Films on Con Men

Considering all the con men and women in politics & sales, such villainy is important to understand. Hamlet: “O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

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Catch Me If You Can

Docudrama 2002 PG-13 141 minutes. Frank W. Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a cunning con man — posing as a doctor, lawyer and pilot all before turning 21. He’s also a deft forger, and his work attracts the attention of FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), who makes it his mission to put Frank behind bars. But Frank not only eludes capture, he revels in the pursuit, even taking time to taunt Carl by phone. Steven Spielberg directs this comic caper based on a true story.See Full Review

Link to see photos of the real people this story is based on.

American Hustle

Docudrama 2013 R. This fictionalization of the “Abscam” (Arab scam) scandal of the early 1980s follows con man Irving Rosenfeld and his lover, Sydney Prosser, as they help an eccentric FBI agent expose corruption among several members of Congress in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The opening screen states:  “Some of this actually happened.” Christian Bale is hilarious and occasionally heart-wrenching as a con-man trying to make it big; Amy Adams is alluring as his mistress and partner; Bradley Cooper plays an FBI agent who exudes ambition and greed; and Jennifer Lawrence is excellent as an unbalanced wife.  And then you throw in a likeable mayor (Jeremy Renner) who believes he’s helping his city, corrupt politicians, and the mob. It deftly balances humor and serious drama. This is a silly, fun, and funny film with great acting and good dialogue.

Who is Clark Rockefeller?

Docudrama 2010 NR 88 minutes. Eric McCormack (“Will & Grace”) stars in this Lifetime original movie as skilled con artist Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a man who kept the FBI on its toes with a string of scams and a sham marriage to an unsuspecting millionaire (Sherry Stringfield). Claiming to be an heir to the Rockefeller fortune, he romanced a Harvard-educated woman and eventually fathered a daughter (Emily Alyn Lind) he would try to kidnap.


Docudrama 2012 R 1hr 29m. Based on a true incident, this tense drama unfolds as a caller pretends to be a cop and convinces a restaurant manager to interrogate her teenaged employee about a supposed theft from a customer — a situation that soon spins out of control. The real caller is suspected of pulling off dozens of other hoaxes at fast-food restaurants and other businesses from 1995 through 2004.


Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 24m. Awaiting sentencing and under house arrest, white-collar criminal Marc Dreier reveals how he hatched a Ponzi scheme which lost $750 million.

Casino Jack

Docudrama 2010 R 124 minutes. Kevin Spacey stars in this drama as disgraced political lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who defrauded Native American tribes out of tens of millions of dollars in his efforts to peddle influence in Washington’s corridors of power. As justice closes in on Abramoff and his associates, the audacious scope of his scams comes to light. Based on true events, this film from director George Hickenlooper co-stars Kelly Preston and Barry Pepper.


Docudrama 2010 NR 1hr 36m. In this intriguing look at society’s worship of celebrity above all else, Wagner Moura stars as Brazilian con man Marcelo, who uses scores of aliases to climb the heights of the social register before being locked up. Handsome young Marcelo passes himself off as a pilot, a notorious bandit, a real-estate mogul and a glamorous celebrity, all while desperately searching for an identity he can call his own. The film is loosely based on a true story.

The Yes Men Fix the World

Documentary 2009 NR 87 minutes. Two didactic pranksters known as the Yes Men — Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno — employ monkey business to highlight the political and economic shenanigans surrounding ecological catastrophes like the 1984 Union Carbide Corporation disaster in India. They pose as spokesman for the Dow Corporation (which took over Union Carbide) and go on live TV apologizing for their role in the incident and pledging to fix the wrong. In this film, the Yes Men go after a collection of corporations who have injured the world in one way or another. They go into corporate meetings and conventions posing as heads of business to expose how greed and instant stock satisfaction destroys lives. See Full Review

The Hoax

Docudrama 2006 R 115 minutes. After billing his authorized “autobiography” of eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes as the 20th century’s most important book, writer Clifford Irving begins to believe his own hype. But his shameless scam soon catches up with him.

Lies My Mother Told Me

Docudrama 2005 NR 88 minutes. In this made-for-television drama that originally aired on the Lifetime network, Joely Richardson plays serial con artist Laren Sims, who can’t seem to keep her bad behavior under control. Caught in a cycle of lying and deceit, Laren uses stolen credit cards to make her way to Las Vegas, where her past eventually catches up with her. But will a forced confrontation with reality convince her to change her ways?

