Business Movies That Business Writers Love

by February 24, 2017
Who better to write about the best business movies around than people who write about business all the time? Check out some of our favorites. (Image via Pixabay)

Who better to rate the best business movies than people who write about business all the time? Check out some of our favorites. (Image via Pixabay)

There are some great business movies out there. In order to identify the best of the bunch, we asked a handful of our Reynolds Center staff and contributors to list their favorite films in which money and finance are key to the plot. Here’s what they suggest.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

“First, Enron is a fascinating topic to start with. Now make it a documentary and add the perspective of the journalists who covered it. What more can you ask for? The 2005 movie, based on the book by Fortune journalists Bethany MacLean and Peter Elkind, will both teach you about the Enron scandal and the reporting. Watching how the little telltale signs—such as an overreaction to a simple balance sheet question—build to criminal trials will keep you at the edge of your seat. Don’t just take my word for it. The documentary won an Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for an Oscar.” –Danika Worthington, businessjournalism.org contributor 

Glengarry Glen Ross

“Mega-stars Alec Baldwin, Al Pacino, Jack Lemon and Kevin Spacey work in a desperate real estate office in which leads must somehow be turned into buyers in the Glen Garry Glen Ross development—even though most leads are dead ends. The acting is outstanding, demonstrating the frenzied daily lives, pressures, torments, sadness and above-all, unscrupulous nature of their cutthroat business. This 1992 movie based on the award-winning play by David Mamet shows two days in the lives of these manic, motivated salesmen. Some quotes: ‘Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers only!’ and ‘You see this watch? This watch costs more than your car!’ ” —Andrew Leckey, Reynolds Center director 

Wall Street

“For overall enjoyment I’ll have to go with Wall Street, the Oliver Stone masterpiece which really caught the flavor of its age, the eighties, time of big mergers takeovers. Great performances by Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, Hal Holbrook and Daryl Hannah and Charlie Sheen, in a day before his head swelled to something several sizes bigger than his talent.” –Scott Gurvey, businessjournalism.org contributor

Trading Places

“Trading Places pretends to be a goofy comedy, but dives into deep issues about race, class and the comparative influences of nature versus nurture. The ending hinges on a commodity trading scene so complex, Planet Money devoted a piece to it, just to explain what was going. This ending also inspired a real-life financial regulation, inserted into the Dodd-Frank act. The rule is known as the “Eddie Murphy Rule” [Murphy played one of the two thiefs who make a fortune dealing on inside information]. And, on top of everything else, Trading Places is a Christmas movie. It has a lot going on.” –Dustin Dwyer, businessjournalism.org contributor

Other People’s Money

“A look into the world of takeovers, private equity and the clash between Wall Street money and old-line businesses. Cast includes Danny DeVito as a corporate raider and Gregory Peck as the head of an old New England manufacturer that DeVito has his eyes on. The lure of money prevails in the end. It features an impassioned speech by Peck on the traditions of manufacturing against a new breed of capitalists interested only in the bottom line. DeVito gives an equally impassioned speech on the value of money, which prevails in the end. It’s a story with relevance for the takeover artists and private equity titans of today.” –Leslie Wayne, Reynolds Week presenter