Top 10 Finance Movies and TV Shows

Jul 14, 2021 | Off-Topic

Finance is an intrinsic part of everyday life, and whether you like it or not – you are either directly or indirectly exposed to the world of investment finance. For practitioners, movies and TV shows can provide motivation and remind us of why we chose to be a part of the global financial system. For aspiring financiers and students, finance movies might provide a glimpse of what working in the industry was and is like.

In this list, you will find 10 films and TV shows that are closely tied to finance, banking, and markets. I have purposefully excluded documentaries, which deserve their own eventual post. Keep in mind, this list is highly subjective and is made in no particular order.

So, sit back, power off your Terminal, and tune in to one of these great productions.

5 Essential Movies About Finance

Starting off, here are five must-see movies about finance.

1. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Wolf of Wall Street movie poster

I have a good reason for putting WoWS first on this list, and that’s because it inspired countless individuals to pursue a career in finance. Is it a bit misguided to want to enter the world of finance only because of Wolf of Wall Street? Absolutely. Does the movie glorify unethical behavior in financial markets? Yes – but it also brings it to light, which is even more important.

2. The Big Short (2015)

The Big Short movie poster

This is my favorite movie. In fact, on many occasions, I’ve subjected incoming analysts and interns to watching the film as an extracurricular part of onboarding. Moreover, I like The Big Short for its ability to simplify the relatively complicated financial processes that led to the Global Financial Crisis. You don’t have to be a finance nerd to enjoy this film, and casual viewers will be able to understand why financial markets are of interest to you.

3. Wall Street (1987) & Wall Street (2010)

Wall Street 1987 and Wall Street Money Never Sleeps (2010), movie posters

It’s been a while since I watched either the original and the sequel, but the former is prerequisite viewing material for any job on Wall Street. The film will either excite you, or enrage you, but then again – that’s Wall Street. Just don’t get caught wearing a Gekko shirt with suspenders, until you at least make Managing Director at your firm.

4. Margin Call (2011)

Margin Call movie poster

Hollywood has tried many times to capture the fallout of the mortgage crisis on screen, most of the time aiming to portray it in a relatable sense. Margin Call takes a completely different approach by showing us the behind-the-scenes of a collapsing Wall Street investment bank. While this might not be the best movie to show your friends or family, it offers the most accurate portrayal of corporate politics and will send shivers down your spine. Trigger warning even if you were around during the GFC.

5. Rogue Trader (1999)

Rogue Trader movie poster

Remember when open-outcry was the primary means of routing trades? Neither do I. Rogue Trader follows the life and trading shenanigans of Nick Leeson, the trader that bankrupted Barings Bank, one of Britain’s older merchant banks. Just goes to show how far we’ve come from open-outcry to today’s ECN execution systems.

5 Best Finance TV Series

While most of my colleagues have seen the films listed above, good television series about finance seem to fly under everyone’s radars. Here are some of the ones worth watching.

1. Billions (2016 – Ongoing)

Billions TV Show Poster

Billions to traders and hedgies (hedge fund employees), is what Suits is to lawyers. The covers the life of hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod as he evades prosecution from Chuch Rhoades, United States Attorney for Southern District of New York. The show’s first two seasons are based partly on the insider trading allegations of S.A.C. Capital Advisors (now, Point 72 Capital), and the book “Black Edge” by Sheelah Kolhatkar. Incredibly entertaining.

2. Black Monday (2019 – Ongoing)

Black Monday Tv Show Poster

Black Monday is a comedy about a trading office in the 1980s that aims to challenge the old-boys club of Wall Street. Think of The Office, but on Wall Street, and it’s the 80s, and there’s a Lamborghini limousine. Need I say more?

3. Industry (2020 – Ongoing)

Industry TV Show poster

I haven’t personally seen Industry, but plan on it in the near future. The plot revolves around a cohort of graduates entering the investment banking world at different positions at a bulge bracket bank in London. The show is produced by HBO and BBC, which is promising. I’ll make sure to update my take once I have seen it.

4. Bad Banks (2018 – 2020)

Bad Banks TV Show Poster

Here’s one that most miss, but unfortunately it’s only available in German. The plot revolves around a young banker that receives an offer for her dream job in Frankfurt. The show deals with corporate espionage, greed, and insider trading, much like Billions, but with a European twist. Worthwhile even if you don’t speak German.

5. Silicon Valley (2014 – 2019)

TV show poster for Silicon Valley

While not necessarily a finance TV show, if you work in TMT private equity, fintech, or venture capital, then this show is for you. The comedy follows a tech start-up called Pied Piper and chronicles the trials and tribulations of working in the highly competitive tech scene of Palo Alto. A must-watch if you’re working at a high-growth startup.

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