Shattered Glass

Docudrama 2003 PG-13 99 minutes. This fact-based film depicts the rise and fall of disgraced magazine journalist Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a staff writer at The New Republicand a contributor to Rolling Stone who ultimately fabricated many of his stories, which led to his downfall. Steve Zahn plays the technology reporter who uncovered the truth about Glass’s deception. Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson also star.

Track Down

Docudrama 2000 R 92 minutes. Kevin Mitnik is the greatest computer hacker in the nation, an unstoppable force until he hacks into a computer belonging to technology crimes guru Tsutomu Shimomura and initiates a frenzied cat-and-mouse chase through the World Wide Web. A really great hacker film that becomes a cat-and-mouse edge-of-your-seat thriller. In the spirit of War Games and Sneakers, this film is exciting, thrilling, and fast-paced. Social engineering, a term adopted by computer hackers to mean the art of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information, became this con man’s primary method of obtaining information, including user names and passwords and modem phone numbers. This is no documentary but not a bad “movie.” As a security consultant I enjoyed this film. I learned my profession through my curiosity and for the challenge… and technically this movie was pretty spot on. Yes it was nowhere near historically correct but at the time Kevin Mitnick was one of my idols. I was amazed to see how many people were upset this was not historically accurate! Who gives a damn honestly, this is Hollywood and just take the movie for what it was. If you want to learn more about Mitnick then read a book or find the Wiki. I love thrillers, and this is a different type because a lot of it based on technology, facts, downloads, and how one geek can outsmart an other one and a team of FBI task force. Some reviews state that the movie does not use completely true events and that a lot of false facts were added. Honestly who cares. In this case, I am not studying the film for a history matter, rather, I am enjoying a fun film.

Grey Owl

Docudrama 1999 PG-13 117 minutes.  This biopic stars Pierce Brosnan as Archie Grey Owl, a British-born trapper whose marriage to a young Iroquois woman ultimately transforms him into a conservationist who renounces the hunting and trapping of animals.

Quiz Show

Docudrama 1994 PG-13 133 minutes. Robert Redford directs this infamous true story of Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), who rocketed to national fame as a repeat winner on the TV quiz show “Twenty-One.” In the late 1950s, prime-time game shows were a cultural phenomenon. But the American public didn’t realize it was being hoodwinked … until persevering congressional investigator Dick Goodwin (Rob Morrow) unmasked the corruption behind the show’s glittering façade.

The Honeymoon Killers

Docudrama 1970 R 107 minutes. Lothario Ray Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco) cons lonely women out of money by promising marriage. When he meets nurse Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler), the two fall in love. Posing as brother and sister, the duo crosses the country swindling women — and, when necessary, killing them. As their passions become more inflamed, their crime spree grows bloodier. This film is based on the real-life Lonely Hearts murders of the late 1940s.

The Baron of Arizona

Docudrama The First Films of Samuel Fuller 1950 NR 97 minutes. Based on the true story of one of the most daring swindles in U.S. history, director Samuel Fuller’s fascinating period drama stars Vincent Price as flimflam man James Reavis, who plans an audacious con to claim an entire state. Using forged land grants and the penniless Sofia (Ellen Drew) — whom he passes off as the baroness of Arizona –Reavis tries to assume ownership of the territory by marrying Sofia and claiming her “birthright.”


Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery

Documentary 2015 1 hour 41 minutes. For nearly 40 years the charming and effervescent Beltracchi produced hundreds of meticulous works of art, forgeries of early and mid-20th century artists, using old canvases and distressed frames scoured from flea markets and paints whose pigments he ground himself. This documentary captures his unique personality: a bizarre mix of candor and cunning, insouciance and joie de vivre.

An Honest Liar

Documentary 2014 90 minutes. The life and career of the renowned stage magician turned scientific skeptic of the paranormal, James Randi. The world-famous magician, escape artist, and enemy of deception, ‘The Amazing’ Randi publicly exposed psychics, faith healers, and con-artists with quasi-religious fervor.

