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5 Movies Anyone Who Cares About Money Should Watch
Money Management

5 Movies Anyone Who Cares About Money Should Watch

Movies teach all kinds of things: how to aspire, who to fantasize about, how to walk into a room (always like Denzel Washington). They teach who to love and how. They also teach that walking in underground parking lots or walking toward unknown sounds might get you killed.

Behind almost every movie, there is some key take-home lesson. It’s all about being able to understand and execute those learnings in life. 

People often watch movies to escape, but many are pumped full of valuable life lessons, particularly about money management.

There are numerous films with powerful financial lessons, ranging from the disastrous effects of greed and corruption to the dangers of instant gratification.

Whether you're planning a movie marathon this weekend or simply want to watch a movie that will give you a new perspective, you can't go wrong with any of these five movies about money.


In the movie, Brad Pitt - a baseball team manager, uses scant resources and a computer-based algorithm to put together a successful baseball team.

He gets his light bulb moment and decides that the conventional approach to assembling a winning team is all wrong.

With a limited budget, he must reinvent his team by outwitting the wealthier ball clubs.

This is when he teams up with an Ivy League graduate - played by Jonah Hill, and they go on to use statistics to recruit players who were labeled as flawed but have game-winning potential.


All the grit and determination Brad’s character portrayed in the movie shows that gaining income can be a matter of changing the way one thinks. 

He shows how thinking differently about baseball statistics, or any aspect of life can truly bring wealth, even if it’s against all odds. 

Simply put, if you think like everybody else, then you will be like everybody else.

Unfortunately, not everyone is afforded the same opportunities.

Many businesses, particularly privately owned businesses, face unfair constraints.

This makes competing with large corporations nearly impossible. However, you have an advantage over them if you think differently, as Brad's character does. Determine the gap in your field and then exploit it.

Read Also: Money Mindset Shifts That Pay Off - Money Psychology


Joy tells the story of the title character, who rose to become the matriarch and founder of a powerful family empire.

Joy believes that a lack of practical support has resulted in others making fortunes from ideas she developed years ago but was unable to implement.

Despite being broke and still living with her mum while working an unsatisfying job as an airline ticket clerk, she is the person everyone in her extended family leans on for support.

Soon enough, she begins to feel buried by her broke & predictable life, and her childhood dream of making things fades away.

It is at this point that she decides to make some changes in her life. Among those changes is the production of a new product of her design; a self-wringing mop.

The story then takes you down her business journey from product conception, sales pitches to executives, and the inevitable challenges that any business faces along the way to pushing the product to the final consumer.


Perseverance is the bridge between success and failure - Joy was heavily in debt and on the verge of losing her home and business in the film, but she refused to give up. The prospect of failure only motivated her further.

There are some failures that cannot be avoided in the real world, and savvy business people know when to fold and move on. However, there are times when doubling down can lead to success.

The beauty of movies is that a character’s failure also provides a teachable moment.

In Joy’s case, her decision to use a manufacturer based in California -miles away from her base in New York without ever visiting the production facility, proved to be a bad business move. She later learned that she was being ripped off by the manufacturer.

Today's virtual world facilitates transactions with far-flung companies. So the lesson here is to thoroughly investigate who you will do business with.

There are countless other gems in the movie tailor-made for entrepreneurs, or anyone looking to start their own business.

For example, the simple fact that it’s never too late to start over. When the movie begins, Joy is a divorced mother of two who is struggling just to keep the lights on. 

But out of these limitations, Joy has her ‘a-ha’ moment and decides to drop everything (her career) and pursue her dream.

Professionals have to make similar decisions on a regular basis. It gets harder to imagine starting over in a different industry, at a different company, or in a different position, the further along in a career one is. Joy shows us that it’s never too late.

Read Also: Haste Makes Waste: Why Hasty Financial Decisions Lead to Regrets

The Social Network

This is another film that anyone running or looking to run his/her business will enjoy.

It’s the story of a little-known Harvard student who goes by the name Mark Zuckerberg, and how he ended up creating a social networking site that would morph into Facebook.

What begins in his dorm room soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication.

 The Facebook origin story is mostly told in flashbacks, and it is how the viewer learns that the idea of a shareable social information site came to Zuckerberg one night after he hacked into his school's database and published the photos of all the women at the school. 

One of his roommates, Eduardo Saverin (co-founder), provides the upfront financing and Zuckerberg deftly outmaneuvers two other students who had a similar idea. 

As the whole world knows by now, Facebook was/is a huge success,  which made Mark Zuckerberg the youngest self-made billionaire in the world at the time.


