The best films about financial scandals to watch right now

From 'Margin Call' and 'The Big Short', to Robert de Niro's 'The Wizard of Lies', here are the best money-grabbing movies to watch tonight...

Who’s been watching Devils on Sky Atlantic? It’s good, isn’t it? If you’re yet to tune in, it’s a financial thriller series, following a successful banker on track to become vice-CEO. But then, after a scandal involving his wife dashes his promising career prospects, his life goes into a tailspin.

It’s a gripping watch, and we’re absolutely hooked. But it’s also got us thinking: the world of finance is a hard-hitting, high-pressure environment at the best of times (and that’s before you add Devils‘ whole ‘suspected murder’ situation). Scandal is rife and the stakes are high — and that makes for  scintillating, edge-of-the-seat drama.

So, if you’ve binged Devils already and want more money-grabbing mayhem, read on for the best thrillers, dramas and black comedies about financial scandals…

The Wolf Of Wall Street, 2013

Watch it on: Netflix

What it’s about: If you’re looking for a rip-roaring ride through the world of finance — with laughs and gasps in equal measure — then this one really takes the banking biscuit. Nominated for five Oscars, Scorsese’s biographical black-comedy burst onto the cinema scene eight years ago; and we haven’t stopped talking about it since.

Whether it’s the shocking narrative based on real-life events (Jordan Belfort was a real stockbroker in New York City, whose unbridled fraud and corruption at his Wall Street firm eventually proved to be his undoing) or its Guinness World Record for the most swearing in a film — this is one that people won’t be done talking about for a long, long time. 

The Big Short, 2015

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

What it’s about: This is another biographical comedy-drama; but based on the 2010 book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. Depicting how the 2007-2008 financial crisis was triggered by the United States housing bubble, the film pushed the envelope on movie-making — with characters breaking the fourth wall.

It initially feels jarring, being addressed directly by the characters on screen. But here, it’s a blessing — as actors from Ryan Gosling to Brad Pitt spell out tricky concepts like collateralised debt obligations in layman’s terms. Margot Robbie even pops up in a bath to explain ‘sub prime mortgages’.

Margin Call, 2011

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

What it’s about: We’re back in the financial crisis of 2007-2008: but this time, it’s a financial thriller that will have viewers poised so precariously on the edge of their seat, they’ll wonder how they got there. The story mainly takes place over a 24-hour period (always a good move for a thriller: tension is high, and the action is fast-paced) at a Wall Street investment bank, and focuses on the actions of a select group of employees following the financial collapse.

Director and screenwriter J.C. Chandor is actually the son of an investment banker himself, and the film is largely informed by his own experiences of real estate investments shortly before the crash. That means the facts are presented in a starkly accurate way.

The Wizard of Lies, 2018

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

What it’s about: Wall Street really does have a lot to answer for. Here, another film set on that infamous New York City thoroughfare; in this case, a biopic centred on the life of Bernard Madoff. Madoff founded his Wall Street company in the 1960s, which eventually became one of the biggest investment funds around. His career and reputation grew with it, until a discovery in 2008.

As it turned out, his firm had spent the past 16 years becoming the biggest pyramid scheme in the history of finance. Needless to say, multi-billion dollar losses abounded, and Madoff got 150 years in prison. De Niro captures the fall from grace with a gripping intensity.

The Informant!, 2009

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

What it’s about: Biopics seems to be all the rage in the financial film genre; but maybe that’s because there have been some fascinating individuals involved. In this biographical black comedy, Matt Damon stars as Mark Whitacre: a real-life rising star employee at American corporation Archer Daniels Midland.

As it turns out, the company is routinely fixing the price of lysine (that’s right, this is the famous price-fixing conspiracy of the 1990s) and Whitacre ultimately blows the whistle to the FBI. Over the next few years, he goes on to investigate the company, undercover, for the FBI. And, at the risk of stating the obvious, it’s not an easy job. Thankfully, Matt Damon’s tour-de-force performance will keep you hooked until the credits start rolling…

Equity, 2016

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

What it’s about: From comedy to thriller in one bank-rolled swoop. Equity is another suspenseful thriller, this time centred around insider trading (we’re six films down the list; insider trading was going to rear its ugly head at some point).

In this film, senior investment banker Naomi Bishop is hired to handle the IPO for social-networking platform Cachet. But, unbeknownst to her, her boyfriend (who works at the same firm) is being investigated on suspicion of insider trading. On learning that Cachet is hackable, Naomi continues trying to sell the shares to investors — not a good idea. The result? A tense, nail-biting exploration of the inner sanctums of (dodgy) private equity.

The Laundromat, 2019

Watch it on: Netflix

What it’s about: Remember the Panama Papers scandal? Well, here’s a sliver of unique insight into one of the biggest global business bust-ups of all time. 

As you might have guessed from the title, money laundering is at the heart of this biographical comedy-drama, and The Laundromat tells three separate stories of people around the world directly affected by the practices of the company Mossack Fonseca. In a stroke of genius, director Steven Soderbergh has the film narrated by Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas) themselves. And the wider cast? Meryl Streep, David Schwimmer, Sharon Stone, Jeffrey Wright, James Cromwell round out a big-budget ensemble.

Rogue Trader, 1999

Watch it on: This one isn’t technically available to stream, but it’s such a rip-roarer that we couldn’t leave it out. Buy in on DVD here, and thank us later.

What it’s about: Another biographical drama (it really is an industry that breeds characters). This time, the spotlight is on Nick Leeson, a rising star at Barings Bank who was sent to the firm’s Singapore office to take the (trading) floor as General Manager. He continued his rise to trading stardom, and became one of the firm’s key traders: but racked up enormous losses as he rampantly gambled away Barings’ money. Ewan McGregor believably plays the turmoil of a man £800 million in the red.

Wall Street, 1987

Watch it on: Sky

What it’s about: Younger generations may be more familiar with the sequel (2010’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps); but nothing beats the original.

Legend has it that director and co-writer Oliver Stone dedicated the film to his father, Lou, who worked as a stockbroker during the Great Depression, and the film is a deep exploration of the stockbroking world. At its heart is young stockbroker Bud Fox, who becomes embroiled in financial corruption in his bid for career success. The film plunges viewers into the iniquitous dens of 1980s New York, where we meet Michael Douglas’ inimitable, iconic Gordon Gekko.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, 2005

Watch it on: Sky

What it’s about: And, finally, this slick, smart documentary film charts the 2001 collapse of the Enron Corporation, and the subsequent Enron scandal. It guides viewers through the details of the corrupt practices that led to the collapse of the energy company — think shell companies, fraud and embezzlement — and exposes the effects of the subsequent scandal.

If anyone’s looking for unique insight into one of the largest business scandals in history, this is the one for you. Its ‘cast’ includes multiple former Enron executives, traders and accountants, as well as Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins. It really is the real deal. 

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