What Makes a Great Stock Market Movie?

If you love trading, you love everything about trading. You probably wake up, check the markets, review CNBC, and check in with your favorite community before you're even out of bed. This passion resonates in so many areas of our lives, including cinema. With that in mind, we polled the Chart Guys community and asked our members what some of their favorite movies/documentaries were about the stock market! Below you will find the list of the TCG winners along with a little bit of information. As we are always about learning at TCG, we've also included a key lesson that the movie can impart to students of the markets. So, strap in, and check out the TCG Top 10 Stock Market Movies.

Wall Street Movies

These films explore the exhilarating yet perilous journey of traders and financiers who navigate through the volatile markets, showcasing the opulence, risks, and moral dilemmas that define the heart of Wall Street. Perfect for those fascinated by the allure of high finance and the dramatic shifts that can alter fortunes overnight.

The Wolf of Wall Street - 2013

wolf of wall street

"The Wolf of Wall Street," is frequently brought up in TCG community discussions for its infamous portrayal of the excesses of Wall Street. Directed by Martin Scorsese and led by Leonardo DiCaprio's powerhouse performance, this film blends dark humor with a critical look at financial greed and corruption.

Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, "The Wolf of Wall Street" chronicles Belfort's meteoric rise in the late 80s and 90s as he founded his brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont. Known for its aggressive sales tactics and the fraudulent pump-and-dump schemes that made Belfort a fortune, Stratton Oakmont becomes synonymous with the worst of Wall Street excess: drugs, sex, and, of course, money.

As Belfort's wealth grows, so does his ego and appetite for risk, leading him down a path of legal troubles and personal destruction. The film doesn't shy away from depicting the lavish lifestyle that Belfort's ill-gotten gains afforded him and his employees, but it also highlights the eventual consequences of his actions, both for himself and those swindled by his firm.

Lessons for Traders

The Dangers of Greed:

Belfort's story is a vivid illustration of the consequences of flouting regulations and engaging in fraudulent activities. It highlights the significance of transparency, integrity, and the long-term impacts of one's actions on the market and society at large.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - 2010

money never sleeps

The film picks up with Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas), being released from prison, a man out of time and struggling to find his place in a world that has moved on without him. He attempts to rebuild his relationship with his estranged daughter, Winnie (played by Carey Mulligan), with the help of her fiancé, Jacob Moore (played by Shia LaBeouf), a young and idealistic stockbroker.

As Jacob navigates the treacherous waters of Wall Street, he finds himself drawn to Gekko's knowledge and charisma, seeking his mentorship in a world brimming with greed and corruption. The movie intricately weaves personal and financial dramas, as Jacob battles a ruthless hedge fund manager (played by Josh Brolin) while trying to avert a financial disaster and secure a future with Winnie.

"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" examines the impact of technological advancements on trading, the moral ambiguities of the finance world, and the complex relationships between personal integrity, professional ambition, and familial loyalty.

Lessons for Traders

Adaptation and Innovation:

Reflecting on the changes in the financial industry since Gekko's heyday, the film speaks to the necessity of adapting to new technologies and innovations in the market.

Boiler Room - 2000

This is another movie that was a popular winner in one of our 'favorite movie' polls, and it is a gritty, fast-paced dive into the high-pressure world of stockbroking and the ethical quandaries that come with it. Directed by Ben Younger, this movie serves as a cautionary tale about the seductive power of quick money and the dark side of Wall Street.

This film takes us into the adrenaline-fueled life of Seth Davis, an ambitious college dropout who's eager to prove his worth far from the shadow of his disapproving father. Seth's quest for success leads him to JT Marlin, a small brokerage firm with the promise of big money, fast cars, and a lifestyle most can only dream of. But there's a catch—the firm operates through high-pressure sales tactics to sell worthless stocks to unsuspecting buyers.

As Seth dives deeper into the world of JT Marlin, he is torn between the intoxicating allure of easy wealth and his growing ethical concerns about the firm's operations. The film masterfully depicts the moral dilemmas faced by those caught in the pursuit of success at any cost, highlighting the consequences of greed and corruption.

Lessons for Traders

The Importance of Integrity:

This forces us to consider the psychological aspects of trading and sales, including the pressure to succeed and the impact of making decisions that can affect the financial well-being of others. It encourages traders to reflect on their practices and the long-term implications of their actions, not just for themselves but for the market as a whole.

