The Most Memorable Movies About Wall Street
Updated · Apr 06, 2022
Wall Street is a place of high finance and intense business. It's also the backdrop for some great movies.
Here is a list of eleven excellent films and documentaries that take place on Wall Street or are related to the world of high finance in some way.
We also drop a few honorable mentions at the end.
Wall Street Films
Most of the films in our list are based on true stories. Quite a few of them focus on the big Wall Street crash caused by the housing crisis in 2008.
The Big Short (2015)
The Big Short is a 2015 American biographical comedy-drama. It is directed by Adam McKay and written by McKay and Michael Lewis.
The film is about the 2007–2008 financial crisis and the subsequent recession. It stars Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and other big names.
It ranks among the top Wall Street movies. Viewers praise it for portraying what happened in broad strokes while still being entertaining. Plus, it hosts a brilliant ensemble cast.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street is a biographical black comedy crime film. It is written by Terence Winter, directed by Martin Scorsese, and based on a memoir by Jordan Belfort.
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort, Margot Robbie as his wife Naomi Lapaglia, Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff, Kyle Chandler as FBI agent Patrick Denham, Rob Reiner as Max Belfort, Jon Favreau as Saul Steinberg, Joanna Lumley as Aunt Emma, and Jean Dujardin as Yves Saint-Laurent.
No Wall Street movies list would be complete without it. The film grossed $392 million worldwide.
What’s more, it received five nominations for Academy Awards. Although it’s a true story, commentators point out that it took some liberties for the sake of entertainment and flare.
Margin Call (2011)
Margin Call is a financial thriller written and directed by J. C. Chandor. It stars Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci.
Being another one of the movies about the Wall Street crash, it’s set in the days leading up to the financial crisis of 2007–2008.
In it, Margin Call tells the story of an investment bank that, over a period of eighteen hours, teeters on the brink of collapse.
The film had a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and received critical acclaim.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, 93% of critics left a positive comment. It has an average rating of seven based on 165 reviews.
Boiler Room (2000)
Boiler Room is a movie about Wall Street corruption. It was directed by Ben Younger and released in 2000.
It stars Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Ben Affleck, Nicky Katt, and Jamie Kennedy. The film tells the story of a group of young stockbrokers who work for a fictional company on Wall Street.
Younger got the inspiration from an article in "The New Yorker" about the Pump and Dump scams. He worked on the screenplay for two years and then pitched it to various studios.
The film received mixed reviews. That said, the audience appeared to enjoy it more than the critics did.
Wall Street (1987)
No list of films about Wall Street would be complete without… well… Wall Street! The 1987 American drama. It is directed and written by Oliver Stone and stars Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, and Daryl Hannah.
The film tells the story of the young stockbroker Bud Fox. He becomes involved with a wealthy, unscrupulous corporate raider called Gordon Gekko.
The film received seven Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. It won two—Best Actor (Douglas) and Best Original Screenplay (Stone).
Rogue Trader (1999)
This next one isn’t strictly Wall Street. It’s a fixture of lists of banking movies giving a glimpse into the often dirty world of high finance.
Rogue Trader was directed by James Dearden and starred Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel.
The 1999 British biographical drama is based on the memoirs of Nick Leeson—an employee of Barings Bank who caused the bank’s collapse in 1995.
Leeson worked as a clerk in the bank's Singapore office and made unauthorized trades that led to losses of over £800 million.
After being caught, he attempted to cover up his losses by falsifying account documents. His deception was eventually uncovered, and the bank collapsed.
Barbarians at the Gate (1993)
Barbarians at the Gate is a 1993 American television finance film. It is based on Bryan Burrough and John Helyar’s book.
The film was directed by Glenn Jordan and starred James Garner as H. Ross Perot, Peter Riegert as Henry Kravis, and Swoosie Kurtz as Ruth Harkness.
It tells the story of the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco by KKR and the subsequent battle for control of the company between Perot and Kravis.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
The Pursuit of Happyness is a 2006 American biographical financial drama film based on the life of Christopher Gardner.
The film is directed by Gabriele Muccino and stars Will Smith. He plays Gardner, a homeless man who goes on to become a successful Wall Street stockbroker.
