The Top 10 Best Money Movies Ever Made


Long before I wrote a blog (and before we had two kids), I was an avid movie watcher — Maybe one movie a week.  These days, with a family, and a blog to babysit, my time is much more limited.  Now, I only watch a couple movies a month… so I tend to make absolutely certain they’re really good movies to watch before I invest my time watching one.

Usually I write about serious stuff here on this blog, and not a whole lot about the really fun stuff (like movies).  For today’s post, I’ve decided to relax that oh-so-serious format a little and write about a fun topic — The best money movies ever made!  Use it as a guide to find the really good money movies that are totally worth your time!

Let the movie list begin!

 

1. Brewster’s Millions (1985) – IMDB rating: 6.5

brewsters millions

Brewster’s Millions is a classic 80’s comedy about a minor league baseball player (Brewster) who receives a $1 million dollar inheritance from a recently deceased great-uncle.  Most people would be thrilled to inherit money from a long-lost uncle, but there’s a big catch to this inheritance.

Brewster can take the $1 million dollars, or he can try to win the whole estate of $300 million by spending $30 million in 30 days. (That’s $70 million in 2019 dollars.)  While spending that much money might sound easy (just buy a bunch of houses, right?), he actually has to be flat broke at the end of those 30 days to win the $300 million.

no 30 million
“What happens if I don’t spend the $30 million?”

That’s a lot harder than it sounds, and some of the ridiculous things Brewster spends money on get big laughs.  I think the hardest part of the spending challenge is that he can’t tell anyone.  All his friends and over-paid advisers just can’t understand why he keeps spending money so stupidly.  They try to give him good money advice, but they also enjoy his lavish lifestyle.  Does he win the $300 million in the end?  You’ll have to watch the movie to find out!

The most important lesson Brewster discovers in this epic journey, is that money can’t buy happiness.  After awhile, spending all the money ceases to be fun for Brewster.  In the end, he learns a powerful lesson about what’s really important in life.

The move is based on a 1903 novel by the same name, so if you enjoy reading more Project Gutenberg has the book for free.

 

2. MoneyBall (2011) – IMDB rating: 7.6

moneyball

MoneyBall is a sports movie (based on a true story) about the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team, named Billy Bean (played by Brad Pitt).  As general manager, Bean needs to put together a competitive baseball team on a very limited budget.  By focusing his hiring process on hard statistics rather than scouting intuition, Bean finds overlooked players that have large perceived weaknesses.  Using traditional methods those players would never would have been hired.

At first, the strategy called sabermetrics appears to be a failure, but Bean convinces his boss to stay the course.  Eventually Bean’s team of misfits goes on to win a record breaking 20 games in a row.

On the surface the movie doesn’t appear to have much to do with money, but it absolutely does.  If you think of the team as Bean’s portfolio and the players as his individual assets, you realize the movie is very much about value investing and putting together a winning portfolio from undervalued assets.

The book on which the movie is based, is also excellent.

 

3.  The Money Pit (1986) – IMDB rating: 6.3

money pit

The Money Pit is a comedic tale of two first-time home buyers that stumble onto a large mansion for sale in out the countryside.  The home appears to be a very good bargain.  The house and grounds look extremely beautiful and the widow-owner appears to be a motivated seller.

The young couple gets easily sucked into buying the mansion.

After buying the house, they subsequently discover the home needs major renovations… just to be livable.

moneypit

Arguments with contractors, a disastrous home renovation, and big cash flow problems lead to serious tensions in their relationship.  This is an absolute classic home buying/renovation comedy.  If you’ve ever owned a home before, this is a absolute must see movie that’ll make you laugh away the pains of home ownership.

Even if you don’t own a home, this hilarious movie will serve as a cautionary tale of buying too much home and getting in over your head.

 

4. In-Time (2011) – IMDB rating: 6.7

in time

It’s been said many times — that time is money.  Quite literally when you think that most people have to trade their time for money.  In-Time takes this idea to its extreme — money literally is time.  Characters in this science-fiction film quite literally pay for things with time.  Each person in this world has a clock on their arm counting down, and when that clock reaches zero they die instantly.  By working, they can add time to the clock, but most people struggle to make ends meet.  Many have to ‘borrow time’ just to stay alive and pay rent.