Chasing Madoff

Documentary 2010 NR 91 mins.  This eye-opening documentary chronicles the long and often frustrating campaign of financial analyst Harry Markopolos to bring federal regulators’ attention to the brazen investment scams engineered by now-convicted felon Bernie Madoff.  This is an in-depth exposé of how one man saw thru a fraud of huge magnitude and chose to do something about it — when others including the SEC did not.  A lot can be learned from this film about what really happened — the stuff we never saw or heard about in the media.  The movie unfolds like a thriller–but it is all true.  See Full Review

The Madoff Affair

Documentary Frontline 2009 NR 56m. Sentenced to 150 years in federal prison, Bernie Madoff perpetrated the largest financial fraud in history. Following a timeline dating back to the 1960s, Frontline takes you inside the web of deception that snagged investors for $65 billion.

The Woman Who Wasn’t There

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 4m. Filmmaker Angelo J. Guglielmo Jr. discusses the truth about 9/11 “survivor” Tania Head, sharing exclusive footage from interviews shot with Head before her story crumbled to reveal a stunning circle of deception.

The Imposter

Documentary 2012 R 1hr 38m. A 13-year-old boy who vanished in Texas and shows up three years later in Spain now has the same tattoos, but looks different and speaks with an accent. An investigator sets out to unravel the mystery in this riveting documentary.

The Man Who Would be Polka King

Documentary 2009 NR 67 minutes. After defecting from Poland in the 1970s, Jan Lewan became a worldwide polka superstar, famous for his musical talent and dashing showmanship. Filmmakers Joshua von Brown and John Mikulak show that Lewan’s empire was built on a foundation of lies. This irreverent documentary reveals how the charming entertainer used his connections to bilk investors out of millions in a complicated investment scam that eventually landed the Polka King behind bars.

Con Man

Documentary 2006 NR 93 minutes. This riveting documentary profiles James Hogue, the quintessential con man who finagled his way into the hallowed halls of Princeton University, where he made a name for himself as a scholar and a track star. But little did anyone know that he was a 31-year-old serial liar pretending to be a freshman — and it wasn’t the first time he pulled such a scam. Via time lines and interviews, the film tries to learn the truth about the inscrutable Hogue.

Con Artist

Documentary 2009 NR 84 minutes. With this documentary, Michael Sladek chronicles the rise and fall of Mark Kostabi, the infamous contemporary artist who rose to acclaim in the 1980s by openly lampooning and exploiting the art industry with a series of attention-grabbing gimmicks. Taking aim at what he saw as the commoditization of modern-day art, Kostabi caused a stir in the art world when he decided to mass-produce and sell artworks that he himself had no hand in creating.

Levitated Mass:
The Story of Michael Heizer’s Monolithic Sculpture

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr 29m.  This film traces the journey of a 340-ton boulder sculpture, from its conception to the monolith’s 11-day transport 105 miles from a quarry to an L.A. museum.  Wow!  Unbelievable…..And the costs to move it 105 miles make it a $10 million dollar giant Pet Rock!  Michael Heizer’s an artist alright!  He’s got to be in the Guinness Book of Worlds Records for being the biggest “CON ARTIST”!  This is like the guy that drew smiley faces on rocks and sold them as “PET ROCKS”!  Cannot believe the people and an actual Director of an art museum could be so gullible!  Don’t think I’d call his ‘work’ “Art”. It seems to be mostly engineering, and hoodwinking some wealthy investors to back him, although I’m fairly certain he didn’t ‘sculpt’ it himself.  Someone followed his drawings built it and he took the credit. I don’t know about “Artist” — Maybe Conceptual Designer would be a more accurate term.  As a self-proclaimed artist, one who works his craft and has spent years doing so.  I found this to be pretentious, self-gratifying and outright insulting. The only real heroes in a story like this are the engineers and laborers that actually did the real work here.  Because that’s the important element to this story.  Like the rocks for Stonehenge were moved almost as far, but there are many of them arranged in an artistic pattern!   I know Michael Heizer’s work; I’m not impressed, in the least. I think the reason he turned to these ridiculous ‘earth art’ projects is because he lacked traditional talent and didn’t spend years developing that into skills that we can all recognize.  Look at his paintings in the documentary. Lacking, is the only way I can describe them.  This is no true artist, in my opinion, this is a man who has managed to fool rich people into thinking they know what art really is.  The whole world of art is subjective, as is art itself, but I can say that this type of thing is damaging to real artists honing their skills and craft into something worthwhile.  Pardon me while I get back to work, making art that isn’t a lie.  Wow.  Depressing collection of artsy-fartsy babble not only from our over-educated overlords but from plenty of ordinary people too.  It’s a ROCK, not art. From Michelangelo to this……. Just hope no one is under it when an earthquake like 1989 comes!

