Feb 24, 2021
Personal Finance

21 Personal Finance Movies and Documentaries

The Banker, recently released on Apple+, explores wealth building, saving money, banking, investing in property, lending, and economic justice. Multiple scenes could be cut and used as hooks to illustrate key money management concepts. It's also based on a true story, so the movie has lots of cross-curricular potential.

Looking for more movies you can use with your students to approach financial skills? Here are 21 of the best.

 

1. Broke, Busted, and Disgusted (2017) (NR)

Primary NGPF Topic: Paying for College

Description: Broke, Busted, and Disgusted is a pro-education documentary covering the true cost of college. While many issues contribute to the student loan crisis, we believe the most immediate action we can take is to educate the next generation about their options, the consequences of student debt, and the financial decisions they face.

Cost: $7 or Amazon Prime

Duration: 53 minutes

Producer: Adam Carroll

Teachers Guide: Nothing by producer; various available online

 

2. Broken Eggs: The Looming Retirement Crisis in America (2013)

Primary NGPF Topic: Investing

Description: Happily ever after is quickly becoming... working ever after. Taking a rare look at one of the gravest social issues facing an aging America, Broken Eggs showcases the grim irony that as we live longer, a growing number of Americans are falling short of retirement security. Sadly, the prognosis is even worse for future generations. Unlike any documentary of its kind, Broken Eggs blends comical animations with unforgettable portraits of everyday Americans reckoning with their inability to retire.

Cost: Free

Duration: 80 minutes

Producer: Chad Parks

Teachers Guide: None Available

 

3. ESPN Broke (2012) (TV-G)

Primary NGPF Topic: Financial Pitfalls

Description: "More money, more problems. Broke digs into the psychology of men whose competitive nature carried them to victory on the field yet seemed to ruin them off the field."

Cost: Varies

Duration: 78 minutes

Producer: ESPN

Teachers Guide: Nothing by producer; various available online

 

4. Explained: Stock Market [Season 1] (2018) (TV-MA)

Primary NGPF Topic: Investing

Description: A soaring stock market doesn’t necessarily mean the economy is strong. What’s good for corporations isn’t always what’s best for its workers and consumers. And only about half of Americans own stock, meaning millions are left out when the market surges. In this episode, VOX measures what the stock market is actually measuring.

Cost: Netflix Subscription

Duration: 18 minutes

Producer: Netflix / VOX

Teachers Guide: Link

 

5. Freakonomics: The Movie (2010) (PG-13)

Primary NGPF Topic: Career

Description: A film adaptation of the bestselling book about incentives-based thinking by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. The film examines human behavior through consistently provocative and often hilarious case studies.

Note: The viewer experinces the movie through a series of mini-episodes. As it pertains to personal finance, the two mini-episodes to show are:

  • Real estate agent: 3:15
  • Can a 9th grader be bribed to succeed (good discussion starter for a lesson on careers and how much students should weigh compensation versus finding their passion): 1:03:26 - 1:23:30

Cost: Free

Duration: 25 minutes relevant to PF

Producer: Freakonomics

Teachers Guide: Nothing by producer; various available online

 

6. Inside Job (2010) (PG-13)

Primary NGPF Topic: Most Units

Description: "Inside Job," was the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. From Academy Award nominated filmmaker Charles Ferguson.

Cost: $3-$5 on Apple TV and Amazon Prime

Duration: 110 minutes

Producer: Charles Ferguson

Teachers Guide: Nothing by producer; various available online

 

7. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) (PG)

Primary NGPF Topic: Career

Description: Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the story of Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He owns Sukiyabashi Jiro, an exclusive 10-seat restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station.

Cost: Varies, starts around $4; Amazon Prime, Netflix, iTunes

Duration: 85 minutes

Producer: David Gelb

Teachers Guide: Nothing by producer; various available online (try LifeHacker)

 

8. Maxed Out (2016) (NR)

Primary NGPF Topic: Managing Credit

Description: "Maxed Out takes viewers on a journey deep inside the American style of debt, where things seem fine as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on time. With coverage that spans from small American towns all the way to the White House, the film shows how the modern financial industry really works, explains the true definition of "preferred customer" and tells us why the poor are getting poorer while the rich keep getting richer. Hilarious, shocking and incisive, Maxed Out paints a picture of a national nightmare which is all too real for most of us." (Red Envelope Entertainment)

Cost: Varies

Duration: 90 minutes

Producer: James D. Scurlock

Teachers Guide: Nothing by producer; various available online

 

9. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (2016) (NR)

Primary NGPF Topic: Most Units

Description: "This film examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life—families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former. Wall Street broker—all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less. After its successful theatrical run, Minimalism, the #1 indie documentary of 2016 (largest box-office opening), is finally available online."

Cost: Varies on Netflix, Amazon Prime

Duration: 80 minutes

Producer: The Minimalists

Teachers Guide: None Available

 

10. Playing with FIRE: The Documentary (2019) (PG)

Primary NGPF Topic(s): Most Units

Description: A Documentary that explores the growing movement known as FIRE: Financial Independence Retire Early.

Cost: $5-$10

Duration: 76 minutes

Producer: Raymond Tsang

Teachers Guide: Tools Available

 

11. Spent: Looking for Change (2014)

Primary NGPF Topic: Checking

Description: A film about everyday Americans without the financial options most of us take for granted, and the movement giving them renewed hope. Turning to pawn shops, check cashing services, and payday lenders to meet basic financial needs can be costly for many.

