Top 10 Must-Watch Finance Movies for CFA® Candidates

A movie scene from a retro finance movie

Movies are a great way to take a break from studying for the CFA exams. When your schedule allows it, catch one of these ten flicks that can inspire you to reach your CFA career goals.

These first three films feature major issues being solved by some adept number crunching.

1. Margin Call

As an investment bank lays off employees, the head of risk management hands a flash drive to his protégé and warns, “Be careful.” During a tense all-night session, analysts work to stave off the impending crisis unfolding in the financial sector.

2. The Hummingbird Project

The plot involves a secret fiber optic cable leading to the New York Stock Exchange. To remain competitive, high-frequency trading requires shaving milliseconds off the time necessary to complete securities trades. Personal and legal issues plague the planners as a cutthroat competitor plots to wreck their ambitions.

3. A Beautiful Mind

This film chronicles mathematician John Nash’s triumph over schizophrenia. His breakthrough accomplishments in game theory helped streamline currency trading and earned him a Nobel Prize in Economics.

These next two movies depict professionals dedicating themselves to the hard work required to achieve their goals.

4. The Pursuit of Happyness

Based on the true story of successful businessman Christopher Gardner, this movie covers his early days as a stockbroker trainee while homeless. He achieved his goal of passing his stockbroker’s exam while he and his young son overcame unthinkable hardships.

5. Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps

During the 2008 U.S. economic collapse, a young trader’s mettle is tested. The film shows him researching an offshore hedge fund company and formulating plans to mitigate the risks of the unrestrained speculation that led to the 2008 crisis.

These next two films demonstrate some activities that can wreck a CFA career.

6. Boiler Room

This film shows the dark side of the finance world and how a lack of due diligence can leave investors susceptible to fraud. The movie’s brokers engage in pump-and-dump schemes that can lead to prosecution.

7. The Wolf of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort had a lucrative Wall Street career and a rock-star lifestyle. When the FBI and SEC began investigating, however, they discovered a range of illicit activities. This film graphically portrays Belfort’s rise and fall.

These last three films provide humorous perspectives on how certain events may unfold.

8. Barbarians at the Gate

Based on the RJR Nabisco leveraged buyout, the movie plays on the potential mishaps related to bidding on a high-stakes deal. The film draws out issues that could turn a corporate buyout into a hostile takeover.

9. The Associate

Whoopi Goldberg plays a woman who starts an investment firm and decides that she needs to turn herself into a fictional older male to bring investors on board. She raises funds based on her invented partner, Mr. Cutty, until everyone wants to meet him in person.

10 The Laundromat

Based on the leaked financial documents known as the Panama Papers, this movie features episodes that are both comedic and tragic. An amateur sleuth portrayed by Meryl Streep uncovers international financial misconduct that includes tax evasion, money laundering, and shady shell companies.

Launching your CFA career can place a significant but worthwhile demand on your personal life. Click here to learn more about how you can make the process better suit your lifestyle, and when it’s time to relax, consider one of these ten must-watch movies.


  1. Ten Finance Movies Every Advisor Should Watch
  2. Margin Call (2011) – Plot Summary
  3. The Hummingbird Project (2018) – Plot Summary
  4. The story of John Forbes Nash Jr
  5. The Best Movies About Money and Wall Street
  6. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) – Plot Summary
  7. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) – Plot Summary
  8. Top 20 Films about Finance: From Crisis to Con Men
  9. Pump and Dump – Meaning, Examples of Stocks & Cryptos
  10. 10 Best Stock Market & Wall Street Movies
  11. Who Is Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street?
  13. Barbarians at the Gate (TV Movie 1993)
  14. The Associate (1996) – Plot Summary
  15. Netflix’s The Laundromat True Story: What Were the Panama Papers?
  16. The Laundromat (2019)
  17. CFA® Level 1: CFA Exam Practice Questions
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