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What can films teach you about money? Movies are made to entertain us, but there are often lessons to be learned from the characters stories. Sometimes the writers and filmmakers go out of their way to make us think or to convey a particular message. This is especially true of films about money.
Below is a list of films and what lessons they can teach you about money.
Of course, spoilers for each film listed is a given!
Although not the most critically celebrated film of all time, Richie Rich does have some important lessons about money. It’s also a film for children and can teach them some valuable lessons about the dark side of wealth. The titular character Richie Rich (played by Macauley Culkin) is a very wealthy child who seemingly has everything – accept friends.
During the course of the film he makes friends, who are fascinated by his wealth and rather than him. Richie has a McDonald’s in his kitchen and a rollercoaster in his back garden that he “got for Christmas”.
The audience, like Richie’s new friends will be facinated by his 1 per-center lifestyle, believing him to be a kid who has the perfect life. But the film teaches us (especially children) that the pursuit of ‘stuff’ is meaningless compared to building lasting relationships with friends.
By the end of the film, Richie’s friends are able to save him and his family from bad guys due to their talents as individuals. Making us think were they the truly rich characters all along? Essentially, an infinite supply of money doesn’t buy friends or happiness. And having all the cool stuff in the world is pointless unless there are people to share and enjoy it with.
This fairly recent film is based on a collection of true stories, showing how ordinary people can be affected by crimes such as money laundering. This is when criminals ‘cleanse’ the money they’ve earned from unlawful acts by moving it around. Then ‘layering’ it through legitimate businesses so its true nefarious origin is hard to trace. Another great example of this is Breaking Bad, where Walter White uses a car cleaning business for this purpose.
The film shows that fraud is not a victimless crime and that the effects of it are far reaching. And for some, catastrophic. The trickledown from this crime is shown in the film through three separate but interconnected stories that really make the viewer think. It shows that white collar crime is still crime, and can be ruinous to others if ignored or considered less important than other crime. The lesson is driven home further by Meryl Streep’s address to the audience at the end of the film, calling for financial reform.
This 1980s classic got a lot of chins wagging when it was first released due to its candid exploration of money, corruption, greed and opportunity. Charlie Sheen gives a ‘winning’ performance as Bud Fox, a young and ambitious trader who’s desperate to work with his hero Gordon Gekko, a ruthless but successful Wall Street mogul. Gekko takes a shine to Bud and shows him how to get ahead.
But as Bud rises to the position of Gekko’s right hand man he begins to display his own ruthless tendencies. Eventually he’s forced to learn the tough lessons and sees that if he stays on this path, he’ll be rich beyond his wildest dreams – but utterly alone. Like Gekko.
Gekko’s most infamous line in the film is “greed is good”, something Bud embraces until it nearly costs him everything, apart from his money. The film teaches that ambition needs to be tempered with humanity. Determination and success are good, but greed is a road to ruin. It also teaches that as some people prosper, they need to make sure they’re not doing it at the expense of others.
This film, based on the book of the same name, details the events that led to the 2008 banking crisis. The film specifically dives into the events that preceded this known as the ‘Housing Bubble’ and what happened once this bubble burst. It shows the individuals involved, their philosophies and flawed logic; which eventually came back to bite them.
This is a film that may scare you out of debt! It shows what happens when debt builds up, is moved, bought and swapped as if it’s a tangible good. The film also shows that debt can only be pushed so far, and that eventually; it needs to be dealt with. The film also shows that debt is normal and sometimes, credit makes sense. But this cautionary tale (and true story) will stick with the viewer, and will make you better with money for doing so.
This film is based on a true story of a struggling single father, played by Will Smith, trying to provide for his son. Smith’s character could be any of us. He tries and fails at multiple careers until he finds his big break. First, he attempts to become a doctor because it’s expected of him, despite him being ill suited to the profession. He then becomes a salesman as it’s the only job he thinks he can do or is aware of.
Both these failed careers paths will resonate with the audience. How many of us have pursued a career because our parents thought it wise? And how many of us work in a job because we’ve never considered doing anything else? Bills need paying and that’s what’s important is what we tell ourselves.
Naturally Will Smith’s character isn’t happy and struggles to provide for his son. That is until he decides to risk it all and do something he’s passionate about. He retrains as a stock broker and finds that not only does he enjoy it, but he’s fantastic at it.
Although he and his son continue to live in relative poverty while he trains – they are both happy and eventually find financial security. It teaches us that true success (and financial security) comes from loving what you do. Work isn’t work when you love it and are great at it.
Also you’ll have to see the film to see why ‘Happiness’ is misspelt ‘Happyness’.
Got any more movies you’d like to add to our list? We actually have over a dozen more films, so like some of the ones listed above, you may get a sequel!