We are in a golden age for money movies. One of the lingering effects of the financial crisis and the Great Recession has been huge interest on the part of Hollywood to explore just what the heck happened. There have been enlightening documentaries (Inside Job), fictionalized accounts of what might have gone down on the eve of economic disaster (Margin Call), and dramatized versions of the events and characters that, shockingly, were all too real (The Big Short, The Wolf of Wall Street).
It makes sense that Hollywood is hot on Wall Street stories right now. The recent flurry of finance movies is not unlike what happened after the Vietnam War: The best movies dealing with the subject, like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter, were made a few years later, when events could be viewed with perspective and filmmakers had a prayer of making sense of the chaos that transpired.
Clearly, Hollywood’s fascination with money and finance remains high—the latest example being the May 13 opening of Money Monster, starring George Clooney as a bombastic, stock-picking TV host obviously based on Jim Cramer, who is confronted by an irate average Joe who lost everything thanks to awful investing advice.
The release of Money Monster, along with the rash of films about money and finance in general, got us thinking: What’s the greatest money movie ever? To begin answering that question, we had to first ask: Just what is a money movie?
To be considered as one of our Best Money Movies, we decided that the film must feature a finance industry worker as a central character, or money must be absolutely central to the plot, and it must offer important lessons on money, including all the good and bad it can bring. We gave extra points for being realistic to the worlds of finance, banking, and sales, and more points for educating the layman about how Wall Street and corporate America truly operate.
Also, it must simply be a smart, entertaining, provocative, all-in-all good movie. Anything with a rating below 75% at Rotten Tomatoes was eliminated, meaning that potential nominees like American Psycho, Boiler Room, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Indecent Proposal are out. (Not like we were really considering the latter, but you get the idea.) Meanwhile, to keep our list manageable, we weeded out films that seemed to belong in a slightly different category. For example, 9 to 5, Office Space, and The Devil Wears Prada seemed to fit more squarely under the rubric of Career Movies, not Money Movies. We felt documentaries were part of a different discussion as well, so you won’t find them below either.
And hey, at the end of the day it’s our list and we get to make up the rules!
What we need you to do, though, is help us name the best of the best. Please vote for what you consider the Best Money Movie ever, and by all means tell us what’s so great about your top pick. Yes, you can tell us where we got it wrong, too, and make your case for an overlooked gem in the comments on our poll page, on Facebook, or Twitter using #BestMoneyMovies.
Here are the nominees…