Films on Wall Street

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Commanding Heights:
The Battle for the World Economy

Documentary 2002 NR 360 minutes. Based on the best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, this three-part PBS documentary series is the story of how the new global economy was born. It traces the rise of free markets during the last century, as well as the process of globalization. There are three segments – 1. “The Battle of Ideas” (primarily between Capitalism and Communism);  2. “The Agony of Reform” (after the end of Communism)  3. “The New Rules of the Game” (of Globalization). See Full Review

The Wolf of Wall Street

Docudrama 2013 R. Martin Scorcese’s high-rolling Wall Street drama is based on the memoirs of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, whose giddy career — involving audacious scams and confrontations with the FBI and other agencies — ended in federal prison. See Full Review

To Catch a Trader

Documentary Frontline 2014 Jan7 2014 NR 53m. “Frontline” follows the seven-year Wall Street investigation that uncovered the largest insider trading scandal in U.S. history.  White collar fraudsters are caught, examples given, some insider trading exposed. Some large fines are given. A crisp and intelligent look at Insider Trading. Obviously our laws are inadequate when a Hedge Fund owner through corruption makes $8 billion and is only fined $1.8 billion. This is all about Congress and Presidents getting campaign contributions from investment moguls – which is the real untold story. Please put more “banksters” in jail. Thank you. Link to View This FRONTLINE Story for Free (Listed by Date 2014 Jan7):

Money, Power and Wall Street

Documentary Frontline 2012 Apr12 NR. Get the inside story of struggles to rescue a shattered economy, exploring the key decisions, the missed opportunities and the uneasy partnership between government and Wall Street that influences the fortunes of millions of people around the world. Link to View This FRONTLINE Story for Free (Listed by Date 2012 Apr12):

Wall Street

Drama 1987 R 125 minutes. Enterprising stockbroker Bud Fox falls under the enticing spell of Gordon Gekko, an unscrupulous Wall Street arbitrageur. But when Gekko embroils his protégé in an insider-trading scheme, Fox develops a conscience and decides to turn the tables. See Full Review

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Drama 2010 PG-13 138 minutes. Trader Jake (Shia LaBeouf) tries to mend the broken relationship between his fiancée, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), and her father, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), while avenging the fate of his mentor, Lou (Frank Langella), by getting close to Wall Street’s new megalomaniac, Bretton James (Josh Brolin). Centered on the 2008 financial crisis, director Oliver Stone’s follow-up is a modern-day ode to unfettered capitalism and, of course, greed.

The Pit

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 1m. Wading directly into the chaos on the floor of the New York Board of Trade, this documentary explores the cutthroat world of commodities trading.

The Untouchables

Documentary Frontline 2013 Jan22. In “The Untouchables,”  Frontline investigates why Wall Street’s leaders have escaped prosecution for any fraud related to the sale of bad mortgages. In “The Untouchables,”  Frontline correspondent Martin Smith examines why not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for fraud tied to the sale of bad mortgages. Link to View This Frontline Story for Free (Listed by Date 2013 Jan22):

Assault on Wall Street

Drama 2013 R 1hr 38m. Jim’s an average New Yorker with a well-paying job and a loving family, but when the economy crashes, he loses everything. Filled with rage, Jim snaps and goes to extreme lengths to seek revenge over what’s been taken from him.

Park Avenue
Money, Power and the American Dream

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 10m. Documentarian Alex Gibney focuses on the gap between rich and poor by examining New York’s Park Avenue, home to America’s highest concentration of billionaires. Meanwhile, down the street, South Bronx is the poorest congressional district in the U.S.

Boiler Room

Docudrama 2000 R 120 minutes. Underground casino operator and college dropout Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) becomes too involved in a sham New York brokerage firm and decides to go straight after his stern father (Ron Rifkin) rescinds all contact with him. Eager to make an honest living, win his father’s approval and the love of kindly Abbie (Nia Long), Seth risks everything when he turns his back on his greedy, hard-partying colleagues. Ben Affleck and Vin Diesel co-star.The film is based on interviews the writer conducted with numerous brokers over a two-year period, and is inspired by the firmStratrton Oakmont and the life of Jordan Belfort, whose autobiography was later adapted into Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort.

