10 Must Watch Trading Documentaries

The world of trading on Wall Street and other leading global financial centers is often perceived as a closed shop to the outside world, an industry populated only by the elite and with a unique culture which only those lucky enough to get their foot in the door. There have however been some excellent documentaries made over the years which should be considered ‘must watch’ for aspiring investment bankers or traders, or anybody who i just intrigued by the culture of the industry. Some of the best are available to watch in full, and for free, right here on DocumentaryVine.com.

Trader: The Documentary (1987)

This classic 1987 PBS documentary follows the then-young but now legendary hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones and his firm Tudor Investments. It has often been extremely difficult to find this documentary (even online) as Tudor Jones bizarrely bought up almost every physical copy soon after its release, he hated the final edit. The film is particularly notable as it was filmed whilst the market was booming but documents Tudor Jones and his team correctly predicting that the market would soon collapse. Watch here.

Floored (2009)

A fantastic documentary which shows the impact of technological advances on traditional floor traders in Chicago, it was filmed at a time when software based trading was taking over the game and showcases how those who were reluctant to change to software based trading were being left behind. Evolve or extinct. The film is notable for having been filmed just as the major financial crisis was beginning to bite, ensuring that it will achieve cult status and serve as a reference point in the future for aspiring traders and educators who want to see how the pits operated. Watch here.

Quants: The Alchemists of Wall Street (2006)

A must watch documentary if also watching Floored (above), this 2006 documentary focuses on the mathematical geniuses and computer scientists creating the complex algorithmic trading tools which have killed the traditional pit traders. No longer is a human required to decide whether to buy or sell a stock, trading can now be performed solely by bots with no manual intervention. But have they created  monster which could cause the next financial crisis? Watch here.

Billion Dollar Day (1985)

An old BBC documentary which follows three separate Forex traders, one in New York, one in London and one in Hong Kong. The three traders are followed through a typical day to show how the system worked at the height of Thatcherism / Reaganomics. Over the course of the 24 hours over $1 billion in currency is traded by the three individuals, in various currencies including pounds, dollars and marks. It was the first documentary to give the general public a real insight into an otherwise secretive industry. Watch here.

Million Dollar Traders (2009)

A three episode series which follows the fortunes of twelve normal British people from a variety of backgrounds as hedge fund trader Lex van Dam and his associate Anton Kreil attempt to turn them into successful day traders in just two months, by the end of which they will collectively be trading with up to $1 million in van Dam’s personal money. The experiment had an added element of interest as it was filmed during extremely tough trading conditions during the global financial crisis. Watch here.

 Betting on the Market (1997)

A time capsule of the bubble of the 1990’s, at the tail end of of bull market which had lasted for some 17 years by the time the bubble would pop in the year 2000. This documentary captures the height of the tech boom and the euphoria which accompanied it. Featured are distinguished investors such as Peter Lynch, Garrett van Wagoner and Jim Cramer, as well as other figures such as the founders of Motley Fool. Notably, some discussion is had about the prospect of the bubble bursting. Watch here.

Bulls and Bears (1998)

A classic documentary which follows the fortunes of three traders who stake huge sums of money on the Sydney futures exchange during one of the most volatile periods that the markets had experienced. Filming took place over a ten year period and was edited down to just 50 minutes. During filming the Aussie dollar hit an all-time low and the US dollar saw a huge correction, the year prior the Asian markets were in meltdown, so the result is a snapshot of life for traders during a difficult period. Watch here.

Traders: Millions by the Minute (2014)

A more recent two-part documentary by the BBC which goes deep inside the world of those who play the markets in some of the largest financial centres in the world, including London, New York and Chicago. The documentary explores differing trading techniques, including one trader who only takes a long term view and a group of traders who are using algorithms to day trade. In the second episode they meet some elderly home based traders who trade to bolster their retirement incomes. Watch here.

The Midas Formula: Trillion Dollar Bet (1999)

A 1999 documentary which tells the story of the Black-Scholes-Merton option pricing model, a formula which won three economists the nobel prize, and the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund which was created as a result. The fund promised investors huge returns with low risk, and initially their promise was kept until the formula went wrong in 1998 and the fund required a massive bailout in order to prevent wider ramifications to the financial systems of the world. The lesson ultimately learnt was that no algorithm could be perfect. Watch here.

£830,000,000 – Nick Leeson and the Fall of the House of Barings (1996)

The story of how Barings Bank, the oldest merchant bank in Britain, was brought down by one rogue trader. Nick Lesson ran up trading losses of some £827m in just a few years whilst running their Asian trading operation in Singapore, which he had managed to successfully hide from his bosses until he fled in 1995 leaving a note saying simply “I’m sorry”. The losses were equivalent to twice the amount that Barings had available for trading, leaving the business insolvent and facing liquidation. Watch here.

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