Top Finance Documentaries – Intro

The world of finance and banking is a complicated, and even shadowy, place. Understanding the inner workings of the financial industry takes dedicated time, experience, and research.

Not only is the financial sector inherently complex, but the game is constantly changing. In the past 15 years, the industry has seen a technological makeover as well as massive changes in policy and regulatory oversight.

The financial crisis of 2008 exposed much of the shadowy and malevolent practices that had become commonplace among investment bankers. However, a lot about the industry remains a mystery to the average American.

AdvisoryHQ’s list of the best finance documentaries is a collection of films that will help unveil the complexities of the banking and investment sector. Many of these films also illuminate and explain the economic policies that have shaped the American economy into what we see today.

This list consists of top-notch finance documentaries that offer valuable education on the inner workings of the capitalist system and the corporations that exist within it, as well as the social and environmental aspects that impact the current system and the effect it has made in the world.

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AdvisoryHQ’s List of Top 10 Best Documentaries About Finance and Money

 Click any of the names below to go directly to the detailed review section for that documentary:

10. The Pit
9. We’re Not Broke
8. Capitalism: A Love Story
7. 97% Owned
6. End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless
5. Floored
4. Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve
3. The Corporation
2. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
1. Inside Job

Finding the Top Documentaries about Finance and Money: Selection Methodology

What methodology does AdvisoryHQ use in selecting and finalizing the firms, services, and products that are ranked on its various top rated lists?

Please click here “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top rated firms, products, and services.

Detailed Review – Top Documentaries About Finance and Money

Below, please find the detailed review of each film on our list of top finance and money documentaries. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these documentaries to score so highly in  our selection ranking

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10.  The Pit (2009) Review

Key Factors That Enabled This Film to Rank as a Top Finance and Money Documentary

Below are the primary reasons we selected this film to be rated as one of the best finance documentaries.

The Pit - finance documentaries
The Pit (2009) Review

This 2009 documentary takes viewers onto the actual trading floor of the commodities market, otherwise known as “the pit.” Director Johanna Lee peers into the insanity that goes on among traders working within the heart of American capitalism.  

The film takes a brief look at the commodities market and how the crazed activity within “the pit” shapes prices worldwide. Mostly, however, the film spotlights a few coffee traders and follows their stories on and off the trading floor.

The film focuses on the human side of the markets, revealing what sort of person is motivated to make a living by working in the capitalist trenches of America. You’ll learn about the actual people who are driven by the hustle and bustle of the market floor and how the high intensity occupation affects their personal lives.

The Pit also highlights the challenges individual traders faced when the markets switched to a technology-based system. The 2008 switchover to a machine-based system wasn’t easy for many traders. Some ultimately lost jobs and others took a major hit to the ego as their knowledge of the old systems became outdated.

It’s an interesting peek into the personal narratives of real life traders and what they  experience on the trading room floor.

9. We’re Not Broke (2012) Review

Key Factors That Enabled This Film to Rank as a Top Finance and Money Documentary

Below are primary reasons we selected We’re Not Broke to be rated as one of the top finance and money documentaries.

We’re Not Broke - financial documentaries
We’re Not Broke (2012) Review

Filmed during the height of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, this documentary is an expose on the lack of taxes paid by U.S. corporations. We’re Not Broke makes the argument that scarcity in regards to tax dollars is a myth. The funds are there; the only problem is that the funds are legally misdirected out of the country in the form of corporate tax loopholes.

The film breaks down the profits of the largest corporations in the U.S. and explicitly describes how income taxes are avoided. We’ve all heard of “off-shore” accounts used by elites to avoid paying income taxes. This documentary explains in detail just how directing funds off-shore allows corporations to legally sidestep income taxes.

We’re Not Broke is extremely educational. It dives into the tax history of the U.S. and outlines exactly when changing regulations led to the complex tax code we see currently.

The film paints a broad picture and outlines how lobbyists, lawyers, accountants, politicians, and corporations all work in concert to create the tax loophole climate we see corporations taking advantage of today. They go deep, name names, and describe specific regulations and loopholes that have created this unfair system.

Awards and Nominations

We’re Not Broke was nominated for a few different awards at several film festivals, including the Sundance  Film Festival. The documentary won “Best Feature Documentary” at the Jackson Crossroads Film Festival in 2013.

8. Capitalism: A Love Story (2009) Review

Key Factors That Enabled This Film to Rank as a Top Finance and Money Documentary

Below are primary reasons we selected Capitalism: A Love Story to be rated as one of the top financial documentaries.

Capitalism: A Love Story - best financial documentaries
Capitalism: A Love Story (2009) Review

Capitalism: A Love Story is a Michael Moore film released in 2009. The film zooms into the personal narratives of the capitalist system and exposes all players – the losers, the winners, and the so-called “bottom-feeders” who make a living by suckling off the flawed system.

