The market is closed. The world is at a standstill. It’s Thanksgiving Day and you’ve probably just stuffed your face with turkey and pumpkin pie.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get a little Wall Street in your day, though. Why not kick back on the couch and watch one of these Wall Street movies?
You’ll definitely enjoy yourself, and you might even learn something.
“It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)
In a sentence: It’s a heartwarming classic that will never get old.
Plot: A guardian angel shows businessman George Bailey what life would be like if he never existed.
“Trading Places” (1983)
In a sentence: No movie about Wall Street is funnier than the 1983 comedy “Trading Places.”
Plot: Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd are at their best as director John Landis tells the tale of how one man’s fall from Wall Street is another man’s blessing. Watching Murphy talk about futures and markets is hilarious and unparalleled in humor.
In a sentence: Brilliant … If you can find it.
Plot: Made in 1987 during the raging bull market, this little-known documentary stars Paul Tudor Jones and chronicles his day-to-day life as an active investor. Jones uses techniques like historical chart reading, taken from Jesse Livermore, to predict the Black Monday crash on film. Even though it portrays Jones in a positive light, finding a (legitimate and legal) copy of this movie is nearly impossible to find as it’s rumored that Jones bought all 1,000 copies in existence.
“Wall Street” (1987)
In a sentence: The classic Wall Street film.
Plot: Oliver Stone originally set out to depict the greed associated with Wall Street in the 1980s. Little did he know, it would go on to become one of the finest pieces of financial cinema ever created. Traders still go nuts for this movie and everyone loves Michael Douglas’ character Gordan Gekko, who is modeled partly after Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky.
In a sentence: A British classic about prop traders working in “the City” for Whitney Paine, a fictional US investment bank.
Plot: One of Whitney Paine’s top traders commits suicide in the boardroom following a $100 million trading loss. Other prop traders at the firm want to step into his place and save the firm. Trader Daniel Pascoe (Paul McGann) thinks he’s the one for the job. The bank sends over a female trader, Anna Schuman, from the US.
“Bonfire of the Vanities” (1990)
In a sentence: The film’s ability to tackle different New York City social classes is without question.
Plot: Originally a book by Tom Wolfe, “Bonfire of the Vanities” targeted the Manhattan elite of the 1980s and their distance from the rest of the city. Tom Hanks, as the film’s lead, gets involved in an extramarital affair and, eventually, a tragic murder results. It remains excellent viewing to understand New York’s stratification today.
“Other People’s Money” (1991)
In a sentence: It’s a romantic comedy about a corporate raider.
Plot: Corporate raider Lawrence “Larry the Liquidator” Garfield (Danny DeVito) attempts to buy a struggling small town Rhode Island company. The CEO hires his stepdaughter, an attorney, to fight him off. Garfield becomes enamored with her.
“Working Girl” (1988)
In a sentence: An investment banker’s secretary has her investment idea stolen by her boss, so she gets revenge by pretending she has her boss’ job.
Plot: An ambitious Staten Island-raised secretary, Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), is assigned to be the secretary for M&A banker Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). Her new boss lets her share ideas. When Katherine breaks her leg on vacation in a ski accident, Tess is asked to look after things at her home and office. That’s when she discovers that Katherine took one of her ideas and passed it off as her own. Tess uses it as an opportunity to pretend she has her boss’ job. She then works with another banker, Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), on her idea.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
“Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992)
In a sentence: “The leads are weak? You’re weak!” — Alec Baldwin
Plot: “Glengarry Glen Ross” takes place off of Wall Street but still portrays the incentives that salesman deal with, including bonuses and cars and how they’ll do anything to close the sale. Alec Baldwin is only in the movie for about 10 minutes but gives a speech that deserves an Oscar to a group of all-star actors including Jack Lemon, Kevin Spacey, and Ed Harris.
“The Associate” (1996)
In a sentence: The film takes on gender and race issues on Wall Street.
Plot: Whoopi Goldberg’s is an associate for an investment firm. Even though she has great advice, no one will take her seriously on Wall Street because she’s a black woman. Over the phone, though, people listen to her. She starts a new firm and invents a fictional white man named Robert S. Cutty to be her partner.
“The Game” (1997)
In a sentence: A high-flying San Francisco banker gets a disturbing present for his 48th birthday.
Plot: Michael Douglas plays wealthy investment banker Nicholas Van Orton, who is a loner. When Van Orton was a kid, he witnessed his father commit suicide on his 48th birthday. It’s Van Orton’s 48th birthday and his estranged brother/only sibling Conrad (Sean Penn) comes to visit him. Conrad gives Van Orton a gift from Consumer Recreation Services — a disturbing live-action game that takes over his life.
“Rogue Trader” (1999)
In a sentence: Faster-paced British version of “Wall Street.”