Finance Movies

Finance movies offer a captivating look into the complex machinery of the financial sector, blending the thrill of investment battles with the critical analysis of economic principles. These films often focus on the broader impact of financial decisions on individuals and societies, unraveling the intricacies of economic crises and the resilience needed to overcome them. Ideal for viewers seeking a deeper understanding of the forces shaping our economy.

The Big Short - 2015

big short

"The Big Short" navigates the buildup to the 2008 financial crisis through the eyes of a few savvy outsiders who saw what no one else could—the impending collapse of the housing market. This isn't your typical dry financial tale; it's peppered with quirky breaks to explain complex financial instruments and decisions in layman's terms, making it a goldmine of information presented in an unexpectedly digestible format.

The movie follows Michael Burry, Jared Vennett, Mark Baum, and Ben Rickert—each playing a different role in predicting and profiting from the looming disaster. These characters, based on real-life figures, decide to take on the big banks by betting against the housing market through a financial instrument called the credit default swap.

As the plot thickens, "The Big Short" showcases the complexity of financial instruments, the moral ambiguities of banking practices, and the sheer scale of denial and corruption that led to the crisis.

Lessons for Traders

The Importance of Critical Thinking:

This movie underscores the value of contrarian thinking in a market driven by herd mentality, the critical need for rigorous research and due diligence, and the ethical considerations that come with trading decisions. This Chart Guys member suggestion is not just a film; it's a conversation starter about the nature of the financial industry, the importance of transparency, and the need for individual accountability in trading.

Too Big to Fail - 2011

too big to fail

When Dan recommends a movie, you know it's going to be more than just entertainment—it's going to be a lesson wrapped in a cinematic experience. "Too Big to Fail" is precisely that, a gripping film that delves deep into the financial crisis of 2008, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the moments leading up to the collapse.

This movie centers around key figures such as Henry Paulson, the then U.S. Treasury Secretary, and other major players in the government and Wall Street, including CEOs of major banks.

The film meticulously documents the panic, the negotiations, and the sheer desperation to avert an economic disaster following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It's a tale of power, greed, and the controversial concept that some institutions are so vital to the economy that they cannot be allowed to fail, lest they drag the entire system down with them.

Through intense boardroom dramas and urgent backdoor negotiations, "Too Big to Fail" reveals the complexities of the financial system and the intricacies of the decisions that were made in an attempt to stabilize the teetering economy. It brings to light the ethical and moral dilemmas faced by those at the helm, highlighting the tension between doing what is right for the public and what is necessary to save the financial system.

Lessons for Traders

Interconnectedness of Global Markets:

This movie underscores the significance of being aware of the broader economic environment in which individual trading decisions are made. It's not just a recount of past events; it's a lesson about the importance of regulation, transparency, and the need for vigilance to prevent a similar crisis in the future.

Inside Job - 2010

"Inside Job" is another review focused on the 2008 financial meltdown, starting from its origins in the deregulation of the financial industry during the late 20th century, through to the creation and collapse of the housing bubble, and finally, the aftermath that left millions around the world in financial ruin. Through interviews with financiers, politicians, journalists, and academics, the film is both informative and infuriating, shedding light on the complex web of relationships and decisions that brought the world to the brink of economic disaster.

The documentary is divided into five parts, each focusing on different aspects of the crisis, from the rise of risky financial instruments and the failure of regulatory agencies to the conflicts of interest within rating agencies and the academic community. "Inside Job" not only explores the mechanics of the crisis but also the systemic greed and corruption that enabled it, highlighting the lack of accountability and the consequences faced by the general public, contrasted with the bailout and continued prosperity of many involved in causing the crisis.

Lessons for Traders

Understanding Systemic Risk:

The movie provides a clear example of how interconnected and vulnerable the global financial system can be. It emphasizes the importance of understanding systemic risks and the potential cascading effects of financial instruments and decisions.

Financial Thrillers and Documentaries

For a gripping exploration of the darker side of finance, financial thrillers and documentaries reveal the true stories and fictionalized accounts of fraud, corruption, and the quest for redemption within the global financial system. These films uncover the scams, scandals, and regulatory battles that have left indelible marks on the industry, providing both cautionary tales and enlightening insights into the ethics and challenges of the financial world.

China Hustle - 2017

the china hustle

Picture this: it's right after the 2008 financial crash, and investors are scrambling for solid ground and better returns. Enter China, with its booming economy and companies seemingly poised for explosive growth. But here's the twist—through a loophole called a reverse merger, these Chinese companies get listed on U.S. stock markets without the usual checks and balances.

