When you think of bankers, “sexy” probably isn’t the first adjective that springs to mind. In fact, suits, savings and strings of numbers are pretty much bottom of the list when it comes to glamor and sex appeal (well, maybe not the suits…) – at least, until Hollywood gets hold of them.
With a little movie magic, even the driest of subjects can be given some sex appeal, and finance is no exception. These films make the driest jobs seem wilder than your average music video, with sex, drugs, and obscene amounts of money. It might not be a totally accurate representation of the financial world, but it’s definitely an entertaining one.
After seeing Margot Robbie explain finance in a bubble bath in the Oscar nominated The Big Short, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the 12 Movies That Make Finance Sexy.
12 Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
A look at the cut-throat world of real estate, Glengarry Glen Ross revolves around four real estate agents in a desperate bid to out-sell each other. It’s not just a thirst for the commission that motivates these men – they have been told that only the top two salesmen will keep their jobs, and with families to support, the less successful are getting desperate.
Over the course of just two days, the film sees the men work to secure the best leads, pleading, persuading, and even attempting to bribe in their need to succeed. At the end of their ropes, some decide to get back at the company that is pressuring them by stealing the leads and selling them on, a plan that is destined to go badly…
11 Other People’s Money (1991)
A rom-com with a basis in a very real issue for smaller businesses, Other People’s Money pits a mom and pop company against Larry the Liquidator (Danny DeVito), a ruthless businessman determined to dismantle the company and sell off the parts. The romance comes into play when lawyer Kate (Penelope Ann Miller) is brought in to help save the company. The stepdaughter of the folksy and charming owner, she has every reason to hate Larry, even though the two clearly have some chemistry.
The fight that follows is a funny one, but it doesn’t gloss over the heart of the issue – that men like Larry care only about money, not about the traditional way of doing business that had a product at its end. Despite the rom-com tag, you may be surprised with the ending of this charming David and Goliath tale.
10 American Psycho (2000)
In Manhattan in the 80s, investment banker Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is living the ultimate life of luxury. His world is filled with designer clothes, elite parties, cocaine, booze and beautiful women, but the consumerism is slowly driving him mad.
American Psycho chronicles Bateman’s descent into madness as he goes on a killing spree set off by a man with a better, more expensive business card than his. There’s plenty of sex, as Bateman sleeps with multiple prostitutes and parties with the rest of the Wall Street elite, but American Psycho is, more than anything, an indictment of the obsession with one-upmanship and conspicuous consumption that was everything for financiers in that decade.
9 Working Girl (1988)
This corporate rom-com centers on Tess (Melanie Griffith), a secretary with big ambitions but no way to achieve them. Despite taking night classes to get a bachelor’s degree, she can’t get into even an entry-level position as a stockbroker, and is stuck in the typing pool. When she ends up working for another woman, Katherine (Sigourney Weaver), she thinks she may have finally found a mentor, but Katherine turns out to be using Tess for her ideas. When Katherine is laid out with a broken leg after a skiing trip, Tess decides to masquerade as a stockbroker, using Katherine’s home, clothes, and connections to fake it till she makes it.
In the grand tradition of rom coms, lots of mistaken identities, mix-ups, and zany scenarios follow, along with a glamorous (fake) lifestyle and a gorgeous man in the offing.
8 Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
A story of wealth and corruption in New York, Bonfire of the Vanities begins with Wall Street investor Sherman McCoy (Tom Hanks) on top of the world. He has Wall Street at his feet, a loving wife and a stunning mistress. His life is one of wealth and privilege, and looks set to continue that way, until one night when he is in the car with his mistress, and she accidentally runs over a young black man in the South Bronx.
Assuming that no one would care about yet another black youth, the two speed off and try to continue their lives, but New York is about to have an election, and there are factors in play who want to bring the perpetrator to justice for their own ends. Sherman’s glittering universe is falling apart, but few of the people involved are really interested in justice, only their own success.
7 Cosmopolis (2012)
Cosmopolis chronicles a single day in the life of young multi-billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) as he is driven across town in his private limo. His life is unbelievably luxurious for someone so young, and he manages to sleep with two women on his way to his hairdresser (neither of whom are his wife), as well as convey the idea that he has more money than he really knows what to do with.