The main character of the film, Will Salas (played by Justin Timberlake) lives that struggle daily, until one fateful evening when he saves a man with over 100 years on his ‘clock’, but is tired of living.  The man gives Will all his time, which allows Salas to travel to other Zones and see how the truly wealthy people in his society live.

in time
What would you do with 116 years left on the clock?

The wealthy in this world are essentially immortal because they never run out of time.  They control all the businesses and inflation, making it nearly impossible for the little guy to get ahead, which makes Will Salas a very unusual person.  He sees the societal inequity for what it is, and decides to pull a “Robin Hood” move.  But the ‘time keepers’ are close behind, desperate to keep the time only in the hands of the rich.

In my opinion this is a great “money” movie that really deserves to be seen.  The struggle and difficulty with which people live in this society mirrors many of our real-world struggles today.  I guarantee if you watch this movie you won’t look at time the same way again!

 

5. The Big Short (2015) – IMDB Rating: 7.8

the big short

The Big Short is a movie that looks at the 2008 housing crisis through the eyes of three hedge funds that shorted the housing market when every big bank was calling it rock-solid and stable.  These hedge funds knew that when adjustable rate mortgages began to rise 2007 from the teaser rates initially offered, mortgage bonds would eventually collapse.  They saw the corruption, stupidity, and flaws in the mortgage market before anyone else did.  They shorted mortgage bonds and everyone thought they were crazy.  Along with it, they realized some of the big banks complacent in the fraudulent mortgage market would eventually fail.  They shorted those banks as well, and made huge sums of money doing it.

It’s worth saying that this is not a “feel good” kind of movie.  It ends on a depressing note (The Great recession), I but I feel this might just be the most important movie on this list.  Why? The movie goes to great pains to explain things like what a Mortgage Bond is, Credit Default Swaps, and CDO’s to the average viewer, and they do a good job of it.

If you ever wondered why the Great Recession happened, this movie does a great job of explaining why.

 

6. Wall Street (1987) IMDB Rating: 7.5

wallstreet

Wall Street is a place where dreams are made and lost.  I haven’t seen this movie in years, but it’s an absolute classic money-movie.  The movie tells the story of Bud Fox (played by Charlie Sheen), a stockbroker who wants to work for a ruthless corporate raider named Gordon Gekko.   Yes, this is the movie that spawned the phrase, “Greed is good!”.

Ultimately it’s greed that causes Gekko to hire Bud, because of insider information that Bud collects (which is of course illegal).  Bud and Gekko become weathy because of this illegal information, and the two ultimately hatch a plan to buy Bluestar Airlines.  Gekko plans to dissolve the company to profit from the pension fund, but Bud would rather save the company because his father works there.

sheen

Ultimately Bud hatches a plan to save Bluestar Airlines, but will he escape jail time?

I won’t spoil the rest of the plot, but this movie really shows off just how far a Wall Street raider-type will go just to make a buck — at the cost of decent people’s lives.  Ultimately the main character, Bud, learns the importance of living by the rules and the importance of running an honest business through hard work.  We also get to see the evil and uncaring attitude from which Wall Street operates to find short-term profits.

There’s also a sequel to this movie that wasn’t half bad either!

 

7.  Office Space (1999) IMDB rating: 7.8

office space

OK, if you haven’t seen Office Space before, this is an absolute gem.  Go see it.  Right now!  This fantastic dark comedy satires the everyday work-life of a computer programmer named Peter Gibbons.  What makes the movie so fantastic is how realistic it is.  If you’ve ever worked an office job in front of a computer, you’ll be laughing your head-off at this movie.  From co-workers with a “case of the Mondays”, bad commute traffic, irritating bosses, downsizing “experts”, and smash worthy office printers — this movie pulls absolutely no punches when making fun of corporate office culture.

Peter (the main character) gets burned-out by his job, and seeks out a occupational hypno-therapist to help him with his lack of motivation and enthusiasm for his job.  The hypno-therapist puts Peter into a super-relaxed state without a care in the world, and then suddenly dies of a heart-attack while Peter is still hypnotized.  Hilarity ensues as Peter stops caring about work in his new “relaxed” mode.

tps reports
Yeah… about those TPS reports.

Meanwhile the company is planning to lay-off Peter’s friends, which are some of the hardest workers at the company.  Together, the three hatch a hilarious plan take-back from an uncaring company, which almost does the main characters in because of a software bug.

Thankfully it all goes up in flames at the end, and the movie reminds us that life is too short to spend your entire life working at a job you hate.  It’s a great movie!  Check it out!

