Money. Sex. Politics. These are all topics that your parents probably told you not to bring up at a dinner party. However, all three of these topics make for some of the best films in American history. Some of these movies teach us quite a bit about money and how we should handle it. Just in time for the Oscars, here’s our retrospective on the 10 best movies about how to manage your cash.
10. Mad Money (2008)
Mad Money is a comedy starring Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, and Katie Holmes. Diane Keaton plays Bridget Cardigan, a stay-at-home wife who is forced to get a job at the Federal Reserve after her husband’s salary gets cut. Bridget devises a plan on her first day of work, to steal the dollar bills that are sent for destruction.
She enlists the help of her two colleagues, Jackie and Nina, and together the women commit to executing the ultimate case of larceny. It’s easy for comedy to be lackluster and cheesy, but when I watched this film, I was in tears from laughing. These three women have chemistry, and the fact that they haven’t made another film together is disappointing. The casting is random, but it works. If you’re looking to watch a hilarious heist comedy that will leave you wanting to get a job at the federal reserve by the end of it, you can stream it on Netflix US now!
$ Money Lesson: We’ve all been low on cash before. Although tempting, stealing from the central banking system of the United States of America isn’t such a great idea. Just because Queen Latifah did it doesn’t mean you should too. Instead, why not start a business with your friend? Or start selling old clothes you no longer wear on apps like Poshmark?
9. Ocean’s 8 (2018)
Ocean’s 8 is the fourth installment of the contemporary Ocean’s franchise. The film stars Sandra Bullock who plays the sister, Debbie, of the film series’ prior protagonist Danny Ocean, now deceased. Debbie shares her brother’s passion for larceny, and in Ocean’s 8, Debbie devises an extensive plan to steal the Toussaint, a $150 million Cartier necklace, at the annual Met Gala hosted by Anna Wintour, the current editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine.
She gathers a team of seven other women who are each skilled in something to help their plot succeed. The film has a star-studded cast of several badass females, such as Rihanna and Mindy Kaling. The film also has several celebrity cameos who play themselves during the scenes at the Met Gala, including Kim Kardashian West and Serena Williams.
The sheer beauty of this film is in watching all these powerhouse female characters conducting such a heinous crime while also having an underlying feminist theme makes the film a must-watch.
$ Money Lesson: Work hard enough to buy your own Cartier necklace. Jewelry is not worth going to jail for. And if you want that million-dollar look without the million-dollar price-tag, here’s a multitude of ways to look red-carpet ready on the cheap!
8. Indecent Proposal (1993)
Indecent Proposal is a drama starring Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore. The two play David and Diana Murphy, a husband and wife who go to Las Vegas in hopes of winning enough money to help buy their dream property. During their trip, they meet billionaire John Gage (Robert Redford). He offers the couple a proposal: One million dollars if Diana spends one night with him.
The two are reluctant but must decide if the sum of money is too large to pass up for one night of “work.” The thought of Diana sleeping with another man consumes David’s thoughts and puts a strain on their relationship.
$ Money Lesson: What would you do for $1 million dollars? Would you give up something or someone you love? If you’re short on dough in your relationship, there are many ways you can prevent financial stress together.
7. Hustlers (2019)
Hustlers is a drama starring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. The film also features a cameo from rapper Cardi B, who actually worked at a strip club for years before breaking into the music industry. The movie is based on a true story about strippers who devise a plan to drug rich men and steal their money while they are unconscious and blame it on the “alcohol.”
Besides the obvious theft and a playbook of how to earn money in an unorthodox way, the storyline explores the mother-daughter relationship that begins to flourish between Ramona, a seasoned professional who brings in the most money to the strip club, and Destiny, a newcomer who wants to earn money to help her grandmother live comfortably.
The film is a roller coaster of emotions — you feel like rooting for these women at the start. The rich scumbag clients treat them like objects and use their money to gain power and exploit the strippers. So it’s easy to applaud these women for using their sex appeal as a way to reclaim their dignity and identities.
However, as the film progresses you realize what they’re doing is a serious criminal offense, and you stop seeing the good in these women. Their plan escalates and they start to hurt more people than they originally thought.
6. Moneyball (2011)
Moneyball is a drama about the Oakland Athletics’ 2002 season. Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the team’s general manager who struggles to build a competitive baseball team while being restricted with a low budget. Beane finds a group of unconventional players and together he and Peter Brand, an economics graduate, help determine a player’s value using economics, and create a team they believe can win.
Jonah Hill plays Peter Brand, and the chemistry between him and Brad Pitt is incredible. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan , the film’s themes are relatable to anyone in any industry.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” This film is that phrase brought to life.
