List of Wall Street themed movies

May the Fourth by Jared Dillian

I recently watched the movie Interstellar in the theater. I liked it so much, I watched it again… and again. Three times in 10 days. Next, I’ll get the DVD and see it dozens of more times. It’s my new all-time favorite movie.

I’m something of an astrophysics geek. I think in another life I might have been one of these nerds working for the SETI project like Ellie Arroway in Contact. For my fifth-grade science project, I constructed a planetarium show. When my schoolmates were playing Contra on Nintendo, I was reading about quasars.

Interstellar fascinates me because I don’t understand how someone gets $150 million of financing to make a movie that no one who doesn’t understand Einstein’s theory of relativity can fully appreciate. Christopher Nolan is a stud. There is no other explanation.

I had to smile each time I left the theater, listening to the people walking out. “I didn’t understand any of that!” they would say. I think knowledge of the cosmos is pretty low in my corner of South Carolina.

I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s say there’s a lot of physics knowledge required for that movie. Incidentally, there’s a lot of physics knowledge required for trading too.

The derivatives guys understand this. Most conventional option pricing models are based on something called “geometric Brownian motion,” which was originally used to describe the movement of a particle suspended in a liquid or a gas.

Emanuel Derman, author of My Life as a Quant and contributor to the Black-Derman-Toy model that pioneered the pricing of bond options, started out as a darn good physicist. Then he was hired by Goldman Sachs. Lots of quants (quantitative analysts) are former physicists. Finance and physics really are that similar.

I have my own theories about financial physics.

  1. Stocks and bonds are matter. They are things. They are particles. They literally are physical objects—in the old days, certificates. Nowadays, they have a CUSIP. You can clip the coupons. In bearer form, they were worth money. Nowadays, nobody really gets to hold a bond in his hand, but it’s still tangible as far as I’m concerned. The foregoing also applies to currencies. And commodities… well, they are as tangible as you can get.
  2. Credit and volatility are not matter. They are forces very similar to gravity. Think about it: credit is the willingness or ability to repay. It’s a feeling, a sensation, a psychological construct. But it is not a thing. It has neither a certificate nor a CUSIP. But credit is directly related to volatility—otherwise the credit guys wouldn’t hedge with VIX call spreads all the time.
The one thing we know about gravity is that it is not constant in the universe. There can be large disturbances, like a black hole, where time can actually slow down—exactly like the gravitational time dilation described in Interstellar. When volatility increases (and credit widens), options decay more slowly. Volatility (“vol”) and time work in opposite directions.

Vvol Is Sky-High Right Now
We are currently experiencing—I’m grinning as I write this—disturbances in the force. Credit and volatility have never acted this way before, and I can quantify it exactly.

Never before has the VIX gone from 11 to 20 in just four days. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the outsize influence volatility ETFs were having on the vol complex, and that remains true. I think this can partially be explained by people panicking out of XIV, the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term ETN.

But it’s actually bigger than that. Volatility is itself volatile. You can measure the volatility of volatility; traders call it “vvol.” And the only times vvol has been this high since the advent of VIX options were in 2007, 2008, and 2011—all times of serious crisis.

But we aren’t in a crisis now, are we?

Well, we might be, if you think vvol has any predictive power, as I do. Certainly nothing of the magnitude of ‘07, ‘08, or ‘11. But when you’re having 700-point intraday round trips in the Dow and vvol is at crisis levels, I think it’s time to start asking the hard questions.

“… Where No Man Has Gone Before”
The bigger picture is: Russia is experiencing a full-blown currency crisis, whether anyone is calling it that or not; emerging markets are in meltdown mode (as predicted by some of my colleagues here at Mauldin Economics); and the price of the single most important commodity in the world has just been cut in half in the span of a month or two.

These are not normal times. And the bull market in stocks is very, very advanced.

Even though I write for a living, I’m a former trader, so I still spend my days staring at the screens. I haven’t seen anything like this before. New territory here—and not in a good way.

But I’m a student of volatility and credit, and I paid attention in early 2009 when no put option was too expensive and no bond was safe. It feels as if something like that might be in our future.
You definitely know more than I do, but there is something missing from your model in my opinion: feedback(-forward) effect. The butterfly effect (2004) could be in some way or another a metaphore for the markets.
Thats a gud collection by you. I already seen most of the movies you listed. Great stuff you know about movies.