 

8. Trading Places (1983) – IMDB rating: 7.5

trading places

As the oldest film on this list, Trading Places might seem a little dated, and indeed it is.  The cars, computers, and telephones in this film are all good for a retro-laugh, but the core tenants of the movie still stand tall — What money does to a person is ultimately timeless.

Trading Places is the tale of poor man (Valentine played by Eddie Murphy) turned into a rich man, and a rich man (Winthorpe played by Dan Aykroyd) turned into a poor man — quite literally overnight.  The change is masterminded by the antagonists of the film, the brother-owners of Duke & Duke commodities brokerage firm.  They decide as an “experiment” to make a faithful hardworking employee into a poor man, and then take a homeless man off the street and turning him into a model employee at their firm.

trading car

Money quite literally shapes these two individuals and the actions they take throughout the film — ultimately cutting Winthorpe down a peg and lifting Valentine up a peg or two.  The two eventually catch onto this big scheme, and are understandably upset.  They also discover some illegal insider trading by the Duke brothers, and decided to get revenge by destroying them (and make themselves a bundle of money in the process).

 

9. Fight Club (1999) – IMDB rating: 8.8

fight club

At first glance, Fight Club doesn’t seem like a movie about money.  It’s a movie about anti-consumerism, loneliness, and insanity.

The unnamed-narrator of the film originally starts his life seeking out consumerist perfection, as directed by his parents.  Only to find this consumer life made him completely unhappy and unsatisfied.  Returning home from a business trip one day, he meets a “soap salesman” named Tyler Durden that changes his life.  With Tyler, the narrator starts a “fight club”, and quits his job.  Together, the two introduce the new fight club members to their anti-materialist, anti-consumerist ethos.

big faker

This “club” eventually becomes an anti-consumerist terrorist group, but the important part of the film is really the narrator’s journey as he escapes a world of mindless consumerism for… something else.  A different kind of life.

If you ever get tired of collecting “nice things” and wonder what life should be all about — this movie is definitely a great movie to watch!

 

10. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – IMDB rating: 8.2

wow street

Rolling in at number 10 is The Wolf of Wall Street.  The movie is a true story, based on the life of Jordan Belafort when he was a stock broker back in the 80’s and 90’s.  If there’s one single movie that showcases the excessive and disgusting behavior of Wall Street during that time, this is it.

The main character, Jordan Belafort, starts a boiler room securities firm called Stratton Oakmont.  It was a basically a pump and dump shop (yes, it really existed), that profited by selling penny stocks the firm owned to mom ‘n’ pop retail investors through hard sell techniques.  This was securities fraud, and clearly illegal, but Jordan Belafort became immensely wealthy… for a time.

Of course you don’t get that wealthy doing illegal stuff without spending some of it — so the excess to which he took to spending his wealth is undeniably entertaining.

This one is definitely NOT a movie for the kids.  Definitely watch it after they’ve gone to bed.

customer's money
“The secret to making money on Wall Street, is moving the customer’s money from their pocket… into your pocket.”

I don’t know how true all of it is, but the excesses to which Stratton Oakmont and Jordan Belafort went were legendary enough to inspire a second money movie called Boiler Room.  That’s also a good movie, but the Wolf of Wall Street is probably the more factual of the two.

The movie serves as a very strong warning to anyone who hands their money over to Wall Street.  Be very careful you aren’t handing your money to charlatans like Jordan Balafort… and never trust a salesman when buying an investment.  Do your own research first.

If ever there was a showpiece for why individual investors should stick to index funds and avoid stock brokers — this is it!

 

Bonus Round!

Well, these are just my favorite picks for the all-time best money movies ever made.  Opinions on movies always vary, so I’d like to ask your thoughts on the subject matter.  Have you seen all these movies?  Am I wrong?  Is there a better money movie I’m missing?  What are your favorite money movies?

For bonus points, try to answer the following questions in the comments below:

  • Which actor plays in a total of three of these top 10 films?
  • Which movie had the largest (inflation adjusted) budget?
  • Which movie was the most financially successful (also adjusted for inflation)?
  • How many of these films are based on books?

 

[Image Credit: Flickr]

36 thoughts on “The Top 10 Best Money Movies Ever Made

  • May 8, 2019 at 1:11 PM
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    Brad Pitt was in 3 of them (Moneyball, The Big Short and Fight Club). Not sure about the rest of the questions. Great list! I haven’t seen 3 of these movies and am definitely going to check them out now!