Wall Street Warriors

Documentary Series 2006 NR 4 discs. From hardened veterans to fresh-faced newbies, the wizards of Wall Street get their due in this documentary series that shines a light on the floor of the American Stock Exchange — and the hungry financial investors who keep it jumping. In a cutthroat world where fortunes can turn on a dime, these savvy traders must keep all their wits about them to successfully navigate the shark-infested waters of high finance. Cameras roll as 10 Wall Street wheelers and dealers battle it out on the American Stock Exchange, then jet off in limos to swanky restaurants, spectacular office spaces, mansions and polo fields in the Hamptons in this documentary series. The six-part program chronicles the fast-paced lives of these financial big shots, offering a rare look at one of the most high-stress jobs in the world and the frenzied hub of American capitalism.

Trading Places

Comedy 1983 R 116 minutes. Eddie Murphy established himself as a comedy superstar playing streetwise hustler Billy Ray Valentine, who trades places with wealthy investment executive Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) to see whether circumstances truly do make the man. It’s all part of a bet cooked up by the rich, greedy Duke brothers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy). But when Valentine and Winthorpe find out about the wager, the payback begins. Jamie Lee Curtis co-stars.

Trading on Thin Air

Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 18m. Warning: poor sound quality. Looking at the “green” movement from a different perspective, this provocative documentary asks whether big business is capitalizing on the public’s interest in environmentalism just to turn a buck trading in carbon credits. This is a difficult subject to tackle but the explanations of the carbon credit schemes and what they have in store for us and the environment were done in a way easier to understand.

Trader Games

Drama 2010 NR. French Wall Street hotshot Erwan (Gilles Lellouche) discovers that the climatology theories of young scientist Sibylle (Vahina Giocante) can be applied to fluctuations in the market. But after his first tests fail and he’s fired, he decides to prove that he’s right, no matter what the cost. Aided by Sibylle, Erwan opens his own firm and makes a killing in the market, but soon things begin to go very wrong and Erwan is left struggling to make amends.

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. They also pose as representatives of HUD at a meeting in New Orleans about destroying existing public housing after Hurricane Katrina. They also help put out a “special edition of the New York Times” featuring “All the News You Would Like Printed”. They also propose a new fuel after oil runs out. See Full Review

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.


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.

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 60 minutes. 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. In the mid-1960s, Bernard Madoff tapped money from Jewish businessmen at exclusive country clubs with the promise of steady guaranteed returns on their investments. He then set his sights on Europe and Latin America, brokering deals with powerful hedge fund managers and feeder funds from Buenos Aires to Geneva. Billions of dollars were channeled to Madoff’s investment firm, and his feeders became fabulously wealthy. The competition wondered how the man could produce such steady returns in good times and bad. There were allegations that Madoff was “front-running” or operating a Ponzi scheme, which the SEC investigated several times over the last two decades. But Madoff remained untouched until Dec. 11, 2008, when he admitted it was all “one big lie.” Frontline producers Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria unravel the story behind the world’s first truly global Ponzi scheme — a deception that lasted longer, reached wider and cut deeper than any other business scandal in history.

Scam of the Century!

Documentary CNBC 2008 PG 43 minutes. As the far-reaching, devastating scandal unfolds, CNBC delves into the mind of Bernie Madoff and explores how the alleged scheme worked. Who were the victims in the multibillion-dollar scam?

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 Pursuit of Happyness

Docudrama 2006 PG-13 117 minutes. Will Smith earned an Oscar nomination for an inspiring performance opposite his real-life son Jaden in this tearjerker about a struggling single parent who’s determined to build a better life for his family. Chris Gardner (Smith) is smart and talented, but his dead-end salesman job barely pays the bills. When he and his son are evicted, they face trying times as a desperate Chris accepts an unpaid internship at a stock brokerage firm.

