Ten Deep 1.31.13: Top 10 Money Movies
As of this week, the IRS is finally accepting tax returns for this year and that has money on everyone’s minds. That said I decided this would be a great week to look at movies about money. The Top Ten Money Movies might not all be about banks or cash directly, but they all hold money and its pursuit at their core. Some are about money earned, and others, like this first film, are more about money gained from more illicit means…
This list begins this week with the sequel to the classic con artist film The Hustler. I chose The Color of Money over that one not just because it is a movie about the thrill of the con, but because it poses the question of what happens to the greatest cons when their time passes. Tom Cruise & Paul Newman give stellar performances in this film that on the surface appears to be about fixing pool games, but at the core gets to the spirit of competition and desire.
In this classic scene, Cruise shows that even a young gun can teach the old guard a lesson about competition.
While not necessarily explicitly a film about money, American Psycho is a twisted love letter to the excess and greed that permeated the 80s. Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman is the ultimate consumer who craves perfection and more, style and status, and will do anything, even murder, to ensure it is his. His true descent into madness takes this undercurrent of greed to its logical, though psychotic, conclusion.
In the scene below we see Bateman’s obsession at play in relation to a simple business card.
As Peter Griffin is want to say when he and his family are trapped in a flooding safe room, “I like the Money Pit.” The Money Pit is a classic 80s comedy that is a must see for anyone considering buying a home, even today. It makes light of the very real circumstances that can befall a new homeowner as their purchase grows like a greedy beast swallowing their savings with each monstrous breath.
You can’t help but laugh at yourself when one challenge after another pile up on your plate, as Tom Hanks does in this classic scene. Though as you see, that laughter is definitely not lighthearted. This is the ultimate buyer beware film.
This is indeed the second time you have seen It’s a Wonderful Life show up in Ten Deep during the last month or so, and I will say I tried to resist including it here but I could not do so in good conscious. It’s a Wonderful Life centers around a man who gives up his dreams to ensure the savings & loan started by his father helps keep his town alive. Even if the bank were not at the center of the story, the film would still be here because it shows how one small mistake (or in this case, a misplaced deposit) with money can have a huge impact on both individuals and the community at large. It also shows how one man’s greed can grow so twisted it can change your reality. I think in the end too, it is about not letting money become the thing that defines the success of your existence. George Bailey was indeed the richest man in town.
Here is George’s impassioned speech from the beginning of the film that changed the course of his life.
Brewster’s Millions is not a serious money movie by any means but it is the fantastical wish that it fulfills that earns it a spot on this list. Who would not want to be given $30 million to spend as you please with the promise to come if you do so without explaining the rules? Richard Pryor brings his unique voice to the lead here and he definitely does his best to get that cash spent, with John Candy along to help out. The film is comedic gold and even manages to teach a lesson or two in the end.
See here the details of the proposal that brings Brewster his millions.
Much in the same way a movie further up the list defined business on film in the 80s, Boiler Room did the same for the new millennium. The story posed moral dilemmas and questions of ethics within the fast paced and high pressure world of investing. It featured slick, polished performances by the likes of Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi and Ben Affleck. The story was a classic tale of an innocent drawn to the dark side by the promise of wealth, but the way it ends up playing out sets this film apart from the rest.
One of the most often quoted scenes from the film is Ben Affleck’s speech to the group of eager young applicants. To be candid, my now boss quoted it to me when I applied for my current position, how could I not include it here?
What is it with the 80s and the abundance of greed filled themes dancing throughout its films? Trading Places, a hilarious comedy starring Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy is not the exception to this idea. When weathly older white guys decide it would be fun to mess with the Akroyd’s life, they get Murphy in on it. It poses the question of whether or not our social standing and fiscal status actually define who we are as people. And it answers that question deeply yet with comedic brilliance. Check out the scene below from this classic film.
Based on a play of the same name by David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross takes a look at two days in the lives of four real estate salesmen who are facing losing their jobs if they are not the top salesman. The film uses creative and colorful language to lay out the scenes as these men sink deeper and deeper into desperation. The situation is made more tense by the presence of Alec Baldwin’s character, a motivator sent to determine who will remain. The film shows just how far a man may go when he is threatened with the loss of his livelihood and the inevitable result.
Baldwin’s initial speech to the men is classic cinema discussed to this day in both theater and economic classrooms.
There is no discussion of movies about money without Wall Street, plain and simple. The film features a great story and several fantastic supporting performances but it the tour de force turn of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko that stands as the focal point of any attention it garnered. Douglas brought a seething, dirty realism to the character who believes beyond a shadow of a doubt that “Greed is good.” See a clip of the classic speech with that classic line below. Gekko, above all else, is the manifestation of the out of control avarice that swept the nation in the 80s and like that ground swell of greed that soon collapsed in on itself, so too did Gekko.
Is Indecent Proposal necessarily the absolute best film on this countdown, when you look at them as film regardless of theme? No, probably not but it clearly owns the top spot when we are discussing movies that deal with money. Indecent Proposal brought to life the “what if?” questions we all ask our friends when we dream of having more money and escaping our day to day lives. Just how far would we go for money? And in this case, just how far would we let a loved one go for that money? Where Indecent Proposal succeeds is that it asks the question, answers it, and then shows the way the uncomfortable consequences play out. It pulls no punches and makes you truly wonder what you might do if you were in Demi Moore or Woody Harrelson’s shoes.
Watch as Robert Redford lays out his proposal…
What do you think? Does this week’s list add up? Let me know in the comments below!
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