There’s nothing like curling up on the couch and losing yourself in a movie. Beyond enjoying the hours of entertainment, there’s also a lot to be learned from the various lessons films provide. In fact, Hollywood has a way of making mundane topics such as finance more interesting and engaging for everyday consumers who may otherwise fail to learn about it on their own. There are a host of motion pictures dedicated to financial issues, whether you prefer action and thriller, comedy or drama.
Here’s a look at the 10 best finance movies of the last decade:
- “Margin Call”
- “Too Big to Fail”
- “The Wolf of Wall Street”
- “The Gambler”
- “The Big Short”
- “Playing with FIRE”
- “Generation Freedom”
- “Crazy Rich Asians”
Movies about sports are a dime a dozen, but “Moneyball” explores more than just how to play the perfect baseball game. In fact, this drama also offers financial lessons, looking at how to do more with less, says Nick Loper, founder of SideHustleNation.com, a resource for people looking to make extra money or start a business in their spare time. The film, based on Michael Lewis’ book: “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” takes you through the financial challenges faced by the Oakland Athletics baseball team. However, using a unique recruiting strategy, the manager was able to build a competitive team regardless of their tight budget. The lesson? Tracking your expenses and eliminating unnecessary purchases is essential to reaching your goals.
“Margin Call” (2011)
Everyone knows that the 2008 market crash left millions of Americans in financial turmoil, but not everyone understands why or how. That’s where “Margin Call” comes in – this action-packed thriller takes you behind the scenes into the high-stakes financial world right before the housing bubble burst. It’s astonishing to see how several key players from an investment firm reacted after they realized their mortgage-backed assets held no value. What they did leading up to the economic meltdown is eye-opening.
“Too Big to Fail” (2011)
American workers weren’t the only ones suffering financially following the economic collapse in 2008. U.S. companies both small and large also experienced the financial wrath, which threatened global economic stability. “Too Big to Fail” explored why several important institutions including AIG, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and the Big Three auto companies received financial relief funds from the government to avoid total economic collapse, which shed light on how the U.S. economy functions.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)
Chasing the American dream is an honorable goal, but greed can quickly take over when it comes to money – and no film portrays this better than “Wolf of Wall Street.” This action-packed thriller takes you on a wild ride following New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who scams his way from middle class to billionaire, with no regard of who he crushes on the way to the top. In the end, greed catches up to him, leading to financial ruin and jail time. Although there are many financial lessons to take away from this movie, perhaps the most important is that more money doesn’t equal more happiness.
“The Gambler” (2014)
Gambling can be fun in doses, but those who take it too far can cause irreparable financial damage, as this film explores. Beyond showcasing the dark side of gambling, “The Gambler” also highlights another important financial lesson: Saving money now allows you more freedom later, as explained by the lead character played by John Goodman. After all, it’s a lot easier to leave a job you’re unhappy with when you have money saved in the bank.
“The Big Short” (2015)
The market turmoil of 2008 can be a cumbersome topic, but “The Big Short” makes it entertaining, offering endless scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat as it takes you through the series of events that led to the housing market crisis. The most important financial lesson to take away from this film is how the greed of a corrupt group of financial professionals can devastate the lives of millions of Americans throughout the country.
“Playing with FIRE: The Documentary” (2019)
Most people accept the typical way of living, working five days a week for 40 years before finally retiring at age 65 or later. But what if life could be different and you could have more freedom? ”Playing with FIRE” explores just that. This documentary about the Financial Independence, Retire Early movement, commonly known as FIRE, follows multiple people through their real-life journeys toward financial independence and early retirement, questioning societal standards about the traditional work schedule and consumer spending. Ultimately, viewers are challenged to consider the possibilities of forgoing excessive spending in exchange for fewer financial restrictions and more lifestyle flexibility.
“It’s a reminder that wealth is invisible; the flashiest spenders might not have a strong balance sheet and vice versa,” says Paula Pant, founder of AffordAnything.com and host of the Afford Anything podcast, who also was interviewed in this documentary.
“Generation: Freedom” (2019)
If you ever feel like you’re wasting your life on long commutes and pointless meetings rather than spending time with people you care about or seeing the world, “Generation: Freedom” will help you discover a new way of living and working. “This movie shows how it’s possible to design the lifestyle you want by working from your laptop from anywhere around the globe and building passive income streams that allow for flexible lifestyles,” Pant says. The film highlights the true stories of various people of all ages and backgrounds about how they built income streams around their ideal lifestyle, rather than forcing their life to fit around their work. You just may learn how to build your own dream life after watching.
Wealth gaps are prominent throughout the world, but just how much money shapes the way people live and interact becomes apparent in the movie “Parasite.” This film offers a thoughtful portrayal of class, inequality and the relationship between the wealthy and the poor, says Stefanie O’Connell, personal finance author at stefanieoconnell.com. “What’s particularly compelling to me about this film is how characters on both sides of the wealth divide are flawed, messy and complicated, and the true villain in this story is no one person but the system that pits the characters against each other and shapes their actions and ultimately their destructive outcomes.”
“Crazy Rich Asians” (2018)
“Crazy Rich Asians” is anything but your typical finance-focused film. In fact, this romantic comedy looks deeper at how money impacts personal relationships, following lovebirds Rachel and Nick as they take a trip to visit his family in Singapore. It is at this point that for the first time in their relationship, Rachel realizes just how wealthy Nick’s family is. Though many would assume this brings happiness, it actually causes concern. After all, regardless of how much or little money your partner has, failing to understand his or her financial matters can cause a divide in a relationship. The lesson here: Couples need to talk about money early on, says Bobbi Rebell, author and personal finance advisor at Splitit, an installment payment-plan service, who suggests talking about spending and saving values to ensure your goals align for the future.