The moment is approaching. Having partaken of the festive food orgy, it won’t be long before you get to elongate yourself on the sofa and watch a selection of films on your home cinema system/television. Rather than watching the Dark Knight Rises or The Chronicles of Narnia (again), why not choose a film about finance?
Assuming you are amenable to this suggestion, we’ve assembled a proposed list of viewing material below. If you work in finance, this comes with a health risk: many of these films are not favourable to the industry; almost all have a tendency to present financial services in an unfavourable light.
Nonetheless, these are our picks. Select whichever you feel most appropriate for your companions on the couch. And then treat yourself to another chocolate.
1. Trading places, by John Landis (1983)
The best of ’80s Christmas comedy. Trading Places is a modern(ish) rendition of Mark Twain’s classic The Prince and the Pauper. A successful, elitist young banker swaps places with an impoverished witty black man. Chaos ensues as the banker attempts to frame the impoverished witty black man as a drugs dealer in order to get his job back. It ends badly for the banker, well for almost everyone else.
2. Wall Street, by Oliver Stone (1987)
Needless to say, this is the classic finance movie. Gordon Gekko inspired a whole generation of young traders with his motto that greed is good. When the second Wall Street film came out in 2010, the Financial Times interviewed several bankers, who sentimentally confided that this film had had a tremendous impact on their careers. Some young financiers knew Gordon Gekko better than their own families, suggested Ken Moelis. If you don’t know Gordon, now is the time to get acquainted.
3. PI, by Darren Aronofsky (1998)
This is the anti-Wall Street film. Here, finance is no longer glamorous. Max, a brilliant, reclusive, paranoid mathematician, discovers a mathematical formula that allows him to predict fluctuations in the financial markets. He finds himself working for for a large Wall Street firm with aspirations to dominate the world of finance. This experimental mathematical thriller is perfect for geeks and philosophers.
4. Rogue Trader, by James Dearden (1999)
Why invent a fiction when when the finance industry provides its own real life scandals? James Dearden has adapted the biography of Nick Leeson for the big screen. As everyone knows, the young ambitious and naive trader manages to bring down Barings Bank, one of the UK’s most reputed financial institutions.
Having accumulated losses of $1.4bn, double the bank’s capital, Leeson goes on the run. It ends badly, although as we’ve noted Leeson seems to be doing ok for himself now.
5. Boiler Room, by Ben Younge (2000)
This film is based upon interviews with numerous traders over a two year period. It captures the atmosphere of fraternal rivalry, of young men under pressure and management through aggression. This is a movie for trading floor realists.
6. American Psycho by Mary Harron (2000)
This adaption of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel was somewhat savaged by critics. The book and the film are an ultra-cynical satire on the Wall Street euphoria of the 1980s. Christian Bale is a golden boy banker by day and a serial killer by night. Needless to say, this is not one to be watched when children are in the room.
7. Jak Jeon by Lee Ho Jae (2008) AKA The Scam
With cravats, numbers scrolling across screens, and beautiful cars, this is a classic film of financial intrigue with betrayals coming from all sides. Jak Jeon tells the story of a young financier used and abused by an ex-Mafiosi turned internet stock speculator. The scam is a financial thriller which doesn’t try to be anything else – and that’s a good thing, says the site Asian Movie Web.
8. Capitalism, a love story, by Michael Moore (2009)
We could have chosen ‘Inside Job’ by Charles Ferguson or ‘Cleveland against Wall Street’ by Jean Stephane Bron, both of which were released in 2010. But we decided to go Michael Moore’s provocative and clownish film about the causes of the 2008 crash. As ever, the focus is Moore himself – this time with Wall Street as the backdrop.
9. Krach by Fabrice Genestral (2010)
The inspiration for this film was an article in French newspaper Le Monde about the crash of hedge fund LTCM in 1998. The hero, Erwan, a trader in a large New York bank decides to set up a strat arb fund. It does not end well.
10. Margin Call by JC Chandor (2011)
The most recently made film in our festive selection is last year’s ‘Margin Call.’
“Be the first, be the best, or cheat,” is the underlying premise here. Made at the dawn of the stock market crash, this film follows a group of traders in the final 24 hours of bank (seemingly a cross between Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs). “You’re selling something that has no value,” is the catch phrase of the film.