Practical analysis for investment professionals
30 September 2013

Poll: What Is Your Favorite Finance-Themed Movie?

Last week, after enormous interest in our list of top 20 finance-themed movies of all time, we asked the readers of CFA Institute Financial NewsBrief, what their favorite finance movie is.


Which one of the following is your favorite finance-themed movie? 
Poll: Which one of the following is your favorite finance-themed movie?


We received nearly 1,200 responses, and based on those, we learned that contrary to expectations the favorite film of finance professionals is not Wall Street (28.2%) but Trading Places (29.5%). That Trading Places managed to edge out Wall Street is not altogether surprising. According to Internet Movies Database (IMDb), Trading Places is rated 7.4 out of 10 by nearly 70,000 users, whereas Wall Street is rated 7.3 out of 10 by about 88,000 users. Having said that, these two movies from the 1980s dominated the results, securing nearly 60% of the responses.

The classic from the 1940s It’s a Wonderful Life, often overlooked as a finance movie, finished third with 14% of responses, and the rest could not make it to double digits, including the comedy Other People’s Money, which somehow finished near the bottom.

But perhaps the most important point here is not about the relative popularity of these movies. With the sole exception of Its a Wonderful Life, all of the movies portray finance professionals in a negative light: the leading characters are insider traders in Wall Street and little better than gamblers in Trading Places. Financial professionals, particularly those working on Wall Street, have had a serious perception problem since long before the global financial crisis of 2008. As one of our readers pointed out, A Corner in Wheat, a black-and-white film without sound made in 1909, also portrays futures trading as a means of amassing enormous wealth by manipulating the market and hurting society.

The extent to which the film industry helps create or merely reflects the public’s perception of of finance is debatable. What we as financial professionals can do to improve that perception is even more complicated, but it’s a debate worth having.


Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.

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About the Author(s)
Usman Hayat, CFA

Usman Hayat writes about sustainable, responsible, and impact investing and Islamic finance. He is the lead author of "Environmental, Social, and Governance Issues in Investing: A Guide for Investment Professionals," and the literature review, "Islamic Finance: Ethics, Concepts, Practice." He is interested in online learning and has directed three e-courses for CFA Institute: "ESG-100," "Islamic Finance Quiz," and "Residual Income Equity Valuation." The other topics he writes about are macroeconomics and behavioral finance. Previously, he was a content director at CFA Institute. He is a former executive director at the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP). He has experience working in securities regulation and as an independent consultant. His qualifications include the CFA charter, the FRM designation, an MBA, and an MA in Development Economics. His personal interests are reading and hiking.

19 thoughts on “Poll: What Is Your Favorite Finance-Themed Movie?”

  1. Mike Fatah says:

    Does “Wall Street” include both parts?

  2. Ibrahim Daas says:

    Where is ” pursuit of happiness ” ………..?!!!!!

  3. Mike Fatah

    It is Wall Street (1987) only. If you read our blog on the films, you will find some commentary on the sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2011) there.

  4. Bill Tait says:

    Surprised that Inside Job is not listed.

    1. Wasif says:

      Exactly what I was thinking !! It was brilliantly done

      1. Wasif

        Thanks for your comment. I presume that you are referring to “Trading Places.”

  5. Bill Tait

    Thanks for your comment. These are all movies, therefore I did not include Inside Job, which is a documentary. I have covered Inside Job in the post on Top 20 Finance Films and it is arguably one of the best, if not the best, documentary on the financial crisis.

  6. saqib says:

    Should include in the list “The smartest guy in the room” about Enron….

    1. saqib

      Thanks for visiting our site. I have covered this documentary on Enron in the blog on top-20 films.

  7. vinay kumar says:

    guru ! surprised guru isn’t listed

    1. vinay kumar

      Thanks for your comment. I have focused on finance-themed movies in English.

  8. Why “INSIDE JOB” is not on the list..??
    It is 1 of the best….or have you classified it as “Documentary” rather than a movie…!!!

    1. Ashis Kumar Kar

      Yes, these are all movies whereas Inside Job is a documentary, that’s why I didn’t include it in the same list.

  9. Alicia says:

    The first Wall Street will always be the best, hands down. The second one, not so much.

  10. Chetan says:

    You should have included Inside Jobs which won Oscar Award in its category (documentary)…

    1. Chetan

      This list was only about movies. Today (Fri, 1st Nov, 2013) we are doing a poll on the favourite finance documentary film regarding the 2008 financial crisis and Inside Job is included in the list there. Let’s see if it can come on top.

  11. Mike G says:

    Always amazes me that Glenngarry Glen Ross is not mentioned when this topic comes up… overlooked but amazing finance film… Always Be Closing!!!

  12. Eklovya says:

    I would say Wall Street and Margin Call are the ones of my likings.

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