The Top 7 most successful movies about Wall Street

In an eight-block-long street, which runs from Broadway to South Street of lower Manhattan you can find one of the most famous names in the world. A name which carries the legendary status of being home of power and money; that name is Wall Street.

Being so globally recognized it is no wonder that Hollywood has on many occasions tried to cash in by producing films to capture Wall Street’s decadent appeal.

With that in mind, I have created a list of the top 7 most successful movies about Wall Street. And as we are taking about investments and making money all the movies are ranked upon return on investment (ROI), the domestic total made, against the films production costs. All box office profits are adjusted for inflation.

Spoiler alert!

7) Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

Domestic Gross: $57,095,000. Production costs: $70,000,000. Profit/loss: -$12,905,000

ROI: -18%

After a string of poorly received movies, Oliver Stone attempted to go back to one of his earlier successes by making a sequel to 1987’s “Wall Street”. “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” was set 23 years after the original, at the beginning of the 2008’s financial crisis. The movie came back with Michael Douglas as his infamous character Gordon Gekko, who this time around is down and out after having served a long prison sentence for the financial crimes he committed in the first film. Although the core of the film is still very much on the insider dealing of major investment companies and breaking the rules to get ahead, it also has a heavy slant towards family and relationships. This movie being in eighth place on my list is slightly unfair due to my rules of only including domestic box office takings, because if I included international and dvd sales the film will certainly rank higher. But rules are rules, sorry Ollie.

6) The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Domestic Gross: $120,941,374. Production costs: $100,0000. Profit/loss: $20,941,374.

ROI: 20.9%

If ever there was a film which captured the universal vision of the excess of Wall Street, it was indeed The Wolf of Wall Street. Made by legendary director Martin Scorsese and staring his go-to actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the movie tells the true story of Jordan Belfort and his rise and fall as a Wall Street broker. Famous for not holding back on foul language, obscenity and raw display of drug abuse, it was a story which once again focused on the corruption of the financial markets and the greed that apparently drives Wall Street. It was very well received by critics and nominated for several Academy Awards, but once again due to my rules of a domestic box office count, it only comes in sixth place.

5) Money Monster (2015)

Domestic Gross: $41,012,075. Production costs: $27,000,000. Profit/Loss: $14,012,075

ROI: 51%

Starring everyone’s least favorite Batman, George Clooney, Money Monster is the story of a market analyst who uses his TV personality status to advise his audience on trading and Wall Street. When one of his viewers goes bankrupt following his advice, he is held hostage on live TV. Drama ensues.

4) Margin Call (2011)

Domestic Gross: $ 5, 354,039. Production costs: $3,500,000. Profit/loss: $1,854,039.

ROI: 52.9%

Margin Call tells the story of a Wall Street investment bank, experiencing the initial stages of the 2008 financial crisis. Told over a 36-hour period, it focuses on the actions taken by a group of employees who try to prevent the collapse of their firm which is overrun by toxic assets. With an all-star cast including the likes of Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons, it favored well with critics but only had a limited cinematic release. Still it makes fourth place on this list.

3) The Big short (2015)

Domestic Gross: $70,259,870 Production costs: 28,000,000. Profit/Loss: $42,259,870

ROI: 151%

Another true story about the financial crisis, the Big Short is based upon a novel of the same name which tells the story of a number of hedge fund managers and investors who recognize that the US housing market is about to implode and see the opportunity to profit. With a star-studded cast and the use of unconventional filming techniques, the film was both a critical and financial success and was nominated for five Academy Awards – of which it only received one, best adapted screenplay. But hey it gets third place on my list.

2) Wall Street (1987)

Domestic Gross: $94,222,800. Production costs: $16,500,000. Profit/Loss: $77,722,800

ROI: 471%

The original movie behind the number 7 spot on our list and the grandfather of them all; Wall Street. Straight off the success of his 1986 film, Platoon, it seemed that Oliver Stone could do no wrong. Stone whose own father was a stock broker wanted to tell the story of the corruption and greed that thrives in Wall Street. The villain of the piece is major Wall Street player Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas who takes young and aspiring stock broker Bud Fox, (played by Charlie Sheen), under his wing and teaches him how to commit insider trading. Stone intended to tell the dark side of Wall Street but in the end the villain Gordon Gekko ended up becoming idolized by many would-be stock broker and the film itself has be contributed for inspiring many people to work on Wall Street. Critically acclaimed and a big box office smash, considering its subject matter, the movie also bagged Douglas an academy award for best supporting actor. “Greed is good”.

Trading Places (1983)

Domestic Gross: $248,254,400. Production costs: $15,000,000. Profit/Loss: $233,254,500

ROI: A massive 1555%

Ok, I may be slightly cheating here as Trading Places is really a comedy but you could also argue the same about The Wolf of Wall Street, and there is only one scene which actually takes place at a Wall Street commodity trading floor, but that scene is pretty much the climax of the movie, so it does deserve its spot on the list.

At the same time, even though it is a comedy, it is also a favorite of many traders (myself included) as well as one of the best Christmas movies of all time (again my opinion…. eating salmon through a Santa’s beard anyone?).

Trading Places in many ways is a retelling of Mark Twain’s novel “The Prince and the Pauper” and is a story of two brothers (Duke and Duke) who own a very successful commodities brokerage who for a $1 bet, swaps around the lives of a young and successful managing director (Dan Aykroyd) with a street hustler (Eddie Murphy). Of course, the two in the end get their revenge on the two brokers by bankrupting them when they intercept an orange crop report bound for the two brothers and trade against them.

From a personal point of view; I know many see the ending as a happy one; the two brothers get what they deserve and the two heroes end up being very rich and live on a tropical island, I believe when the two brothers were about to commit inside trading, our heroes turn the tables on them and end up inside trading themselves, making them no better or more deserving than the two brothers, but people cheer their success on, simply because they are the heroes. But hey, it’s a comedy so perhaps I should lighten up.

The film was critically acclaimed and the 3rd biggest film of its year and won two Academy Awards for best supporting actor and best support actress. And I, like many of you still love it.

Data from:

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