The financial markets are a fascinating place. Every so often, something so outrageous happens that it ends up making the big screen. Below are five movies that every trader should watch. These flicks will be sure to entertain and may also offer up a few important lessons along the way.

The Wolf of Wall Street

A trader’s movie list simply isn’t complete without The Wolf of Wall Street, the biographical black comedy tracking the life and times of the one Jordan Belfort. In addition to its star studded cast, Wolf provides a dizzying glimpse of the life of one of the most successful Wall Street jobbers of all time. But there’s a dark side to greed, and Wolf does a wonderful job of depicting that. Behind the booze, cocaine, prostitutes and billions of dollars is a man slowly unravelling. This makes for some hilarious scenes, but also reminds us that trading isn’t all about the money. If you’re having trouble balancing your ambitions, check out Belfort’s hideous story.

Rogue Trader

Traders familiar with Nick Leeson – the rogue trader who bankrupted Barings Bank in 1995 – will certainly like this movie. Rogue Trader is a cautionary tale depicting Leeson’s menacing moves. While offering an exciting account of Leeson’s ability to hide $1.3 billion in trading losses, it also depicts the consequences of the young trader’s complete and utter recklessness.[1] If there is a silver lining, it’s that risk management is an absolutely essential skill for traders to master. Nick Leeson’s story demonstrates that to a tee.

The Big Short

When it comes to financial market meltdowns, nothing comes close to the 2007-2008 crisis that drove America to its worst recession since the Great Depression. The wonderful mind of Michael Lewis captured it all in his 2010 book The Big Short. Five years later, it was re-made into a movie. The film stars five from Hollywood’s A List to show how a handful of traders bet against the subprime mortgage crisis. While we all know how the crisis ended, very few have actually studied the shady backroom dealings that created one of the biggest bubbles of all time. The Big Short is sure to entertain as well as educate.

Too Big to Fail

Like The Big Short, Too Big to Fail chronicles the 2008 financial crisis, albeit from a slightly different lens. This HBO special looks at the beginning of the financial crisis shortly after the subprime mortgage industry went belly up. It begins with the decision to let Lehman Brothers fail in 2008 and the implications this would have on the entire industry. Some of your favourite financial market kingpins are depicted in the movie, including Ben Bernanke, Warren Buffet and Dick Fuld.

Boiler Room

New traders may not be as familiar with Boiler Room as they are with some of the other titles on this list. Make no mistake, this movie was a big deal when it was released at the tail end of the dot-com bubble in 2000. The film follows a young college dropout that goes to work in the “boiler room” of a major stock brokerage only to find himself knee-deep in corruption. While not referencing any financial market disaster in particular, Boiler Room is an epic flick that depicts everything wrong with the financial industry.[2]

[1] Jae Yu (November 13, 2015). “5 Must Watch Films and Documentaries for Day Traders.” Investopedia.

[2] Alanna Byrne (August 3, 2012). “Top 10 trading movies.” Futures Mag.

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