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
The "Wolf .." movie

They don't make them like to use to make them. It was a bit boring.

I could have guessed ... di Caprio in a Scorcese movie.

Does no one watch John Wayne movies anymore?
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The "Wolf .." movie

They don't make them like to use to make them. It was a bit boring.

Wall Street wasn't even the focus. Is was just an R rated flick covered with a Wall Street theme. Same opinion here. Would not watch twice.
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Someone asked me the other day, “What’s a good trading movie?”. This gave me an idea to make a post about various Wall Street movies/TV Shows/documentaries I have seen and ones that have been recommended to me. I am sure there are more, but here is a short list. This list is for entertainment purposes only. It does not show my support or viewpoints related to anything that occurs in the movies. Let me know if you have seen other ones, I will update the list with it.
  • Wall Street
    Bud Fox is a Wall Street stockbroker in early 1980's New York with a strong desire to get to the top. Working for his firm during the day, he spends his spare time working an on angle with the high-powered, extremely successful (but ruthless and greedy) broker Gordon Gekko. Fox finally meets with Gekko, who takes the youth under his wing and explains his philosophy that "Greed is Good". Taking the advice and working closely with Gekko, Fox soon finds himself swept into a world of "yuppies", shady business deals, the "good life", fast money, and fast women; something which is at odds with his family including his estranged father and the blue-collared way Fox was brought up...
  • Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
    "Money Never Sleeps" is a sequel to the 1987 popular movie "Wall Street". It follows the actions of a Wall Street trader after his release from prison. The unique nature of the movie is in the fact that in this instance life imitates art, namely the original movie dealt with a fictional airline by the name of "Bluestar Airline" which was the company bankrupted by the fictional character of Michael Douglas. In reality a company named "Blue Star Jets" was in fact started in 2001 by real-life businessmen Ricky Sitomer and Todd Rome...
  • Wall Street Warriors
    An HD documentary series examining the extreme power and intense competition that defines Wall Street, seen through the eyes of those who thrive there...
  • Rollover
    Rollover is a 1981 political and financial thriller directed by Alan J. Pakula and starring Jane Fonda and Kris Kristofferson. Lee Winters is the widow of the Chairman and primary stockholder of Winterchem Enterprises, a chemical company, who is attempting to obtain financing of the purchase of a processing plant in Spain, while trying to determine why her husband was murdered. Apparently, her late husband discovered some damning information about an Account Number 21214, a secret slush fund involving asset transfers...
  • Boiler Room
    A young man has dropped out of Queens College but desperately wants to please his father, a federal judge who's harsh with his son. At his father's insistence, Seth Davis closes a casino he operates in his own house, mostly for college students. Thinking he'll please dad, he takes a job in a small brokerage house, an hour from Manhattan, where trainees make cold calls to lists of well-paid men, and then apply high-pressure tactics to sell initial public offerings exclusive to the firm. He's terrific at sales. Once training is over, the pay is phenomenal, and Seth wonders why. Curiosity leads him to ethical dilemmas, encounters with the Feds, and new territory with his father...
  • Trading Places
    Louis Winthorpe III is a successful Philadelphia commodity broker with mansion, manservant and girlfriend to match. Billy Ray Valentine is a hustling beggar. Winthorpe's employers, the elderly Duke brothers, make a bet that by switching the lifestyle of the two Billy Ray will make good and their man will take to a life of crime. Suddenly Louis finds himself uncomprehendingly with no job, no home and only a new acquaintance, glamorous hooker Ophelia, prepared to help him. So at least in one way things could actually be worse...
  • Glengarry Glen Ross
    Times are tough in a New York real-estate office; the salesmen (Shelley Levene, Ricky Roma, Dave Moss, and George Aaronow) are given a strong incentive by Blake to succeed in a sales contest. The prizes? First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is the sack! There is no room for losers in this dramatically masculine world; only "closers" will get the good sales leads. There is a lot of pressure to succeed, so a robbery is committed which has unforeseen consequences for all the characters...
  • Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
