This article was last updated on May 20
Money doesn’t buy happiness? Tell that to Hollywood where money is business and box office receipts are what matter! In all seriousness, the old saying might be true, but it doesn’t stop most of us from trying. And, so here are the top ten movies about people trying to get rich, and in many cases what they find is not financial wealth.
From three-time Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg, this movie follows Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he successfully passes himself off as a pilot, a lawyer and a doctor – all before his 21st birthday! He eventually gets the attention of FBI agent (Tom Hanks) as he chased from one caper to another around the world. Its a story about hustling to get rich and works because of a great cast. Ultimately though it is a story of redemption and finding a meaningful connection/purpose.
This rags to riches to a blood bath immigrant story is a brutal, cautionary tale for the ages. It tells the story of the rise and fall in the drug trade of a Cuban immigrant looking for respect and power in the only places open to him. Money is power in Scarface, but it surely does not buy happiness.
Based on events leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. So if you want to know how the early stages of the Great Crash of 2008 happened (as depicted by a great cast), then this story shows the internal dynamics and incentives that at play in big investment banks on Wall Street like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers. It portrays just how immoral corporations really are; their goal is to succeed and make ever more gargantuan profits, pay their employees obscene salaries without any thought to the human cost involved.
Limitless is a movie based on the urban legend that people can only access a fraction of their brain’s power/function/potential. Bradley Cooper plays the typical movie version of a down on his luck guy named Eddie Morra, who is dead broke, wears ratty clothes etc. He is a writer trying to finish a book and he comes across a drug called NZT, which allows a person taking it to access 100% of their brain’s ability, turning them into an instant genius. See the drama that ensues when he thinks he has everything.
6. The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013, not for the kids!)
Directed by Martin Scorsese and loosely based upon the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) who recalled his rise and fall as a stockbroker. It is a tale of greed and excess by the rich who believed they could do anything they wanted because they had money and power. Its a great story but pretty vulgar and drug filled excesses. You’ll cry from laughing if you have a good sense of well balanced dark humor. Strong supporting cast as well.
5. A Simple Plan (1993)
Scott Smith’s brilliant novel became an equally brilliant film in the hands of director Sam Raimi. This riveting story about a group of friends who stumble upon a downed plane with millions in cash that no one knows about is a great example of how money can bring out the best and worst in people. Okay, now that we have seen that crime does not pay, let’s take a look at some of film’s more positive tales.
In this true, feel good story Chris Gardner and his five-year-old son are evicted from their apartment and, with no place to go, Gardner lands an internship at a prestigious stock brokerage where through hard work and determination he is able to overcome what life has thrown at him to achieve true success.
An unforgettable rags to riches tale where the rags in this story are horrendous poverty and sickening living conditions. Here the rise is accomplished by means of a game show but, again, it’s brains not bullets that save the hero.
The top two entries in this list have a common theme that must not be overlooked in lieu of the importance of working hard to improve one’s financial standing.
‘Greed is good,’ says Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in this Oliver Stone film. And the film shows us the pitfalls of high-rolling corporate raiding along a sliding scale of the law and morality. Here wheeling and dealing is the point of life and the fortune earned is blood money. Sadly the sequel was nowhere near as good as the first part.
A beloved Christmas classic, this ghostly tale by Charles Dickens is fondly remembered as a spooky ride for a Christmas night. But there’s more to this story and the lesson it seeks to teach.
While watching Scrooge have the errors of his life pointed out to him, we also see that the desire for wealth as one’s sole purpose in life is a one-way ticket to tragedy. Scrooge begins the tale as a lonely, bitter, greedy, money-grubbing, isolated miser as the pursuit of wealth has turned him against everything. Luckily for him, and for us, he is shown that wealth is merely a tool in living a rewarding life, not life itself.