As much as money makes the world go round, it also spurs on the cogs of imagination for countless screenwriters, whose work has graced the silver screen. It is fertile ground, and the reasons for its popularity as movie-making subject matter are three-fold: universality, thematic possibilities, and dramatic performance.
Money means something to everybody – whether you have some or none, are wealthy or are struggling, are financially competent or fiscally irresponsible. We all need it, in some way or other, in order to survive – and that makes stories about money universal. But, the beauty of the universality of money is that, as a narrative premise, it opens the door for any number of thematic possibilities. Once money has been established as the basic, universal component of the plot, the tale can begin to feature anything from corruption and murder to family drama and coming of age – because the audience is already hooked in, and along for the ride.
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Lastly, money in movies provides the perfect fodder for dramatic performances. The universality of cold, hard cash means we can all identify with the stresses and strains of financial situations. Regardless of our own bank balances, we can empathize with anyone that is losing money, or earning money, or winning money. That being the case, stories can encompass anything, and the actors involved can dig deep – safe in the knowledge that viewers are with them, every step.
2016 is a year in which two very different money movies are appearing in cinemas. The first is the awards-baiting The Big Short, which opened in the US at the end of 2015 but only hit the UK this year, and is based upon a very real situation involving the most recent financial crisis. The second is Money Monster – a fictional tale of Wall Street and corporate corruption, that reflects more on consequences and ramifications as experienced by the masses, as a result of the actions of a privileged few. These are relatively broad themes, anchored by the central concept of money – so let’s take a look at the best examples of the same.