In the world of Wall Street and high finance, expectations can run high for both the broker and investor, and fortunes can be made or lost overnight, all of which makes it an ideal vehicle for the big screen.
Here’s Newsmax’s list of our 10 favorites, along with an honorable mention. Click the film’s title to watch its trailer.
"Boiler Room" (2000)
This offers a glimpse into the seamier side of the brokerage industry — the pump and dump schemes, where agents browbeat customers into purchasing shares of worthless that they themselves have invested in, thus pumping up the value of the stock, then selling their own shares, leaving their clients holding the bag.
"Boiler Room" depicts a 19-year-old college dropout who tries to win back his father’s respect by becoming a broker at a small Long Island, N.Y. firm. He eventually learns that the firm is less-than-legitimate, and sets out to bring it down with the help of his father, a judge.
"The movie has the high-octane feel of real life, closely observed," said Roger Ebert. "During the movie I was wound up with tension and involvement, all the more so because the characters are all complex and guilty, the good as well as the bad, and we can understand why everyone in the movie does what they do."
"Chasing Madoff" (2010)
This one is a documentary that has all the feel of a political thriller. It depicts the 10-year battle to bring down fraudster and financier Bernie Madoff by investigator Harry Markopolos and his team, who became known as "The Foxhounds." Madoff got wealthy by bilking his clients through a $64.8 billion Ponzi scheme, the largest in history.
Reviewer Albert Clarkson called the film "a tense, terse drama of discovery about the Financial Sector sadly, and despite the labored and . . . the years during which Harry Markopolos, ‘obsessed, failed to bring down Bernie Madoff before no less than the Great Recession exposed that legendary con artist."
"Inside Job" (2010)
This is another documentary, one that took home the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. “Inside Job” is a detailed examination of the 2008 global financial meltdown, prompted by the burst of the housing bubble.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 98% Tomatometer rating based on 147 critical reviews, and a 91% audience score based on more than 25,000 viewer ratings.
"I've only scratched the surface of this intelligent, riveting and informative film, which I cannot commend too highly,” wrote Philip French, reviewing for The Guardian. “My jaw-dropping reaction to much that I heard was rather like that of Christine Lagarde, the French minister of finance, when her American opposite number got round to telling her about the collapse of Lehman Brothers: 'Holy cow!'"
"Margin Call" (2011)
A senior risks analyst uncovers information that could ruin the investment firm he works for. When he’s fired from the firm he slips a USB drive containing the information to a younger analyst. The key remaining players take extreme measures to control the damage that results.
"'Margin Call' employs an excellent cast who can make financial talk into compelling dialogue,” said the late reviewer Roger Ebert. "They also can reflect the enormity of what is happening: Their company and their lives are being rendered meaningless."
"Rogue Trader" (1999)
Based on a true story, "Rogue Trader" follows an ambitious young trader working for a major British investment bank. He’s been placed in a position of authority at his employer’s Singapore branch, and soon takes some huge investment risks, which puts him in over his head. He tries to hide his losses and eventually flees the country.
Concluded Rich Cline, writing simply for Shadows on the Wall, called the film "a superb story, simply but effectively told."
"The Big Short" (2015)
This tells the true story of Wall Street guru Michael Burry, who foresaw the 2008 real estate crash prompted by the huge number of subprime mortgages in danger of foreclosure. The mortgages, in turn, were made possible, in large part, by the Community Reinvestment Act, an attempt by Congress to make everyone a homeowner. It’s based on the 2010 book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis.
Burry attracted the attention of other large investors by throwing more than $1 billion of his investors' money into credit default swaps, thus betting against the market.
Wrote Max Weiss, reviewing for Baltimore Magazine, "Adam McKay's 'The Big Short' plays like an elaborate con, albeit one that uses its powers for good."
"The Pursuit of Happyness" (2006)
This biographical film stars Will Smith — yes, that Will Smith — portraying a single father and his son who are evicted from their apartment. The father lands an internship at Dean Witter Reynolds, a prestigious brokerage firm — but it pays no salary. The pair has to live in shelters and endure other hardships throughout the father’s struggle to rise to the top and create a better life for him and his son.
"It is Will Smith's lead performance in this that really stole the show and won me over," said Nicholas Oon, reviewing for Maximum Hype. "It really elevated this movie."
"The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013)
This is a Martin Scorsese biographical crime black comedy based on a 2007 memoir of the same name written by Jordan Belfort. When he was still in his 20s, Belfort founded his own stock brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont. He made a fortune by defrauding wealthy investors in order to support his hedonistic lifestyle, as the SEC and the FBI close in.
"The film has roused censure for glorifying crime, with scant, awkwardly realised minutes paid to Belfort's eventual comeuppance,” wrote Larushka Ivan-Zadeh for Metro (UK). "But surely 71-year-old Scorsese, a one-time wannabe priest whose work is preoccupied with morality, did that deliberately?"
"Wall Street" (1987)
This Oliver Stone classic depicts the relationship between Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), a young, ambitious stockbroker, and Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), a powerful and unscrupulous corporate raider. Fox persuades Gekko into mentoring him by giving him insider information about a company his father works for, that Gekko can use to his advantage. The pair forms a loose partnership based on illegal trades, and the authorities eventually catch onto them.
Wrote David Denby for New York Magazine, "Oliver Stone's Wall Street is exactly what I had hoped for — a sensationally entertaining melodrama about greed and corruption in New York, a movie that evokes the power of big money so strongly that you can savor it on your tongue like Stilton and port."
"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" (2010)
This sequel to "Wall Street" reunited director Oliver Stone with actor Michael Douglas, who reprises his role as Gordon Gekko. Out of prison after serving a sentence for insider trading, Gekko forges a partnership with his daughter’s fiancée, who eventually learns that Gekko is still an unscrupulous manipulator.
Wrote Allen Almachar, reviewing for The McGuffin, “A surprisingly good movie about what is happening right now, within the back rooms of tall skyscrapers, where villains make deals behind business suits and slicked back hair."
"Other People’s Money"(1991) Honorable Mention:
"Larry the Liquidator" Garfield, played by Danny DeVito (who else) is a corporate raider, who buys undervalued companies and sells off the assets for a profit. His latest target is a small-town cable TV company that happens to be the town’s largest employer. The company chairman (played by the legendary Gregory Peck) hires his beautiful stepdaughter to distract Larry. Now he has to choose between the girl or the money.
"Danny DeVito is the right actor to play Larry the Liquidator, wrote reviewer Roger Ebert. “He doesn't have to say that he uses big piles of money to compensate for the lack of love in his life. We know. We can see it in Larry's eyes."
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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