Cost: Free

Duration: 42 minutes

Producer: American Express

Teachers Guide: Nothing by producer; various available online

 

12. The Ascent of Money (2009) (NR)

Primary NGPF Topic: Most Units

Description: Based on Niall Ferguson’s best-selling book The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, which predicted the current economic crisis and was released within weeks of the meltdown of sub-prime loans.

Cost: Free

Duration: Four Part Series: 56 minutes each episode

Producer: PBS

Teachers Guide: Link

 

13. The Banker (2020) (PG-13)

Primary NGPF Topic: Checking

Description: In the 1960s two African-American entrepreneurs hire a working-class white man to pretend to be the head of their business empire while they pose as a janitor and chauffeur. Based on a true story.

Cost: Apple+ Subscription

Duration: 120 minutes

Producer: Apple

Teachers Guide: None Available

 

14. The Card Game (2009)

Primary NGPF Topic: Managing Credit

Description: "As credit card companies face rising public anger, new regulation from Washington and a potential perfect storm of economic bad news, FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell Bergman examines the future of the massive consumer loan industry and its impact on a fragile national economy. In a joint project with The New York Times, Bergman talks to industry insiders, lobbyists, politicians and consumer advocates as they square off over new regulation and the possible creation of a consumer finance protection agency."

Cost: Free

Duration: 56 minutes

Producer: PBS

Teachers Guide: None Available

 

15. The Company Men (2011) (R)

Primary NGPF Topic: Career

Description: "Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is living the American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves him and co-workers Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers. Bobby soon finds himself enduring enthusiastic life coaching, a job building houses for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) which does not play to his executive skill set, and perhaps the realization that there is more to life than chasing the bigger, better deal."

Cost: Varies on Netflix, Amazon, Applie, and others

Duration: 115 minutes

Producer: John Wells

Teachers Guide: Link

 

16. The Most Important Class You Never Had (2020) (NR)

Primary NGPF Topic: Advocacy

Description: "Crisscrossing America, this film shares the inspiring stories of eight high school educators and their students who illustrate the surging trend and timely importance of personal finance education."

Cost: Free

Duration: 35 minutes

Producer: NGPF

Teachers Guide: Link

 

17. The Retirement Gamble (2013) (NR)

Primary NGPF Topic: Investing

Description: "Whether your IRA or 401K will assure a safe retirement is largely a gamble. Building off reporting from the groundbreaking special Money, Power and Wall Street, FRONTLINE's special raises troubling questions about how America's financial institutions protect our savings and answer them as reinforcements for what personal finance teachers are instructing students to do, starting with being considerate of investment fees."

Cost: Free

Duration: 56 minutes

Producer: PBS

Teachers Guide: None Available

 

18. Thinking Money: The Psychology Behind Our Best and Worst Financial Decisions (2014)

Primary NGPF Topic: Behavioral Finance

Description: "Thinking Money is an hour-long exploration on public television of what behavioral economics has to tell us about how and why we spend, save (or don't) and think about money. It presents some of the country's most innovative thinkers who mix economics with psychology."

Cost: Free

Duration: 57 minutes

Producer: Rocket Media

Teachers Guide: None Available

 

19. Til Debt Do Us Part (2010)

Primary NGPF Topic: Financial Pitfalls

Description: "Gail Vaz-Oxlade helps a variety of people get out of debt with simplistic exercises that focus more on mindset alteration than practical application. We’re not sure how much this show is staged, but the budgetary fundamentals are there. Gail cracks the whip like a mother of each participant and tries to make them understand how they got into debt in the first place. She then creates challenges to reinforce the fundamental tactics to get out of debt and repair any family problems resulting from financial hardship."

Cost: Amazon Prime

Duration: Each episode is 20 minutes (7 seasons x 13 episodes each season)

Producer: Frantic Films

Teachers Guide: None Available

 

20. Your Life Your Money (2009) (NR)

Primary NGPF Topic: Most Units

Description: Real-life stories of young people tackling economic challenges. Basic, broad financial advice in a simple and relatable format.

Cost: Free

Duration: 57 minutes

Producer: PBS

Teachers Guide: Link

 

21. 30 Days on Minimum Wage (2005)

Primary NGPF Topic: Financial Pitfalls

Description: "...Morgan Spurlock and his then fiancée, Alex Jamieson, lived for 30 days in the Bottoms neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio, trying to get by on minimum wage ($5.15 an hour). They had no access to prior cash, credit cards or health insurance and lived in an apartment whose rent was less than their combined wages for one week. Rules: (1) They have to work minimum-wage jobs. (2) They must start off with only $206 (slightly less than one week's minimum wage pay). (3) They must secure all their credit cards and other money, and are not allowed to access any savings accounts."

Cost: Free

Duration: 54 minutes

Producer: Actual Reality Pictures; Morgan Spurlock

Teachers Guide: Nothing by producer; various available online

About the Author

Brian Page

Making a difference in the lives of students through financial capability is Brian’s greatest passion. He comes to NGPF after fifteen years of public school teaching where he was the ‘11 Ohio Department of Education recipient of a Milken National Educator Award, the CEE Forbes Award winner, and a Money Magazine/CNN "Money Hero". He served on the working group for President Obama's Advisory Council on Financial Capability. He has private school experience as a Trustee for the Cincinnati Country Day School and was a past Ohio Jump$tart President. Brian holds a BBA and M.Ed. When Brian isn’t working alongside his NGPF teammates he is likely spending time with his wife, three children, and dog; hiking, or watching Ohio State football.

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