When it comes to depicting financial meltdown, there is nothing about the 1987 crash to rival the bank run on the Bailey Building and Loan Association in Frank Capra’s 1946 classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But while Black Monday, the most devastating selloff in Wall Street history, has been comparatively under-represented in movies and TV, it hasn’t been ignored.
Here are the five best movie and documentary depictions of that fateful day 30 years ago:
1. “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)
You wouldn’t expect Martin Scorsese to overlook the symbolic significance of Jordan Belfort’s first day as a stockbroker for L.F. Rothschild falling on October 19, 1987, for his biopic of the debauched financier who was imprisoned for stock-market manipulation. So it proved. “They called it Black Monday,” drawls Leonardo DiCaprio, who received an Oscar nomination for playing Belfort. “By 4 p.m. the market had dropped 508 points, the biggest plummet since the crash. Within a month L.F. Rothschild, an institution since 1899, closed its doors.”
2. “Trader” (1987)
What was it like to actually be a futures trader in 1987? PBS’s “Trader” is a riveting documentary made in the first half of 1987 following Paul Tudor Jones II when he was on his way to becoming the investor and hedge fund billionaire he is now. Jones forecast Black Monday in the doc saying, “we’re probably talking about something with incredible fireworks, with unbelievable and unprecedented volatility, with moves that will leave people gasping”, and tripled his money 30 years ago by taking short positions. It’s hard to find the film because Jones, perhaps embarrassed by footage of him skiing, drinking and waxing lyrical on the economy, reportedly bought up all 100 VHS copies in circulation.
3. “Cancel Crash” (2012)
The sheer historical power of “Black Monday” is perhaps best conveyed in the short film “Cancel Crash.” “It was the only time I’ve seen fear take over greed,” recalls investor Blair Hull. The film doesn’t just show the New York Stock Exchange in meltdown. It also incorporates recollections from perspective from traders working at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
4. “Remembering Black Monday Crash” (2012)
As with any seismic moment in history some myths have spread about Black Monday that are wide of the mark. The notion that the 1987 crash was all doom and gloom is comprehensively debunked in this 22-minute 2012 film made by the Wall Street Journal, which like MarketWatch, is published by Dow Jones, a property of News Corp. “The longer-term impact of the 1987 crash was that people regained confidence…it helped cause the enormous rallies of the 1990s,” former WSJ reporter E.S. Browning tells presenter Francesco Guerrera in the film. According to financial columnist Chuck Jaffe, “What people forget about the crash is that by the end of the year the stock market was up, within a few months all the losses from that day were gone.”
5. “Wall Street” (1987)
Even though Oliver Stone’s iconic 1987 financial drama, starring Michael Douglas as corporate raider Gordon Gekko and Charlie Sheen as impressionable stockbroker Bud Fox, was in post-production during Black Monday, it is synonymous with the event. Not that Stone himself takes credit for powers of prophecy: “People accused me of being a genius,” he told Vanity Fair in 2010, “[but] I didn’t predict the stock-market crash. I had no idea.”
The 5 best movies featuring Black Monday – MarketWatch