Watch these documentaries to improve your Financial Quotient

Want to improve your financial literacy but tired of reading finance books? Finance documentaries are a great way to improve your financial quotient. These documentaries explore people’s relationship with money and wealth mindsets.  

Why documentaries? Movies on finance often glamorize the industry. The lavish lifestyle in films on finance often comes across as glorified on the screen. The messaging in a documentary is different: it is realistic and informative rather than entertaining. They offer more diverse perspectives on the subject.

Who should watch these finance documentaries?

Documentaries are often investigative and shed light on the uncomfortable truths of the economy. They also explain financial concepts and milestones. Anyone can watch these to improve their financial literacy. However, documentaries on finance are crucial for people who want a career in finance. 

For instance, you want to be a loan agent or work in a bank. Watching documentaries like Breaking the Bank (2009) will help you understand the banking crisis in the US. Books and articles cover the banking crisis in America extensively but Breaking the Bank provides you with insider access. 

So, here are 11 documentary movies to improve financial literacy:

Inside Job

Inside Job was the 2010 Oscar winner for the best documentary picture. Directed by Charles Ferguson and narrated by Matt Damon, it explains the 2008 Global Financial Crisis in detail.

The documentary studies the US policies that led to the crisis from 2001 to 2007. For instance, the availability of cheap credit and the resulting mortgage boom. It holds people accountable and studies the impact of the financial crisis on families.

Watch here.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

People shed blood, sweat, and tears for success, but what comes after? Jiro Ono, a sushi chef, has mastered the art. He runs multiple successful sushi restaurants. Yet, at 85, Jiro finds himself questioning the meaning of his success. Jiro Dreams of Sushi explores a more introspective take on wealth and what it means to gain wealth.

Watch here.

Freakonomics: The Movie

Freakonomics is another screen adaptation done right. Based on the best-selling book by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the documentary explores human behavior. The case studies in Freakonomics are unusual: can a child’s name warranty their future success? It also has a segment on sumo wrestling. Why? The creators try to understand human behavior through the lens of economics. It shows how the science of economics directs human behavior.

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The Warning

Documentaries often show multiple perspectives on the same subject. The Warning, for instance, covers the 2008 financial crisis, like Inside Job. However, it studies the crisis from a new perspective: Brooksley Born’s story. Born headed the CFTC ( Commodity Futures Trading Commission). She wanted tighter regulation to reduce the impact of the crisis. It serves as a reminder that one can predict a financial crisis and mitigate its effect on the economy.

Watch here.

Life and Debt

The title of this documentary is a clever pun on death. It is also suggestive of the far-reaching consequences of debt. How does debt affect smaller countries? What is the impact of IMF’s policy on small businesses and locals? These are but a few questions that the documentary Life and Debt seeks to answer.

Watch here.

Maxed Out

James Scurlock made Maxed Out well before the 2008 financial crisis. His documentary talked about credit mismanagement: one of the factors behind the crisis. It also investigates the corruption in credit policies across the globe. Scurlock’s Maxed Out is relevant even today as people grapple with a lack of financial discipline. People are still dealing with credit card debts. Student loans are at an all-time high. It is a necessary study for those who want to become a loan or DSA agent.

Watch here.

Money Explained

Money Explained is a documentary series that elaborates on contemporary finance issues. The series has 22-minute episodes on themes such as gambling, increasing student loans, getting rich quick schemes, piling credit card debt, and retirement. Vox roped in celebrities like Tiffany Haddish to narrate the series, thus making it more accessible to the viewer.

Watch here.

Commanding Heights

Released in 2002, Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy dissects the global economy and distribution of wealth. It explains globalization as a concept and its state towards the end of the century. The film analyses the growing deregulation in the 21st century and its possible consequences. It also highlights events like the founding of the IMF and the World Bank.

Watch here.

The Ascent of Money

Based on the book of the same name, The Ascent of Money helps you understand the history of finance. It explores the changing relationship between humans and money. From Babylonian financial contracts to the forces of Western globalization: historian Niall Fergusson covers it all.  

Understanding the evolution of money is essential for finance professionals. It sheds light on unique perspectives on money and does a great job of explaining financial milestones.

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The Most Important Class You Never Had

The documentary focuses on a subject you never learned in school – personal finance. Personal finance educators talk to students in high school. The Most Important Class You Never Had records the student’s experiences as they learn about economics and finance. 

The creators format the documentary in a way that feels more personal. You see both the students and teachers talking about their relationship with money. It makes the documentary more relatable for the viewer. 

Watch here.

Thinking Money: The Psychology Behind Our Best and Worst Financial Decision

The documentary Thinking Money navigates the psychology of consumer decisions. What causes humans to save and spend money? For instance, it delves into the reasoning behind impulse shopping. The host David Coyne takes a deep dive into behavioral economics. Watch this to understand your unconscious bias and how it affects your spending.

Watch here.


As a finance professional, one has to stay updated with the economy. Consuming content on the economy and finance is key to understanding the industry. Documentaries cannot replace books. Ideally, you consume them in addition to finance books. However, they can often explain concepts better. These films are a great way to improve your financial quotient and understand contemporary issues.