    Enron dives from the seventh largest US company to bankruptcy in less than a year in this tale told chronologically. The emphasis is on human drama, from suicide to 20,000 people sacked: the personalities of Ken Lay (with Falwellesque rectitude), Jeff Skilling (he of big ideas), Lou Pai (gone with $250 M), and Andy Fastow (the dark prince) dominate. Along the way, we watch Enron game California's deregulated electricity market, get a free pass from Arthur Andersen (which okays the dubious mark-to-market accounting), use greed to manipulate banks and brokerages (Merrill Lynch fires the analyst who questions Enron's rise), and hear from both Presidents Bush what great guys these are...
  • Rouge Trader
    Ambitious, wide-boy Nick Leeson is determined to rise in the world and be more than a simple bank clerk. When his employers, Barings Bank, offer him the opportunity to go to Jakarta to sort out a problem that nobody else wants, he seizes the opportunity with both hands. In Jakarta he meets and marries Lisa and together they go to Singapore when the bank offers him the job of setting up their future options trading operation. To save money the bank allows Nick to operate both the floor trading and the back office facilities and force him to employ cheap, unskilled staff. His first year of trading is a big success and he makes large profits for the bank even though he has illegally broken trading rules and secretly covered up losses. Given more freedom, even more money and continuing unchecked, Nick starts to make losses and again attempts to trade out of them but this time he comes unstuck as his illegal trading generates even bigger losses. After the death of his unborn child Nick completely loses control and gambles without restraint with other people's money leading inevitably to a complete financial meltdown and the bankruptcy of the bank..
  • Barbarians at the Gate
    Johnson's bid for the company is opposed by two of the pioneers of the leveraged buyout, Henry Kravis (who is played by Jonathan Pryce), and his cousin George R. Roberts. Kravis feels betrayed when, after Johnson initially discusses doing the LBO with Kravis, he actually takes the potentially enormous deal to another firm, American Express' former Shearson Lehman Hutton division. Ted Forstmann and his Forstmann Little buyout firm also play a prominent role. After Kravis and Johnson are unable to reconcile their differences, a bidding war ensues, which Kravis ultimately wins. Although not covered in the film, an unfortunate side effect of the greatly increased buyout price is the creation of an initially unforeseen and distinctly troubling level of debt for the company...
  • Pi
    The mathematician Maximillian Cohen is tormented by a severe migraine since he was a kid, and he uses many pills to reduce his painful headaches. He is a lonely man, and his only friend is his former professor Sol Robeson. Max has the following assumptions, which rules his life: (1) Mathematics is the language of nature; (2) Everything around us can be represented and understood from numbers; (3) If you graph the numbers in any systems, patterns emerge. Therefore there are patterns everywhere in nature. Based on these principles, Max is trying to figure out a system to predict the behavior of the stock market. Due to his research, Max is chased by a Wall Street company with obvious interest in the results of his studies, and by an orthodox Jew follower of the Torah, who believes that this long string of numbers is a code sent from God...
  • The Corporation
    Since the late 18th century American legal decision that the business corporation organizational model is legally a person, it has become a dominant economic, political and social force around the globe. This film takes an in-depth psychological examination of the organization model through various case studies. What the study illustrates is that in the its behaviour, this type of "person" typically acts like a dangerously destructive psychopath without conscience. Furthermore, we see the profound threat this psychopath has for our world and our future, but also how the people with courage, intelligence and determination can do to stop it...
  • Working Girl
    Tess McGill is a hard working young woman who is determined to reach the top of the stockmarket world by hard work but as she turns 30 she is stuck in secretarial work so when she starts working for Katherine Parker she is glad that Katherine is willing to accept input and ideas from her. However when Katherine goes on holiday and breaks her leg she asks Tess to look after things and this causes Tess to discover that Katherine is going to pinch her big idea that would save a large company from a foreign takeover. Enraged that her boyfriend is also cheating on her, Tess sets out to do a deal by using her idea herself while Katherine is away. She teams up with Jack Trainer to close the deal before Katherine's return and the two slowly fall in love little knowing that Jack is Katherine's boyfriend...
  • Dealers
    The London branch of Whitney Paine, a major American investment bank, is in the midst of a crisis; after the loss of $100 million, one of their leading traders, Tony Eisner commits suicide by putting a slug through his head while seated at his place in the board room. Despite the high stakes, many of the firm's staff are eager to step into Tony's now-vacated shoes and get credit for saving the company. Daniel Pascoe, the leading trader at the firm, is convinced that he's first in line for the assignment, but the firm imports a new trader from America, Anna Schuman. Daniel is enraged and makes a point of trying to dig up as much dirt on Anna as he can, but things are going to take another turn...
