Mandatory Staff Picks: The Best Films About Fraud (Including ‘The Laundromat’)
Fraud is fascinating. There’s no way around it. Whether it’s the quick (if malicious) wits of the men and women who outsmart the system or our unfulfilled desire to stick it to the man, we love learning about the great con artists of our time. To that end, we’ve hand-picked the best films about tricksters and troublemakers, all of whose stories are pulled from real life, for your entertainment. So microwave some popcorn, sit back, relax, and vicariously misbehave with these criminally good movies.
Cover Photo: Netflix
Bye-bye money: What To Watch When You Want To Gamble It All
In this new Netflix original dramedy directed by Steven Soderbergh, widow Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) attempts to unravel an insurance policy scam that leads her to two attorneys, Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas), who help one-percenters hide their money.
'The Wolf of Wall Street'
This Scorsese film follows the career path of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) from his entry-level start in finance to rolling-in-it stock-broker status to the FBI investigation into his corruption schemes. If you thought financial crimes were boring, this film will prove you wrong.
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a con man who, with his partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), gets flipped by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) and must work to bring down corrupt New Jersey politicians and members of the mafia in the ‘70s. This film was based on the true story of the ABSCAM sting operation.
'Catch Me If You Can'
Even before he was legally old enough to drink, Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) had successfully duped people into believing he was a lawyer, a doctor, and a pilot in the ‘60s. This film follows the FBI chase to catch him and eventually jail him for writing bad checks.
'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'
Newly unemployed and unable to sell another book, sad sack alcoholic writer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) decides to forge old letters by famous authors and sell them to collectors. With the help of fellow alcoholic Jack (Richard E. Grant), she actually gets away with it…for a while. After more than 400 forgeries, the FBI comes calling. The kicker is that the whole experience proved perfect fodder for her real-life critically acclaimed memoir.
'The Wizard of Lies'
Bernie Madoff (Robert De Niro) is a name many now know thanks to his 2008 arrest for what turned out to be one of the biggest (if not the biggest) Ponzi schemes in history. This HBO film, based on the book of the same name, captures the aftermath and fallout of his arrest.
'The Big Short'
The U.S. mortgage crisis is the focus of the film that brutally depicts how a group of slimy investors profited off the bursting of the housing bubble in the second half of the 2000s. The stellar cast features a rare, serious performance by Steve Carell in addition to appearances by Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt.
Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a Toronto bank manager…with a massive gambling problem. He funds his addiction with fake accounts to the tune of $10 million-plus over the course of a year and a half, eventually landing him in jail for embezzlement in what was the biggest one-man bank fraud in Canadian history.
Photo: Sony Pictures
This Hulu documentary takes a deep dive into the luxury musical festival that never was. Contrary to the Netflix doc covering the same scandal, this film includes interviews with Fyre co-founder Billy McFarland (now serving time for fraud) and whistle-blower Calvin Well. Who knew FOMO could have such dire consequences?
'The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley'
This documentary unpacks how one woman duped the entirety of Silicon Valley. Theranos was a healthcare company founded by precocious Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes in 2004. Its flagship product was akin to a mini-lab that she claimed could perform hundreds of lab tests with a mere pinprick of blood. By 2014, the company was valued at $9 billion, and inventor Holmes became known as “the next Steve Jobs.” Two years later, the truth about Theranos came out and Holmes was accused of massive fraud by the SEC in a court case that is still ongoing.
'Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room'
You may have never heard of Enron, but you should educate yourself so history doesn’t repeat itself. This Alex Gibney documentary chronicles how the Houston-based energy corporation went from $65 billion in assets to bankruptcy in record time, leaving employees and investors empty-handed while executives cashed in.
Photo: Jigsaw Productions