This month brings the release of another Hollywood movie taking up the well-worn, populist stereotype of Wall Street guys put in their place by ordinary people who dont seem to have as much wealth and power.
Hustlers is getting a lot of buzz ahead of its Sept. 13 release, thanks in part to its cast, which includes Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, and Constance Wu, and because its based on a true story detailed in a popular magazine article called The Hustlers at Scores, by Jessica Pressler.
Oh, and also likely because it involves strippers.
As we wait for another version of a story thats pretty familiar to movie watchers marginalized people give the obnoxious wealthy class their comeuppance; in this case, strippers stealing from Wall Street bankers lets take a look at a few other great Wall Street movies.
The title should be a giveaway that this is quintessential movie about American capital markets, though Wall Streeters probably dont think so, since its underlying indictment of 1980s capitalist excess and greed doesnt exactly portray fund culture in the best light.
Michael Douglas Gordon Gekko came to symbolize that excess as he tutored Charlie Sheens young broker, Bud Fox, proclaiming in the movies most famous line: Greed is good … greed works, greed is right.
The film was directed and co-written by Oliver Stone, whose father Lou was a stockbroker during the Great Depression.
This is Hustlers if you replace the marginalized and manipulated strippers with a marginalized and manipulated homeless guy, who gets back at the manipulators, a couple of Wall Street tycoons who use him in a social experiment.
Eddie Murphy is street hustler Billy Ray Valentine, who eventually outwits the two commodities tycoons with the help of another witless victim in their scheme, commodities broker Louis Winthorpe III, played by Dan Akroyd. This classic is probably the only one ever made that involves the trading of orange juice futures.
The Big Short is a great film because it comes out of great writing, a book by Michael Lewis that linked the housing bubble to the Great Recession of the late 2000s. The films genius comes in linking the pieces of the buildup to the crash, and its clever ways of explaining how complicated financial instruments like mortgaged-backed securities work.
The drama of the financial meltdown is boiled down into the hours leading up to the realization that the bubble was bursting at one fictional firm as it tries to sell off its toxic assets before the crash.
The film is a tense and dramatic tick tock, and also notable for its star-studded cast that includes several Hollywood heavy hitters of the era: Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore and Jeremy Irons. New Yorker film critic David Denby said Margin Call is easily the best Wall Street movie ever made.
This thriller involves a hedge fund manager who goes through the film piling one bad decision on another in handling his companys finances, his relationships and a womans death. How the main character, played by Richard Gere, responds to a series of events propels this thriller forward, and again, its a look at the moral ambiguity that sometimes weaves in and out of multimillion dollar decisions. As the films tagline says, theres a thin line between getting rich and getting caught.
The timing of this film is, in hindsight, pretty spooky. The movie, in which a ruthless broker sells copper short and ruins his friends finances, came out in February 1929. The stock market, of course, crashed in October of that year, starting the Great Depression and ruining many more peoples finances.
Youcan read about the film, but the silent version of it cant be seen. Its been lost, except for a very short clip.
This was not a re-make of the 1929 movie. This Martin Scorsese-directed Leonardo DiCaprio film depicted a far more depraved Wall Street scene than the 1920s copper baron probably would have imagined.
Theres monkeys in the office, cocaine, guns, boats, tossing people at targets, Matthew McConaughey …. And swearing. Theres no citation for it, but Wikipedia claims this movie set a Guinness World record for most instances of swearing in a film.
How weird that to find an investment movie where one of the heroes is a woman you have to go back to the year JFK was killed.
In 1963s The Wheeler Dealers, Lee Remick plays the lone female stock broker at a big firm until shes fired, but then manages to help unravel a complicated fraud. Women feature in some of these other movies – Geres characters daughter in Arbitrage is important, and Jamie Lee Curtis helps put the Duke Bros in their place in Trading Places, but Remicks character here is central to the story.
The Wheeler Dealers, however, was passed off as a romantic comedy, co-starring James Garner, presumably to sell it to people who wouldnt go see a movie that was openly about a smart, powerful woman in early 1960s America. But the movie gets huge points for being ahead of its time. It also gets huge points because the company central to the fraud in the film is called Universal Widgets.
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