Plot: Based on the real-life story of Barings Bank trader Nick Leeson, Ewan McGregor does a surprisingly awesome job of emulating the British wunderkind down to his addiction to fruit candies. While a relatively unsuccessful movie at the box office, Rogue Trader is entertaining.
“Boiler Room” (2000)
In a sentence: If you’ve ever worked in a job in sales or telemarketing, this should seem all too familiar to you.
Plot: Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi as Long Island pump and dump brokers? Count us in. This classic flick showcases Ribisi’s rise to the top as he learns the ins-and-outs of operating in a boiler room out of Long Island. It’s very similar to Jordan Belfort’s upbringing, minus the yachts and excessive drug use.
“American Psycho” (2000)
In a sentence: You’ll never look at business cards the same way again.
Plot: Patrick Bateman, played by Christian Bale in “American Psycho,” is the consummate Wall Street professional, beyond the fact that he’s losing his mind. Throughout the film Bateman utters some absolute classics, including a soliloquy on Phil Collins that likely changed his career forever. The film also made “The Dorsia” a catchphrase for an exclusive restaurant.
“The Family Man” (2000)
In a sentence: A successful dealmaker who thought he had everything gets a glimpse at what life could have been if he married his college girlfriend and had a family.
Plot: Investment banker Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage) thought he had everything. For the last 13 years, he had been living the single life in NYC working for a high-profile investment firm doing deals and driving a Ferrari. One day he wakes up and finds that he’s married to his college girlfriend Kate, who he left. They have kids and he’s driving a minivan and working for a tire company.
“Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room” (2005)
In a sentence: One of the best documentaries ever made. Ever.
Plot: “Enron: TSGITR” tells the tale of Enron’s rise and fall from grace, including the strange tales of executives Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow, and Timothy Belden. This breathtaking movie also features interviews from former energy traders and hedge fund short-seller Jim Chanos.
In a sentence: A security executive at a bank is forced to rob the bank that he’s spent 20 years protecting in order to save his family.
Plot: Harrison Ford plays Jack Stanfield, the head of security for a Seattle-based Landrock Pacific Bank. Paul Bettany’s character, Bill Cox, is a businessman who holds Jack and his family hostage. He forces Jack to steal $10,000 from each of the bank’s top depositors ($100 million total) to pay the ransom.
“Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps” (2010)
In a sentence: It’s the sequel to Oliver Stone’s classic.
Plot: Gordon Gekko gets out of prison for securities fraud. He teams up with his future son-in-law, Jacob, to repair the relationship with his daughter, Winnie. Gekko also helps Jacob get back at the man who screwed his mentor’s firm over.
“Quants: The Alchemists Of Wall Street” (2010)
In a sentence: A rare look inside the minds of mathematical geniuses who have invented financial models that have both destroyed and made Wall Street.
Plot: Quants is 45-minute documentary on the inner workings of quantitative analysts on Wall Street.
“The Pit” (2010)
In one sentence: A slightly sad look at the end of the open-outcry trading floor.
Plot: Follow a bunch of veteran traders as they discuss their careers and the end of their way of doing business.
“Too Big To Fail” (2011)
In one sentence: Surely you remember the financial crisis.
Plot: Lehman Brothers implodes, global markets are at risk, and Washington has to catch up to save the economy.
“Margin Call” (2011)
In a sentence: Consider this one a new classic. Director and writer JC Chandor said he “came up with this concept of locking these investment bankers in on the night when one of them thinks that he has found out that the world is coming to an end.”
Plot: One banker creates a model that shows that his firm is completely underwater, but before he can show anyone, he gets fired. He hands his model off to junior banker and the firm goes into emergency mode trying to save everything.
In a sentence: You may come out of this one scratching your head.
Plot: Eric Packer, a billionaire investor, rides around Manhattan in his state of the art limo/office. Throughout the day you’ll meet his wife, his lover, and his associates. After a currency speculation goes awry, Packer’s life begins to unravel. Enter murder and intrigue.
In a sentence: A solid job on everyone’s part, but maybe not a stunner.
Plot: Richard Gere plays a troubled hedge fund manager, Robert Miller, who is trying to sell his trading empire before anyone finds out that he has cooked the books. One night he accidentally falls asleep while driving with his mistress and she dies. To cover it up, he has to get help from an unlikely source.
“Wolf Of Wall Street” (2013)
In a sentence: It’s by far the raunchiest Wall Street movie.
Plot: Jordan Belfort’s best-selling tell-all memoir that chronicled his boozy, drug-fueled, high-flying Wall Street lifestyle running 1990s-era boiler room Stratton Oakmont was adapted into a film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Note: Julia La Roche contributed to an earlier version of this post.