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

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.

Bigger than Enron

Documentary Frontline 2002. The stupendous collapse of Enron represented just the tip of the iceberg in a system poised for failure due to market deregulation and outright fraud, as this illuminating installment of PBS’s “Frontline” series reveals. Through numerous interviews with Securities and Exchange Commission officials, members of Congress, corporate insiders and others, seasoned journalist Hedrick Smith explores the factors that badly damaged the U.S. market system.The meteoric rise and stunning collapse of Enron caused many to question why the watchdog system that was supposed to protect investors failed to sound any alarms about the company’s dubious financial underpinnings. But Enron and its auditor, Arthur Andersen, are the tip of the iceberg. In the late 1990s, Enron was just one of the more than 400 corporations forced to dramatically restate their value because of accounting lapses, failures, or fraud. What went wrong? Through interviews with SEC officials, corporate executives, members of Congress, and investor advocates, Frontline examines an oversight system gone soft and explores how market deregulation and conflicts of interest between accountants and the companies they were auditing eroded the system of controls designed to protect stockholders from investment fraud

The Family Man

Drama 2000 PG-13 126 minutes. In this modern-day riff on Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, cutthroat investment banker Jack, who eschews emotional ties, is transported into the life he might have had if he wed his college sweetheart.

Rogue Trader

Docudrama 1999 R 101 minutes. Based on a true story, this absorbing drama stars Ewan McGregor as a hotshot futures trader whose high-risk financial activities ultimately result in the collapse of England’s oldest and most respected merchant bank. By Daisy Miller: “That’s all the market is, one big casino.” So says Ewan McGregor’s character in 1999’s “Rogue Trader”. This is the true story of Nick Leeson (skillfully played by McGregor), a British stock trader who was working in Singapore in the mid 1990’s on behalf of Barings Bank, one of London’s oldest financial institutions. He wanted to make the big time, so secretly used Barings’s own money to buy on margin. As his losses got worse, his scheme got harder to cover up. And when the whole thing came to a head, Barings had lost an astonishing $1.6 billion. “Rogue Trader” is a fascinating look at the psychology of fraud: Incentive, opportunity, capability, and rationalization. The mechanics of the fraud will be a bit difficult to understand watching the movie because even if you have a decent understanding of futures markets (which I confess, I don’t), the action is very fast-paced. But you don’t need to understand the mechanics of the ruse to enjoy this movie and learn something about the psychology of one type of white-collar crime. Intriguing and highly recommended. A cunning scoundrel in exotic Singapore single-handedly brings down Barings Bank, established two centuries ago and one of England?s foremost financial institutions. Another wildly improbable sting flick? Not at all – the story is based on actual events and the film sticks pretty close to the facts. Nick Leeson, brilliant and ambitious young trader, superstar of the Singapore stock market, incurs staggering losses. Unwilling to jeopardize his prospects for advancement, he tries to cover his tracks by pulling non-existent rabbits out of imaginary hats. The literally gut-wrenching stress of this Sisyphusian endeavor is illustrated by Leeson’s frequent bouts of vomiting (he later underwent surgery to remove a tumor along with part of his colon and large intestine while in prison, and chemotherapy after being released). The film’s flaw is that it glosses over the bank’s role in the disaster. Barings turned a neophyte loose in an foreign arena with total control of the operation and minimal supervision. Putting the same individual in charge of both the front office and back office is tantamount to having the wolf guard the henhouse. The official report of the Bank of England concluded that Barings’ failure to segregate Leeson’s duties was “reprehensible,” and those with “direct executive responsibility for establishing effective controls must bear much of the blame.” Yet little mention is made of this in the film. And the mechanizations of the stock market are downright incomprehensible at times.