The real-life Christopher Gardner was heavily involved in the production of the movie. He worked as a producer and an on-screen advisor.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Still, it was successful at the box office, grossing over $264 million worldwide.
It also garnered significant awards recognition. Will Smith won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Wall Street Documentaries
Now let’s take a look at a few documentaries about Wall Street.
Sure, they aren’t as flashy as movies about Wall Street. Still, they offer a unique and unfiltered view into the world of finance and business.
They provide an opportunity for audiences to see the inner workings of the stock market and learn about the characters and companies that drive it.
They often tell the story of the history of Wall Street and how it has evolved over time.
Inside Job (2010)
Inside Job is a Wall Street documentary about the 2007–2008 financial crisis.
Directed by Charles Ferguson, it examines the causes of the crisis and its effects on the world economy. It offers a precise analysis and has the benefit of hindsight on the events.
The film was well-received by critics. They praise its comprehensiveness and investigative nature.
It also received Academy Awards nominations for Best Original Song and Best Documentary Feature. What’s more, it won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary.
Frontline Inside The Meltdown
The documentary "Frontline Inside The Meltdown" is one of the best Wall Street documentary films. It also provides an in-depth look at the 2008 financial crisis.
The film chronicles the events that led up to the crash, featuring interviews with key figures who were involved.
It differs from other documentaries in that it focuses on the US Government’s reaction to the crash.
It's key viewing for anyone who wants to understand what happened during this much-discussed crisis.
Eron: The Smartest Guys In The Room (2005)
“Eron: The Smartest Guys In The Room” is a Wall Street documentary. It was directed by Alex Gibney and released in 2005.
It tells the story of Enron, a Texas-based energy company that went bankrupt in 2001 after a massive financial fraud.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. However, it was a box office success, grossing over $4 million worldwide.
The Eron incident is often considered the best example of corporate corruption. The company also serves as inspiration for one of the items in the next part of our round-up.
Here we have a few items that touch on Wall Street or have it as a backdrop. That said, they aren’t movies about Wall Street specifically, yet they add to the picture of this cornerstone of the American psyche.
American Psycho is a dark comedy-thriller that examines the social world of finance.
The film follows Patrick Bateman, a young investment banker who is obsessed with wealth and status. He is also a psychopath and takes pleasure in violence and murder.
American Psycho caused controversy when it was first released. The book that inspired it, written by Bret Easton Ellis, still carries a warning on the cover in some regions.
While this film is often lambasted for wanton displays of violence, it’s gained a cult following of fans. They appreciate its parodying of the late 80s “yuppie” culture and memeable quotes. Although its main focus isn’t on the financial world, it is a frequent mention in lists of good Wall Street movies.
Trading Places is a classic Wall Street comedy. It’s one of Eddy Murphy’s most popular films.
The script follows two investment bankers, Louis Winthorpe III and Billy Ray Valentine, who are taken down in a bet by the ruthless Duke brothers.
Winthorpe is framed for a crime he didn't commit, and Valentine is given his job. But the two men soon learn how to take advantage of the system and set out to take revenge on the Duke brothers.
Trading Places is a hilarious Wall Street movie with plenty of stockbroker satire.
Fun fact: This film is set in the same universe as another Eddy Murphy classic—Coming To America.
Mr Robot is a critically acclaimed TV series that explores the world of cybercrime and hacking. But the show also offers critiques of corporate capitalism and how it can lead to inequality and corruption.
The main antagonists of the series are “E-Corp,” which has a logo strikingly similar to Eron’s.
It’s interesting to note that throughout the series, characters change sides. But the “corporation” and its elite as a construct are the ever-present threat.
Wall Street films give us an insight into the high finance world in an easily digestible and accessible way.
This is by no means an absolute list. Still, it should be more than enough to get you started if you want to dive into the hub of finance.
So check out our list of documentaries and movies about Wall Street and pick your winner for movie night.
With an eye for research, Aleksandra is determined to always get to the bottom of things. If there’s a glitch in the system, she’ll find it and make sure you know about it.