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Six of the best films about the financial crash

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 14 Sep 2018

September 2018 marked 10 years since Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression. One of the very few positives from the crash was a raft of films in the years since examining how and why it happened and the fall out. Here’s our pick of the best.

As with most traumatic events, one of the few positives are the films depicting it after the event.

The Big Short

Based on the book by renowned journalist Michael Lewis, the film is likely the most well-known of the events leading to the financial crash, with its starry cast and award wins. It examines conflicts of interest between several characters who foresaw the crash, including hedge fund managers (Christian Bale and Steve Carrell) a Deutsche Bank salesman (Ryan Gosling) and the investors who benefited from it.

Queen of Versailles

The documentary by Lauren Greenfield follows mega-rich couple Mr and Mrs Siegel and their seven children as they build an ambitious dream home – a wildly ostentatious Versailles replica, predicted to be largest private residence in the US. Halfway through shooting the market crashes and a flood of financial problems hit the family. Greenfield was there to capture it all on film.

Margin Call

Margin Call takes place in a Manhattan bank over the 36 hours during the financial crash. It starts when a risk analyst (Stanley Tucci) informs a new employee (Zachary Quinto) of the bank’s imminent failure due to dodgy dealings in mortgage packages. As the problem works its way up the chain to the boss (Simon Baker) and people scramble to cover their own backs, it becomes increasingly obvious that regard for the public’s wellbeing is not at the top of the bank’s interests.

Inside Job

The 2010 academy-award winning documentary feature, narrated by Matt Damon, is an in depth look at what caused the crash and who was impacted. Across five parts it unpacks everything from the deregulation of Iceland, the housing boom and the credit default swap, to the collapse of the Lehman Brothers. Finally it looks at arguments for who should be held accountable and what options the country has for the future under the then-current Obama administration.

Too Big To Fail

Adapted from Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book, the 2011 film chronicles the tense weeks leading up to the crash, from the government’s point of view. The narrative centres on treasury secretary Henry Paulson (William Hurt) and Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke (Paul Giamatti) as they try and secure the future of the country’s financial sector. It becomes obvious that while the banks are not large enough to avoid collapse, they are too big for the government to allow them to do so.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Wall Street’s most notorious banker Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) makes his return to the Big Apple after a stint in jail for insider trading – just in time to watch the economy plummet. Gekko finds himself caught up in a mission to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan), help her young stockbroker boyfriend (Shia LaBeouf) and get revenge on a heartless banker who is using the crash to destroy firms for personal profit (Josh Brolin).


Originally published in Economia on 14 September 2018.