5 Brilliant Films About Banking And Finance

Making finance interesting is a tricky business, and God knows we're sick of the words "quantitative easing", but all these films really do it.
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Making finance interesting is a tricky business, and God knows we're sick of the words "quantitative easing", but all these films really do it.

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Trying to make an exciting film about bankers is like trying to produce a sexy porno starring Susan Boyle and Ann Widdecombe – it is possible but it takes an enormous amount of imagination … and the actual ‘banking’ generally has to take a backseat. No-one wants to spend two hours watching pin-striped buffoons toiling over spreadsheets whilst throwing paper balls at each other. That’s why, after much deliberation, my initial aim to name the best ten films about banking had to be pared down to five and even here the connection to is sometimes tenuous.

The fact is that there are loads of dreadful films about finance and very few good ones. Ewan Mcgregor’s execrable ‘Rogue Trader’ (about Nick Leeson bringing down Barings) made me want to rub my genitals with a cheese grater for five hours just to nullify the suffering that I’d endured and I would rather have had a nitric acid enema than watch A Good Year (Russell Crow), The Pursuit of Happyness (Will Smith) or The Bonfire of the Vanities (a classic case of great book/shit film syndrome). It’s also noticeable that there are virtually no films, decent or otherwise, that focus on the City of London. It’s always bleeding Wall Street that gets the attention.

Well, I’m pleased to say that all this is about to change. Below is a trailer to what I know will be the definitive film about banking (in the UK or anywhere else) and I don’t think I’m being too arrogant when I say, with absolutely no doubt in my heart, that this will be the banking film against which all others are henceforth measured. It is quite simply a game-changer that will redefine the genre and, what’s more, it stars Alice Cooper and the sexiest young Noel Edmonds lookalike money can buy. I defy you to watch the trailer below and tell me that I’ve got this wrong:

OK, back to that list. So, here are my top five films about banking. If you feel strongly that I’ve selected the wrong choices … please feel free to say what I should / shouldn’t have included.

5) American Psycho (2000). I went into the cinema fearful that a fantastic book would once again be mutilated by Hollywood and, whilst the film didn’t match the novel, it did pretty damn well. The business card scene where the serial killer anti-hero Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale) finds his wonderful embossed card bettered by those of his colleagues is worth the admission price alone. It’s also always a good sign when film lines are picked up by Cityboys and Bateman’s claim that he works in ‘murders and executions’ (not mergers and acquisitions) has been used by numerous bankers ever since this film came out. Finally, it was good to see that Christian Bale’s psychopathic behaviour in the film was simply a fair reflection of the actor’s own twisted personality … as evidenced by his mind-blowing rant on the set of Terminator Salvation.

4) Other People’s Money (1991). Once again, banking is really in the background here but this romantic drama/comedy is a much underrated, and gentler, take on the themes explored by Wall Street (made four years before). Danny DeVito delivers one of his best ever performances as ‘Larry the Liquidator’ and his speech at the shareholders meeting of the company he wants to asset strip is on a par with Gordon Gekko’s legendary ‘greed is good’ diatribe.

3) Boiler Room (2000). On paper, watching Vin Diesel and Ben Affleck conning pensioners out of their retirement funds doesn’t sound like a bag of laughs but this fast-paced film captures the greed and macho bullshit that, believe me, is prevalent in broking. Again, there is a memorable speech (this time by Affleck) leading me to conclude that there’s something about the greed and ruthlessness inherent in banking/finance that spurs scriptwriters into writing unforgettable diatribes.

2) Trading Places (1983). It pains me to think that this film is almost thirty years old. It means I must have been about twelve years old when I watched it and saw my first ever set of bristols on TV. The fact that these were the truly magnificent pair owned by Jamie Lee Curtis ensured that I must have watched this film at least ten times over the next few years, leading me to require expensive laser surgery on my eyes years later. But there were other reasons to watch this film … a young Eddie Murphy at the top of his game, a dishevelled Dan Aykroyd and a great script. Cracking.

1) Wall Street (1987). This film has got it all – a pre-nervous breakdown Charlie Sheen as the young ingénue, Oliver Stone’s righteous anger as director, Daryl Hannah before her face went weird and one of the greatest screen baddies ever created … the wonderfully-named Gordon Gekko (for which Michael Douglas deservedly won an Oscar). Pulling up the rear, you’ve got Terence Stamp as the posh English Gekko-wannabe and Martin Sheen as the solid union man. The clever bastards even managed to premier this film just two months after Black Monday. Without doubt, a day does not go by without some brash prick on Wall Street mindlessly repeating one of the great lines from this film – ‘If you want a friend get a dog’, ‘lunch is for wimps’, ‘greed is good’ etc. It’s like a bible for Cityboys and whilst that may not sound like a recommendation, in this case it is. Wall Street is the target for any film about finance and I can only hope that our feature is an updated British version of it.

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