In our society, the pursuit of wealth and financial success has always captivated our imagination. From the exhilarating world of Wall Street to the high-stakes game of gambling and the allure of entrepreneurial ventures, the concept of money-making has been a recurring theme in cinema. Films centered around the pursuit of fortune, whether they delve into the cutthroat world of finance or the struggles of individuals striving for economic independence, have enthralled audiences for decades. In this article, we embark on a cinematic journey through the 50 best movies about money-making, each providing a unique perspective on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs associated with wealth and financial success. These films delve into the intricate webs of power, greed, ambition, and the ever-elusive pursuit of the almighty dollar.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Directed by Martin Scorsese and based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, “The Wolf of Wall Street” offers a wild ride through the life of a young stockbroker seeking to make it big on Wall Street. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a riveting performance as Belfort, showcasing his relentless pursuit of wealth and his unscrupulous tactics. The film depicts the excesses and moral bankruptcy of the financial world, highlighting the consequences of unbridled ambition.
Wall Street (1987)
Directed by Oliver Stone, “Wall Street” is a classic that delves into the world of high finance and corporate greed. Michael Douglas portrays Gordon Gekko, a ruthless and iconic Wall Street trader known for his mantra, “Greed is good.” The film follows the young and ambitious Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) as he becomes entangled in Gekko’s world, ultimately questioning the morality of his choices and the price of success.
Boiler Room (2000)
“Boiler Room” directed by Ben Younger, offers an inside look at the world of pump-and-dump stock schemes. Giovanni Ribisi plays Seth Davis, a young college dropout who lands a job at a brokerage firm engaging in illegal and unethical practices. As Seth becomes increasingly embroiled in the allure of fast money and the pressures of his environment, he must confront the consequences of his actions.
The Big Short (2015)
Based on Michael Lewis’s book, “The Big Short” brings to life the true story of the 2008 financial crisis. Directed by Adam McKay, the film follows a group of savvy investors who foresee the impending collapse of the housing market and bet against the system. With a stellar ensemble cast including Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, the movie sheds light on the complexity and corruption within the financial industry.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Directed by James Foley and based on David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Glengarry Glen Ross” explores the ruthless world of real estate sales. The film brings together an ensemble cast, including Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, and Alec Baldwin, portraying the desperation and cutthroat nature of a group of salesmen competing for their jobs. It exposes the lengths individuals will go to secure lucrative deals and the toll it takes on their humanity.
Margin Call (2011)
“Margin Call,” directed by J.C. Chandor, takes place over a 24-hour period during the 2008 financial crisis. The film follows a group of investment bankers at a fictional investment firm who discover that their firm is on the brink of collapse due to risky financial practices. As they grapple with the moral and ethical implications of their actions, the movie provides an inside look at the cutthroat nature of the financial industry and the devastating impact of unchecked greed.
Rogue Trader (1999)
Based on a true story, “Rogue Trader” stars Ewan McGregor as Nick Leeson, a trader who singlehandedly brought down Barings Bank, one of the oldest and most respected banks in the UK. The film showcases Leeson’s descent into fraudulent trading activities and the subsequent collapse of the bank. It explores themes of ambition, risk-taking, and the consequences of unchecked power within the financial world.
Trading Places (1983)
“Trading Places,” directed by John Landis, is a classic comedy that revolves around a social experiment conducted by two wealthy brothers. Eddie Murphy plays a streetwise hustler, and Dan Aykroyd portrays a privileged commodities broker. The two characters are unwittingly switched in their roles, leading to a hilarious and satirical exploration of class, greed, and the manipulations of the financial elite.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, “Casino” is a crime drama that delves into the world of Las Vegas casinos and organized crime. The film follows the rise and fall of Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a skilled gambler who becomes the manager of a casino. As Rothstein navigates the complex web of power, money, and corruption, the film explores the dark underbelly of the gambling industry and the risks associated with wealth and control.