The Crash (of 1999)

Documentary Frontline 1999. Frontline explores the global crisis that began as a real estate bust in Thailand and roared through the worlds economy from Bangkok to Jakarta to Moscow to Wall Street. On August 31, 1998, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 512 points, wiping out stock market gains for the entire year. In the United States, small investors watched more than half a trillion dollars of their savings disappear. Fear spread that the global economy was falling apart. The program gathers some of the worlds leading financial analysts to unravel the reasons for the crash of 1998 and to predict whether and when it will happen again. The web site will take a closer look at how the 1998 world financial crisis played out in one country; examine the most significant ideas under discussion for reforming the global economic system; and, will present more of the in-depth interviews with the experts as well as a special readings and links section.

Betting on the Market

Documentary Frontline 1997. For fourteen years, Wall Street has produced record gains and has been embraced by America as the place where hopes and dreams can be realized — but does America understand the nature of the risk? Since the beginning of the 1980s, close to half the nation has invested in the stock market directly or through mutual funds, which now hold three trillion dollars of the American public’s money. Frontline traces the seduction of an entire generation of Americans into the stock market and looks at its implications for the nation. The program follows Garrett Van Wagoner, one of the nation’s hottest mutual fund managers, and tells the story of Peter Lynch, celebrated manager of Fidelity’s Magellan Fund.

The Associate

Comedy 1996 PG-13 114 minutes. When Laurel (Whoopi Goldberg) learns that her less-smart and sexist protégé, Frank (Tim Daly), is promoted, she quits to start her own company — only to find out that the male-dominated Wall Street world can’t take an African American woman seriously. And when her older, white, male business partner becomes the financial district’s favored whiz, things really take a turn for the worse. Dianne Wiest co-stars in this comedy.

Barbarians at the Gate

Docucomedy 1993 R 107 minutes. This seriocomedy based on the RJR-Nabisco leveraged buyout neatly encapsulates the greed that became synonymous with the 1980s. James Garner has never been better as charming, covetous CEO F. Ross Johnson. Johnson grabs for the brass ring when he tries to buy out the conglomerate, only to run up against investment banker Henry Kravis (Jonathan Pryce), who gave him the idea.Includes account of leveraged buyout.

Working Girl

Drama 1988 R 116 minutes. Industrious secretary Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) dreams of climbing the corporate ladder and may be on her way after landing a job with Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), a top brokerage firm executive. When a skiing mishap puts Katharine out of commission, the secretary discovers her boss has stolen Tess’ idea for saving a client. Hooking up with investment broker Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), Tess takes over the deal and turns the tables.

J. Pierpont Morgan
Emperor of Wall Street

Documentary 1996 TV-PG 44m. An art collector and incomparable financier, J. Pierpont Morgan twice rescued the American economy from the brink of bankruptcy yet was regularly denounced as a robber baron. With his stunning Wall Street success, Morgan amassed one of the country’s biggest fortunes and ultimately exercised as much clout as the president. This absorbing installment of “Biography” profiles the legendary banker and wheeler-dealer via interviews and archival film.

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J. Pierpont Morgan

Emperor of Wall Street

Documentary 1996 TV-PG 44m. An art collector and incomparable financier, J. Pierpont Morgan twice rescued the American economy from the brink of bankruptcy yet was regularly denounced as a robber baron. With his stunning Wall Street success, Morgan amassed one of the country’s biggest fortunes and ultimately exercised as much clout as the president. This absorbing installment of “Biography” profiles the legendary banker and wheeler-dealer via interviews and archival film.

The Crash of 1929

Documentary American Experience 2009 NR 60 minutes. This installment of PBS’s “American Experience” explores the devastating stock market crash of 1929 through discussions with descendents of several Wall Street titans who manipulated the market and made millions in the 1920s. Interviewees include the families of Wall Street insider Jesse Livermore, stock specialist Michael Meehan and General Motors founder William Durant, as well as Groucho Marx’s son, Arthur.

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Must-See Movies—For What You Need to Know