Welcome to Oscar season, the awards show that launches a thousand memes, dresses, and Best Picture debates.
Nominations are coming out January 24, and as with most years, the top films are all over the map. But we almost always see a movie about money—a universal theme most of us can relate to. This year, Everything Everywhere All at Once, a sci-fi adventure features the most terrifying of villains: an IRS auditor.
Wall Street, Margin Call, Wolf of Wall Street all caught the attention of the Academy—and audiences. But which movies about money have stayed with us the most? We decided to ask a few top executives about the finance-oriented films that helped shape their lives and careers. Here’s what they had to say.
Co-founder and CEO, Ellevest
Favorite money movie: Working Girl
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection
“This was a film in the late ‘80s about investment bankers on Wall Street. I grew up in Charleston, S.C., so I didn’t particularly identify with Sigourney Weaver or Melanie Griffith or Harrison Ford, but I sure wanted to be them.
“Melanie Griffith is a working girl from Staten Island, who ends up taking Sigourney Weaver’s job and doing it brilliantly—and wins Harrison Ford as well. In that way, it is a bit of a problematic movie, pitting women against women.
“But the important money lesson is that hard work pays off. You can overcome whatever boundaries there may be—whether you are from Staten Island or from Charleston—as long as you work hard enough.”
Co-founder and CEO, FUBU; star of ABC’s Shark Tank
Favorite money movie: Trading Places
“That movie is everything. I have probably watched it 50 times. It makes me think, it makes me laugh.
“It touches on titans of industry, on capitalism at its core, on bigotry and the advantages that some people have. It teaches that we have more in common than we have apart, whether you’re a prostitute, or a butler, or someone from the hood, or someone who went to Harvard.
“I’ve always been afraid of that famous phrase in the movie: ‘Margin call, gentlemen!’ That was the first time I ever heard those words. Then the pandemic came, and it was margin call time, all around the world.”
Defensive tackle, Philadelphia Eagles; founder, Suh Family Foundation
Favorite money movie: The Big Short
“That is an awesome movie, especially in times like these. It shows how we got to the real estate crash—the mistakes people made in not understanding what they were getting involved in, with those particular types of mortgages.
“If you have no financial literacy, the wool can get pulled over your eyes very easily, and you find yourself in trouble and over leveraged. That’s where the world went. So many people were taken advantage of—but if you’re educated enough, you can’t be taken advantage of.”
Co-founder, LinkedIn; partner, Greylock
Favorite money movie: The Hudsucker Proxy
Warner Bros./Everett Collection
“At the beginning of The Hudsucker Proxy, Norville Barnes (played by Tim Robbins) stands at the foot of New York City’s tallest skyscraper, holding what he believes to be his ticket to the top, a simple sketch of a circle he’s been working on ‘for two or three years.’
“It turns out Norville’s circle sketch really is a big idea—the Hula Hoop. Its rollout leads to record profits for Hudsucker, success for Norville, and inevitably, complications and Norville’s fall from grace.
“In the end, entrepreneurial innovation and decency triumph over financial manipulation and greed. Norville retains control of Hudsucker Industries. He gets the girl.
“Sure, it’s a simple story. But as the Hula Hoop and the Frisbee prove, sometimes the simplest ideas are the ones that are most powerful. And the most fun.”
CEO & CIO, Alger
Favorite money movie: The Color of Money
“Great cast, great music, great director. Paul Newman is the retired legendary pool player, passing his wisdom on the road ahead to Tom Cruise, the super talented (but no idea how to channel it) young hustler.
“Investment management has that element, in that it takes both talent and experience to deliver great long-term results and build a great firm.
“It’s a story of the importance of doing what you’re best at, and what you love, to really be alive.”
CEO of U.S. branded cards and lending, Citi
Favorite money movie: Joy
“It follows the story of real-life entrepreneur Joy Mangano as she sets lofty goals, bets on herself, juggles the struggles of her family life, and works incredibly hard to succeed in business.
“These life skills are ones I focus on every day in my career and, like Joy, they are ones I teach my mentees and aspiring entrepreneurs as they build their careers. I’d recommend any working mom watch this film for a realistic reminder that, while not perfect, there are paths to find career success and personal fulfillment.
“As a mom of twin boys, I’ve quickly had to adopt the notion that my career is like a highway. Ideally, I am driving along in the fast lane—but it’s perfectly fine to move the car into a slower lane to manage my whole life. There have been long periods in my career where my job has taken precedence. Once I had children and my family started to become the most important thing to me, I was able to move in and out of the lanes as needed.
“Being a working mother like Joy is a master class in not sweating the small stuff, allowing yourself to achieve all your goals without saying, ‘I have to step away from my career to be a good parent.’”