Films on Banks

The Untouchables  (2013)

Documentary Frontline 2013.  Frontline investigates why Wall Street’s leaders have escaped prosecution for any fraud related to the sale of bad mortgages.  More than four years since the financial crisis, not one senior Wall Street executive has faced criminal prosecution for fraud. Are Wall Street executives “too big to jail”?  A look at why Wall Street’s leaders and have escaped prosecution since America’s financial meltdown.

Confidence Game

Documentary 2011.  Confidence Game examines the demise of the investment bank known as Bear Stearns; the first Wall Street domino to fall in America’s, and the world’s most dire economic crisis since the Great Depression. Though the firm collapsed in the space of five short days, Confidence Game reveals that the bank’s downfall was many years in the making due to a confluence of fraud, Washington’s political ambitions, lax federal oversight, media manipulation and out and out greed. The film features interviews with investigative reporters like Bryan Burrough from Vanity Fair, William D. Cohan of Fortune and Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times who give a blow by blow account of the firm’s collapse.

Inside Job

Documentary 2010 PG-13 108 minutes. Director Charles Ferguson clearly maps out the origins of the global economic meltdown of 2008, how it could have been prevented, how it could have been lessened. This sobering, Oscar-winning documentary presents in comprehensive yet cogent detail the pervasive and deep-rooted corruption that led to the economic crisis of 2008. Through unflinching interviews with key financial insiders, politicos, journalists and academics, Ferguson paints a galling portrait of an unfettered financial system run amok — without accountability. Actor Matt Damon narrates. The analysis is piercing and relentlessly thorough. It lays out the problems with the financial industry, how it effects the entire world, addresses what should be done, and the difficulty getting anything done. “Best documentary I have seen! Impeccably done! I am recommending this to everyone I know. Everyone on the planet should watch this film.” See Full Review

The Warning

Documentary Frontline 2009 NR 54m. A detailed look at the roots of America’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, this “Frontline” documentary exposes why government officials refused to regulate emerging derivatives markets that later ruined global financial systems. Director Michael Kirk focuses special attention on the intriguing story of Brooksley Born, the head of a little-known regulatory agency who fought in vain for the increased oversight of derivatives sales.

The Flaw

Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 21m. The Flaw is a look at the recession and financial collapse of 2008. This documentary investigates the causes of ruin and includes interviews with noted economists, financial reporters, Wall Street bankers and homeowners on the brink of foreclosure. The film has some pretty good insights, with lucid analytical perspectives of top academics in economics. The economists and hedge fund manager are top rate. The film also interviews an appropriate selection of affected individuals to capture the human dimensions of the crisis. There are some interesting interviews with borrowers who have problems paying their mortgages after the crash, and most don’t portray themselves as victims, but guilty of poor judgment or excessive optimism. See Full Review

Inside the Meltdown

Documentary Frontline 2009 NR 56m. Shining a light on the economic meltdown that changed the mood of the 2008 presidential election, this edition of “Frontline” offers an inside look at what caused the crisis and who — if anyone — could have stopped it. Segments focus on the failures of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG; the U.S. government bailout costing taxpayers $700 billion; and the roles of the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve in repairing the damage.

Breaking the Bank

Documentary Frontline 2009 NR 54 minutes. With an eye on the financial crisis that sent Wall Street reeling in the midst of the 2008 presidential election, this penetrating edition of “Frontline” investigates what went wrong, who’s to blame and how long it will take to repair the damage. Specifically, the program looks at the role of so-called “superbanks” and other players in the housing market’s soaring fortunes — and its ultimately devastating decline. A misnamed episode. This Frontline is not so much about the banking crises as the specific episode of indigestion experienced by Bank of America after it tried to consume Merrill Lynch in one bite. On the eve of Lehman Brother’s collapse, Merrill, recognizing it was tottering on the bankruptcy chopping block too, presented itself to BoA with a ribbon wrapped around its bullish head. But rather than return calm to the financial waters, Treasury Secretary Paulson awoke to find the BoA acquisition had frozen the market after the 48 hour rush deal was announced. Increasing balances of toxic holdings were then leaked by stalwarts of the banking industry (Merrill among them to the chagrin of BoA), credit markets went frigid and the recession we have all come to know and love was born. Interestingly this episode takes as its focus the narrow events surrounding Merrill and BoA and fails to examine the original blow to the economy; the implosion of Lehman Brothers or the bad practices that led to banks possessing toxic mortgages and little sense. The episode lacks context and I found the constant pan and scan over people’s faces a distracting, bland practice. I would point out that when advertised on PBS the episode’s content was more fairly summarized than the one provided on this site. Beyond all this, the rarity of intelligent reflection on this topic means this episode is an important resource for consideration.