Truth, War, and Consequences

Documentary Frontline 2003. Frontline traces the roots of the Iraqi war back to the days immediately following September 11, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered the creation of a special intelligence operation to quietly begin looking for evidence that would justify the war. The intelligence reports soon became a part of a continuing struggle between civilians in the Pentagon on one side and the CIA, State Department, and uniformed military on the other – a struggle that would lead to inadequate planning for the aftermath of the war, continuing violence, and mounting political problems for the president.

The War Behind Closed Doors

Documentary Frontline 2003. Frontline examines the hidden story of what is really driving the Bush administration to war with Iraq. The investigation asks whether the publicly reported reasons–fear of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction or a desire to insure and protect America’s access to oil–are only masking the real reason for the war. Through interviews with well-placed sources in and outside of the administration, Frontline unravels a story known only to the Washington insiders.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Documentary 2004 R 122 minutes. Michael Moore’s hard-hitting documentary addresses the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, outlining the reasons the United States (and, in turn, thousands of innocent Americans) became a target for hatred and terrorism. The film not only criticizes President George W. Bush’s response to the attacks but also reinforces Moore’s theory that the Bush Administration used the tragic event to push its own political agenda.See Full Review

The Oil Factor

Documentary 2005 NR 93 minutes. Despite official statements that U.S. wars in the Middle East and Central Asia are being waged in the name of terror, it’s hard to ignore that three-quarters of the world’s oil supply comes from these regions. Narrated by Edward Asner, this thought-provoking documentary explores the realities of the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and sheds light on the United States’ true motives. Featured experts include Noam Chomsky and author Ahmed Rashid. Even though it briefly talks about oil and its future, its primary focus is the war in Iraq/ Afghanistan. Its title is elusive because it focuses almost entirely on the causes/effects of war in those countries. It does not talk about oil enough and gives no strong history of oil in these countries as well as America. This doc. should be retitled to something along the lines of “the unspoken history of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.” This the is most important MUST SEE documentary ever! Everyone should see this. Very factual. Please tell all your friends to see this. See Full Review

Bush’s War

Documentary 2008 NR 2 episodes. This definitive documentary, produced to mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, analyzes in detail controversial topics surrounding the war, including Sept. 11, al-Qaeda, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, weapons of mass destruction and Fallujah. 9/11 and Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Iraq, WMD and the Insurgency, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, and the Surge. For six years Frontline has been revealing those stories in meticulous detail, and the political dramas played out at the highest levels — George W. Bush and Tony Blair, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Osama Bin Laden. Now, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, the full saga will unfold in a special four-hour broadcast over two consecutive nights on PBS, titled Bush’s War. Drawing on one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism (Frontline’s 40+ films), veteran producer Michael Kirk (Cheney’s Law; Endgame; The Lost Year in Iraq; The Dark Side; The Torture Question; Rumsfeld’s War; The Man Who Knew; The War Behind Closed Doors; Gunning for Saddam, Target America) also delivers new reporting and fresh interviews. Bush’s War will be the definitive documentary analysis of one of the most challenging periods in the nation’s history. “Parts of this history have been told before — the invasion of Afghanistan, torture, flawed intelligence and the invasion of Iraq, failures in the American occupation, and the saber-rattling over Iran,” Kirk says, “But no one has laid out the entire narrative to reveal in one epic story, the scope and detail of how this war began and how it has been fought, both on the ground and deep inside the government.”

F for Fake
(?: About Fakes)

Documentary 1973 NR 87 minutes. In this free-form documentary from the one and only Orson Welles — his final major directorial effort — the famed storyteller zigzags through a sardonic, fanciful tale of how art manages to amaze and fool us, often simultaneously. With faux determination, Welles examines the charismatic Elmyr de Hory — who makes pretty good money forging Picassos — while also offering a look at biographer Clifford Irving and even a peek into his own deceptions.


Documentary 1972 PG 88 mins.  This Oscar-winning documentary explores the life of one-time child evangelist and faith healer Marjoe Gortner. The son of professional evangelists, Gortner was preaching on the Southern tent-revival circuit by the age of 3. Twenty-eight at the time of the film’s release, Gortner freely admits to being a scam artist — but still maintains a compelling charisma, possibly explaining his later career as an actor in B movies and in 1974’s Earthquake.

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