Here’s another countdown for business-minded fans of documentaries. With an incoming recession, the price of Bitcoin is tanking, rising gas prices, a supply chain crisis, and a wheat shortage, it is only logical that people are looking for answers. So, we bring you our top 10 documentary films about financial crimes.
Financial shenanigans are a terrible thing. They have a significant impact on people’s lives. Furthermore, they erode the trust of the public in institutions. And often are the source of angst that bring about undesired social changes. That’s the reason why these filmmakers decide to study these social phenomena, as we look into 10 such documentary films that depict financial crimes.
Top 10 Documentary Films About Financial Crimes
The following list contains ten documentary films from different filmmakers that have in common one thing, financial malfeasance and its impact on the social structures it has influenced. With the advent of the internet, we can learn how different societies react to the same problem caused in other parts of the planet. So, let’s take a look.
10. Sour Grapes—2016—Dir. Reuben Atlas & Jerry Rothwell
Sour Grapes gives us an inside look at the world of high-end, luxury sommelier wine tastings. And how a nerdy guy from Indonesia managed to trick a bunch of people out of their money by making them believe that he was a connoisseur when, in fact, he was nothing short of a scammer. This is the jaw-dropping story of Rudy Kurniawan, a delicious documentary that blends true crime and culinary films in a way like few productions can do it.
Furthermore, Kurniawan tricked people into believing he had access to the world’s most exclusive bottles of wine. And he sold them bottles of it. Further still, Kurniawan’s ambition and connections took him to the top of the wealthy elite, and for ten years, he collected empty wine bottles, filled them with wine, and made fake labels to say he had exclusive bottles. And the best wine tasters on the planet fell for it, hook, line, and sinker!
Sour Grapes Trailer:
9. Pharma Bro—2021—Dir. Brent Hodge
Brent Hodge delivers a poignant documentary profiling the life, rise, and fall of Martin Shkreli. He became famous in the last decade for price hiking and gouging several drugs used to treat rare diseases. A move that made him earn widespread scorn and rejection. Moreover, this documentary puts his life under the microscope, his habits. Furthermore, Hodge speaks to the people that know him, giving us a broad picture to comprehend his actions, which are often quirky, outlandish, and childish. For his financial malfeasance, Shkreli faced several regulatory inquiries that found him guilty of fraud and sent him to jail.
Pharma Bro Trailer:
8. Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened—2019—Dir. Chris Smith
This documentary tells the incredible story of Billy McFarland and the Fyre Festival fiasco of 2017 in The Bahamas. Con artist Billy McFarland defrauded millions of dollars of investors and attendees planning a massive concert that was never going to take place. With a huge marketing campaign on social, McFarlane and his associates managed to gather capital to create a fund that ended up going nowhere and ended up being the greatest party that never happened.
It’s a great documentary you don’t want to miss as it gives you an idea of how much damage to a local economy a business venture like Fyre Festival inflicted on a small-scale economy like the local Bahamian businesses.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened Trailer:
7. To Catch A Trader—2014— Dir. Frontline
Frontline brings us a profile on the life and work of the American hedge fund operator and manager Steve Cohen, who owns the New York Mets baseball club and managed to run several multi-million insider trading deals. For his financially corrupt practices, Cohen got lapped by the authorities for racketeering. Still, he always managed to settle out of court. This is his story, told from the perspectives of the people that knew him and the prosecution team that chased him.
To Catch A Trader Documentary:
6. The Madoff Affair —2009— Dir. Frontline
Bernie Madoff swindled billions of dollars in Wall Street’s biggest Ponzi scheme in the history of the financial industry. To do it, he teamed up with a network of people that he manipulated into doing it.
What we see in this documentary is how sociopathic Bernie Madoff was when it came to promising gigantic returns to his investors and how he managed to make all that money disappear. Moreover, it’s also incredible how the regulators didn’t notice how Madoff managed to get away with that Ponzi scheme all those years.
The Madoff Affair Documentary:
5. Life And Debt —2001—Dir. Stephanie Black
Life and Debt is a 2001 documentary film directed by Stephanie Black about Jamaica’s economic and social situation, focusing on the impact of IMF and World Bank policies. It all starts with Jamaica Kincaid’s essay “A Small Place.” The IMF loans were conditional on Jamaica implementing structural adjustment policies, which included trade liberalization, privatization, and deregulation, among other things.
Jamaica is now $4.6 billion in debt due to failed reforms. Former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley is interviewed in the film and criticizes the International Financial Institution loan system. He sees that required structural adjustments attack the sovereignty of many former colonial countries and compares the approach to imperialism or neocolonialism.
Life And Debt Trailer:
4. Commanding Heights—2002—Dir. William Cran & Greg Barker
This three-part two-hour documentary covers the rise and settlement of modern capitalism. And how that system managed to crumble Asian economies, giving way to the Anti-globalization movement and the rise of global terrorism.
With interviews, examples, and a wide presentation of evidence as well as narrating the book from which the documentary takes inspiration, this PBS miniseries is a compelling alternative view on the effects of modern economies.
Commanding Heights Trailer:
3. Capitalism: A Love Story— 2009— Dir. Michael Moore
The film focuses on the late-2000s financial crisis and the recovery stimulus while also serving as a critique of the U.S. economic system at the time and unbridled capitalism in general.
The “casino mentality” on Wall Street, for-profit prisons, Goldman Sachs’ influence in Washington D.C., many workers’ poverty wages, the large wave of home foreclosures, corporate-owned life insurance, and the consequences of “runaway greed” are all discussed.
Capitalism: A Love Story Trailer:
2. Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room—2005— Dir: Alex Gibney
Alex Gibney presents the story of the rise and fall of an energy sector corporation with entirely questionable management practices that ranged from bullying to fraud. Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room tells us a valuable story of the dangers of deregulation and the psychological aspects of corporate irresponsibility.
Moreover, Gibney brilliantly profiles the members of the Enron board to try to make us understand why was it that these men behaved in the ways they did and why they had such questionable methods for conducting their business.
Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room Trailer:
1. Inside Job — 2010— Dir. Charles Ferguson
This Academy Award-winning documentary crowns our list. And it is a compelling five-part film on how the 2008 Housing Bubble came to be and its aftermath. Secondly, it is narrated by Matt Damon, and with great cinematography, Charles Ferguson examines the housing bubble and the 2008 Great Recession in Iceland after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
In this documentary, Ferguson sits down to speak with the financial world’s most important figures, from Christine Lagarde, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, to academics, and bank managers, to try to make sense of what happened in the world.
Inside Job Trailer:
Did you like our countdown of documentary films about financial crimes? Have you seen them all? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. If so, perhaps they are on your watchlist for your next marathon. In any case, these films are made to make us reflect on how economies are molded and shaped by the decisions of those in power and the people they affect with their actions. We hope you liked our countdown. If so, please share this article with your contacts on social media. That’s all the time we have for now here at Otakukart. See you soon!
Also Read: Top 10 Alex Gibney Documentaries That You Must Watch