Attain’s Top 13 Investing Movies- Ever.

No, we’re not turning into an entertainment industry blog – but after our interview with Margin Call producer Neal Dodson, it was only natural for us to be talking about other films with high drama in high finance around the Attain offices. Turns out, it’s hard to talk about good trading/Wall St. movies without putting a list together.  Sadly, you won’t see managed futures in the limelight (maybe that can be Before the Door‘s next project), and we already gave Margin Call props, so you won’t find it listed here (though you should still check it out). Some of these center around Wall Street, some actually touch on commodities, and others have just enough of a link to investing that we included them anyway. Enjoy!’

Trading Places–  The list has to start with Trading Places, which is likely the reason why 90% of people who hear you work in the futures industry come back at you with ‘Pork Bellies’, ‘Frozen Concentrate Orange Juice’, and ‘It was the Dukes, it was the Dukes’.

One of the funniest movies of all time starring commodities trading (although we’re not sure why the big trading house was in Philadelphia), a ‘bet’ very much like the one made between Richard Dennis and William Eckhart that created the turtles, and a character looking eerily similar to Attain founding partner Walter Gallwas – Trading Places is a must see if you are anywhere around the futures trading business.

We like our version better.

Wall Street– No trading movies list is complete without Wall Street. It’s a little stocks heavy for our taste, but there is that one scene where Bud Fox is trading some sort of currency in the middle of the night.  Our quick plot synopsis:  boy meets man crush, man crush makes him rich, rich makes him meet girl, man crush makes boy screw father, boy screws man crush, man crush goes to jail.

Our advice? Avoid the sequel. We weren’t impressed.

Awesome phone!

Rogue Trader– An error account, some Singapore exchange futures on Asian stock indices, and some very bad trades. Rogue trader details the true story of Nick Leeson and the trades which he did, then hid, which brought down Barings bank in 1995. Ewan McGregor looks great in that trading coat.

The yellow/black trading coat pattern wasn’t so popular in Chicago pits following this.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off–  Ok, ok…. So 99% of the movie has absolutely nothing to do with trading or Wall St. But in the 90s, and early last decade – when you told someone you worked in the futures trading pits in Chicago, and they looked at you like you were an alien, the only way to explain what you did for a living was to say: “you know that scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day off where they are doing all those crazy hand signals through the glass at the guys in the colorful coats? I’m one of those guys in those coats.”

This movie is as close to the Chicago trading pits as most of the world will ever get.

Discussing the finer points of life in the Chicago Board of Trade visitor’s center.

Boiler Room- If you ever get really upset seeing some young hot shot driving a car that costs more than you make in a year – watch this one. It’s a look at the shady side of Wall Street and the pump and dump boiler rooms which have been known to pop up from time to time. If remade for today, it would be called “Forex Factory.”

A Vin Diesel movie worth watching- shocking, we know.

QuickSilver–  An under the radar 80s classic. It’s the story of a former Wall Streeter turned bike messenger who returns to trading for an afternoon in order to make a hot dog vendor rich. And he trades soley from watching the ticker – that’s old school. Plus, watching this improves your odds of doing well in the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game dramatically.

Kevin Bacon circa 1986

Pi– If you enjoy really dark and disturbing movies, it might be worth your time. Featuring shady Wall Street stalkers, some really angry Hasidic Cabalistic sect, and an unfortunate scene with a drill, this Darren Aronofsky flick watches one man’s obsession with trying to predict the stock market turn ugly and, well, just crazy. AND it’s in black and white. Points for being eclectic.

He takes being a "numbers guy" to a whole new level...

Glengarry Glen Ross– This one focuses on real estate, and what happens when the company’s bottom line becomes the sales force’s bottom line. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll always be closing, because when it comes to competition in this movies’ sales office, “first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado… Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”  Another dark one, but at least it’s got Al Pacino and Alec Baldwin.

You call yourself a salesman?!

American Psycho– The dark ones keep coming. On the surface, he’s a smooth talking charmer of an investment banking exec. Underneath? Well, the name of the film says it all. Not suggested for those uncomfortable with excessive violence, or tremendous amounts of blood, the movie encapsulates all those studies about traders being psychopaths. We’ve never seen a trader dropping chainsaws on people, but who knows, right?

Yeah, you don't want to get on his bad side.

Limit Up–   Want a career in futures? The solution in Limit Up is simple- sell your soul to the devil for a correct price. Disclaimer: nobody in our office has ever seen this movie, but with a title that is distinctly futures market related, and a healthy dose of Soybean futures trading  (from what we’re told), it may be worth a look.

The Unknown.

Working Girl– With a character professing that she had, “a head for business and a body for sin,” this movie had to go on the list. When a secretary gets a shot at pushing her career to the next level after her boss is put out of commission by a skiing accident, her unconventional approach to handling an investment bank’s approach to mergers turns quite a few heads- including a young Harrison Ford’s.

Oh God... that hair....

Inside Job– The perfect complement to Margin Call, this documentary, narrated by Matt Damon, provides a 20,000 foot view of the financial crisis. Boasting interviews with some pretty heavy hitters that expose more than the subjects probably intended, you’ll find yourself uncomfortable with reality’s bite. Required viewing, in our minds.

Blending education and entertainment... sort of.

Pretty Woman– And back to frivolity… this was a movie about a private equity hedgie holing up in the Beverly Hills Hotel for a few nights as he pored over the financials of a ship building outfit he was going to buy and sell off, piece by piece. Wasn’t it?

Julia was just the sideshow.

Well, that’s our two cents- what’s yours? Did we miss any? If you had to rank them, who would you put at #1?


  1. Great list! I’d like to add another one — Trading documentary “Floored”. It’s available for streaming starting tomorrow on our site:

  2. Hi, your link to ´traders being psychopaths´ doesn´t work.
    Anyway, congratulations for your fantastic newsletter.


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