A Love Story

Documentary 2009 R 127 minutes. Filmmaker Michael Moore (Sicko, Fahrenheit 9/11) takes on capitalism’s roots, the floundering U.S. economy, and 2008’s global financial meltdown and subsequent bank bailout in this rousing documentary. Combining stories about those who suffer most from Corporate America’s greed and insatiable thirst for profits and the people most responsible for myriad crises, Moore embarks on another shocking fact-finding rampage.

Let’s Make Money

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 47m Let’s Make Money is not about how to make money. This film traces money as it goes through the global finance system — exposing policies and practices affecting the worldwide economy. This film is about the billions, trillions of dollars that go to selfish human greed and not to basic human need. This shows the planetary marketplace from all perspectives: wealthy investors, business owners, bankers, laborers, activists, government officials, impoverished people — from all around the globe. See Full Review

Birth of the Federal Reserve

Documentary 1999 NR 43 minutes. This provocative documentary posits that the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 wasn’t just a move to centralize banking in the United States; it was also a deliberate attempt to clean out the country’s private bank vaults. A team of undercover journalists reveal the surprising origins of the Federal Reserve and trace the heavy influence of the world’s richest families on its creation. This documentary discusses the rise to power of the private banking industry, culminating with the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States. It brings to light the influence brought to bear by the major banking families of Europe and the US (namely, the Rothchilds and Morgans) and how these powerful entities may be running the US, creating a non-representative form of government. The simple fact is that the “Federal Reserve” is a privately-owned bank and NOT part of the US govt. It sounds crazy, but just call your local Fed office and ask.

Ten Trillion and Counting

Documentary Frontline 2009 NR 55m. What do you do when you’re hundreds of billions of dollars in debt and still counting? That’s what “Frontline” seeks to find out in this episode that explores the impact of the growing national deficit on President Obama’s plans for this country. Enlisting commentary from financial experts and government finance insiders, the program explains why our national debt has soared and offers solutions for reducing it.

The Card Game

Documentary Frontline 2009 54 minutes. PBS’s award-winning investigative series “Frontline” examines how the banking and credit industries are reacting to new regulations guiding how Americans obtain the credit that so frequently turns out to be a curse rather than a blessing. How can credit card companies position themselves to continue making massive profits while encouraging fiscal responsibility and a stable U.S. economy? Politicians, lobbyists and consumer advocates respond.

John Perkins: Speaking Freely Vol. 1

Lecture 2007 NR. Author and former economic consultant John Perkins takes aim at himself, confessing his shameful role in helping organizations such as World Bank and the IMF drive poor nations into crippling debt while enriching U.S. corporations. His social conscience awakened, Perkins finally got fed up and quit his job. Now, he runs a successful nonprofit group that works to help indigenous peoples protect and strengthen their environments and cultures. See Full Review

Apology of an Economic Hit Man

Documentary 2008 NR. Stelios Koul records the confessions of author John Perkins in this documentary. Perkins alleges he was part of a clandestine team of economic “hit men” who worked to exploit poor countries in the 1970s on behalf of the United States government. His claims are backed by authentic propaganda films as well as dramatized reenactments of top-secret events he says took place behind a thick veil of secrecy.

Life and Debt

Documentary 2001 NR 86 minutes. Director Stephanie Black’s documentary examines how policies of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other aid organizations have altered the Jamaican economy over the past 25 years, leaving the locals to struggle in poverty. Author Jamaica Kincaid narrates passages from her book on the topic, A Small Place, with Belinda Becker to a reggae soundtrack that includes songs by Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Mutubaruka and Peter Tosh.

Susan George: Speaking Freely: Vol. 2

Lecture 2007 NR 52 minutes. Join award-winning scholar Susan George for an enlightening hour as she reveals the forces at work behind the problems that plague our global community today, such as poverty and unfair international trade practices. Far from a dry lecture, her talk traces the intriguing history behind the politics of empire building with a freedom, depth and élan you won’t find on the 6 o’clock news. Beware: This presentation is dangerous to complacency!

In Debt We Trust

Documentary 2006 NR 98 minutes. Filmmaker and former journalist Danny Schechter (WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception) investigates Americans’ ongoing love affair with credit cards and the staggering level of personal debt it’s created, paying special attention to the relationship between Congress and the credit card industry. In a modern society that’s increasingly “financialized,” consumer debt is so common that extending credit has become highly lucrative.

Maxed Out

Documentary 2006 NR 87 minutes. With sobering facts, this thought-provoking documentary unveils the consequences of Americans’ collective addiction to plastic debt — including its contribution to the vanishing of a once-robust middle class. Investigating personal debt, the U.S. government’s out-of-control national debt and those who prey on the poor, this film explores the staggering financial burden people live with every day, which has driven some to extreme action.


Documentary 2011 NR 68 minutes. Woody Harrelson hosts this exploration of the systemic ways in which modern society is self-destructing, from the disproportionate power of corporations, media and the military to the failure of government and democratic ideals.

