Here at Rantanna Media we believe that white-collar crime is a serious scourge that needs to be eradicated. We strive to educate the public and keep them alert to the various ways that scammers operate. But it shouldn’t always be all work and no play when it comes to learning about the white-collar criminal world. So, in the interest of education and entertainment, we put together a list of the five most entertaining (as judged by me) white-collar crime movies available to watch on streaming services right now while you quarantine, stay at home, or otherwise shelter in place.
Boiler Room (2000)
What would you have if you put Peter Pan’s Lost Boys in business suits, give them a 500K monthly phone bill budget and stuff them in a room with names of potential investors? The movie plot for “Boiler Room.” In the film, men in their early to mid-20s forsake the responsibilities of everyday life (like furnishing expensive homes and stocking fridges with food) for the pursuit of riches and Ferraris. The only problem is that their fortunes are made by selling stocks in companies that don’t exist or have long since gone out of business to unsuspecting victims.
The movie provides a good glimpse into some of the pressure tactics used by scammers and the F.O.M.O factor that makes victims susceptible to scams. Giovanni Ribisi gives a stellar performance as Seth Davis, the protagonist of the film and a rising star in the seedy world of boiler room cold-calling, grappling with his conscience as he financially devastates his victims. The fact that a scam artist can have a conscience is hope-inducing, and any film that leaves you with hope is worth watching in my book.
“Boiler Room” is currently available on: Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft Store, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, this 2013 film stars Leonardi DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and Matthew McConaughey, to name just a few. The story centers around Jordan Belfort, played by DiCaprio, a casualty of the crash of 1987 who is forced to take a job at a boiler room brokerage firm selling penny stocks. A gifted salesman, Jordan makes a respectable fortune and, in the process, conjures up a pump and dump scheme that lends well to his hard selling tactics. Jordan names his firm Stratton Oakmont to dupe investors into thinking that the firm has had a long-established history.
In the end, Jordan is convicted for money laundering and securities fraud and spends nearly two years in federal prison. But unlike Boiler Room before it, The Wolf of Wall Street was inspired by the real life story of Belfort, and although some of the accuracy of the Hollywood portrayal has been called into question, the drama still carries on; this past January Belfort sued the film’s producers for $300 million, saying he was “kept from fully exploiting the rights to his story,” according to a report from the Independent.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” is currently available on: FandangoNow, FX, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft Store, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube .
Wall Street (1987)
What can one say about “Wall Street”? It is the granddaddy of the white-collar crime film subgenre. For better or worse it launched an uncountable number of careers and cast the real Wall Street into a new public light—one that’s followed it for the more than 30 years since. Without “Wall Street,” there probably would be no Ben Younger’s “Boiler Room” or Martin Scorcese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
It is also a clinical study on the psychology of the rich and powerful white-collar criminal. Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, is a ruthless corporate raider that has no qualms about using insider information to further enrich himself or his young protégé Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen. Ever wonder why someone who has a vast sum of money goes and steals another vast sum of money? Well, Gekko’s stunning speech at the annual meeting of Tedlar Paper Co. offers some insight:
“Greed, for lack of a better word is good. Greed is right. Greed Works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirits. Greed in all of its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge marked an upward surge of mankind…”
In short, greed for money is good and the more money you obtain the more “good” you do for yourself and mankind. A sequel to “Wall Street”—“Wall Street: Money Never Sleep”—hit theaters in 2010, and centers around Gekko’s release from prison and the 2008 financial crisis.
“Wall Street” is currently available on: Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft Store, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
“Catch Me If You Can” is an entertaining biopic of precocious teenager Frank Abagnale, also played by Leonardo DiCaprio (we may be seeing a pattern here), who learns he is able to con people into believing he is a doctor, lawyer and airplane pilot—pretty much anything he chooses—without any actual degrees, certification, or corroboration. Abagnale’s specialty, however, is forging checks, to the tune of two and a half million between the ages of 16 and 21. While the film is a lighthearted take on a serious matter—forgery and criminal impersonation—the multiple catch-and-mouse-chase scenes and the swinging-60s-feel of the movie provide ample viewing pleasure—something very much lacking as we continue to shelter in place.
If anything, the film will introduce you to the real Frank Abagnale. Mr. Abagnale now works educating the public on how to protect themselves against scammers and hackers. He has even written a book, Scam Me If You Can, detailing simple steps to keep scammers at bay. Arrested at the age of 21, Abagnale spent five years in federal prison before he was released, on the condition that he work in cooperation with the government to help catch other con-artists. He’s now been working with the FBI for over 40 years.
In this short and sweet video produced by CNBC in 2019, Abagnale outlines the two most important red flags to look out for that he says every scam shares.
“Catch Me If You Can” is currently available on: Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft Store, Prime Video, Sundance Now, Vudu, and YouTube.
The Wizard of Lies (2017)
The travesty of the movie is that it’s also based on real life events—the wounds of which are still healing more than twelve years after his arrest. There is no conscience-laden protagonist—a Seth Davis or Bud Fox—to lose their soul and gain it back before the film credits roll. “Wizard of Lies,” is the story of Bernie Madoff, played by Robert Deniro, and the man responsible for the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
It is estimated that Madoff defrauded his clients—including many high-profile names, such as Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, and John Malkovich—of some $64.8 billion. While other Madoff movies cover in some detail the long-running fraud, director Barry Levinson focuses on Madoff, the man. As it turns out (not surprisingly) he comes off in the film as a narcissistic sociopath that passed the buck onto his victims for trusting him with their money.
“The Wizard of Lies” is currently available on: Google Play, HBO, iTunes, Microsoft Store, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.
For the next blog post in this series, we will take a look at a few of the outstanding documentaries on white-collar crimes that you can stream from home. If truth is stranger (and more shocking) than fiction, after watching these documentaries, you will come away with the realization that urgent change is needed. Now. And society will be all the better for it.