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15 Best Movies About Money, Power and Success

Updated July 20, 2017
11 min read

Success and money are two things that drive and inspire a human being the most. Who wouldn’t want to succeed in their lives and make lots of money? It is only human to desire and want and our passion is what makes all our lives worth living. But our methods to attain success may vary depending on the situation and how we adapt to the circumstances. People often twist their moral values and ethics to attain success and earn money. This article takes a look at the list of top films that explore success and money in ways that may be simple or twisted. You can watch some of these movies about money on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

15. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Yes, it’s extremely sentimental, simplistic and naive but it works for many reasons. ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ tells a classic rags-to-riches American story about Christopher Gardner who works as a salesman but is facing some serious financial troubles. His wife leaves him and he is left to take care of their son while he takes up an unpaid internship in a brokerage firm. With a lot of hard work and determination, Gardner manages to seal the job at the firm as a full time stockbroker as in the end we are revealed that he went on to start his own multi-million dollar brokerage firm. It’s just a wonderfully made simplistic tale of hard work and success told with heart.

14. Boiler Room (2000)

‘Boiler Room’ is a film that had all the potential for a classic but just loses its way out towards the end. Nevertheless it’s an intriguing drama that explores success, guilt, loyalty and greed. Seth Davis is a young college dropout who runs a casino and earns a living out of it. However, his father is disappointed with him. He is then recruited to join a brokerage firm and it changes his life forever. He begins to earn a lot of money and becomes immensely successful and manages to gain his father’s approval. However, things don’t go well as the dirty hands of the business stitch him up in greed and we no longer see him as the person he once was. The film is one hell of a roller coaster ride that portrays the various facets of success and what greed and money could eventually to do to you.

13. The Intern (2015)

‘The Intern’ should certainly provide more diversity and bring in a refreshing feel to the list here. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, the film tells the story of a seventy year old man who applies for an internship at an online fashion based company led by a highly successful young woman. The film depicts the relationship between the 70 year old Ben and his young, vibrant boss, Jules Ostin. Jules is a highly successful business woman whose husband sacrificed his own career to look after their children so that Jules could manager her business and spend more time at work. Once in a while a film just comes in and sweeps you off with its warmth and lightheartedness and ‘The Intern’ provides just that along with some memorably funny moments.

12. Jerry Maguire (1996)

A light hearted entry on the list but certainly worth mentioning. ‘Jerry Maguire’ is about its titular character who is fired from his work for being vocal about the fraudulent activities taking place in his profession. He then goes on to start up his own independent agency but things aren’t easy and he needs people to believe in him on this new venture. ‘Jerry Maguire’ is very much a story about success and dreams and what it takes to be the person you’ve always dreamt of being.

11. Goodfellas (1990)

Okay, now this might seem like a controversial pick because killing people around and making money isn’t really about success. But in the context of the film and from the perspective of its protagonist, the film is very much of a rags to riches story about an ordinary man dreaming to become a gangster one day and turning into a powerful mobster in New York. Henry Hill was a petty criminal who rises the ladder to team up with some of the most feared mobsters in the city. He gets to live the life of his dreams. This is the world of money, power, glamour, women. And Henry sees them all and lands back to where he was, living the life of an “average Joe”.

10. The Aviator (2004)

‘The Aviator’ might not seem like a film about success and money but ambitions, desires and hunger for success make way for one of the most harrowing character studies ever put on-screen. Howard Hughes is a deeply troubled man fighting his own inner demons while turning out to be a massively successful person in his life. Hughes is a manic perfectionist and while he becomes a hugely successful billionaire business man and filmmaker, his inability to deal with himself and his personal turn him into an absolute shell of a person.

9. Citizen Kane (1941)

Of course, the greatest film of all time had to make its way on to the list. But the reason why it’s ranked lower on the list is because the film is much, much more than just about success and money. ‘Citizen Kane’ is, at its core, a profound character study of a human being. An ordinary human being with goals, ambitions and desires who turns into a man drunk on greed and power. The film follows a reporter’s investigation of a newspaper publishing big-shot whose mysterious final word has piqued the the interest of many reporters. The film captures the rise of Charles Foster Kane from being an idealistic young man with raw ambitions into a ruthless business magnate. ‘Citizen Kane’ is widely credited to have changed the landscape of filmmaking with its pioneering techniques and innovative approach to storytelling.

8. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Success is always the result of motivation. Motivation could just be about anything. Desires, ambition, money or perhaps even survival. In ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’, survival is the motivation for the employees and it pushes them to succeed. The film depicts two days in the lives of four real estate salesmen who are to generate leads by whatever means possible. A motivator is sent to the office and he announces that except the top two, everyone else will be fired from their jobs. The film is an intriguing look at what drives us to succeed and how often we are pushed to our very best when our survivals are threatened. The world of success and money is indeed a tough one.

7. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Well, this is certainly not the kind of success one would want to achieve in his life but Frank Abagnale’s life does teach you a lot about having the courage to stand up and face life as it is and then making it your own rather than just taking what comes your way. Frank is a teenager who runs away from his home and when he runs out of money, begins to use his deceptive charm and confidence to con people. His cons increase and he forges cheques worth millions of dollars. He is chased off by the FBI but eventually they turn to him for help in order to catch other frauds and criminals. It’s a lovely tale so full of fun and charm and told in the classic Spielbergian way.

6. Boogie Nights (1997)

A young Paul Thomas Anderson flaunting his virtuosity as a filmmaker. That, to me, is what ‘Boogie Nights’ is. Without any disrespect to the film, it still only serves as a prelude to the genius that would blossom in the coming years. Having said that ‘Boogie Nights’ is one of the more fascinating character studies that explore the themes of greed, success, money and fame. A young high school dropout works at a nightclub where he meets a porn filmmaker who turns him into an overnight sensation. Dirk Diggler is a victim of success and fame and serves as a classic example of what money and greed could do to you. It’s dark, tragic, funny and exhilarating.

5. Casino (1995)

Cut straight from the same bloody cloth as ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Casino’ is a riveting tale of success, greed, money, ambition and power. ‘Casino’ is about two mobsters who fight their lives out in an epic battle to gain control over the gambling business. Sam and Nicky were once best friends but in their quest for success and power they betray each other and end up becoming rivals. While the narrative may feel a bit messed up at times, the film works mainly due to the performances, especially Sharon Stone and Scorsese’s command over the medium. It isn’t as clinical and classy as ‘Goodfellas’ but Scorsese still isn’t far from being at his very best.

4. The Social Network (2010)

David Fincher’s acclaimed biographical drama about the founding of Facebook is quite simply one of the most fascinating films about success, morality, fame and money. The film centres around Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard student who founded a social networking site called Facebook. However, he is later sued by two brothers who accuse him of stealing their ideas. The film then focuses on the events that led to the founding of the sensation it would later go on to become. It raises questions about people’s actions, the choices they make in their journey and blurs the concreteness between the lines separating right and wrong.

3. The Wall Street (1987)

This Oliver Stone classic is a riveting tale of success, greed, power and money. ‘The Wall Street’ tells the story of a young stockbroker who is taken under his wing by a brilliant, ruthless raider. Bud is young, intelligent and craving for success and money and idolises Gordon Gekko. Morality for him is flexible and he is willing to do whatever it takes to reach the top of the ladder. The central morality conflict between Carl Fox, Bud’s father and Gordon Gekko makes way for the film’s thematic explorations of greed, money, power, success, and morality. The film was made by Stone as a tribute to his father who was a stockbroker during the Great Depression.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Ambition. Success. Fame. Money. Sex. Drugs. That is ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ for you in a nutshell. But there’s a lot to dig in the film although Scorsese’s infamous rough approach may hamper you from delving into the deeper aspects of the film. Jordan Belfort is a young, aspiring stockbroker who manages to procure his dream job as a Wall Street broker. However, his dreams are shattered following Black Monday on October 19, 1987 when stock markets around the world were crashed. He then manages to find himself a job at a brokerage firm that specialises in penny stocks. He soon teams up with his neighbour and the two start up their own company. Belfort becomes a stockbroking superstar as he enjoys the life of luxury and fantasies he always dreamt of. Funny, dark and endlessly entertaining, it might just be Scorsese’s boldest work in the recent times.

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1. There Will Be Blood (2007)

To make a good film is one thing. To craft a masterpiece is another thing. But bettering your own masterpiece is something only a truly accomplished artist is capable of. Paul Thomas Anderson did exactly that with ‘There Will Be Blood’. The film was quite a bit of a radical shift in style for Anderson. Aesthetically, the film was almost Kubrickian and the visual storytelling was quite an astonishing achievement. The opening 15 minutes alone establishes Plainview’s character without a single word being uttered. We learn about his drive and his hunger for success. The film still is very much ambiguous about his character and we are never really told as to what really drove Plainview to doing the things that he did. Greed and power corrupt him and we no longer see the man brimming with raw ambitions but a man turned into a shell, trying to win a battle he’s already won.

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