If the Great Recession was good for anything, it gave us a slate of incredible finance documentaries from filmmakers attempting to make sense of the aftermath.
While some err more on the side of entertainment than education, these films are sure to give the average investor a glimpse of what life is like for the thousands of professionals who work in the financial industry, as well as provide clarity on some complex topics in finance.
1) The Queen of Versailles, dir. Lauren Greenfield
The Queen of Versailles follows a billionaire couple, Jackie and David Siegel, in their quest to build the perfect home, inspired by the iconic French royal palace, Versailles. At the same time, their real estate empire crumbles around them as the market begins to tank.
As an investor, watch for the dangers of over-consumption and lifestyle creep. The Siegels, especially Jackie, have no sense of when to stop spending their money and it eventually takes its toll.
2) Inside Job, dir. Charles Ferguson
Simply a great movie, and goes to great lengths of explain the Great Recession. The film explores, in excruciating detail, how the corruption of U.S. policy and banking practices set the stage for the biggest recession since 1930.
Investors looking to learn all about the 2008 recession need only watch this movie to get themselves up to speed.
3) The Warning, dir. Michael Kirk
This documentary also tackles the Great Recession, just from a different angle. It explores the derivatives market, and takes a hard look at why government officials implemented a hands off policy on the asset class that would go on to absolutely wreck our financial system.
If you’ve ever wondered what a derivative is, then grab some popcorn, sit your butt down, and pop this movie in. You’ll thank us later.
4) Margin Call, dir. J.C. Chandor
Not actually a documentary, but this movie is an excellent dramatization of what must have transpired at Goldman Sachs in the hours leading up to the initial stages of the financial crisis of 2008. The movie takes months of complicated financial news and compresses it into one thrilling and well-acted drama.
Investors watching this movie will certainly be struck by the selfishness, greed and dishonest behavior exhibited by the characters and parties involved. It accurately captures everything that the general public found unpalatable about Wall Street after 2008.
5) Trader, first aired on PBS
This documentary follows Paul Tudor Jones, a hedge fund manager and trader, as he goes about his day-to-day. The film shows him predicting the 1987 market crash and the methods he used. Today the film is notoriously hard to get a hold of, as Jones requested the documentary be taken out of circulation, however you can still find a copy floating around on the internet.
If you take the time to watch this doc, you will get an up-close look at the trading methods of a famous investor who today is worth nearly $5 billion. You may be struck by how superstitious he is when is comes to some of his trading methods.
6) Million Dollar Traders, by Lex van Dam
The premise of this reality TV show is mad. 8 people are given a million dollars and asked to run their own hedge fund, where they have 8 weeks to turn a profit.. Hedge fund manager Lex van Dam devised the series, and even put up his own money. The rookie traders include a fight promoter, a retired IT engineer and working mother.
Learn how regular people can become competent traders in a short period of time, by simply sticking to a few simple rules and not getting too fancy.
7) 97% Owned, dir. Michael Oswald
This documentary explores the inner working of Central banks and the money creation process – from a UK perspective. If you’ve been wondering what negative interest rates are, where the deficit is heading, and what quantitative easing is, then you should watch this movie.
8) Fiat Empire, dir. James Jaeger
A great documentary about the Federal Reserve. It explores the complex relationships between the banking industry, the Fed and congress. Learn why some believe the Federal Reserve is in violation of the U.S. constitution and why this government bank might be hindering more than it is helping.
9) I.O.U.S.A., dir. Patrick Creadon
I.O.U.S.A. is all about the U.S. national debt. Currently at 19.7 trillion and climbing, this burgeoning debt has massive consequences for the nation and each and every one of its citizens.
Through a number of interviews, learn just how precarious the situation has become. Is social security insolvent? What happens if America can’t pay its debt obligations? Even someone who pays zero attention to the economy can appreciate the gravity of the situation after watching I.O.U.S.A.