Entertaining movies to learn from

If you’re interested in learning more about finance, and Wall Street in particular, maybe the best way to go is to see some good, fun movies (because, seriously, most of the time, finance isn’t that funny).

So here are four great films about the world of finance.

If there’s one film you’re likely to find on every financial film list, it’s probably The Big Short. And with good reason – director Adam McKay has managed to put together a film that’s both funny and easy to understand for everyone, even those without a financial background.

The film tells the story of how a few different groups of investors managed to predict (and profit from) the 2008 financial crisis, made millions and tried to warn people while everyone else thought they were just fools. This also applies to some popular actors such as Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt.

Overall, it’s also not a heavy or complicated film at all. The story is conveyed in a linear and simple way, only interrupted by short funny clips to explain the main finance-related concepts of the film, making it perfectly understandable even for people without specific knowledge.

It’s also no coincidence that the film tops the list: if I had to choose just one, I would definitely choose this one.

Next up, this next film is also about the 2008 financial crisis, but it has a very different perspective. This one is from the perspective of the people trying to save the US economy from collapsing: This film is not about the market or what investors have done, but about the government and its immediate response during the crisis .

The story is about how the Treasury Secretary and the Federal Reserve acted in the midst of the financial crisis to try to avoid another Great Depression. The story begins with the week Lehman went under and continues with the other issues that soon emerged.

It probably sounds a bit boring from my description, but it actually has a good rhythm and some tension in the story that makes it quite entertaining to watch. It’s also more about crisis management than finance, so no complicated concepts either.

Probably the least popular on the list, but great nonetheless.

Finally a film that doesn’t talk about the 2008 financial crisis. In fact, Moneyball doesn’t even talk about finances in general. This movie is about baseball but I still think it deserves to be on the list for a few reasons. let me explain.

Moneyball is a film about the Oakland Athletics baseball team, and it tells the story of how that team was put together before the amazing 2002 season. That year, General Manager Billie Beane and Yale economist Peter Brand managed to put together a great team by using their radical ideas on player ratings.

Regardless of baseball, this film is on the list because all of the fundamentals of this film are the same that apply to investing in the stock market. You just have to watch them think they are buying stocks instead of players. Do any of the following remind you of another market outside of baseball?

  • go against the crowd
  • Finding mispricings in the baseball player market
  • Buy good players who are undervalued in the market

They even say when they buy baseball players, “you should take a look [the player’s] Hits and other technical properties, not just for the player’s name and fame“. The same goes for stocks: you shouldn’t be chasing ticker symbols, but fundamentals, cash flows, and so on. I mean the similarities are clear when you compare that to The Big Short.

Of course, the word “stock” doesn’t appear once in this film, so it’s really not about finance. But many of the same principles outlined by Ben Graham in “The intelligent investor‘ can be found here, so it’s definitely worth a try if you ask me.

Finally, Margin Call is a film that tells the story of how one of Wall Street’s big investment banks discovered they were on the verge of bankruptcy. In particular, it essentially tells the story of how Lehman Brothers went under in late 2007 (though the bank’s name is never given).

It’s an inside story of how the big bank first discovered the true value of the MBS it held on the balance sheet (essentially zero) and all the steps that inevitably followed to try to save the company. What comes after this discovery is a long night of panic-stricken reviews, phone calls, and meetings as senior management prepares to do whatever is necessary to mitigate the challenge ahead.

Overall it’s a very nice film that pretty much describes how big banks work and in general how emergency meetings are held. It’s not really about investing, it’s more about investment banking and Wall Street itself. And it’s so good that at my current company we use some clips to teach crisis management concepts.

That’s it, thanks for reading! For more information see below or contact me on Linkedin.

Thomas Herald

How to become a successful investor

Thomas Herald

Economy & Financial Markets

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