    Reply
    • May 8, 2019 at 2:05 PM
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      You’re right! Now, for double-double points, name a different actor that was “only” in 2 of these movies!

      Reply
      • May 8, 2019 at 2:07 PM
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        Jonah Hill! Wolf Of Wall Street and Moneyball! Movie trivia is the only kind of trivia I know lol.

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        • May 8, 2019 at 5:07 PM
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          Wow, you’re good! I didn’t think anyone would get that one! 😉

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          • May 8, 2019 at 5:09 PM
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            You know who to call if you need a movie trivia expert in Seattle!

          • May 11, 2019 at 12:29 PM
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            Margot Robbie is in The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short (although not a major role in the latter).

            The Pursuit of Happyness is a good money movie that I don’t think you mentioned. Frugality, side hustles, self investment as the route to financial improvement. And a bit more tangential, The Bucket List has a “money can’t buy happiness” theme, although the movie doesn’t actually talk about money much.

    • May 8, 2019 at 2:04 PM
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      Good movie, just didn’t make it into my top 10! I had to be very selective! 🙂

      Reply
  • May 8, 2019 at 2:26 PM
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    Hi Mr. Tako,
    Great movie list!
    As soon as I saw the title of this article I thought of the Wolf of Wall Street. As I was scrolling slowly down the page, I was starting to get worried that you didn’t list it. But alas, it just fit in at number 10. If you left it out, I assume my comment would have spammed “Wolf of Wall Street” x 100.
    Matt

    Reply
  • May 8, 2019 at 2:29 PM
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    Brewster’s Millions with Richard Pryor is the 5th or 6th remake of Brewster’s Millions. Interestingly, in the book and all the movies, the protagonist had to spend $1,000,000. You would think by the 1980’s, Brewster would have an easier time spending $1 M given the inflation from 1902 to 1985. Can you imagine trying to spend $1M in 1902 and have nothing to show for it?

    Money Ball & The Big Short were written by the same guy – Michael Lewis. The Wolf of Wall Street was a book before a movie. Fight Club is by one of my favorite authors – Chuck Palahniuk.

    I like Other People’s Money with Danny DeVito & Gregory Peck which is about a hostile stock takeover.

    More of a rom-com than a money movie, I thought Pretty Woman had some insights about money, power & social class.

    Just for Alec Baldwin’s “motivational” speech you should include Glengarry Glen Ross which is about cut-throat real estate agents.

    Although several of the film listed are based on true stories, you completely left out documentaries from your list. You could make another list of 10 documentaries on money which would leave off some deserving films.

    Reply
    • May 8, 2019 at 5:09 PM
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      Yeah, it was tough enough to just narrow it down to 10 movies. If I was to add documentaries, I’d have to make it a top 50 or something! 😉

      Reply
  • May 8, 2019 at 3:58 PM
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    I thought Moneyball was super boring for some reason. The Big Short was quite interesting. I really enjoyed watching Fight Club and The Wolf of Wall Street.

    Office Space is a classic! 🙂

    Reply
    • May 8, 2019 at 5:11 PM
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      It’s too bad you didn’t like MoneyBall, but everyone has different tastes in movies! Totally OK in my book if you don’t like ’em. 🙂

      Reply
  • May 8, 2019 at 7:29 PM
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    Haha, I just have to say that before I even clicked on the link to this post, “The Money Pit” was the first thing that came to my mind. Nothing’s funnier than the scene where Tom Hanks is to the point he’s unphased and the bathtub falls through the floor and starts laughing. I love that movie!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdYPxFMhEkE

    — Jim

    Reply
  • May 8, 2019 at 10:25 PM
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    Dear Mr Tako,

    If you have a chance, watch the very underrated movie Boiler Room (2000). I won’t spoil it for you but Giovanni Ribisi’s performance in that movie was outstanding.

    Reply
    • May 9, 2019 at 9:42 AM
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      I mentioned Boiler Room in the post. Good movie. It’s kind of a tossup between Wolf of Wall Street and Boiler Room in my mind, with the pick being tipped to WoWS.

      Reply
    • May 9, 2019 at 9:43 AM
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      Good movie. The book goes into a lot more detail if you haven’t read it. Worth a read IMHO.