American Psycho (2000)
“American Psycho,” directed by Mary Harron, is a psychological thriller based on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel. Christian Bale delivers a chilling performance as Patrick Bateman, a wealthy investment banker who leads a double life as a sadistic serial killer. The film offers a dark critique of the materialistic excesses and toxic masculinity prevalent in the 1980s Wall Street culture.
Inside Job (2010)
Directed by Charles Ferguson, “Inside Job” is a hard-hitting documentary that dissects the 2008 global financial crisis. Through in-depth research and interviews with key players, the film exposes the systemic corruption, greed, and regulatory failures that led to the economic meltdown. “Inside Job” offers a comprehensive analysis of the financial industry’s role in the crisis and raises critical questions about accountability and the need for reform.
The Social Network (2010)
Directed by David Fincher, “The Social Network” tells the story of the founding of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his college friends. The film explores the journey from a dorm room project to a global phenomenon, delving into themes of entrepreneurship, innovation, and the complexities of power and wealth. It provides a glimpse into the cutthroat world of Silicon Valley and the personal and legal battles that arise as success and fortune come into play.
Based on a true story, “Moneyball” follows the unconventional approach of Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as he challenges the traditional methods of building a winning baseball team. Through the use of statistical analysis and sabermetrics, Beane attempts to assemble a competitive team with limited financial resources. The film explores the intersection of sports, economics, and innovation, highlighting the strategies and risks involved in making money-driven decisions in the world of professional sports.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
“The Pursuit of Happyness” is a biographical drama inspired by the true story of Chris Gardner (Will Smith), a struggling salesman who becomes homeless while striving to provide a better life for his son. The film portrays Gardner’s unwavering determination and resilience in the face of extreme hardship and financial instability. It is a heartfelt exploration of the pursuit of happiness and the sacrifices one is willing to make for a chance at success and financial stability.
Too Big to Fail (2011)
Based on Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book, “Too Big to Fail” is a television film that provides a behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 financial crisis. The movie focuses on the key players, including government officials, bankers, and CEOs, as they navigate the crisis and attempt to prevent the collapse of the global financial system. It sheds light on the complexities of the financial world, the interplay between politics and finance, and the notion that some institutions are deemed “too big to fail.”
Jerry Maguire (1996)
“Jerry Maguire,” directed by Cameron Crowe, follows the journey of a sports agent, Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise), who experiences a crisis of conscience and decides to start his own agency focused on caring for his clients. The film explores the cutthroat world of professional sports and the challenges of maintaining integrity in a money-driven industry. It delves into themes of loyalty, relationships, and the pursuit of personal fulfillment amidst the pressures of financial success.
The Founder (2016)
“The Founder” tells the story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), the businessman who turned a small hamburger restaurant, McDonald’s, into a global fast-food empire. The film explores Kroc’s relentless drive for success and the financial maneuvers he employed to expand the business. It delves into the ethical complexities of entrepreneurship, highlighting the sacrifices and questionable actions that can accompany the pursuit of wealth and power.
The Aviator (2004)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, “The Aviator” is a biographical drama that chronicles the life of Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), a pioneering aviator, filmmaker, and business tycoon. The film follows Hughes’s rise to wealth and fame, showcasing his groundbreaking achievements in aviation and his ventures in the movie industry. It delves into Hughes’s obsession with money, power, and control, revealing the toll it takes on his personal and mental well-being.
American Hustle (2013)
“American Hustle,” directed by David O. Russell, is a crime comedy-drama inspired by the ABSCAM scandal of the late 1970s. The film revolves around a group of con artists who become entangled in a high-stakes game of political corruption and deceit. It explores themes of ambition, greed, and the lengths people will go to achieve financial gain. “American Hustle” offers a satirical look at the world of scams, hustles, and the pursuit of the American Dream.
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, “The Great Gatsby” transports viewers to the roaring 1920s, where wealth, excess, and social status reign supreme. The film follows the enigmatic Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his pursuit of Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), a woman from his past. It delves into the opulence of the Jazz Age and the illusions and decadence of the wealthy elite. “The Great Gatsby” explores themes of unattainable dreams, the corrupting influence of money, and the emptiness that can accompany material wealth.
