Finances in cinema: when reality beats fiction
Reality beats fiction and the world of cinema, when this happens, takes the opportunity to produce a successful film that reflects these stories. The vast majority of these films are based on real facts and talk about incorrect decisions, bad practices and, above all, the abuses and corruption of some people with power.
If you like cinema and the banking world, you certainly know many of the films we mention in this article. We’ve chosen films you can find on different platforms like Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, and Filmin, which, in addition to making you have a good time, will teach you how the huge financial and banking world works or used to work.
Top 5 Wall Street films
In all the films we propose, the argument has one common element: manipulations as a way of amassing fortunes.
- Wall Street (1987) – Director: Oliver Stone
Charlie Sheen plays an ambitious Bud Fox who, after completing his undergraduate studies, manages to get to work for the Almighty Gekko (played by Michael Douglas). He soon discovers that he is an unscrupulous manipulator and that with trickery he manages to amass a great fortune, but also that what comes fast is known to go fast too.
- Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) – Director: Oliver Stone
Wall Street’s second instalment takes place more than twenty years after its premiere and features an aged Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) as the main character of the plot.
Back to action after spending much time in prison, Gekko is free and analyses the world he once ruled. It appears that Gekko wishes to settle his relationship with his daughter and makes an alliance with her fiancé, Jacob. Although Jacob views Gekko as a paternal figure, he discovers that he is still a manipulative expert who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.Although it did not have the success of its predecessor, it was useful to illustrate how the mortgage and real-estate bubble in the U.S. occurred, as well as the financial speculation and its uncovering. Michael Douglas also won a Golden Globe Award.
- Margin Call (2011) – Director: J. C. Chandor
In a powerful international investment bank, a great portion of the staff have just been laid off. A beginner analyst discovers that the value of the entire company’s asset packets is actually null. Then, a flood of decisions is unleashed that will end up shaking the finances of the whole world.
A chronicle of the beginning of the economic recession started in 2008 that, although it happens in a fictional company, can be clearly connected to the actual bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Intelligent, scathing, and creepy at the same time, this low-budget proposal was well received by critics, who gave a large vote of confidence to its director, debutant J. C. Chandor. With only a short film released, the filmmaker also wrote the screenplay, a libretto he had had in mind for a year and a half and managed to write in just four days.It features actors Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, and Demi Moore, among other well-known actors.
- The Wolf of Wall Street (2014) – Director: Martin Scorsese
It revolves around the life and excesses of Jordan Belfort, called “The Wolf of Wall Street”, a stockbroker who became famous for his scandals relating to the manipulation of markets, money laundering, and other high-finance crimes.
The story deals with his multi-million-dollar businesses in the US investment market and his extravagant life, marked by the excesses of a rock star: sex, drugs, and, in his case, several hundred million dollars fraudulently earned from the purchase and sale of shares through Stratton Oakmont, a firm of his ownership, which marked a turning point in Wall Street’s history.This is the incredible story of a common man who started selling ice cream at the age of sixteen and eventually ended up earning hundreds of millions of dollars until, years later, all the weight of justice fell upon him.
It stars Leonardo DiCaprio (winner of a Golden Globe for this film).
- The Big Short (2015) – Director: Adam McKay
One of the most critically acclaimed stock films of the last decade, nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. It is about what was the American mortgage bubble that preceded the 2008 crisis and how the outsider investors were going against the flow of the financial industry consensus. When the market went bankrupt in 2008, these investors earned millions of dollars, but their experience changed them forever.
It features a great cast of actors: Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, Christian Bale, and other well-known faces.
It is clear that the secrets of the world economy are of great interest to the world of cinema and that we will continue to see large-scale recreated stories about the financial reality in the future.
There are already unconfirmed rumours that Netflix and MGM are preparing films about Reddit’s hacking of the financial status quo. The story tells how, in less than a week, a large group of small investors, organized through a Reddit forum, shook Wall Street. The phenomenon by which the rising price of GameStop’s stock, a chain of video games about to close, made the traditional multi-million-dollar schemes plummet.
In this new era of ethical banking that will certainly change the users’ financial mentality, it is very likely that future film scripts on the stories of these banks will have a very different ending to those we are used to. We look forward to these new scripts.