When it comes to start-ups, especially in the fin-tech world, this movie is a treasure trove.

For example, Saverin brings out one of the most fundamental life lessons -success takes time. Having been there from the very start and named as a co-founder, he cashes at the moment Facebook takes off and exits the company.

While he did make some money from that, it is safe to say that he would have made ten times as much money had he stayed.

Here's some food for thought: Zuckerberg disagreed with Saverin about the idea of Facebook advertising. But then he left too soon. Now guess what, Facebook now makes billions of dollars annually from, yep, advertising.

Persistence pays, big time - While many people were involved in the early development of Facebook, only Zuckerberg saw it through to the end.

Unflinching devotion combined with restless persistence were key ingredients in Zuckerberg’s massive success, as portrayed in the film.

Read Also: Campus Money: The Success Story of Maureen King’ori

The Big Short

This is an Oscar-winning film adaptation of author Michael Lewis’s best-selling book of the same name. 

It zeroes in on the lives of several American financial professionals who predicted and profited from the build-up and subsequent collapse of the housing bubble in 2007 and 2008.

It is a character-driven film that focuses on the conflicted emotions of several individuals who foresaw the crisis well in advance.

The film employs vivid, colloquial, and even humorous ways to illustrate and define the complex financial instruments and tools.


The most obvious one is that you can never be too cautious. It pays to keep a vigilant eye out for warning signs even when everything in your company is going smoothly. 

Even when your industry is booming, and your profits are over the roof, always stay vigilant, always look ahead, and always predict.

The film starts with a Mark Twain quote that sums it up perfectly - “What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so”.

Forget popular opinion and focus on the numbers, what do they say? In the movie, Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager uses his data to make an unpopular decision.

His strategy takes everyone by surprise as the housing market is considered rock solid, and his decision to bet against this market seems absurd. However, his decisions were backed by hard data and he made a fortune in the end.

Burry also makes it clear, through his actions, that when the opportunity comes, grab it as quickly as you can.

The Wizard of Lies

Who is Bernie Madoff, and how did he pull off the biggest Ponzi scheme in history? Well, this is what the movie answers.

The true-life financial thriller contrasts dramatic scenes from Madoff's accelerating descent into self-destruction with his remarkable rise on Wall Street, where he had become one of the most dependable and respected traders.

Vivid details from the various lawsuits, government investigations, and court filings lay bare the myths that have come to surround the story.

Featuring an enigmatic lead performance by Robert De Niro who plays the role of Madoff, the film provides a rare insight into the mind of a global villain.

It is important to note that it was not just naive individuals who lost $65 billion to Madoff’s scheme;    his list of victims included professional investors, mutual fund and asset fund managers, bank executives, financial advisors, and other professionals in the investment arena.


When there’s too much mystery, think twice – In the film, Madoff goes out of his way to hide just what it is he does to actually generate revenue. This should be a red flag for any investor.

Businesses will always make an effort to safeguard information about their secret techniques and tactics.

However, there should always be clear explanations for clients about how money is to be invested, how revenue will be generated, as well as the level of risk involved.

When the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is – Madoff was offering crazy returns and his books showed no dip in terms of performance.

Regardless of how intelligent they are, no money manager, professional or otherwise, is perfect.

This implies that somewhere along the way, there will be signs of failure and some lower returns. If this is not evident, run.


There are hundreds of films that paint a clear picture of money, how it works, how it’s made, and how to use it to build or break you.

Just like books, some movies are also packed with information that could significantly boost an individual’s financial literacy level.

Not everyone is into reading books which makes films, documentaries, podcasts, and even audiobooks a viable alternative. The end goal is to always be open to learning and it’s important to know that one can learn from both the success as well as failures of the lead characters in these movies.

How to make and manage money is a topic that generally sparks a lot of interest. This explains why countless filmmakers have used this theme to grab audiences' attention and impart valuable financial lessons at the same time.

Therefore, watching some of these movies can impart some important and practical financial lessons.

Here are a few other notable mentions in regards to films that fall under this category;

  • The Money Pit
  • Freakonimics: The Movie
  • Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things
  • The Most Important Class You Never Had
  • Til Debt Do Us Part
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Eddy Mwanza is Creative Consultant living and working in Nairobi, Kenya. His areas of focus are Content Creation, Creative Writing, Research and Photography. When he is not writing in his favorite coffee shop, Eddy spends most of his time reading, cooking, and traveling. He is also a sports fanatic. Connect with Eddy on LinkedIn.

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