Lord of War (2005)
“Lord of War,” directed by Andrew Niccol, follows the life of Yuri Orlov (played by Nicolas Cage), an arms dealer who navigates the global arms trade to amass great wealth. The film sheds light on the dark and morally ambiguous world of weapons trafficking, showcasing the intricate networks, political alliances, and human consequences involved in this lucrative business. It delves into the ethical dilemmas faced by Orlov as he balances his pursuit of wealth with the consequences of his actions.
The Color of Money (1986)
“The Color of Money,” directed by Martin Scorsese, serves as a sequel to the classic film “The Hustler.” Paul Newman reprises his role as Eddie Felson, now a retired pool player who takes on the mentorship of a talented young player portrayed by Tom Cruise. The film explores the competitive world of professional pool hustling, where money and ambition drive the characters. It delves into themes of redemption, personal growth, and the temptations of financial gain in the world of underground gambling.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” is a documentary that examines the rise and fall of the energy company Enron. Directed by Alex Gibney and based on the book by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, the film exposes the corporate fraud, deceitful accounting practices, and unethical behavior that led to Enron’s bankruptcy. It highlights the pursuit of financial success at any cost and the devastating consequences for employees and investors.
Boiler Room (2000)
Directed by Ben Younger, “Boiler Room” delves into the high-stakes world of stockbroking and investment scams. The film follows Seth Davis (played by Giovanni Ribisi), a young college dropout who joins a fraudulent brokerage firm. It explores the pressure-cooker environment of high-pressure sales tactics, greed, and the seduction of fast money. The film delves into the moral and ethical choices faced by Seth as he becomes entangled in a world of deception and the pursuit of wealth.
The Sting (1973)
“The Sting,” directed by George Roy Hill, is a classic crime film set in the 1930s. It follows two con artists, played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford, who devise an elaborate plan to swindle a powerful mob boss. The film showcases the intricacies of the con game, including deception, misdirection, and high-stakes risks. It delves into the motivations behind money-driven schemes and the exhilaration that comes with outsmarting the wealthy and powerful.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Directed by Steven Spielberg, “Catch Me If You Can” is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a skilled con artist who successfully impersonates various professionals and forges millions of dollars in fraudulent checks. The film explores Abagnale’s cat-and-mouse game with FBI agent Carl Hanratty (played by Tom Hanks) as he eludes capture and lives a life of luxury through his deceptive schemes. It delves into the allure of wealth and the thrill of outsmarting the authorities, while also examining the consequences of a life built on lies.
Casino Royale (2006)
“Casino Royale,” directed by Martin Campbell, is a James Bond film that serves as a reboot of the franchise. The film follows the secret agent James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) as he faces off against a terrorist financier in a high-stakes poker game. The movie explores the world of high-stakes gambling and the risks associated with financial espionage. It delves into themes of risk-taking, deceit, and the pursuit of wealth and power in the realm of international espionage.
The Gambler (2014)
“The Gambler,” directed by Rupert Wyatt, tells the story of Jim Bennett (played by Mark Wahlberg), a literature professor with a dangerous gambling addiction. As Bennett sinks deeper into debt, he becomes entangled with loan sharks and dangerous criminals. The film explores the destructive allure of gambling and the psychological toll it takes on Bennett’s life. It delves into themes of addiction, desperation, and the high stakes involved in chasing financial losses.
The Secret of My Success (1987)
“The Secret of My Success,” directed by Herbert Ross, is a comedy that follows Brantley Foster (played by Michael J. Fox), a recent college graduate who tries to make it big in the corporate world. When he struggles to find a job, Foster creates an alternate identity to climb the corporate ladder at a major corporation. The film explores the pursuit of success and financial wealth, highlighting the challenges and risks Foster takes to achieve his goals.
The Firm (1993)
“The Firm,” based on John Grisham’s novel and directed by Sydney Pollack, centers around Mitch McDeere (played by Tom Cruise), a young lawyer who joins a prestigious law firm with a dark secret. As McDeere unravels the truth about the firm’s criminal activities, he finds himself caught between the pursuit of financial success and his own moral compass. The film delves into the ethical challenges faced by McDeere and the dangers of compromising one’s integrity for financial gain.
