Finance is a broad subject with many facets that make learning it a large undertaking for anyone. These films, watched in order, will lead to a relatively comprehensive understanding of what finance is, how it works, and how it affects our society.
Foundations of money, finance, and the corporate structure:
- The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (2009)
This is literally a full history of how finance has developed through time. From the first currencies ever used, to financing wars with bonds. Watching this film beginning to end really does create a strong foundation for understanding how finance has developed through time.
- The Corporation (2003)
One of the most important concepts that drives modern finance is the corporation. Understanding how the corporate structure influences business decisions is fundamental to grasping the general ideas of finance.
- Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)
The social effects of the corporate structure on a capitalist society are examined in this film. Widening income gaps have often been attributed to finance. This film furthers the ideas introduced by The Corporation and applies them directly to a real financial crisis.
Failures in the financial system, fraud, greed, and regulatory issues:
- Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
A comprehensive look at how a corporation was able to defraud thousands of people with its accounting practices leading to massive changes in the regulatory systems for financial reporting.
- Too Big to Fail (2011)
Understanding the actual finance behind finance is only half of the battle in truly understanding finance. This dramatization of the fall of Lehman Brothers, and the beginning of the financial crisis, shows how personalities, government decisions, and personal relationships all play a massive role in driving the financial markets.
- Margin Call (2011)
When the US financial institutions began to crumble, they began to unload their worthless securities to other institutions and clients to avoid their own collapse. This film gives further insight into the decisions that nearly collapsed the financial markets.
- Inside job (2010)
Further reflection on the 2008 financial crisis with insights from global policy makers and academics. This film further reinforces the concepts introduced in Too Big to Fail and Margin Call, but it is not a drama.
How financial markets actually work, the buying and selling of securities, and the retail environment:
- Floored (2009)
This documentary looks at floor traders, the people buying and selling securities on an open outcry trading floor. Although this film gives plenty of insight into this part of the financial markets, floor traders have been replaced by electronic trading.
- Money and Speed: Inside the Black Box (2011)
The level of influence that automated trading has on the financial markets today is intimidating. This is an area that is constantly evolving and will continue to evolve. Eugene Fama argues that the algorithms used in this type of trading make markets more efficient.
- Boiler room (2000)
This movie does not by any means depict every stock broker. It does, however, give insight into the way that the business works at the retail level, and shows how sales driven the industry can be.
- Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Similar to Boiler Room, this film shows an extreme case of how sales driven financial markets are. The film is quite wild, but it does offer another opportunity to see how securities are created, bought, and sold.
- The Retirement Gamble (2013)
From the perspective of an investor, this film is the most important. It shows how all of the pieces fit together to make the investment climate for retail investors extremely difficult to navigate.