A perennial event at the conclusion of every year is the best and worst list for movies. These compilations are tailor-made for cocktail conversations or barroom brawls.
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Here at FOX Business, we wanted to offer a different take on the “best” and “worst” movies. So for anyone looking for a streaming “binge” over the New Year’s holiday we’re taking a look at films with business at the core of the plot. Playing the role of the erstwhile film critics four FOX Business Networks anchors and reporters.
But first, it wouldn’t be a business story without looking at some numbers.
When most people think of the quintessential business film Michael Douglas and his 1987 classic “Wall Street” is often the first film mentioned. The Oliver Stone film made $43.8 million when it was released 32 years ago. If you adjusted the box office for inflation that would come out to $97 million, but it would fall far short of the biggest business movie ever, which shares part of the same title: “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Released in 2013 with superstar Leonardo DiCaprio, like the Douglas film, it dramatizes the financial world’s avarice and is a true story based on Wall Streeter Jordan Belfort, who coincidentally began his career as a broker the same year as the Douglas-Stone tale was released. In 2013, it pulled in a whopping $392 million.
If you are wondering what of the “official sequel” — “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” — it took $134.7 million. So combined neither can top the box office draw of DiCaprio as Wall Street’s wolf.
So here are our on-air team’s selections followed by a box office breakdown.
Cheryl Casone, Co-anchor FBN: am
BEST BUSINESS MOVIE
I don’t know if it’s the best business movie but I still love the original “Wall Street.” Who didn’t feel a little bit like Gordon Gecko watching that movie? Of course, he made bad business decisions but it was certainly a learning lesson for a lot of us back in the day.
WORST BUSINESS MOVIE
I really didn’t like “The Big Short” in 2015. I felt it to be so unrealistic. There’s how people actually do business and there’s how Hollywood thinks people do business. Big difference but it did win awards so others disagree!
Neil Cavuto, anchor Cavuto Coast-to-Coast
As a rule of thumb, I like business. But also as a rule of thumb, Hollywood loves to bash business. I think capitalism provides enormous opportunities. Hollywood just as firmly believes it squanders those opportunities — on people whose only values are defined by what’s in their wallet, and not in their heart. I get that. I just get tired of that. And the routine Hollywood business movies that forever bemoan that. Rarely is capitalism presented in anything but a selfish, greedy and warped light. Again, I accept that. Sadly, I deal with that. That’s just life in Tinsel Town. But that doesn’t mean some of those success-searing flicks still can’t be enjoyable, especially the ones that mix in a good bit of humor and sarcasm with their generous heaping of scorn-and-mourn. With that in mind, here are three stand-outs:
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) — Leave it to director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio to bring to the silver screen Wall Street’s gaudiest go-go days. The fact DiCaprio’s character is based on the real-life trader Jordan Belfort, and all his excesses (and regresses) and the financial and personal debauchery that followed, make it as funny as it is tragic. The film nicely captures a booming, anything-goes investment era, where momentum mattered more than momentous, and what you did with your money mattered more than how you got that money. One clever feature of the film is how it goes about explaining certain investment jargon of the day — with some very big A-list names recruited to do the deciphering. Witty, funny, even if in the end, tragic.
"The Social Network” (2010) — Who knew Facebook all started as a way to hook up with girls? I’m kind of oversimplifying things, but the story behind Harvard student and computer whiz kid Mark Zuckerberg and his pursuit of an easy to use “social network” is as appalling as it is hysterical. Jesse Eisenberg brings a sardonic “genial genius” to the future billionaire Zuckerberg. He plays an oddly appealing character, ahead of his time but ironically socially awkward in his times. There are many interesting teasers in the film, including an uncanny layout of where all this technology was going, and how the never-to-be-underestimated Zuckerberg and his pals would be leading.
“Wall Street” (1987) — It’s remarkable how well this film still holds up more than two decades after it hit theaters in the final years of the Reagan Boom. Jobs were plentiful, and so were outsized market gains. Who knew in the fall of that same year, it would all come crashing down in a single trading day, on Oct. 19, 1987, when the Dow would lose nearly one-quarter of its value? The signs were everywhere, and almost surgically clocked in this cinematic timepiece. All the greed and ask-no-questions go-go nature of it all seem so obvious in retrospect, and so neatly laid out in this memorable Michael Douglas vehicle. He plays a composite bigger-than-life Wall Street character named Gordon Gecko (as close to a cinematic Ivan Boesky as you could get, without calling him “Ivan” Gecko, by name). But Director Oliver Stone, brilliant as he is, cannot hide his disdain for what he sees as Wall Street — a bastion of emotionally barren rich guys who have little regard for what is good, save its dark hero’s conviction that “greed is good.” Heavy-handed, but fun just to see what was so big at the time it debuted including the first cellphones that looked more like giant bricks and suit-and-tie combinations that looked more like the mob meets Broadway.