However, the film serves as a grim reminder that not only is money not happiness (there’s a reason that his wife turns him down), but that it can’t buy connection, awareness, and that it’s possible to lose it all at a moment’s notice.
6 The Big Short (2015)
Based around the financial crisis of 2007-2008, The Big Short shows how some people in the world of finance had an inkling that the housing bubble was about to burst, and used that to their advantage. From the eccentric hedge fund manager who started it all to the Deutschebank investor, to the minor start-up players, the film shows people playing the system against itself to make a profit off the massive losses of others.
Sexy, funny and touching, the film is able to make a complex financial situation incredibly enjoyable to watch without losing sight of the humanity of the characters. Less overtly sexy than some of the films that focus on the glory days of Wall Street in the ‘80s, The Big Short still makes the world of finance entertaining.
5 Rogue Trader (1999)
Ewan McGregor is incredible as Nick Leeson, the real-life trader who managed to singlehandedly bankrupt Barings Bank in 1995. Rogue Trader follows Leeson as he goes from small time bank clerk with serious ambition to a wildly successful trader heading up their Singapore branch. He starts out legitimately successful, although does it with illegal practices, cheap labor, and hidden losses making him seem far more competent than he actually is.
Given almost complete control in Singapore, it seems that he can do no wrong, but he is actually spiraling out of control, gambling larger and larger sums and hiding his losses as he tries to recover. A lesson in unchecked power, it’s easy to see how Leeson was seduced into the risks that ended with Barings losing everything.
4 Arbitrage (2012)
A multi-billionaire is ready to do his last deal – he has lived the high life, has a beautiful wife and an adult daughter, and now he is looking to sell his hedge fund management for a healthy profit and retire. However, his success has a dark side – he has been cooking the books, and he has a mistress, who dies one night in a car crash with him next to her.
Terrified that he will be found out and his world will come crashing down, he turns to a young man who he helped out of poverty in the past to take the fall for him, but the court case may be the thing the ruins his perfect family life. This crime drama is a thrilling look at a man who might still not be able to keep everything he has gained over decades in the industry.
3 Boiler Room (2000)
A film about the lesser of two evils, Boiler Room centers on a college dropout who was running an illegal casino in his apartment, much to the chagrin of his father, a federal judge. In an attempt to impress his family, he gives up his illegal business to go to work for a brokerage firm, not realizing that the firm is illegally running a pump-and-dump scam, and that his way to become a respectable man is anything but respectable.
He loves the high life that initially comes with the work, not to mention finally winning his father’s approval, but Seth (Giovanni Ribisi) isn’t quite cold-hearted enough to ruin people for personal gain. His journey, the involvement of the FBI, and his reconciliation with his father is fast-paced and thrilling, but has real heart behind it.
2 Wall Street (1987)
A junior stockbroker rises to wealth and power in this classic about the fictional Wall Street mogul Gordon Gekko and his young protégé Bud (Charlie Sheen). Bud is a junior stockbroker who looks up to Gekko, hoping one day to enjoy the kind of money and glamorous lifestyle that Gekko enjoys. Bud is determined, but it’s not his persistence that wins Gekko over. It’s insider information that he learns from overhearing a conversation between his father and a union worker.
Bud ends up in a corner office, with a luxury penthouse and with a stunning trophy girlfriend, but he comes to realize that his mentor isn’t just playing the market, he’s willing to double-cross Bud himself. Wall Street, (and to a lesser extent, its sequel Money Never Sleeps) show us both the incredible rewards of insider trading, and the moral costs of it.
1 The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), this story of the ultimate Wall Street success is sure to inspire more than a little envy at first, even if his eventual fall serves as more of a warning tale than an inspiration. Belfort’s career as his Wall Street dreams are crushed when he starts work on October 19, 1982 – Black Monday. From an office on Wall Street, he goes to a run-down office in a mall selling penny stocks, but his incredible sales techniques and total lack of morals quickly have him building an empire on pump-and-dump scams.
The film focuses on the headiest days of his success, when he is surrounded by hookers, blow and Quaaludes (and Margot Robbie). Although he ends up addicted, alone and arrested, somehow that high still seems like it might have been worth it. An incredible film that blends biography and black comedy perfectly, The Wolf Of Wall Street is a whirlwind of ‘80s decadence.
Can you think of any other films that make finance sexy? Let us know in the comments!