Secret History of the Credit Card

Documentary Frontline 2004. The average American family today carries eight credit cards. Credit card debt and personal bankruptcies are now at an all time high. With no legal limit on the amount of interest or fees that can be charged, credit cards have become the most profitable sector of the American banking industry: more than $30 billion in profits last year alone. Frontline and The New York Times examine how the credit card industry became so pervasive, so lucrative, and so politically powerful.

The American Ruling Class

Documentary 2005 NR 89 minutes. This inventive, mildly fictionalized documentary follows noted editor Lewis Lapham as he introduces two Ivy League graduates to America’s elite in an effort to examine the role of class and moneyed privilege in American democracy. With stops at the Pentagon, posh Manhattan parties and more, Lapham encounters luminaries — including James Baker III and Walter Cronkite — who each share their perspectives on America’s ruling class.

The Wall Street Fix

Documentary Frontline 2003. With the nation’s biggest banks about to finalize a record $1.4 billion settlement for securities violations, Frontline investigates what New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer calls Wall Street’s “corrupt business model” that cost American investors trillions. Tracing the stunning rise and fall of WorldCom, the hottest stock and then biggest bankruptcy of the 1990s, correspondent Hedrick Smith uncovers the hidden ties that enabled superbanks and Wall Street insiders to shape and profit from the telecom boom while leaving ordinary investors holding worthless stock when the bubble burst.

The Bonfire of the Vanities

Drama 1990 R 125 minute. Brian De Palma directs the film version of Tom Wolfe’s satire about race, politics and greed in 1980s New York. In it, Tom Hanks stars as Sherman McCoy, a wealthy Wall Street investor whose life takes a dark turn when his mistress (Melanie Griffith) hits a black youth with his car. When tabloid journalist Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis) gets wind of the situation, he turns it into front-page news, inciting a racial incident in this game of dog-eat-dog.

Other People’s Money

Documentary Frontline 1990. The savings and loan scandal is the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression and will cost US taxpayers an estimated $315 billion. Frontline investigates Charles Keating, Jr., and the role politics played in the $2.5 billion failure of his Lincoln Savings and Loan.

The Great American Bailout

Documentary Frontline 1991. The biggest financial disaster in US history continues. Four years into the process of selling off failed savings and loan assets, the Resolution Trust Corporation, the federal agency charged with managing the bailout, hasn’t stopped the rising cost – estimated at $600-700 billion in taxpayers’ dollars and climbing. In a co-production with the Center for Investigative Reporting, Frontline correspondent Robert Krulwich uncovers the inside story of mismanagement and politics and tells how the bailout itself is now in need of rescue.

Breaking the Bank

Documentary Frontline 1985. In 1984, there were more bank failures in the US than at any time since the Great Depression. Correspondent Judy Woodruff investigates one of the largest banks that failed, Penn Square in Oklahoma City, and another which nearly failed, Continental Illinois in Chicago, to examine the implications on the nation’s banking system.


Documentary Frontline 1983. Developing countries have borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars from Western banks. Some of the biggest borrowers, Brazil and Mexico,are struggling even to repay the interest. Correspondent Anthony Sampson finds that threats to repudiate the loans are causing American bankers to fear financial catastrophe.

God’s Banker

Documentary Frontline 1983. In 1982,a man was discovered hanging from a bridge over the Thames River in London. He was Roberto Calvi, head of Italy’s largest bank and chief advisor to the Vatican’s bank. Reporter Jeremy Paxman investigates Calvi’s links with the Vatican and with P-2, a secret Italian society, and questions whether his death was really a suicide.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Drama 1946 NR 132 minutes. AFI considers this film the 11th greatest film of the last 100 years (100 Years…100 Movies). Jimmy Stewart and so many other soldiers returned home after WWII to a nation transfigured by the stresses imposed by a massive war effort. Jobs were in short supply. Plants involved in military products shut down or retooled for peacetime production. Women were more independent after working in nontraditional jobs while the men were away fighting. The economy and the country were in turmoil. Amid the backdrop of these difficulties, we meet George Bailey (played by Stewart), a simple banker. George runs a savings and loan in a small town. Unfortunately, a greedy local fat cat has used the downturn in the economy to buy up most of the town. George Bailey’s little Savings and Loan is about the only thing in town that the evil Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) does not control. Eventually, Potter finds a way to discredit George Bailey and weasel his way into the bank. Lionel Barrymore is a delicious villain, and the fact that he doesn’t get “punished” at the end makes this story even more perfect. It reminds us that the story isn’t about good guys and bd guys getting what they deserve, but about one man and how blessed he really is.It’s a wonderful film. Frank Capra’s inverted take on A Christmas Carol stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a good man who’s spent a lifetime giving up on his dreams in order to keep life in his small town humming. When a guardian angel named Clarence finds a despondent George poised to jump off a bridge, he shows George what life would’ve been like had he never been born.


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