Back in the old days, before streaming video on the internet, I’d cruise channels looking for my two favorite nerd vice shows- documentaries on war and money. I remember being sick one night at about 4 in the morning and finding a show on PBS about the history of credit cards in the U.S. and how they rose to prominence. It was a great night, except for, you know, puking.
Luckily, we no longer live in such primitive times. Thanks to streaming video, we can watch awesome programming whenever we want. No more waiting for programs to come on tv. No more buying the DVD or VHS tape of a show we find interesting just to let it sit and collect dust. What a time to be alive.
Being that I’ve watched a LOT of financial documentaries in my time, I’m the perfect guy to come up with a list of stuff to watch. So without further adieu, be prepared to not be very productive in the next little while. It’s okay, you needed a break anyway.
1. Dragon’s Den (watch it here)
Dragon’s Den was originally a Japanese show, which migrated to Canada’s national broadcaster in 2006. The show features budding entrepreneurs who pitch their business ideas to wealthy investors (called the Dragons) who invest in ideas they think have potential. It is currently CBC’s highest rated show, even beating out the iconic Hockey Night In Canada. Only the current season is available on CBC’s website, and it might not be available to American readers.
2. Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room (watch it here)
Alex Gibney’s documentary examines the largest corporate fraud in U.S. history, interviewing many of the key people involved. The documentary also does a great job explaining exactly what Enron did, how they did it and how they got away with it for so long.
3. The Assent of Money (watch it here)
This 6 part documentary from author Niall Ferguson chronicles the history of the world’s monetary systems and investments, talking about the origins of the debt markets, real estate, stock markets, etc. The book of the same name is a great read as well.
4. The Corporation (watch it here)
This documentary outlines the history of the corporation, mapping the evolution of them throughout American history. Spoiler alert: they’re none too happy about it!
5. Meltdown (watch it here)
The best documentary I’ve watched about the financial crisis. PBS interviews people who were at the heart of the crisis, revisiting just how panicked everybody was back then. They reveal just how close the system came to total collapse.
6. Warning (watch it here)
Sticking with PBS’ excellent documentary program Frontline, we have the story about Brooksley Born, the head of a obscure regulatory body who started warning about the financial crisis- in the 1990s. Her story and the clashes she had with Alan Greenspan are legendary.
7. The Madoff Affair (watch it here)
The story of Bernie Madoff, whose massive ponzi scheme collapsed in 2008, leading to his eventual suicide. Once again, Frontline delivers with high quality stuff. Fascinating story about Madoff’s rise, and subsequent fall.
8. The Secret World Of Shoplifting (watch it here)
A look at the world of professional shoplifters and their tactics, which costs business billions of dollars a year.
9. Orgasm Inc. (watch it here)
Finally, a documentary that combines my two favorite subjects- business and sex. This documentary is, at times, a hilarious look at the lengths both consumers and drug companies will go to make the next big sex drug, this time for women.
10. Gambling Boys (watch it here)
Examines the huge business behind online gambling, focusing on how easy it’s become for teenage boys to gamble and the consequences it’s having on these boys’ lives.
11. Coca Cola- The Real Story Behind The Real Thing (watch it here)
I just got finished reading The Coke Machine, which sure didn’t like Coke. This documentary is a little more pro Coke, with the lovely Melissa Lee doing a nice job looking at the business and history of Coke. There are tons more of these types of shows on CNBC, but they don’t make very many available on their website. BOO!
12. Lululessons (watch it here)
Bruce Sellery hosts this BNN special program looking at the success of Lululemon. I enjoy how great everybody’s butts look wearing their Lululemon pants. Oh, and the documentary is pretty interesting too.
13. Capitalism, A Love Story (watch it here)
For the record, I hate Michael Moore. He is a horrible documentary filmmaker, since all he tries to do is advance his political views with every film he makes. He ambush interviews people and does stupid publicity tricks that really accomplish nothing. Still, watching films that go against your belief is good for you.
14. The Crash of 1929 (watch it here)
The video is as grainy as all those World War 2 shows I’m so fond of, but this good look at the crash of 1929 is worth a watch. Notice how many parallels there are to the most recent crash.
There are literally thousands of documentaries out there if you’re willing to invest the time to find them and watch them. Whether they’re all worth your time is another question, but hopefully you find at least one or two out of these fourteen somewhat entertaining.