Published On: Tue, May 4th, 2021

Top 5 Movies About Business Fraud

The true stories are the least believable.

Do you want to see movies that tell the story of how people in business go about cheating the public at large? Do you like Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Al Pacino, Jack Lemon or Alec Baldwin? Of course you do!

These movies all give insight into how fraudsters commit their frauds. From stock manipulation to bogus real estate deals and even fake music festivals, JBN has 5 must watch movies for you.

Some are based on true stories. One is a documentary on something which really happened, but is so hard to believe that it feels like a Christopher Guest mockumentary.

Boiler Room 2000
Do you want to know about stock market fraud? Have you ever heard of a “pump and dump” operation? That is what this movie is about. Giovanni Ribisi plays a young wannabe big shot who runs an illegal casino in his own home. He then gets a chance to work as a stock broker. But slowly he realizes that his firm is a scam trying to push stocks in which they have a financial interest in order to raise their value.

Ribisis is seemingly without conscience, a sociopath. But as the film progresses and he realizes what is going on you see that he is actually anything but. Look for Vin Deasel in one of his early roles.

The Wolf of Wall Street 2013
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in a movie directed by Martin Scorsese. That should be all that you need to know to see this movie if you have not already. The movie is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (played by DiCaprio), and how he turned a penny stock operation into a fortune. Basically he did in real life what is depicted in “Boiler Room.”

This could be called a rags to riches to rags story. Belfort’s firm Stratton Oakmont brokerage engaged in pump and dump operations and other offenses. He led the high life for years. But in the end he was convicted of securities fraud and money laundering.

DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his performance. Martin Scorsese was nominated for best director and the movie itself for best picture of the year. But it was Jonah Hill who stole the show with his Oscar nominated performance as Donnie Azoff, a close associate of Belfort’s. His character is said to be loosely based on Danny Porush, who worked with Belfort and who was himself convicted of securities fraud and money laundering.

Margin Call 2011
This movie is based loosely on what happened at Goldman Sachs in 2008. One I saw the writing on the wall, that firm raced to dump as much of its holdings in sub-prime mortgage backed CDOs before it was too late.

While this movie is purely fiction, it accurately portrays how people trained in math and science end up going to work on Wall Street and why. It also showed the shock of the people at the top of financial firms when they first learned exactly how badly overextended they were in the whole mortgage debacle.

Look for great performance by Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Jeremy Irons and even Kevin Spacey. Zachary Quinto – Spock in the new Start Trek movies – is the ostensible lead character here. It’s his job to explain to the bosses why they are in so much trouble. The brilliant thing here is that they never seem to understand what exactly happened.

Fyre 2019
This Netflix documentary tells the story of one of the strangest frauds ever committed. The Fyre music festival was supposed to be a big music festival/getaway for millennials with money to burn. Thousands paid a tidy sum for the chance to stay at a retreat set up on an island in the Caribbean and attend the concerts. They were promised all sorts of things, such as specially catered meals. Those meals, however, turned out to be packaged sandwiches.

The festival was promoted by famous so called social media “influencers” who were paid to do so. When people arrived on the island they saw that the accommodations were just tents which had not even been completed. The facilities were lacking, to say the least. People could not even just turn around and leave when they saw what was happening.

How did this happen? Apparently the festival’s promoter Billy McFarland was nothing but a career scam artist. He never had the money to pay for everything he promised before the cash from ticket sales came in. He never even got formal approval from local authorities to hold all of his planned events.

Since no one was physically harmed, this movie can be quite entertaining at times. In the end, McFarland was convicted of fraud and complementation was paid out. But to most viewers, the fact that the “victims” here are mostly self-absorbed spoiled young people, who charged their trips to daddy’s credit card, should make this movie a laugher.


Glengarry Glen Ross 1992
Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey all star in a movie based on a play by David Mamet. Enough said!

This one tells the story of a group of failed middle aged salesman who work desperately to make the rent by selling bogus real estate investments. The men care much more about their egos than about doing the right thing. Pacino plays the only one of them who is at all successful. He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance for best supporting actor. Unfortunately for Al Pacino he had to settle for winning the best actor Oscar that year for Scent of a Woman.


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