf of Wall Street
Hollywood’s golden boy Leonardo DiCaprio plays the drug-addled antihero Jordan Belfort, who made his fortune from penny stock trades and pressure selling.
This is a step-by-step guide to cheating and hedonism, with a few genuinely useful financial tips thrown in along the way.
In one of its more iconic scenes, Belfort teaches his team the art of the pitch: “Sell you this pen? Why don’t you write your name down on that napkin for me” “…I don’t have a pen”
“Exactly. Supply and demand my friend”.
3. Margin Call
Margin Call examines the 24 hours leading up to the global financial crisis, as Zachary Quinto’s risk analyst spots the first signs of market volatility on his firm’s mortgage backed securities.
It takes an extremely dense subject and somehow makes it seem simple – even to financial novices.
About half-way through the film you’ll be screaming at the screen, and by the end of it you’ll be ready to re-assess every investment you’ve ever made.
4. Rogue Trader
The real-life story of the infamous derivatives broker Nick Leeson (played by Ewan McGregor) – the man who drove Barings Bank into the ground.
The movie covers Leeson’s unauthorised speculative trading, specifically detailing how he managed to rack up more than £800 m in debt, and then went about hiding his catastrophic losses in an error account.
A master class in teaching effective risk management and the dangers of ducking corporate responsibility.
Combining finance and sport, this compelling film is based on Michael Lewis’ book about the Oakland Athletics baseball team and their manager, Billy Beane.
Outstripped by larger teams that can purchase the best players, Brad Pitt’s Beane uses raw analytics to develop a killer roster – looking at key stats through deploying Sabermetrics, a fiercely analytical approach to team management.
The film shows that taking a mathematical and finance-based approach to management pays dividends in the long run; changing the face of the game forever.
6. Wall Street
The quintessential movie about the darker side of money-making, Oliver Stone’s famous film covers the actions of Michael Douglas’ amoral Gordon Gekko.
Based on real life stories about insider trading and junk-bond vending in the 1980s, the movie revolves around the central character’s attempts to purchase a controlling interest in a company via stock manipulation.
Wall Street highlights some of the most unsavoury and illegal tricks used by unscrupulous traders, and teaches you what not to do if you want to retain your trading license.
7. Inside Job
Described as ‘the film that cost $20,000,000,000,000 to make”, Charles Ferguson’s Academy Award-winning movie digs into the nuts and bolts of what caused the 2008 meltdown.
Suitable for neophytes as well as seasoned professionals, Ferguson’s five-part series covers the genesis of the crisis from its origins in the deregulation of Iceland’s banks to 2000, to the present-day search for accountability and ensuing layoffs.
As compelling as it is informative, it is an essential (albeit frustrating) watch for anyone who was touched by the crisis.
8. Too Big to Fail
Based on Andrew Ross Sorkin’s best-selling book about the fall of Lehman Brothers, the movie presents a dramatized ‘boots on the ground’ view of the key individuals and actions were involved, focusing particularly on the actions of the then-US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
Effortlessly explaining the importance of credit in the crisis, the film gives an engaging perspective on events as they unfolded…and the human cost that was paid along the way.
After you’ve watched this, you’ll understand why no one in finance will ever use the phrase ‘too big to fail’ ever again.