The controversial and wildly successful The Wolf of Wall Street from Martin Scorsese is the kind of film that keeps you on the edge. It is based on a 500+ page memoir of Jordan Belfort, a former stockbroker and a financial criminal. He pleaded guilty and spent 22 months in prison for fraud and money laundering schemes. The book chronicles in detail the decadent lifestyle of Belfort and his fellow corrupt stockbrokers. Belfort reigned his company like a cult leader, manipulating and baiting his enthusiastic band of brokers with money, power, drugs and sex.
Played remarkably by Leonardo DiCaprio, Belfort meticulously captures the mindset of an insatiable, young, wayward stockbroker’s financial shenanigans. The adaptation does dangerously straddle the lines between satirizing the American corporate culture and glorifying bad behavior. At the same time, Scorsese provides some interesting social subtext lacking in Belfort’s memoir. Excessive in style and unbridled in its approach, it makes for an insanely thrilling ride. Martin Scorsese’s signature style of freeze-frames, long tracking shots and voice-over-narration make this film a true classic for all cinema lovers. So, if you enjoy films that make you say ‘This Guy!,’ you might enjoy our list:
Movies Like Wolf Of Wall Street
14. The Founder (2016)
John Lee Hancock’s biographical film, The Founder chronicles the story of Ray Kroc played by Michael Keaton. It narrates how Ray the traveling salesman made McDonald’s into the fast-food giant it is today. While The Founder shows that Ray brought the idea of franchise to McDonald, it is not the truth in real-life. McDonald brothers already had 20 franchises before offering the US franchise rights to Ray.
A dark and at times an inspiring tale of the American Dream, The Founder puts to light how no corporate elite made it where they are today without stomping on a few people along the way. The film features strong performances from Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman and John Carrol Lynch, who play Richard and Maurice McDonald. Like Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street, it’s hard to root for Keaton’s Ray Kroc whose triumph comes from the ruin and misery of many. And the film is unabashed, unapologetic in portraying this side of his character.
13. Boiler Room (2000)
Ben Younger’s Boiler Room is a story about a college dropout who lands a job at an investment firm as a broker. Seth (Giovanni Ribisi) bears a striking resemblance to Belfort and the film chronicles his life and how he succumbs to power and greed. This movie set the template for films like The Wolf of Wall Street and gave its audience a look into the murky side of the sharply dressed men working at a high stake job. Boiler Room sees solid performances from the likes of Vin Diesel and Scott Caan and an appearance from Ben Affleck. It appears to be an authentic, honest portrayal of life at Wall Street, eventually highlighting how everything in life comes at a cost.
In one scene Jim (Ben Affleck) sneers at the new recruiters, asking them if they’ve seen Glengarry Glen Ross and as it turns out, they all have. They are all following a culture that is precarious, to say the least.
12. Thank You For Smoking (2005)
Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking features an unlikeable central character like Jordan Belfort. The film is based on a novel by Christopher Buckley. Played by Aaron Eckhart, Nick Naylor works as the lobbyist and spokesman for the American tobacco industry. Nick is an impressive spin-doctor who can sell his lies to anyone. The central story revolves around a congressional hearing as a senator oversees a campaign to put skull-and-crossbones image on every manufactured cigarette package.
The tobacco industry worries how such initiatives will impact its profit. Moreover, a hearing at the senate would bring negative press to the industry. And so, enters Nick to deal with both the problems. Like Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, Reitman’s film works as a smart satire on the American Dream. Beneath its dark humor, the narrative also withholds a simple yet hard-hitting emotional core. The film features an excellent supporting cast including J.K. Simmons and William H. Macy.
11. Margin Call (2011)
We see the same high-stakes universe of unscrupulous, maniacal stockbrokers in this J.C. Chandor’s movie, like in Wolf of Wall Street. Featuring an Oscar-nominated original screenplay by Chandor, the story takes place on the brink of the 2007–2008 financial crisis. It unfolds over a 24-hour period and is largely set inside the sterile, vast office surroundings. Risk management experts at a Lehman Brothers-like firm uncover a crisis that could devastate Wall Street and trigger economic instability across the nation.
Margin Call deals with a very complicated subject. But the smart screenplay gives us a lot of insights about the industry’s ethical and moral corruption. The biggest strength of Margin Call, however, is the intense performances from a great ensemble cast. This includes heavyweight performers like Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, and Stanley Tucci. No single actor tries to outshine the other, they all come together to effortlessly inhabit their roles and elevate the film.
