Films on Money

Can You Afford to Retire?

Documentary Frontline 2006 NR 60 minutes. The acclaimed PBS public affairs series investigates the looming financial catastrophe facing the baby boom generation — a group blessed with a long life expectancy but bedeviled by shrinking incomes. The erosion of traditional pillars of retirement income — Social Security, lifetime pensions and 401(k) plans — has many boomers working well into their retirement years, a trend that could eventually threaten the whole economy. See Full Review

Waging a Living

Documentary 2004 NR 85 minutes. This thought-provoking documentary tests the mantra “get a job” to see whether low-wage jobholders — otherwise known as the “working poor” — can pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Filmed in California, New York and New Jersey over a three-year period, the film tracks the ups and downs of four ethnically diverse Americans living below the poverty line as they face a persistent struggle to make ends meet. See Full Review

See also: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.

Mind Over Money

Documentary Nova 2010 NR 52 minutes. Discover the science behind making financial decisions with this thought-provoking Nova episode, which examines the reasons economists did not anticipate the 2008 economic meltdown and why individuals frequently manage their money so irrationally. Through a combination of expert interviews and real-life experiments, this program offers useful findings that reveal how the human mind typically processes economic activities.

The Queen of Versailles

Documentary 2012 PG 100 minutes. Meet the Siegels, glitterati who made a fortune in the time-share business only to see it crumble in the 2008 financial collapse. The site of their rise and almost-fall is their home (America’s largest), a gaudy replica of the Palace of Versailles.

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America’s College Debt Crisis

Documentary CNBC Originals 2010 NR 43m. CNBC goes inside a debt crisis that affects millions of Americans, and investigates a system that encourages widespread borrowing, leaving the average college graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Institutions turn a blind eye to the damaging effects student debt have upon borrowers.


Documentary 2008 PG 85 minutes. With the country’s debt growing out of control, Americans by and large are unaware of the looming financial crisis. This documentary examines several of the ways America can get its economy back on the right track. In addition to looking at the federal deficit and trade deficit, the film also closely explores the challenges of funding national entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Money for Nothing:
Inside the Federal Reserve

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr43m.  Focusing on the nation’s 2008 financial meltdown, this sober documentary looks at the role the Federal Reserve played in igniting the crisis.  I found this documentary to be informative and well-made especially for those who know nothing about why the Fed exists and what it does. Unfortunately, most Americans have no understanding of the Fed, which is why it can get away with what it does.  This film makes an effort to explain what the Fed is, where it came from, what it has done mostly since the early 1990’s up to about 2013, including the “DOT.COM” bubble of 2000, and the housing and stock market melt-down leading to the Fall in 2008.  I found it to be mostly factual, having lived though those periods and seen the results. It is not kind to Fed Chair Ben Bernanke nor to Alan Greenspan.  This is a pretty harsh indictment of Greenspan’s decisions from the late nineties to the end of his term, and those of Bernanke at the beginning of his term. The economy’s problems are not so much due to the existence of the Fed, but rather to the decisions made by these omnipotent Fed chairmen. This is a thoughtful documentary, well produced, and is well worth seeing. The closing remarks on where the U.S. may be headed should be viewed and thought about by everybody who has a $ at stake.  The Fed will work to keep asset prices inflated so the rich don’t lose any money, and everybody else gets stuck paying the bills. It’s called socializing risk and privatizing profit.  I highly recommend watching even more honest appraisals of what the Fed is and has wrought. On Netflix, Ethos is OK, but to get a harder look you have go to some top doumentary films site and check out “The Money Masters”, “The Monopoly Men”, “Fiat Empire”, “Money as Debt”, “The Century of Enslavement”, The Creature From Jeckll Island” and a host of others not shy about taking swings at the Federal Reserve.

America: Freedom to Fascism

Documentary 2006 NR 105 minutes. Acclaimed filmmaker Aaron Russo directs this thorough investigation into the creation of the Federal Reserve and the controversial legislation (or lack thereof) that requires all American citizens to pay income taxes. Through revelatory interviews with key members of Congress, a former IRS Commissioner, tax attorneys, agents from the IRS and FBI, and various authors, Russo demystifies federal income tax and the creation of money.

The One Percent

Documentary 2006 NR 1hr 16m. In this eye-opening documentary, filmmaker Jamie Johnson examines the gap that exists between America’s poor and the 1 percent of the population that controls half the country’s wealth. Johnson, himself an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, interviews Milton Friedman, Bill Gates Sr., Steve Forbes and other wealthy men, revealing the enormous social and political effect financial disparity has on America’s current state.


Documentary 1997 NR 56 minutes. Tongue-in-cheek in style but still representing sharp-edged social commentary, this documentary produced for PBS takes an in-depth look at the social effects of America’s love affair with materialism and boundless consumption of resources. Hosted by Scott Simon, Affluenza examines the high price of the high life — both financially and emotionally — and shines a light on some Americans who are following a different path.


Docudrama 2011 PG-13 133 minutes. An all-star cast brings to life the true story of Billy Beane, a former jock turned general manager who uses unconventional methods to bring the best players to the Oakland A’s, a Major League Baseball team struggling against financial hardship.  As the manager of a small market franchise with a comparatively modest budget, Beane had to be creative and innovative in putting together a team…and he was. Beane is seen as a man who did what it took to save his cash-poor team from losing good players to the rich New York Yankees who could pay them more. When you have little cash to pay your players you must come up with a creative solution to keep your head above water. Beane’s creative solution was recruiting a geekish Yale economics major who handles player research with great with stats on every player. I love Jonah Hill as Pitt’s boy genius. The two of them embark on a path that is like swimming upstream. You feel you are very fortunate to be along for the ride to see cutting edge methods that begin to change the way the Good Old Boys have always done things before in baseball. Philip Seymour Hoffman is terrific as one of the Good Old Boys,the A’s head coach. Authorized by Major League Baseball and interspersed with actual game footage, this brilliant film takes you inside the locker room and the front office to meet actors playing real baseball figures, not the cereal-box caricatures. You’ll meet the tired old scouts, the pouting middle-aged manager, the bad-attitude stars, and the bench jockeys and scrubs fighting to hold on. This film is written with lots of great humor and had me laughing all the way through. Even if baseball is not your thing you will LOVE this film.


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.

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.

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.


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

The Ascent of Money
The Financial History of the World

Documentary 2009 NR 240 minutes. British historian and author Niall Ferguson explains how big money works today as well as the causes of and solutions to economic catastrophes in this extended version The Ascent of Money documentary. Through interviews with top experts, such as former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and American currency speculator George Soros, the intricate world of finance, including global commerce, banking and lending, is examined thoroughly.

House of Cards

Documentary CNBC Originals 2009 TV-PG 1hr 30m. This documentary on the housing and economic crisis explains in great detail exactly what caused the US economic crash of 2008, the most crushing economic crisis since the Depression. CNBC investigates the defining story of our time with inside accounts from key players, tracing the origins of the calamity from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington. The financial industry has so many layers and so many players that it makes it difficult for the average person / homeowner to truly understand how we got into this mess. This lays it out step by step. See Full Review

Hot Money

Documentary Frontline 1994. Frontline investigates a financial revolution–the movement of most of the world’s money to huge off-shore banking centers, many located on the tiny islands of the Caribbean. The program examines how the secrecy and lax regulation of these off-shore centers play a critical role in facilitating international crime–money laundering, insurance fraud, and tax evasion.


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