Up in the Air (2009)
Directed by Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air” follows Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney), a corporate downsizer who travels extensively for work. The film explores themes of isolation, identity, and the human cost of pursuing financial success. It delves into the transient nature of Bingham’s life and the emptiness that can accompany a relentless focus on career and material wealth.
“Goldfinger,” the third James Bond film directed by Guy Hamilton, features Sean Connery as Agent 007. In this installment, Bond investigates a gold-smuggling operation orchestrated by the villainous Auric Goldfinger. The film showcases the allure of wealth, the pursuit of financial dominance, and the dangers associated with greed. It delves into the world of high-stakes heists and the clash between Bond’s loyalty to his country and the temptations of personal gain.
The Money Pit (1986)
“The Money Pit,” directed by Richard Benjamin, is a comedy film that follows a young couple, played by Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, as they purchase a seemingly charming but dilapidated mansion. The film explores the pitfalls of home ownership, the financial burdens associated with renovations, and the chaotic journey the couple faces in their pursuit of a dream home. It delves into the humor and frustrations that can arise from money-related mishaps.
The Corporation (2003)
“The Corporation,” directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, is a documentary that examines the nature and impact of corporations on society. It delves into the influence of corporations on politics, the environment, and the economy, exploring their pursuit of profit and the ethical and social consequences of their actions. The film raises critical questions about the role and responsibilities of corporations in shaping the world we live in.
American Greed (2007)
“American Greed” is a television documentary series that focuses on true crime stories of individuals and organizations driven by financial greed. Each episode explores cases of fraud, embezzlement, and white-collar crime, shedding light on the motivations, methods, and consequences of these acts. The series delves into the dark side of money-making, examining the lengths some people are willing to go to amass wealth and the devastating impact on victims and society.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
“Glengarry Glen Ross,” directed by James Foley, is a film adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Set in the world of real estate sales, the film follows a group of desperate salesmen as they compete for leads and struggle to close deals. It explores themes of competition, desperation, and the cutthroat nature of a sales-driven industry. The film delves into the pressures and moral compromises faced by the characters in their relentless pursuit of financial success.
Directed by Sidney Lumet, “Network” is a satirical film that explores the power of television and the manipulative nature of the media. The film follows news anchor Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch), who becomes a controversial figure after his on-air breakdown. “Network” delves into the influence of money, ratings, and corporate interests on the media landscape. It examines the intersection of financial gain, sensationalism, and the erosion of journalistic integrity.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” directed by Frank Capra, is a beloved holiday classic that tells the story of George Bailey (played by James Stewart), a compassionate and selfless man who faces financial ruin and personal struggles. The film explores themes of community, self-sacrifice, and the true meaning of wealth and success. “It’s a Wonderful Life” offers a heartfelt examination of the impact one person can have on the lives of others and the inherent value of human connections over material wealth.
The Big Short (2015)
“The Big Short,” directed by Adam McKay, is a film adaptation of Michael Lewis’s non-fiction book about the 2007-2008 financial crisis. The film follows a group of investors who foresee the housing bubble and bet against the market, ultimately profiting from the collapse. It delves into the complex world of high-stakes finance, exploring the greed, recklessness, and systemic issues that led to the financial crisis. “The Big Short” sheds light on the consequences of unchecked greed and the pursuit of financial gain at the expense of others.
The Queen of Versailles (2012)
“The Queen of Versailles,” directed by Lauren Greenfield, is a documentary that follows billionaire couple David and Jackie Siegel as they attempt to build the largest single-family home in America. The film provides a candid look at their extravagant lifestyle, the challenges they face during the 2008 financial crisis, and the impact of their excessive wealth on their family and employees. It delves into themes of opulence, financial downfall, and the consequences of living in a bubble of extreme wealth.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, “Casino” is a crime film that delves into the world of Las Vegas casinos and the mob’s involvement in the gambling industry. The film follows Sam “Ace” Rothstein (played by Robert De Niro), a professional gambler and casino executive, as he navigates the corrupt and glamorous world of casinos. “Casino” explores themes of greed, power, and the destructive consequences of unchecked ambition in the pursuit of financial gain.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
“The Pursuit of Happyness,” directed by Gabriele Muccino, is based on the true story of Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith), a struggling salesman who becomes homeless while trying to secure a better future for himself and his son. The film highlights Gardner’s determination, resilience, and unwavering pursuit of financial stability. It explores themes of poverty, perseverance, and the sacrifices made in the pursuit of happiness and financial success.