  • Other People's Money
    A corporate raider threatens a hostile take-over of a "mom and pop" company. The patriarch of the company enlists the help of his wife's daughter, who is a lawyer, to try and protect the company. The raider is enamored of her, and enjoys the thrust and parry of legal maneuvering as he tries to win her heart...
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities
    Sherman McCoy is a Wall Street investor who makes millions while enjoying the good life and the sexual favors of Maria Ruskin, a Southern belle gold digger. Sherman and Maria are driving back to Maria's apartment from JFK airport when they take a wrong turn on the expressway and the two find themselves in the "war-zone" of the South Bronx. When they are threatened by two black youths, Maria guns the engine, running over one of the teenagers and putting him in a coma. The two drive away and decide not to report the accident to the police...
  • American Psycho
    Patrick Bateman is handsome, well educated and intelligent. He is twenty-seven and living his own American dream. He works by day on Wall Street, earning a fortune to complement the one he was born with. At night he descends into madness, as he experiments with fear and violence...
  • The Bank
    "I'm like God but with a better suit," declares Centabank CEO, Simon O'Reilly (Anthony LaPaglia) with pride. Welcome to the world of The Bank, ripe with avarice and corruption, where O'Reilly and his ilk can thrive and honest Aussie battlers lose everything. Enter Jim Doyle (David Wenham) a maverick mathematician who has devised a formula to predict the fluctuations of the stock market. When he joins O'Reilly's fold, he must first prove his loyalty to the "greed is good" ethos. Which way will he go? What does he have to hide?...
  • Pursuit of Happyness
    Chris Gardner has big dreams for him and his family but it doesn't seem to come together for him. Chris has an opportunity to be a stock broker but first he has to go through a grueling internship which means no pay. Chris decides to do it but when his wife leaves and he is evicted, he has to take care of his son on his own. So they find themselves sometimes living on the street and struggling to get by. But Chris is determined to make it...
  • Capitalism: A Love Story
    Film-maker Michael Moore begins this revealing documentary with the Roman Empire, and the beginning of greed. He takes the viewer to an era of American well-being without any competition from post-war Germany and Japan; prosperity; end of slavery, and the introduction of the Second Bill of Rights by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But before this inclusion Roosevelt passes away, and the nation spins into anarchy, with indolent, right-winged, self-seeking politicians forming an unhealthy nexus with Corporations, and Wall Street, leaving the vulnerable without employment and health insurance, while putting billions at the disposal of banks and insurance companies - leaving them free to distribute this wealth amongst their executives without any conditions and audits, as well as portraying Barrack Obama as a Socialist. In this regressive era employers exploit their employees by paying them the minimum, but insuring them for large amounts, naming the organization as the beneficiary, demonstrating that they are more valuable after their demise. Middle-classed Katrina & foreclosure-ravaged Americans now must consider adapting to the new Bible (Wall Street Journal) and a new place of worship - Wall Street...
  • Nova - Trillion Dollar Bet
    In 1973, three brilliant economists, Fisher Black, Myron Scholes and Robert Merton, discovered a mathematical breakthrough that revolutionized modern finance. The elegant formula they unleashed upon the world was sparse and deceptively simple, yet it led to the creation of a mulit-trillion dollar industry. Their bold ideas earned them a Nobel Prize and attracted the elite of Wall Street.
    In 1993, Scholes and Merton joined forces with John Merriweather, the legendary bond trader of Salomon Brothers. With 13 other partners, they launched a new hedge fund, Long Term Capital Management, that promised to use mathematical models to make investors tremendous amounts of money with little risk. Their money machines reaped fantastic profit, until their theories collided with reality, sending them spiraling out of control. This crisis threatened to bring markets around the world to the brink of collapse...
Good work! Please add The big Short to this list. Beside the documentaries my personal favourites are Margin Call and The big Short which in my opinion are the only movies about finance and not only centered around people in finance.
This thread has already listed out most of the gems out there. Adding one more : Billions (TV series). This not heavy on finance but a fun watch of the power play.
I'd only echo the few posts about Margin Call. That was about as close of a depiction of working through Sept - Dec 2008 as you can get. I had a lot of nights like that on a smaller scale during that time.