What unfolds is a saga of deception, greed, and a quest for truth by a few daring investigators. They dive deep, uncovering that many of these companies are not what they seem, leading to one of the most audacious financial scams in recent history. It's a wild ride from start to finish, showing us the lengths people will go to for wealth, and the vigilance needed to protect ourselves from getting hustled.

Lessons for Traders

Due Diligence is Non-negotiable:

One of the primary lessons from the documentary is the critical importance of conducting thorough due diligence before making any investment. The film illustrates how a lack of rigorous scrutiny allowed numerous Chinese companies to defraud investors. For traders, this underscores the need to research and verify the financial health, business operations, and regulatory compliance of any company before investing.

Betting on Zero - 2016

betting on zero

"Betting on Zero" unfolds as a financial thriller, chronicling Ackman's crusade against Herbalife, which he claims is a pyramid scheme detrimental to the financial lives of millions of people around the world. The documentary dives deep into the mechanics of MLM companies, the lives affected by Herbalife's business practices, and the clash between Ackman's short-selling campaign and Herbalife's defenders, including another billionaire, Carl Icahn, who takes the opposite bet.

As the story moves along, the documentary presents a broader examination of the American dream, the allure of entrepreneurship, and the dark side of an unregulated market that allows for the existence and growth of companies like Herbalife. It's a gripping tale of greed, hope, and the relentless pursuit of justice, with a close look at the individuals caught in the crossfire of this financial showdown.

Lessons for Traders

Risk and Rewards in Short Selling:

Viewers are prompted to consider whether short selling is a legitimate investment strategy aimed at correcting overvalued stocks and exposing corporate malfeasance, or whether it can be an exploitative tactic that harms companies and their stakeholders.

Rogue Trader - 1999

rogue trader

This flick takes us on a journey to the early '90s, where we meet Nick Leeson, an ambitious young man dispatched to Singapore to head the futures trading on the Singapore Monetary Exchange for Barings Bank. Leeson's initial success masks the dangerous game he's playing—engaging in unauthorized speculative trading, which spirals out of control as he tries to trade his way out of one bad position after another.

As losses mount, Leeson resorts to hiding them in a secret account, erroneously believing he can turn the situation around. However, the inevitable discovery of the fraud led to the shocking collapse of Barings Bank in 1995, with losses amounting to $1.4 billion. "Rogue Trader" skillfully captures the thrilling yet perilous nature of financial trading and the catastrophic consequences of failing to manage risk properly.

Lessons for Traders

Risk Management:

The film illustrates the devastating effects of poor risk management and the importance of having robust systems in place to prevent catastrophic losses. It highlights the need for traders to understand and respect the risk exposure associated with their positions.

Trading Places - 1983

trading places

The story revolves around Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd), a wealthy, snobbish commodities broker, and Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy), a streetwise hustler. Their lives are thrown into disarray by the callous wager of two wealthy brothers, Randolph and Mortimer Duke, who own a brokerage firm. The Dukes bet on the question of nature vs. nurture by arranging for Winthorpe to be framed for theft and drug possession, leading to his downfall, while Valentine is picked off the streets and placed in Winthorpe's position.

As Valentine rises to success in the brokerage firm, Winthorpe, with the help of Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis), seeks to clear his name and reclaim his life. Eventually, the two men discover the Dukes' bet and join forces to exact revenge. They use their inside knowledge of a forthcoming government report on orange crop forecasts to execute a complex trading scheme, turning the tables on the Dukes in a dramatic and comedic climax on the trading floor.

Lessons for Traders

The Power of Knowledge:

Valentine's success in the commodities market, despite his lack of formal education in the field, underscores the value of street smarts, adaptability, and the ability to quickly learn and apply new information in trading.

Wrapping up the Best Trading Movies

Beyond simple entertainment, these movies offer valuable lessons for traders.  From the importance of due diligence and ethical decision-making highlighted in "The China Hustle" and "The Big Short," to the critical need for risk management and the understanding of market dynamics shown in "Rogue Trader" and "Betting on Zero," these narratives offer us many important items to consider. They serve as cautionary tales and learning opportunities, emphasizing the value of integrity, the dangers of greed, and the impact of our choices on the financial ecosystem and beyond. The Chart Guys community's selection of movies not only enriches our understanding of the financial world but also reinforces the idea that being informed, cautious, and ethical can pave the way to success in trading.