Liz Claman, anchor The Claman Countdown
BEST BUSINESS MOVIE
“It’s too easy to say “Wall Street” and “Network” although they’re so epic they’re in a category all their own, so I’ll go with the following:
It’s a tie between “Up in the Air” starring George Clooney, and the Harrison Ford-Melanie Griffith giant, “Working Girl.”
“Up in the Air” because it brings the reality of layoffs and the wreckage left behind for the jobless, but also the silver-lining hope that sometimes a kick out the door is what people really need to get to the next level.
“Working Girl” because it’s so evocative of the 'climb...' It perfectly unveils the human minefields that hopeful newbies experience in the corporate rat race —and how to get around them.
WORST BUSINESS MOVIE
“Money Monster” starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Possibly the cheesiest depiction of a business network anchor and his producer who get taken hostage by an irate investor-viewer: A) I can’t believe these two Oscar winners said yes to such a lame script, and B) I can’t believe I actually PAID to see it in a theatre. I. Just. Can’t.
Kristina Partsinevelos, Correspondent
BEST BUSINESS MOVIE
A woman who can go from a college dropout and office assistant to an operator of a multimillion-dollar poker ring is impressive to say the least. Even if some of her choices were illegal. In "Molly’s Game," the female lead shows us how important it is to hustle when building something from scratch – an important characteristic for all budding entrepreneurs. Molly was able to earn the trust of well-known business leaders, celebrities and even Russian mobsters – she knew how to work a room. In business, you need to be competitive and this movie line sums it up: You know what makes you feel good about losing? Winning.
Ashley Webster, Correspondent
BEST BUSINESS MOVIE
This is a hard one to pick.
As I went down the list of business-themed movies I realized how many I liked for different reasons. You could argue that “Goodfellas,” “Scarface” and “Casino” are about money and running a business. Of course, these business models are illegal and brutally violent.
Then you have the movies based on real-life events like “The Big Short,” “Chasing Madoff” and “Jobs” — all of them fascinating.
But despite all of these fine films my favorite has to be “Trading Places”.
It’s the tale of the Duke Brothers, Randolph and Mortimer who own a commodities brokerage firm. The Ivy League brothers argue over the issue of nature versus nurture and make a wager on a social experiment that switches the lives of two unsuspecting people on polar opposites of the socio-economic scale.
That brings in Dan Aykroyd as the prissy and well educated Louis Winthorpe III and Eddie Murphy as the poor street hustler Billy Ray Valentine.
Events don’t turn out the way you’d think and it’s a valuable lesson in prejudice and taking good fortune for granted. Not only is this movie funny, but it is also very poignant in its social message and downright satisfying when the architects of the “experiment” are left bankrupted and owing $394 million.
Richard Schickel of Time Magazine described Trading Places as "one of the most emotionally satisfying and morally gratifying comedies of recent times." I couldn’t agree more.
WORST BUSINESS MOVIE
“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” — Money may never sleep but I did about 15 minutes into this movie.
As much as I enjoyed the original “Wall Street” film with Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko and Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox, this weak sequel isn’t a patch on the original.
It lacks all the energy, sharpness and heart of the first movie, and sorry, but Shia LaBeouf is just not as interesting as Charlie Sheen’s character.
It was always going to be hard to replicate the 1987 version but this effort is soft fodder with a weak and muddled plot.
I’m falling asleep just talking about it.
Box Office Breakdown
The picks for the best and worst biz pics have a mixed track record at the box office. Here are the top 10 performers in the business genre, according to boxoffice mojo.com
- Wolf of Wall Street (2013) -- $392,000,694.
- 9 to 5 (1980) -- $317 million (adjusted for inflation, the original box office: $103,300,143).
- The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) -- $307,077,295.
- Trading Places (1983) -- $230 million (adjusted for inflation, the original box office: $90,404,800).
- The Social Network (2010) -- $224,920,315.
- Working Girl (1988) -- $220 million (adjusted for inflation, the original box office: $102,956,984).
- The Intern (2015) -- $194,564,672.
- Up in the Air (2009) -- $166,842,739.
- Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) -- $134,748,021.
- The Big Short (2015) -- $133,440,870.
We should note that Liz Claman's choice for "worst" was "Money Monster." The film was not well-received critically (a 59 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) but it did make $93.2 million at the box office on a budget of $27 million, so depending on Hollywood bookkeeping it should have been a tidy profit for Sony's Tri-Star Pictures.
Also, some may be wondering: Where is "Jerry McGuire"? It depends on what genre you think “Jerry Maguire” belongs in. The Tom Cruise starring film looks at the cut-throat world of sports agents with a love story at its core. Some argue it is a sports film, others state it is about business. In 1996 it took in an astounding $273 million which in today’s dollars would be the kingpin of this list at $443 million.
But the official ruling for this story was that "McGuire" and “Moneyball” are sports movies and did not make the cut for our critics or our box office countdown.
Finally, Jackie DeAngelis, admitted that "I’m not a real film buff," but is more than game for our New Year's Day look ahead.
COMING TOMORROW: FOX BUSINESS NEWS ANCHORS PEER INTO 2020 FOR WHAT TO WATCH IN THE WORLD OF BUSINESS