September 29 2010|05.30 AM UTC

Stan Reybern

Greed, Revenge, and Deception: The 9 Best Movies about Money

Category: Personal Finance


Every movie has a theme. Perhaps it’s love (most of them are) or lust, or good vs. evil, or perhaps it’s just a movie about death. Of all the topics that the Silver Screen has covered, there might be no other topic covered as well, or across as wide array of genres as money. Money is known as the root of all evil, and in the case of the Silver Screen, it has served as the root for some of Hollywood’s best and most entertaining films. Here is the list of the 9 Best Movies about Money.

1. Wall Street

YEAR: 1987

MORAL: Bankrupting your father is hard to put on a Father’s Day card, so avoid it.

Well before Shia Lebouf was being wooed by Gordon Gecko, Charlie Sheen was being sucked into the mentality that greed is good. He got sucked in so far that he almost agreed to allow Gecko to buy out Blue Star Airlines and personally run his father (played by Martin Sheen) into the poor house. It’s the classic father/son conflict: father teaches son good values, son grows up and forgets everything because he really wants Daryl Hannah to sleep with him; son almost bankrupts Dad, and in the end puts his mentor in jail.

2. Trading Places

YEAR: 1983

MORAL: You should appreciate everything you have, because in an instant it could be gone, and you’ll end up impersonating a Jamaican on a commuter train.

Welcome to the era when Eddie Murphy made funny movies. Welcome to the era when Dan Akroyd made funny movies, too. Here we have Murphy, a homeless black guy just trying to survive. Then we have Dan Akroyd who is as wealthy and blessed as can be….that is until two crotchety old guys decide to take away everything from Akroyd and give it to Murphy. Why? Because Randolph believes they can take a common criminal and make him successful. All Akroyd is left with is a hooker and enough anger to plan the biggest revenge plot of our lifetimes.

3. Boiler Room

YEAR: 2000

MORAL: Robbing middle class people is no fun, not even for Vin Diesel.

After Wall Street came Boiler Room. Giovanni Ribisi is a local hustler and con man asked to learn the business of big stocks. He is reluctant, but then goes for it and finds that selling stocks is a bigger con job than running illegal casinos out of his basement is. He becomes a quick student and does what any self respecting trader would do: he cons a gentle family man out of his entire life savings.

4. Jerry Maguire

YEAR: 1996

MORAL: It isn’t how much you make at work, but rather what you get out of it personally. It also taught us that Renee Zellweger could be hot just one time.

Being a sports agent had its ups and downs for Jerry Maguire until he said “Less clients, more personal relationships.” The problem is that it translated to his bosses as “I want to do my job less and make less money but feel good about myself again.” Sports agents aren’t into feeling good about themselves, so they decimate Jerry’s whole business. He’s left with an overblown, under-the-radar star, a young and idealistic assistant, and a kid who knows the human head weighs 8 pounds.

5. Casino

YEAR: 1995

MORAL: No one plays a better short, crazy guy than Joe Pesci. It also teaches us that every dollar you make has a price, and the bigger the dollar amount the bigger the price.

This is the classic tale of money. We’ve all been there. You’re a mobster who takes over a Vegas casino. You have your dependable-but-nuts-as-hell friend help you. He gets banned from the casinos and starts robbing them instead. You drift apart because he’s sleeping with your whore of a wife. Then the bosses back home think you guys are a threat and need to be taken out, so they blow up your car and bury your friend alive in the field.

6. The Money Pit

YEAR: 1986

MORAL: Anything that seems too good to be true probably is. It also taught us that two actors can star in the same movie and have VERY different career paths.

The founder of Ringling Brothers once said “There’s a sucker born every minute.” In the case of The Money Pit, there are two suckers born every minute. Tom Hanks and Shelly Long can’t find a place to save their lives until they find an amazing mansion for a price that would have most normal people looking for a catch. What was the catch? The place was a real “fixer upper,” which means it required a bulldozer and a new house, but God bless Tom and Shelly for trying.

7. Brewster’s Millions

YEAR:1985

MORAL: Spending cash on people makes them like you, regardless of why you are spending it.

Richard Pryor stars in a tale of a minor league ballplayer who stands to inherit 300 million from a rich uncle he never knew he had(like no one in the family would have mentioned it). The only caveat is that he has to spend 30 million in 30 days to understand the true meaning of a dollar. He can’t buy anything for himself and it can, in no way, help him. It’s completely selfless. Everyone thinks he’s crazy, and the lawyers who stand to inherit the money if he fails don’t want him to succeed.

8. Indecent Proposal

YEAR: 1993

MORAL: Money is important, but love is far more important, especially when the person who holds the money is someone your wife finds more attractive than you.

Welcome to the movie that sparked this conversation between every man and woman in America:

Woman: Would you let some man sleep with me for a million dollars?

Man: Hell, I’d sleep with him for $1,000.

Woman: How can you let another guy sleep with me?

Man: Babe, if he’s willing to pay a million dollars, then he wants you more than I do.

Woman: Well if he’s Robert Redford, I want to sleep with him more than you.

Man: Fair.

Yes, a million dollars for one night with his wife. This leads to unforeseen complications in the marriage. Apparently, inviting a handsome third party into the marriage is a recipe for disaster. Who knew?

9. It’s A Wonderful Life

YEAR: 1946

MORAL: It’s not about the money you make, it’s about the friendships you have. They’re worth more than anything. Also, it teaches us that if we get into a jam, everyone in our life will come to our home and dump money on the table. That’s a wonderful life.

You don’t think this is a movie about money? It’s not a movie about Christmas, either. It’s about a guy who grows up never getting what he wants, wanting to be someone great. The catalyst for his demise is losing money for the payment on the Savings & Loan, which was stolen by Old Man Potter, who is the greediest man on the planet. It pushes George Bailey to attempt suicide, and then learn the value of life.

Conclusion:

From death and horror to love and mystery, films have many genres. The most popular theme through the ages, though, has always been money. People enjoy the schadenfreude of watching others achieve unspeakable wealth, only to lose it in a greedy moment. One thing’s for sure: experiencing greed, revenge, and deception in films will always be more entertaining than in real life!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Philly Shoes October 4, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Nice, Brewster’s Millions. I remember seeing it once years ago but never new its name. I remember Richard Pryor ran for mayor to use up a good chunk of that 30 million.

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Aja August 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Sorry, but any list about portrayals of greed that leaves off the portrayal — von Stroheim’s Greed — is just woefully short-sighted.

Also, there *were* movies about money and capitalism that existed before 1980. Just saying.

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funny addition to this list January 23, 2012 at 4:31 pm

scarface!

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