7 to see: Money in movies

Jerry Maguire, Wall Street, Trading Places and more finance-obsessed films

As the saying goes, money makes the world go round. It also makes for great movies. Since the global financial crisis, the pains of losing it have become universally felt. But directors have long understood its potential for high drama. We take a look at some of the movies’ most dramatic money moments.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey
How about this for a sales incentive: ‘First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.’ In the cutthroat world of Chicago real estate, this 1992 film directed by James Foley charts two days in the lives of four sales people who resort to desperate measures to keep their jobs and their lifestyles.

The money shot: At the beginning of the film, Alec Baldwin’s character Blake brags to a lowly sales executive ‘You see this watch? This watch cost more than your car!’ – perfectly setting the scene for the movie’s trail of underhand tactics.

Indecent Proposal

Robert Redford, Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson
Adrian Lyne’s 1993 film raises the questions, can money buy you happiness, and if so, at what cost? Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore play David and Diana Murphy, a young married couple with dreams of a big house, but when they lose all their savings, that dream seems to fade. That is, until billionaire John Gage (Robert Redford) comes onto the scene with a one-million dollar offer.

The money shot: When the Murphys get the money from Gage they roll around in the dollar bills strewn across the bed.

Jerry Maguire

Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger
Showing how a change in your approach to money can change your life, Tom Cruise plays wealthy sports agent Jerry Maguire who has something of an epiphany in Cameron Crowe’s 1996 film. Maguire writes an overly honest mission statement telling the sports agency’s clients that there is dishonesty at play in the company. Maguire is fired and so starts up on his own with one American football player, the volatile and animated Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.). As he builds his agency – with a lot of bumps along the way – Maguire discovers that business and love can be honest.

The money shot: Tidwell and Maguire have a phone showdown, as Tidwell pressures Maguire into securing his new contract, since he’s the only player left who will work with him. Tidwell makes a sweaty Maguire scream ‘Show me the money!’ down the phone.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton
In director Gabriele Muccino’s 2006 film, money isn’t the root of all evil. The Pursuit of Happyness is based on the true story of Christopher Gardner (Will Smith), a struggling salesman who takes custody of his son when his marriage breaks down. After trying and failing to sell the medical scanners he invested in, he loses his wife, his home and every penny he has. Finding himself on the street and lining up for hand-outs, he gets a chance to become a stockbroker but has to work unpaid to be in with a shot for a job.

The money shot: There are a few, but when Christopher is accepted on the stockbroking programme in the final part of the film after all he’s been through, we defy you not to shed a tear.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio, Kyle Chandler, Margot Robbie

The excesses and flaws of the capitalist system are on show in all its gaudy, gory colours in this 2013 film directed by Martin Scorsese and based on the real-life story of Jordan Belfort. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Belfort, a stockbroker who spends 36 months in prison for fraud and corruption. Belfort goes from being a broker of penny stocks to starting his own dodgy but hugely successful operation. Living the high life in the ’80s, Belfort gets caught up in a crazy bacchanalian web of hedonism and it’s not long before the FBI starts to investigate.

The money shot: When Belfort invites FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) onto his yacht he tries to charm him, but when Denham refuses to fall for the bait, we see an arrogant side of Belfort as he throws money at the FBI man, shouting: ‘Do you know what I call these? Fun coupons!’

Trading Places

Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche

In this 1983 John Landis-directed film, Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) plays an elitist yuppie New York stockbroker working for Duke & Duke, which is owned by brothers Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) Duke. Meanwhile Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) is a quick-talking street hustler who pretends to be crippled to get passersby to take pity on him and part with a few dollars. Seeing how different the two are, the Duke brothers wager a one dollar bet to see if they can turn the hustler into a broker, and see how the uppity Ivy League-educated Winthorpe would survive on the streets.

The money shot: When Valentine and Winthorpe get their own back on Duke & Duke leaving them penniless, they exchange a dollar on the trading floor.

Wall Street

Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, Tamara Tunie
Directed by Oliver Stone in 1987, this film is all ’80s excess, wide-cut suits and mobile phones the size of house bricks. Stone made the film as a tribute to his father who was a stockbroker during the American Great Depression of the ’30s. In it, Charlie Sheen plays Bud Fox, a junior broker who wants to work with his idol, Gordon Gekko – a ruthless legend of Wall Street. In a bid to win his approval Fox begins to supply Gekko with insider information making both of them very rich but ultimately casts his downfall.

The money shot: Gekko addresses an audience of traders and stockholders at a gala event and gives an impassioned speech about the economy and lays into the vice presidents, saying, ‘The point is ladies and gentlemen, that greed is good. Greed is right. Greed works.’ The impressionable Fox
looks enthralled.

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