Finance flicks! 10 top financial films to watch in Oscar season

From the Wolf of Wall Street to Money Monster and Margin Call, here are the best finance films (in our opinion).

Oscars season is upon us again!

This year's list of nominations includes nods for Glenn Close (The Wife), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born) and Olivia Coleman (The Favourite). 

But, it struck us, there are a fair few finance flicks out there, and some of the best have been since the financial crash in 2008 - fancy that!

We present to you our own ranking of the best financial films, from 10th to first place. 

Action!

Oscars season is upon us again!

This year's list of nominations includes nods for Glenn Close (The Wife), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born) and Olivia Coleman (The Favourite). 

But, it struck us, there are a fair few finance flicks out there, and some of the best have been since the financial crash in 2008 - fancy that!

We present to you our own ranking of the best financial films, from 10th to first place. 

Action!

10th

Film: Rogue Trader

Year of release: 1999

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Anna Friel, Nigel Lindsay

Plot: Nick Leeson is an outsider in an old boys' investment bank, but his trading success soon starts to get him noticed by his colleagues, and eventually the world. 

Score: 6.5/10

This is a comparatively low-Budget thriller that never really made waves, but it deserves recognition nevertheless for its take on a true story. Director James Dearden's other credits include Fatal Attraction, but he surely also deserves credit for backing a host of young actors who later become very famous indeed. Special commendation for supporting appearances from Tim McInnerny and Nigel Lindsay, who was actually a City analyst before turning his attention to the stage. 

9th

Film: Boiler Room

Year of release: 2000

Starring: Ben Affleck, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long

Plot: a university drop out desparate for his father's approval ends up working at an investment firm, but is the job as moral as it first appeared? 

Best scene: Ben Affleck's speech to new recruits...

Score: 6.8/10

You might not have heard about Boiler Room, but you will have heard of Boiler Room scams. Featuring a very youthful performance from Vin Diesel, and an appearance from Giovanni Ribisi, who one year previously had starred alongside Vin Diesel as the medic in Saving Private Ryan.

 

8th

Film: A Perfect Murder 

Year of release: 1998

Starring: Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen

Plot: When a top financier discovers his wife's infidelity, his first thought is how he can profit from her death. 

Best scene: the scene on the train!

Score: 6.7/10

Michael Douglas appears twice in this compilation, and for good reason. Combining sinister physicality and an almost perfect 'City' look, viewers are left with a compelling portrayal of a man off the rails. A shout out to Viggo Mortensen too, whose supporting contribution adds rough round the edges flair to an atmosphere of moral collapse. 

 

7th

Film: Arbitrage

Year of release: 2012

Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth

Plot: A Wall Street hedge fund legend is secretly trying to offload his liabilities before his fraudulent activities are uncovered. But when an error forces him to commit an even more personal crime, the police and his family start to smell a rat. Who will get to the truth first?

Best scene: [spoiler alert] the scene where everything goes wrong!

Score: 6.8/10

This film is not at all short on plot but in places comes across as a bit...feeble. Were it not for Richard Gere's slightly flimsly characterisation it would break the 7/10 mark. A special commendation does go to Tim Roth for his very convincing portrayal of a cynical police officer. 

6th

Film: Wall Street 

Year of release: 1987

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, Tamara Tunie

Plot: a young and nimble stockbroker (Sheen) is making a fortune on Wall Street using insider information from a ruthless, and older, ally (Douglas). Will it prove their undoing?

Best scene: 'You wonder why fund managers can't beat the S&P 500? Because they're sheep...'

Score: 7.2/10

The best thing about this film is without doubt the gritty atmosphere. That and the punchy dialogue. A reminder of Sheen's great potential as an actor before it all went wrong... 

5th

Film: Money Monster

Year of release: 2016

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O'Connell 

Plot: Enraged amateur investor Kyle Budwell (O'Connell) has lost his fortune on a stock tip promoted by Lee Gates (Clooney) on his TV programme, and wants revenge. He picks his moment: a live broadcast of the show. 

Score: 7.5/10

This is an unlikely entry in a list of films about finance, as the film did not receive rave reviews (IMDB only gave it 6.5/10), but we feel this is unfair. Clooney's transformation from cocky showman into passionate ally at the hands of his captor is pretty convincing, and Julia Roberts' performance lends investigative nous to a film that - on paper - sounds a bit naff. 

4th

Film: Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room

Year of release: 2005

Plot: this documentary tells the story of America's biggest corporate lie: Enron, the firm whose promise was as big as its eventual failure.

Best scene: the bit with Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Score: 7.9/10

Enron is all about corporate hype, shell companies, fraudulent accounting and a big fat lie involving the Californian electricity supply. A must watch for documentary fans and anyone intrigued by companies deemed too big to fail. 

3rd

Film: Margin Call

Year of release: 2011

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons

Plotline: when a junior analyst at an unanmed bank is handed a memory stick by a departing senior analyst that purports to contain data on the American housing market, he stays up all night uncovering the bank's crippling exposure to the bubble in the mortgage market. 

Best scene: CEO Jeremy Irons asking to have the situation explained to him as though he were a child...

Score: 8.5/10

This film combines an intense set of characters with a genuinely nail-biting 24 hour time frame. It's the only film set entirely in a bank which will genuinely make you scared. 

2nd

Film: The Wolf of Wall Street 

Year of release: 2013

Starring:

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Joanna Lumley, Matthew McConaughey

Plotline: in 1980s America, unemployed trader Jordan Belfort founds his own penny stock trading company. Chaos ensues. 

Best scene: the Lamborghini...

Score: 8.6/10

Leonardo DiCaprio's depiction of rogue trader Jordan Belfort is based on the true story of Belfont's Stratton Oakmont, and certainly *should* have won an oscar (come on, it's way better than The Revenant). This is a roller-coaster of a film, with more drunken drug-fuelled debauchery than you could throw a stick at. 

First place!

Film: The Big Short

Year of release: 2015

Starring:

Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Selena Gomez, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale

Plotline: In 2007, several very different groups of investors stumble across a gigantic bubble in the American subprime mortgage market. A race against time follows, to substantiate the discovery and bet on it. 

Best scene: Selena Gomez explaining credit derivatives. 

Score: 9.6/10

A timely reminder of the heady ignorance that lead to the collapse of the global economy, it is difficult to pinpoint one specific thing that makes this film so outstanding. The star-studded cast, quirky story telling style and dramatic characterisations are all absolutely fantastic. 

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