Ask anyone, money is a cornerstone of American society. We fight over it, lust after it, and kill ourselves (or others) to get it. Therefore, money makes a perfect central plot point for some of the greatest movies in recent—or not so recent—history.
The stories never get old, whether it’s duplicitous bankers, instantaneous fortunes, or people who will do anything to be rich. Maybe it’s not the best reflection on us, but it sure makes for a great movie!
Watching Macaulay Culkin bring the little billionaire boy to life in the 1994 adaptation of a comic-book classic stirred the hearts and hopes of kids everywhere. Butler? Check. Private plane? Check. The only thing missing from Richie’s life was friends … but he got those, too.
Over the past few years, it may have felt like the country’s being run by a team of Gordon Gekkos. America glared at the screen in ’87 when Gekko corrupted Bud and made him rich through insider trading, cementing public perception of Wall Street bigwigs forever. Can’t get enough insider trading? Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps was just released this fall.
Who didn’t cheer when Julia Roberts leveled that shop assistant who made a “huge mistake” with a peek at Richard Gere’s fortune? The 1990 fairytale of the Hollywood escort and the businessman may have been just another Cinderella story, but it was (and is) one of America’s favorites.
The 2001 remake of the 1960 bank heist film was successful enough to spawn two sequels and attract an all-star cast full of winners of People’s Sexiest Man Alive award. A team of (stunningly attractive and witty) con men loot the vault at the biggest casino in Las Vegas, winning the girl in the process. Sometimes the bad guys are so … good.
The opportunities to dramatize the inner workings of banks and traders are endless, as evidenced by the success of the 2000 drama about a young man who tries to make his father proud by working at a brokerage firm, and ends up forfeiting the entire place to the FBI when it comes to light that the firm is one giant scam.
Often compared to Twain’s “The Prince And The Pauper,” Ackroyd and Murphy played men at opposite ends of the financial spectrum, manipulated by (more!) obnoxious, rich businessmen. When they switch places, the hustler (Murphy) becomes a successful member of the upper echelon, while the discredited rich man … attempts suicide. That seems like a fair trade, no?
The 2001 film about a mother-daughter con team in Palm Beach gave a whole new perspective to maternal relationships, fake Russian accents, and the lengths a person might go to for money. Breaking engagements? Hiding corpses? Never, ever paying for your own gas or restaurant meals? Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt had it covered.
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
The 1936 mid-Depression story of an upstanding, small-town model citizen who inherits a massive fortune is the classic story of a country mouse in the city. Remade with Adam Sandler years later, Mr. Deeds showed the world that a good person can’t help but prevail—and that $20 million dollars has the potential to do a lot of good.
Based on a true story (aren’t the best films always?), the 2008 film tells the story of a senior at MIT who joins a professor and a team of similarly brilliant classmates in a high-stakes gambling scam to pay for medical school. Between the attractive young savants racking in the money to finance trips to Vegas and their shiny, soundtracked lifestyle, MIT has never looked so good.
Yet another story about an unforeseen windfall tells the tale of a minor league baseball pitcher who must spend $30 million in thirty days in order to inherit a full fortune of $300 million—without telling anyone. Brewster’s adventures fulfill the fantasies of every viewer who ever wondered: “What would I do with millions of dollars?”
Originally published on LearnVest