The main theme of Capitalism: A Love Story is to illuminate the differences between the fantasy of capitalist opportunity and the actual impacts the “free-market” system imparts on the hardworking middle class.

The film highlights the housing crisis, the collapse of the Detroit economy, and other examples of the downtrodden U.S. economy after 2008. The tone of the film is extremely depressing and even disempowering.

Rather than focusing on one aspect of the capitalist system, Moore shows us how capitalist tools such as student loans, low wages, foreclosures, and a for-profit justice system have torn families apart and forced people into crippling debt.

Awards and Recognition

The documentary won Best Documentary at the Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards and the St. Louis Critics Association. It won two other awards at the Venice Film Festival and 12 total nominations at  various other film festivals.

7. 97% Owned (2012) Review

Key Factors That Enabled This Film to Rank as a Top Finance and Money Documentary

Below are primary reasons we selected 97% Owned to be rated as one of the top finance and money documentaries.

97% Owned - money documentary
97% Owned (2012) Review

This film takes on the flaws of money creation and finance from a U.K. perspective.

Mostly, 97% Owned addresses common misconceptions in the banking system. Filled with research and a deep understanding of the financial and banking systems, the film disproves the belief that the federal U.K. treasury is the only entity responsible for creating money. 

The film describes how U.K. banks create money by providing loans that they treat as repaid as soon as the loan is given. This act gives the bank the power to flood the market with capital – and means that one of the major ways money is flushed into the economy is by putting the common people into debt.

Saving money doesn’t help the economy when spending power is ruled by the loan process. The film describes how debt is literally a driving force of the U.K. economy.

But what are the impacts of such a complicated, debt-reliant system? This film explores the reasons for and the consequences of this system, linking the 2008 banking bailouts and credit crisis to this artificial  method of money creation.

6. End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless (2012) Review

Key Factors That Enabled This Film to Rank as a Top 2016 Finance and Money Documentary

Below are primary reasons we selected End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless to be rated as one of the best financial documentaries.

End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless - finance documentary
End Of the Road: How Many Become Worthless (2012) Review

Another film inspired by the financial crisis of 2008, End of the Road looks at the consequences of a currency backed solely by belief. The documentary points to the removal of the gold standard as the tipping point for financial disarray.

The film was directed by Tim Delmastro and released in 2012. Throughout the film, several economists and financial experts are interviewed and offer their opinions as to why the economy has become what we see today, and what they expect to see in the future absent major financial reform.

The film explores potential fixes to the financial crisis and explains why most solutions currently proposed will ultimately do nothing but strengthen the existing (flawed) system. They say in the film that the financial industry has been “kicking the can” and that soon there will be “nowhere left to kick.”

End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless tells the history of our current monetary system starting at World War II and questions whether the existing system can continue any longer,  or if the entire financial system is due for a massive collapse

5. Floored (2009) Review

Key Factors That Enabled This Film to Rank as a Top Finance and Money Documentary

Below are primary reasons we selected Floored to be rated as one of the top finance and money documentaries.

Floored - financial documentary
Floored (2009) Review

Floored is about the volatile, insane environment of the Chicago trading room floor and the men and women who make a living working within it. The film shows how traders use hand signals and crazed communication to make trades that set global prices for a number of different goods. Traders could make or lose fortunes in minutes in this risky and adrenaline-inducing profession.

Former traders and clerks are interviewed who bring in their unique perspectives on the Chicago stock market and what it is like to work on the explosive and unpredictable trading floor.

It also chronicles the switchover to an electronic-based system and the personal struggles traders dealt with as their former profession became less and less relevant in the face of emerging technology.

The movie was released in 2009, directed by James Allen Smith, and received  recognition from the Austin Film Festival

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4. Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve (2013) Review

Key Factors That Enabled This Film to Rank as a Top Finance and Money Documentary 

Below are primary reasons we selected Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve to be rated as one of the top finance and money documentaries.

Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve - top finance documentaries
Money For Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve (2013) Review

What exactly is the Federal Reserve? What kinds of decisions are made by its chairman? Many Americans can’t even begin to answer these questions. This documentary peels back the layers on this shadowy organization and explains what the Federal Reserve does and how it works with the American economy.

Money for Nothing looks at the financial crisis and the role played by the Federal Reserve in that fiasco – both in the bust and in the clean-up. The film points out decisions made and actions taken in the years prior that led to the financial meltdown of 2008.

Filmmakers hope to educate the American public on the influence and flaws of the Federal Reserve so that people will be empowered to demand responsible policies and fiscal reform from their leaders.

Narrated by actor Live Schreiber, Money for Nothing was directed by Jim Bruce and released in 2013. The film received recognition from the Nantucket Film Festival, the International  Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, and many more film festivals. 

