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The 5 Best Finance Movies Made Since the Great Recession - Investment Ideas

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Hollywood and Wall Street usually don't mix.

Despite the phenomenal success of the original "Wall Street" movie in 1987, starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, for which Michael Douglas won the Academy Award for Best Actor, Hollywood has mostly stayed away from exploring the financial and business sectors.

However, the Great Recession in 2008 seemed to open the door to a rush of movies exploring finance, including the 2008 financial crisis itself, as well as the plight of the working man in corporate America.

Hollywood has a knack for good timing. "Wall Street" came out on Dec 11, 1987, just 6 weeks after Black Monday on Oct 19, 1987 where the Dow fell 22.6%.

I don't think it was a coincidence that the long awaited sequel to "Wall Street", "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps", was finally released in 2010, when the focus was again on the financial titans.

But Hollywood hasn't been only depicting the top of the financial heap. It has recently also been exploring the regular working man.

Since the Great Recession, several movies have actually looked at what it meant to work at a corporation and focused almost exclusively on cubicle and office culture.

The Top 5 Business Films Since the Great Recession

It takes guts to make a movie about finance or the corporate world because they are easy to scrutinize. Who can forget Mr. Big in the second Sex and the City movie worrying over a measly hundred point drop in the Dow?

These five films are the best in the genre since the Great Recession. They are listed in order of their release.

1. Up in the Air

2. The Company Men

3. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

4. Margin Call

5. Arbitrage

1. Up in the Air

Up in the Air was released in December 2009 and is another film that had the luck of timing. George Clooney played a corporate consultant who flew around the country firing people for companies who couldn't do it themselves.

At the time of the film's release in late 2009, the unemployment rate was near the highest of the Great Recession. Director Jason Reitman actually filmed dozens of real life people, who had been laid off themselves, getting "fake" fired, many of which made it into the film.

It's a rare film that focuses on corporate culture, depicting work colleagues socializing. It also offered a unique depiction of the road-warriors, those who fly from coast to coast for a living and spend more time in hotels than their own homes.

It was released by Paramount, a division of Viacom ( VIAB ).

2. The Company Men

Released in late 2010 when the U.S. economy had started to improve, this movie, starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper, may have hit too close to home for some. It fell off the radar quickly.

It focused on a year in the life of three men who were downsized from a major corporation and how it impacted their lives and families.

It's one of the rare movies to depict corporate identity and how closely tied Americans are to where they work. At the time of its release, it may have been just too realistic in its portrayal of the struggles of those who were laid off but it's definitely worth checking out now.

3. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Could anything really top Wall Street? Twenty-three years later, expectations ran high.

Michael Douglas reprised his iconic role of Gordon Gekko for this December 2010 sequel which again focused on the world of the top traders and the ultra-rich. Gekko is newly released from prison and looking rebuild his lost empire, trying to win back his family in the process.

Many fans of the original movie felt let down by this sequel, but so few films actually depict the elite hedge fund world, it deserves to be on this list.

4. Margin Call

Margin Call is probably the least known of these 5 movies but it's easily one of the best.

It depicts events that lead up to a financial crisis at a fictional large well-known financial firm. The firm's portfolio of mortgage-backed securities blows up leaving the firm vulnerable to a credit crisis, much like that which happened during the actual financial crisis.

You don't have to have a thorough understanding of finance to follow this movie with an all-star cast led by Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons.

If you want to know what the culture is like at an elite Wall Street firm, this is it.

It was distributed by Lionsgate ( LGF ).

5. Arbitrage

Released in September 2012, Arbitrage, like Wall Street, explores the world of the elite hedge fund manager. Richard Gere stars as a hedge fund manager who has cooked the books to conceal fraud at his investment firm.

His daughter, who also works at the hedge fund, discovers the fraud and he scrambles to get out of it.

There are side plots, but this is yet another movie that thrilled in depicting the master of the universe types that make up Wall Street. If you liked Wall Street, you should be sure to have this movie on your list.

Will Hollywood Be Visiting the Financial World Again Soon?

The string of films representing both Wall Street and the corporate world over the last few years has been impressive. But since 2012, it has dried up.

This is the 25th anniversary of Michael Lewis' best selling "Liar's Poker". You might have seen the book prominently displayed in bookstores recently. In 2011, it was announced that Lewis would write the screenplay for his book. In 2012, a director was announced. But since then, there hasn't been any more news. It looks like that project is on hold.

In the meantime, fans of finance can enjoy these five films on DVD.

And for those who missed it the first time around, the original "Wall Street" is a must see.

[In full disclosure, the author of this article owns shares of LGF.]

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Tracey Ryniec is the Value Stock Strategist for Zacks.com. She is also the Editor of the Insider Trader and Value Investor services. You can follow her on twitter at @TraceyRyniec .

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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