$ Money Lesson: When calculating someone’s professional worth, this film asks us to look past our preconceived notion of what a perfect employee is and think outside of the box. Think instead about how this team member can be useful in unconventional ways.
5. The Social Network (2010)
The Social Network is a dramatic look at how Facebook was created, and stars Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg. Esquire lauded The Social Network as a must-see. The story begins with Zuckerberg being dumped by his girlfriend Erica, leading him to write a heinous post about her on his LiveJournal.
He also created a website called Facemash, which posts photos of female fellow students and allows their classmates to “rate them.” Zuckerberg approaches his friend Eduardo Saverin, who is played by Andrew Garfield, with the concept of “TheFacebook,” and the creation of the Facebook we know today is unveiled. This film takes us through the process of creating a social media platform from scratch. This movie is a must see, as it chronicles the meteoric rise of now-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg.
$ Money Lesson: More often than not, entrepreneurs come up with their best ideas by accident. If it hasn’t come to you yet, don’t give up — check out these four reasons why starting a business might be the right move for you. That said, we can’t all be Zuck, so go in with your eyes wide open.
4. American Psycho (2000)
American Psycho is a psychological thriller that follows the life of Patrick Bateman, played by Christian Bale, a Manhattan investment banker who goes on a rampant killing spree. The main character’s name is an homage to Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock’s critically acclaimed film Psycho.
This movie is an absolute trip. Patrick Bateman lives the typical yuppie lifestyle of many Wall Street businesspeople. His apartment is well furnished, his girlfriend is a blonde skinny socialite, and his job pays big bucks. Yet, his desire for blood cannot be bought —that’s one thing he and his coworkers don’t have in common. This picture is an American classic and has gone on to have an adaptation on Broadway. You’ve probably seen this movie before, but if you haven’t… What are you waiting for?
$ Money Lesson: A job on Wall Street can pay so much money that it’s easy for people to forget the value of a dollar. There are some things that money cannot buy — your sanity is one of them. It’s important to reflect on your well-being, more so than the number in your bank account.
3. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
The Pursuit of Happyness is an autobiographical film that tells the story of Chris Gardner and his son, starring Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden Smith. In 1981, Chris invests all of his money into portable bone-density scanners. He sells these scanners to doctors. However the instability of sales upsets his wife, Linda, and she eventually leaves Chris and his son to fend for themselves. Gardner lands an unpaid internship at Dean Witter, where he and 20 other interns are competing for one spot as a paid stockbroker.
Chris and his son are homeless after they get evicted from their apartment, and they struggle to meet their basic needs: food, hygiene, and shelter. Chris needs to find a way to keep his son alive, while also working to his fullest potential to ensure his spot at Dean Witter.
$ Money Lesson: While Chris was passionate about his bone density scanners, he realistically shouldn’t have spent his entire life savings on them.
Investing is key, and doing so strategically can help you build a stable future.
It probably would have helped Chris and his son out during their hard times.
2. Scarface (1983)
Scarface is a crime film about Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who becomes one of the most notorious drug lords in Miami. He comes to America after taking part in the assassination of an important Cuban general, as requested by a notable Miami drug lord. Tony goes on to become a prominent figure in a drug cartel, and his addiction to cocaine and crime is born.
The movie features leading man Al Pacino as Montana, and a young Michelle Pfeiffer. The film is a classic: Al Pacino is one of the greatest actors of our time and he is praised for his role as Tony Montana because of his over-the-top characteristics and mannerisms. He played one of the most quotable movie villains in cinematic history. I mean, who hasn’t heard the phrase, “Say hello to my little friend”? It’s iconic!
$ Money Lesson: Greed is what inevitably leads to Tony’s downfall. It is easy to let money and power get to your head. Always keep yourself grounded, or you might turn into your own Tony Montana.
1. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Slumdog Millionaire is a drama about 18-year-old Jamal (played by Dev Patel), who lives on the streets of Mumbai. When given the opportunity to compete in the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Jamal is seconds away from winning the game show when police arrest him and accuse him of cheating. As the film goes in and out of flashbacks, Jamal tells the story of how he was able to answer each question based on his life experience.
This. Movie. Is. Incredible. It was praised by many and went on to win eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Cinematography. I can’t describe to you in words the emotions I felt when watching this picture. It’s a movie that I firmly believe you must watch at least once in your lifetime.
$ Money Lesson: Education comes in many forms.
It is easy to associate school with knowledge, but we often forget how much knowledge you can gain from just being outside and taking in your surroundings.
Jamal was intelligent, there’s no doubt about it. But, like Jamal, we see so many intelligent young adults who are faced with setbacks due to the homelessness epidemic. Just because someone grew up in harsh circumstances, it does not mean they are any less intelligent than the average middle-class person, nor does it mean they can’t have a fruitful future.