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3. The Corporation (2003) Review

Key Factors That Enabled This Film to Rank as a Top Finance and Money Documentary

Below are primary reasons we selected The Corporation to be rated as one of the top finance and money documentaries.

The Corporation - documentaries about finance

The Corporation (2003) Review

Directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, this 2003 documentary picks apart corporate entities and how they function in modern society. The film interviews minds like Noam Chomsky, Milton Friedman, and Naomi Klein, all who provide their perspectives on the legal, social, economic, and psychological aspects of a corporate entity.

Exactly what laws govern corporate acts? And when do those laws apply? What sort of impact do these incredibly large entities have on society? What economic consequences stem from the corporation’s duty to its shareholders? Shouldn’t global corporations be beholden to society as whole and not merely to their shareholders? These questions, and more, are touched on during the documentary.

This film documents how corporate personhood affects liability and other ways that corporations have skirted regulations with which small businesses must abide. It also considers, if corporations are legally entitled to the label of “corporate personhood,” then exactly what sort of citizen are these “people”? The film suggests that these corporate “persons” are complete psychopaths.

The Corporation also looks at the devastating impact of multinational corporations in third world countries, both socially and environmentally.

Awards and Recognition

The film was the winner of many awards, including awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Genesis Awards, Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival,  Women Film Critics Circle Awards, and many, many more

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2. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) Review

Key Factors That Enabled This Film to Rank as a Top Finance and Money Documentary

Below are primary reasons we selected Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room to be rated as one of the top finance and money documentaries.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room - Top Rated Finance Documentaries
Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room (2005) Review

This Oscar-nominated documentary chronicles the descent and scandal of one of the largest corporations in U.S. history. The film is based on the identically titled book written by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind.

Insider interviews offer an exclusive look into the historic corporate disaster that resulted in 20,000 lost jobs, lost fortunes, and even suicides. The film also features telling audio and video clips that expose some of the risky and callous decisions made by executives. A corporate culture of selfishness, greed, and even illegal behavior is revealed, exposing the causes for the company’s seemingly overnight nosedive.

Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling’s history with the company is also featured, providing a timeline of their involvement with the company from 1985 to the 2001 corporate collapse. The ability of the top executives to protect their own assets while the average investor and employee lost all, is a main focus of the documentary as well.

The filmmakers also interview the individual losers of the crisis, showing the human impact of the corporation’s downfall and how their lives were turned upside down.

Enron’s involvement with the California energy crisis is also presented and provides an interesting look at the real-world impact the morally bankrupt corporate culture had on the economy and lives of everyday Americans.

Awards and Recognition

Aside from the Academy Awards nomination for Best Documentary, the documentary received a whole list of awards and accolades. Among others, it was nominated for the Grant Jury Award at the  Sundance Film Festival and won the Documentary Screenplay Award at the Writers Guild of America

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1. Inside Job (2010)

Key Factors That Enabled This Film to Rank as a Top Finance and Money Documentary

Below are primary reasons we selected Inside Job to be rated as one of the top finance and money documentaries.

Inside Job - Best Rated Finance Documentaries
Inside Job (2010) Review

This Oscar-winning documentary explores the causes for, and consequences of, the 2008 American financial crisis.

Insiders, such as former governor Elliot Spitzer, lobbyists, journalists, and career investment bankers, are interviewed and offer their perspectives as to why the financial crisis occurred. It seems that in hindsight, the unregulated activities of the financial industry had only one possible outcome – disaster.

A history of Wall Street is told, starting with the boom in investment banking millionaires in the 1980s. The film touches on the regulations changed in the 1990s and also takes viewers through the dot-com bubble bust of the early 2000s.

Some of the specific illegal activities of the largest banks and financial companies are exposed as well as the political climate that turned its cheek and implicitly allowed such acts to occur. The film also describes, in detail, how companies like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Goldman Sachs allowed risky derivative products and sub-prime loans to play such a huge part of the housing bubble and, ultimately, the 2008 financial crisis.

Awards and Recognition

Inside Job won an Oscar for Best Documentary. It also won Best Documentary at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and at the Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards, Top Five Documentary at the National Board of Review, USA, and Best Non-Fiction Film at the National Society of Film Critics Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

Inside Job was also nominated for a number of additional awards, and Charles Ferguson was awarded the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary by the Directors Guild of America.

Conclusion— Top 10 Finance and Money Documentaries

Though finance and money is the prevailing theme connecting these films, each one has narrowed its focus onto a smaller aspect of the industry.

Each of these top finance documentaries is well-made and packed with information about the economy and the financial industry. Read each review to determine which finance documentary is geared most toward your interests, or go ahead and watch them all! Since they’re all so well done, it won’t be time wasted.

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