      Reply
  • May 9, 2019 at 3:33 AM
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    My half brother is 18 years younger than me, and he watched Office Space for the first time a year or two back when he was 18. While he did find it funny, he was mostly terrified. He asked me in hushed tones if that was really what working in an office is like. When I told him it was, suddenly he was much more interested to hear more about this “FIRE” I’m always talking about.

    Reply
  • May 9, 2019 at 6:22 AM
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    I need to watch In Time, sounds excellent, hopefully on Netflix. I liked the other movies, they made me feel the way good cinema sometimes does, that I was understood and that others see the world as I do. I would say though that I was left at the end feeling still somewhat as a fringe outsider, especially as a person in my twenties when my friends were buyer more and nicer stuff. It is nice to have our online community, love these kinds of posts!

    Reply
    • May 9, 2019 at 9:40 AM
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      Thank you Tigermom! It’s always nice to have your positive comments! 🙂

      Reply
  • May 9, 2019 at 6:34 AM
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    Margin Call is a pretty great thriller about the financial crisis. I would not have put Fightclub in there simply because the first rule of fightclub is that we don’t talk about fightclub.

    Reply
    • May 9, 2019 at 9:40 AM
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      Haha. I don’t think I’ve seen Margin Call. I’ll have to check it out. 😉

      Reply
  • May 9, 2019 at 7:05 AM
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    Some great ones on here. I believe 1, 2, 5, and 10 were based on books, and 8 is too if you squint a little.

    I’ve seen all but In Time – sounds like a great plot, but I’m worried about Justin T. and the Rotten Tomatoes score. Maybe I’ll put it at the back of the queue.

    Some absolutely terrible omissions, though. Entirely too highbrow a list 🙂 Where is Dumb and Dumber???

    Reply
    • May 9, 2019 at 9:39 AM
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      Dumb and Dumber? Your taste in movies is very suspect now.

      Just ignore the RT score on In Time. The critics didn’t like it, but it’s a very good movie.

      Reply
  • May 9, 2019 at 7:18 AM
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    Great list. I would have to add “Risky Business” to the list. It’s a classic and would fit into the whole money scheme.

    I would probably add for nomination “Gattaca”. In the movie, getting a job in the future is based more on your DNA. The main character is a janitor because his DNA fails all the employment screenings, but wishes to become an astronaut pilot. He uses another person’s DNA (who had an accident and was wheelchair bound) to achieve his dream. It is sort of like Fight Club in that it is not directly about money, but about employment in a possible future.

    Reply
    • May 9, 2019 at 9:36 AM
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      Hmm… I love the movie Gattaca, but I never really thought of it as a money movie. Solid idea! I’m a sucker for any Andrew Niccol film.

      Reply
  • May 9, 2019 at 7:24 AM
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    I think Boiler Room should have made the list.

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    • May 9, 2019 at 9:35 AM
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      It kind of did make the list. I mentioned it in the Wolf Of Wall Street entry. They’re very similar movies as they are based on the same real world events. WoWS has higher ratings though, and I agree with that.

      Reply
  • May 9, 2019 at 9:57 AM
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    I love Office Space and Fight Club. The rest are great too.
    It’s good to have a fun post once in a while. 🙂

    Reply
  • May 9, 2019 at 11:10 PM
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    Great/fun post Mr. Tako! What a great list you have. I would also add these to contention (or worthy of checking out):

    Slum dog millionaire, Inside Man, Richie Rich, Blank Check, The Pursuit of Happyness, Ocean’s Eleven, Maxed Out, Glengarry GlenRoss (Put that coffee down!), The Color of Money, Casino, All the Money in the World, Lord of War, No Country for Old Men, Catch me if you Can

    I’d say Casino and Lord of War are personally favs of mine.

    8 years working at a movie theatre 🙂

    I’d also like to take a guess at some of your bonus questions:

    Largest budget was probably Wolf of Wall Street. Most financially successful I’d say Fight Club?

    Reply
    • May 10, 2019 at 10:32 AM
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      Oh and I almost forgot, The Gambler! Jim Collins even made a parody video to one of the scenes for his f u money post. Pretty funny!

      Reply
  • May 18, 2019 at 7:45 AM
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    I’ve seen 8 out of the 10 movies on your list including a few mentioned in the comment section such as Boiler Room, Margin Call and Casino.

    I have too much time on my hands but I do enjoy watching movies.

    Reply
  • May 18, 2019 at 11:02 AM
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    Good list! Another nomination among recent movie is The Founder featuring Keaton. Its on Netflix.

    Reply

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