It’s always been true that if you ever want to learn anything, listen to the professionals.
In trading, this is no different.
What follows is a list of some of the very best financial and trading documentaries around. Get a hold of any of these, and you’ll be inspired, empowered, and a little wiser when it comes to financial trading.
Billion Dollar Day
A little dated now, this documentary still packs a formidable punch. It looks at the lives of three traders in New York, London and Hong Kong. It’s a real insight into life on the trading floor.
The documentary gets its name because over a billion dollars is traded within 24 hours on the financial markets. It’s a phenomenal feat, and this trading documentary pulls no punches in showing the stress and the anxiety the traders go through in just 24 hours.
People in currency trading view this as being one of the best trading documentaries ever.
Trader – Paul Tudor Jones
This financial guru is well known to anyone who wants to make a start as a trader. He will often be referred to by other people in the world of trading and finance. And that’s because he is nothing short of a legend, including predicting Black Monday.
The master of the hedge fund, you’ll gain plenty of insight in this trading documentary into how he thinks and what he thinks. It’s still referred to regularly as a ‘must-see’ by many trading professionals. Tudor-Jones is worth billions today, and has been on many a ‘rich list’. So he must be doing something right.
Good luck in finding this documentary though, Paul Tudor Jones, bought up most copies of it!* – Source.
It may have CNN all over it, and feel, at times, like a news report, but right at the heart of this fascinating trading documentary is nothing short of a real education. It’s well worth watching, not least because it makes perfect sense for anyone who is starting out in trading to learn from someone who jumped in as a beginner.
The documentary follows a CNN anchor who attempts to learn how to be a trader. We won’t spoil it for you by telling you how the anchor did, but it’s entertaining, informative, and a great way for beginners to check if they actually want that career. It’s not completely hard-hitting, but it’s not trivial either. And at times, even with CNN behind it all, the anchor does end up in situations not that far removed from the atmosphere in your typical boiler room.
For example, if you give it time, it turns out to be a very useful introduction to trading on a stock market. All a beginner needs is right here, and this means tremendous value for anyone who wants to get started. While it may not offer value to more experienced traders, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better trading documentaries for those just starting out.
Not every documentary on trading needs to teach you something. Floored is fascinating, and it doesn’t tell you anything new. But we haven’t seen such a thrilling depiction of what used to happen on trading floors anywhere else.
There’s no real ‘tech’ to speak of here, and the traders are what the old, cliched view of traders were. Lots of screaming and shouting, lots of male posturing. While a lot of that has quite rightly disappeared, you can tell that the old days in the pit were thrilling, and not a little bit pressured.
Then the trading documentary takes it up a notch. It shows us the lives of those who are unable to adapt to new technologies in financial trading. It’s interesting to think that massive trades were once done with a notebook and a loud voice. Some of the traditional traders here find it incredibly difficult to cast off the ways of old. And it makes for amazing viewing.
It was created back in 2009, so it does have a little of the ‘dated doc’ feel about it, but that only makes the messages more poignant. These are the true ‘Masters of the Universe’, and to see them in the pit, like a hive of bees after each and every dollar, is truly breathtaking.
Life on the trading floor was never easy.
Wall Street Warriors
A hugely successful reality series, Wall Street Warriors went deep into the heart of the place, and focused on more than one type of trading activity. It covered all people would want to know when it comes to understanding the life of a trader.
The show was focused on the tough approach the Warriors used to make money. With hedge fund managers, a day trader and a number of floor traders being part of the series, it soon became very popular. One of the Warriors retired at 27, and then returned to the fray to launch her own hedge fund.
Another, Alex Gerchik, is arguably the most famous of the line-up in the TV shows. He became an instant hit with audiences after they found out he’d been driving a taxi for a living. Then he started to day trade, and became rich.
General Financial Documentaries
Alongside the rich field of trading documentaries that have made it easy for professionals to start careers with the insight they give, there are also a number of informative documentaries that offer a glimpse into the world of finance in general. All of these financial documentaries on Netflix (and other platforms) are well worth seeking out.
This was probably one of the most welcome of the 2008 financial crisis documentaries, and as a financial crisis documentary it managed to successfully portray the details around the housing and banking crisis of 2008. The crisis had huge implications for the way banks are run, and who should be held accountable for the safety of money, whether it’s individual’s money or the money institutions have.
And why was it such a good documentary?
