The 7 Best Trading Films Of All Time

Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, released last year, charted the real-life rollercoaster journey of stockbroker extraordinaire Jordan Belfort and has proven one of the hit films of 2014. And speaking of finance films, we’re all talking about The Big Short‘s UK release.

But these are far from the first effort from Hollywood at depicting the world of trading or its ethical considerations. Here are Littlefish FX’s seven best trading films of all time…

1. Wall Street (1987)

"You forgot my Brylcream? You're fired..."
“You forgot my Brylcreem? You’re fired…”

The Academy Award winning drama is the archetypal portrayal of 1980s excess, following stockbroker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) as he lands himself in trouble when he gets involved with ruthless Wall Street player Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is also worth a watch, if you’re able to watch Shia LaBeouf without wondering when the next Transformer will appear in shot…

Why it’s a must-see:
Wall Street has become the archetypal portrayal of 1980s excess and “quick buck” culture, with the highlight being Douglas’s award-winning performance as Gekko and his famous line: “greed is good”.

2. Trading Places (1983)

A modern take on Mark Twain’s classic novel The Prince and the Pauper, this American comedy stars Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy as an upper class commodities broker and a homeless street hustler whose lives cross paths.

Why it’s a must-see:
It’s got Dan Aykroyd in it. What more do you need? Well, ok, Trading Places also has a lasting legacy, having inspired new regulations on the financial market to prevent misappropriated government information being used to trade in the commodity markets – it’s even called “The Eddie Murphy rule”.

3. Boiler Room (2000)

This gripping drama charts the journey of Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) from stockbroker trainee to senior broker at chop stock brokerage firm J.T. Marlin, with the FBI on his back as his trading tactics become increasingly questionable…

Why it’s a must-see:
Like The Wolf of Wall Street, Boiler Room was inspired by the life of Jordan Belfort following interviews with numerous brokers, and tackles issues encountered by real-life traders.

4. Rogue Trader (1999)

Ewan McGregor in Rogue Trader: Stylish...
Ewan McGregor in Rogue Trader: Stylish…

Rogue Trader tells the true story of derivatives broker Nick Leeson (Ewan McGregor) who singlehandedly bankrupted employer Barings Bank, the world’s first merchant bank, after racking up an £800 million loss through unauthorized trading. Woops.

Why it’s a must-see:
A tragic display of misplaced ambition, it will have you on the edge of your seat.

5. Owning Mahowny (2003)

Based on the true story of another “rogue trader” and journalist Gary Ross’s book Stung, Owning Mahowny follows Toronto bank employee Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as he embezzles over $10 million from his employees due to his compulsive gambling.

Why it’s a must-see:
Owning Mahowny focuses on the domino effects of Mahowny’s addiction on the rest of his life, with a touching love story as a sub-plot.

6. Margin Call (2011)

Margin Call is a gripping depiction of the actions taken by a group of employees at a fictional Wall Street investment bank who find themselves in a spot of bother in the wake of the financial meltdown of 2007-8. It’s stellar cast includes Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany and Mr Spock himself, Zachary Quinto.

Why it’s a must see:
Set over a 36-hour period, Margin Call is fast-paced and full of tension as the traders attempt to sell off the firm’s toxic assets in a desperate effort to prevent their troubles from becoming exposed.

7. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Will Smith starts with the basics in Pursuit of Happyness...
Will Smith starts with the basics in Pursuit of Happyness…

A rare Hollywood depiction of how trading can turn a life around for the better, the biographical drama stars Will Smith as Chris Gardner, who loses his life savings on a misguided investment and battles homelessness as he becomes an intern stockbroker, battling for a coveted full-time job against 19 competitors.

Why it’s a must-see:
A welcome reminder that your trading career can end happily-ever-after, after all.

Agree with our picks? Have we missed out your favourite? Email us here or tweet us @LittlefishFX!

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