10. Arbitrage (2012)
Nicholas Jarecki’s sleek, Hitchcockian thriller Arbitrage tracks down the personal and professional crisis in the life of a high-profile hedge fund magnate. Richard Gere plays the handsome and tragic hero Robert Miller. Miller is a tremendously wealthy man, blessed with a loving wife and a large family. He is celebrating his 60th birthday and might soon retire from the hedge-fund business. Soon though, we uncover his buried secrets that threaten to topple his wealth and fame.
Though financial crimes are difficult to break down in a film narrative, Jarecki does a fine job making us understand the cost of Miller’s crime. Simultaneously, Miller’s personal crisis adds more tension to the proceedings. Gere’s Miller is as much a professional liar as Belfort. They’re both power-hungry mobsters, who keep up appearances for the outside world, but smoothly swindle their clients and cover up their crimes.
9. Trainspotting (1996)
It’s crucual to watch Danny Boyle’s hard-hitting British drama which like Wolf of Wall Street also deals with the subject of addiction. On the outset, Trainspotting is a movie about substance abuse, which intimately focuses on the sheer chaos such addiction brings upon an individual’s life. The reckless lifestyle of its characters and the dark humor in this film make for a thoughtful movie experience. One of the most well received movies from the 90s, Trainspotting is a story about Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), a drug addict who wants to get clean but fails to do so due to the company he’s in.
The film is a fine commentary on what happens to an addict once the ‘fun’ wears off and the emptiness sets in. Trainspotting is packed with dark humor and lively characters and anyone who is a fan of The Wolf of Wall Street would find the film hugely entertaining.
8. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Leonardo DiCaprio is in absolute top form in this Steven Spielberg classic. A game of cat and mouse ensues between Carl, an FBI agent (Tom Hanks) and Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) as the latter forges identities and swindles millions of dollars. A riveting narrative engages viewers as they eagerly await to find out who comes out on top. Similar to the end of The Wolf of Wall Street, law finally catches up to Frank but it isn’t nearly as bad and is, as a matter of fact, a satisfying one. Frank lands on the right side of the law and builds a successful career as an expert on bank fraud and forgery. DiCaprio is at his breezy best. He along with Tom Hanks make this worth your while.
Much like Jordan Belfort, Frank is unapologetic about owning up to his mistakes and doesn’t hide away behind lousy excuses. Both lead lives of excess and immorality. Spielberg, much like Scorsese, infuses his character with stylistic flourishes, hooking the viewers throughout to these characters as they go about evading law and all sense of morality.
7. Wall Street (1987)
Oliver Stone’s Wall Street is clearly one of the most prominent films set around the murky, manipulative dealings inside the financial world. Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko is a man with power to manipulate and maneuver people through his words. It’s interesting how the theme of the film holds relevance to this day. It throws light on the predatory trading mentality that exists in the Capitalist paradise of Wall Street.
The viewer really gets an insight into the character of Gordon Gekko as he delivers his now famous monologue about greed and power. His powerful, intimidating voice conveys how far he’s strayed from all things moral. He doesn’t hesitate going all out for what he wants and for a second even manages to convince viewers that there is no shame in having a little bit of greed. Michael Douglas is phenomenal in this role and fittingly won an Academy Award for Best Actor. If you’ve enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street, add this one to your watchlist.
6. The Big Short (2015)
Chronicling the events of the 2008 financial crisis, Adam McKay’s The Big Short is a good blend of both comedy and drama. The story follows a group of investors who predict the collapse of the US economy and how they bet against the mortgage market making millions of dollars along the way. It’s not all hunky dory though as the situation spirals quickly out of hand which could spell grave consequences.
Similar to Jordan Belfort, the characters in The Big Short directly address the audience directly address the audience and economist Richard Thaler goes so far as to explain the concept of subprime mortgages and synthetic collateralized debt obligations to the audience by breaking the fourth wall. The film stars Christian Bale who shines through in this film but the rest of the cast which includes the likes of Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt also do justice to their respective roles.
5. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
One of the most underrated films of the 1990s, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross boasts a stellar cast with the likes of Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey. The film offers a vivid portrayal of the cut-throat world of Wall Street and gives a remarkable insight into the life of salesmen and a system that nurtures them.The film is based on David Mamet’s Pulitzer winning 1984 play. If you liked Matthew McConaughey’s cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street, we bet you’ll love Alec Baldwin’s cameo in this one.