Well, for starters, it focused on the behaviour of some of the people behind the whole thing, and charts the problem as it grows in severity, culminating in the crisis in 2008, with huge trading losses being only the tip of the iceberg.
What’s even more interesting is the opportunity afforded to the viewer. The audience gains a keen sense of just what happened and why it set off the chain of events. This means that all finance professionals can take a away a message from the documentary.
The Ascent of Money
Although the title of this documentary film seems like it’s setting you up for a joke, this particular documentary is nothing short of comprehensive. If you’re interested in the history of money and the financial system, then the title will give you the whole story, literally.
Niall Ferguson takes us on the journey and he is the author of the original book, so you couldn’t ask for a better host.
Key highlights here include a section on the original futures contracts, a Babylonian invention. It only gets better after that, with a focused look at the stuff that makes the world go round. It’s fast, well-paced, and contains enough insight into the world of finance to please anybody.
Trillion Dollar Bet
Now, this is one of those documentaries that anyone can enjoy. You don’t need to be in business or finance to appreciate the human story in this documentary.
Trillion Dollar Bet is not flashy, there are no lifestyle envy segments, where traders roll around in sports cars. Instead, the documentary focuses on the people who came up with a theory that happened to rock the world of finance, albeit briefly.
The formula was the Black-Scholes option pricing model. Two of the men behind this won the Nobel Prize, the formula was that significant. However, the hedge fund the men founded eventually tanked.
A great story about intelligent people feeling the wrath of the markets.
Quants: The Alchemists of Wall Street
Another fascinating look at the science and Maths behind finance and trading. The ‘Quants’ in the title are the maths geniuses who offer formulas and insights to trading professionals. Sometimes this goes very wrong. And the way the documentary questions the whole problem is expertly handled in under an hour.
Concise and fast-paced, The documentary is absolutely essential viewing for anyone who thinks they may have the answer to dominating the markets.
The 2008 financial crisis holds lessons for everyone, not just traders or finance experts, but your average hedge fund manager too. This documentary acknowledges this, and gives the whole thing a different perspective. It does this primarily through looking at just one woman who was involved in the fiasco.
However, she was not involved in a negative way. She wasn’t responsible for any part of the crisis or market crash. In fact, she could have helped avoid the crisis and bring stability back to the economies that were affected.
Brooksley Born was head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission at the time, and when the problem became very real, she suggested much tighter regulation.
She wasn’t listened to, and the rest is history.
Since the 2008 financial crisis is widely viewed as a turning point in finance in general, this proves to be a very useful and sobering documentary about the people who control a nation’s money. The film shows just how damaging a refusal to listen can be, and it’s a true story.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
The Enron scandal was big, and it implicated a number of top executives in the company, and on Wall Street. It was also perhaps the first real corruption scandal in the history of finance, in that everyone knew about it.
One of the nastiest things that the Enron executives were alleged to have done was to actually start an energy crisis in California.
The idea was to drive up utility prices. The end of Enron brought about the criminal trials of some of the key players. These people were simply exploiting others for financial gain, and there’s nothing in the story that hints at any positive points for the Enron brand.
Kenneth Lay founded Enron in 1985. The documentary makes his part in the scandal very clear.
At one point he denied knowledge of the wrongdoing that he had himself allowed to happen. As if that wasn’t enough, at one point it becomes clear that Lay was authorising a kind of accounting that made his company look good. The only problem with that was the nature of the accounting. Enron was declaring untrue accounts, with projected, and inflated profits. The film is based heavily on this sequence of events.
25 Million Pounds
This fascinating documentary focuses on just one man, Nick Leeson. Leeson was a trader who managed to ruin Barings Bank. This bank happened to be a bank that held money for some very important people, including the Queen.
The story of the situation was a major part of financial history. Leeson went on to be an infamous trader, one of a select few million dollar traders, and the full story of his exploits was made into a successful movie, called Rogue Trader, which starred Ewan McGregor. One of the best financial documentaries around, 25 Million Pounds is well worth watching.
All of the above will provide a fascinating and insightful viewing experience. And all of them have messages around day trading and the world of finance in general. Of course, there will be many more financial and trading documentaries to come, but these particular titles have set the bar high.
Invest time in them, and see if it doesn’t change your perspective on finance and trading in general. We think the whole experience definitely will. And if it’s an education in finance and trading you’re after, you can’t get better than those on the list.