I’ve long said that Netflix is one of the best entertainment values out there. The ability to watch what you want with no commercials is wonderful. Internet streaming makes it even better. You can just sit at home and find something to watch. Aside from just providing entertainment, you can also learn a little bit about financial and business matters with your Netflix account. Here are ten of my favorite films that tackle financial/business issues.
Capitalism: A Love Story: This is a Michael Moore film, so you know before you rent it that it’s going to have a certain political bent. In this one, he takes a look at the causes and ramifications of the 2008 economic meltdown.
What Would Jesus Buy: The Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping take on rampant holiday consumerism. He encourages viewers to avoid the “Shopocalypse” by opting out of the holiday madness and remembering what the season is all about.
Frontline: The Warning: Another look at the roots of the 2008 financial meltdown with an emphasis on government policies and regulations (or lack of) that contributed to the blow up.
Maxed Out: This film examines what happens when both people and governments get into too much debt. It also looks at how unscrupulous lenders prey on the poor and how debt collectors drive some to suicide. There is also a companion book available that you can probably get from your library.
In Debt We Trust: Another film that looks at the American debt problem, this time focusing more on the practices of credit card companies and their government “enablers.”
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price: This documentary examines all the things people love to hate about Wal-Mart: Low wages, neighborhood destruction, lack of benefits, and others are all covered. A generally good look at what happens when any retailer becomes too concerned with price and profit and forgets about the bigger picture. It also forces us to look at our role in the problem. Since consumers demand ever lower prices, we are partly to blame.
Frontline: College, Inc.: This is a sobering look at for-profit colleges today. It looks at the debt levels kids come away with, the soaring costs of education, and the colleges’ relationships with Wall Street. If you have a kid headed for college, watching this may make you want to send them straight into the workforce.
Wall Street: It’s not educational, but it is a good movie about Wall Street greed in the 80’s. If you’ve never seen slimy Godron Gekko (Michael Douglas) in action, it’s time.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room: This film examines the massive fraud perpetrated by Enron. It looks at how Enron executives managed to snow everyone into believing that the company was fine, making a profit, and worth its inflated stock values. Until everything wasn’t so fine.
The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World: If you’re new to financial concepts, this one is for you. It’s a good overview of our current financial system, as well as a look back at how we arrived here. It’s pretty comprehensive. At six hours of run time, you’ll want to set aside a couple of days for this one.
Netflix isn’t just for fun. If you spend a little time watching some serious documentaries about finance, you can learn more about how the financial world works and how you can improve your own situation and avoid the pitfalls of others.