Baldwin’s Blake is a man who means business but his words can come across as downright absurd and at times even funny. Similar to Jordan Belfort, Blake‘s power, presence and mantra can encourage the meekest of individuals. “Coffee’s for closers” has now become an iconic dialogue and this film is definitely worth watching if you like The Wolf of Wall Street.
4. La Dolce Vita (1960)
Italian auteur Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita is considered as one of the great masterpieces of modern cinema. The iconic image of Anita Ekberg in a Roman fountain and the melancholic Marcello Mastroianni have found their place in the cinematic history’s hall of fame. The film unfolds in the form of vignettes as we follow the hedonistic, dysfunctional life of a socialite and celebrity journalist named Marcello Rubini. Fellini offers a rich visual experience, while capturing the freewheeling lifestyle of the members of a high society.
The filmmaker’s criticism of the overpowering emptiness within such an elite community is much nuanced. Fellini explores the moral decay and exposes the falsehoods of stardom. Martin Scorsese has always championed La Dolce Vita and Fellini’s body of work. In fact, Scorsese’s look at toxic cultural mindset amidst the Wall Street stockbrokers was chiefly influenced by Fellini’s aesthetic sense.
3. Casino (1995)
Boasting dazzling performances from Robert de Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone, Casino is often overlooked in comparison to Goodfellas and Taxi Driver. But it’s one of Scorsese’s finest films. A tale of greed, power and loyalty, Casino much like The Wolf of Wall Street follows the gradual downfall of a corrupted individual. Neither Ace (De Niro) nor Belfort could exist if most people they deal with weren’t hopeful. But unlike Belfort, Ace isn’t here to make anyone’s dream come true but his own. A highly intense, fast-paced film Casino like The Wolf of Wall Street is full of immorality and dynamic characters which make for a fun viewing. Ace’s troubled wife Ginger played by Sharon Stone is also starkly similar to the character of Margot Robbie who plays the wife of Jordan Belfort.
Richly detailed with well written characters, Casino was classic Scorsese gangster drama, with all the Scorsese elements we love — tracking shots, voice-over narration, freeze frames and kickass jazz/rock soundtracks.
2. The Social Network (2010)
Based on Ben Mezrich’s Accidental Billionaire, Social Network by David Fincher is a tale of success, friendship, greed, and betrayal. Aaron Sorkin’s solid script finds the right dramatic structure to narrate the rise and rise of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of social media giant Facebook. Played to perfection by Jesse Eisenberg, the film revolves around two law-suits filed against Zuckerberg by his friend and former employers respectively. The depositions gradually take us to the past, tracking down Zuckerberg’s journey from a Harvard University graduate to a shrewd businessman.
Similar to Wolf of Wall Street, Social Network is a detailed study of bad behavior in the corporate culture. Bolstered by Sorkin’s energetic rapid-fire dialogue and Fincher’s assured direction, the narrative dives deep into the psychology of mellow and well-to-do individuals. Critics have hailed Social Network as a story about the unattainable American Dream, further drawing comparisons with masterpieces like Citizen Kane (1941) and There Will be Blood (2007).
1. Goodfellas (1990)
Possibly the greatest crime drama film ever made, Martin Scorsese’s magnum opus is probably the most similar film to his 2013 effort both stylistically and thematically. Full of fast-cut editing and quick-paced narration, the cult classic sees career best performances from Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci. Another Scorsese film which involves voice-over narration, Goodfellas is a tale of Henry Hill, a member of the mob who quickly rises to prominence on the mean streets of New York. The similarities between Henry Hill and Jordan Belfort are apparent even to the most casual of viewers and it almost seems Scorsese relied on the same two decade old tropes and techniques of his to make The Wolf of Wall Street.
Both Henry and Jordan lived a life of crime, spent considerable amounts of time in prison, cheated on their wives, and relied heavily on drugs to function in order to make it through the day. The film uses tracking shots to follow the dark lives that these characters lead, giving viewers a sense of intimate connection with them.
There you go! Hope you enjoy these movies just as much as The Wolf of Wall Street. I’d also recommend Safdie Brother’s Uncut Gems (2019) and Good Time (2017). If you are looking for fast paced, tightly knit storylines with stomach-churning, jaw-dropping twists and turns, these are your films. The best part about The Wolf of Wall Street is that it gets better with each viewing. If you get a chance, go watch the film again and you might figure out how to sell that forbidden pen after all.
Updated by Arun Kumar on Nov 4, 2022.