Directed by Brian De Palma, “Scarface” is a crime drama that follows the rise and fall of Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino), a Cuban immigrant who becomes a powerful drug lord in Miami. The film explores the allure of the criminal underworld, the pursuit of wealth and power, and the consequences of a life driven by greed and violence. “Scarface” delves into themes of ambition, corruption, and the dark side of the American Dream.
Boiler Room (2000)
“Boiler Room,” directed by Ben Younger, centers around Seth Davis (played by Giovanni Ribisi), a college dropout who becomes involved in a fraudulent brokerage firm. The film explores the high-pressure environment of high-stakes sales, greed, and the allure of fast money. It delves into the moral dilemmas faced by Seth as he navigates the world of investment scams and the pursuit of financial success at any cost.
The Apartment (1960)
“The Apartment,” directed by Billy Wilder, is a romantic comedy-drama that follows C.C. Baxter (played by Jack Lemmon), an insurance worker who loans out his apartment to his superiors for their extramarital affairs. The film explores themes of office politics, ambition, and the compromises people make in the pursuit of career advancement and financial gain. It delves into the complexities of relationships, corporate culture, and the intertwining of personal and professional lives.
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
“Thank You for Smoking,” directed by Jason Reitman, is a satirical comedy that follows the life of Nick Naylor (played by Aaron Eckhart), a tobacco lobbyist who uses his persuasive skills to defend the interests of the tobacco industry. The film explores the world of public relations, spin, and the manipulation of information for financial gain. It delves into the ethical dilemmas faced by Naylor as he balances his career, personal values, and the consequences of promoting a harmful product.
A Good Year (2006)
“A Good Year,” directed by Ridley Scott, tells the story of Max Skinner (played by Russell Crowe), a successful London banker who inherits a vineyard in Provence, France. The film explores Max’s journey as he reconnects with nature, finds love, and reevaluates his priorities in life. It delves into themes of self-discovery, the pursuit of happiness beyond material wealth, and the transformative power of pursuing one’s passions.
Money Monster (2016)
“Money Monster,” directed by Jodie Foster, is a thriller that takes a critical look at the financial industry and media manipulation. The film follows Lee Gates (played by George Clooney), a flamboyant TV financial host, who is taken hostage on live television by a disgruntled investor (played by Jack O’Connell) seeking answers about a stock market crash. “Money Monster” explores themes of greed, corruption, and the power dynamics between the financial elite and the general public.
The Great Wall Street Crash (1929)
“The Great Wall Street Crash” is a historical event that occurred in 1929 and resulted in the stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression. While not a specific film, this event has been depicted in various movies and documentaries, highlighting the causes, consequences, and human stories affected by the financial collapse. It remains a significant milestone in economic history, showcasing the devastating impact of speculative excesses and the fragility of financial systems.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Directed by John Huston, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is an adventure drama set in the 1920s. The film follows two down-on-their-luck Americans, Fred C. Dobbs (played by Humphrey Bogart) and Bob Curtin (played by Tim Holt), who join an old prospector (played by Walter Huston) in search of gold in the mountains of Mexico. The film explores themes of greed, betrayal, and the psychological toll of obsession with wealth. It delves into the moral dilemmas faced by the characters as their pursuit of treasure consumes them and tests the limits of their humanity.
These films depict various aspects of money-making, ranging from lobbying and media manipulation to personal journeys of self-discovery, historical events, and the consequences of greed. They offer insights into the complexities, ethical dilemmas, and human stories intertwined with the pursuit of financial success.
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