Skip to content


Harry Cassin
Publisher and Editor

Andy Spalding
Senior Editor

Jessica Tillipman
Senior Editor

Bill Steinman
Senior Editor

Richard L. Cassin
Editor at Large

Elizabeth K. Spahn
Editor Emeritus

Cody Worthington
Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro
Contributing Editor

Thomas Fox
Contributing Editor

Marc Alain Bohn
Contributing Editor

Bill Waite
Contributing Editor

Shruti J. Shah
Contributing Editor

Russell A. Stamets
Contributing Editor

Richard Bistrong
Contributing Editor

Eric Carlson
Contributing Editor

At Large: Recommended movies for socially-distanced compliance professionals

Staying home and avoiding other people is everyone’s new main “activity.” And big gaps are appearing in most of our regularly scheduled programming (no live sports — ugh). That means there’s lots of time to watch or rewatch some great films that deal with corruption and compliance.

Here are seven recommendations. These movies have all been reviewed on the FCPA Blog in our Sleaze in the Cinema feature.


The Big Short (2015) IMDB rating 7.8/10

Our reviewer, Nicole Rose, said: I have made around 200 animated short videos for global compliance programs. . . . When I saw the film, I thought it was a perfect example of animation . . . its clear, no nonsense, engaging way of teaching people about complicated, overwhelming, and sometimes boring topics.


Margin Call (2011) IMDB rating 7.1/10

Our reviewer, Mike Scher, said: [T]he New Yorker from October 2011 called it “easily the best Wall Street movie ever made.” I agree. And while the entire cast is outstanding, Jeremy Irons’s character — John Tuld, the chair of an investment bank in distress on the first days of the 2008 financial meltdown — is one of the most memorable movie performances I’ve ever seen.


The Big Easy (1986) IMDB rating 6.5/10

Our reviewer said: Great movies deal honestly with serious themes. The Big Easy shows lives ruined by public corruption and hints at other problems it causes — poverty, high crime rates, a dysfunctional education system, sub-par health care, local courts that people don’t trust, city services that don’t serve, and a constant brain drain.


A Most Violent Year (2014) IMDB rating 7.0/10

Our reviewer, Ilya Zlatkin, said: A Most Violent Year is a film fraught with compliance and corruption issues. . . . The protagonist, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), constantly strives to follow “the path that is most right.” The movie explores what effects an investigation (without any convictions) can have on a business.


American Hustle (2013) IMDB rating 7.2/10

Our reviewer, Andy Spalding, said: Make no mistake: This film is absolutely brilliant, and for those of us in the anti-corruption space, profoundly challenging.

Our other reviewer, Julie DiMauro, said: You feel sorry for those doing the duping and those getting duped — until you realize that by taking the low road into corruption, no person, family or public citizenry has benefited.


The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) IMDB rating 8.2/10

Our reviewer, Mike Scher, actually warned against this movie. He said: It’s astonishingly good news that after forty years of trial and error to develop the compliance profession, the law finally evolved to require both a new business “culture” and the compliance officer position to make this “culture” happen. . . But for compliance officers, Wolf represents a significant “external” threat to building an ethical business culture.

Author’s note: In the category of too-much-irony-to handle, the production company behind The Wolf of Wall Street agreed to pay $60 million to settle a DOJ forfeiture action. The DOJ alleged the production company used money looted from the Malaysia sovereign wealth fund 1MDB to make Wolf and at least two other movies — Daddy’s Home and Dumb and Dumber To.


Syriana (2005) IMDB rating 6.9/10

Our reviewer said: Syriana is the best Hollywood movie ever made about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It’s also the only Hollywood movie ever made about the FCPA.

Commenting on our review, a reader said: In truth, the aspect of the movie I liked best is the original promotional trailer itself, of which I have shown a portion (after having received a license) at the start of anti-corruption compliance training to grab an audience’s attention . . .


Honorable Mentions: Lots more well-known movies deal with corruption and compliance — The Godfather: Part II (1974), L.A. Confidential (1997), Serpico (1973), and The Firm (1993), among others. But those films haven’t been reviewed yet on the FCPA Blog. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Share this post



  1. The Laundromat!

    • Great suggestion.

  2. All The Queen’s Horses

  3. McMafia should be top of the list! The other suggestions are also great 🙂

    • Yes! And here’s an open invitation to anyone interested in writing a movie review. (If you need the guidelines for submissions, let me or Harry know.)

  4. Lord of War

    • That’s one of my favorites!

      • Fun with Dick and Jane

  5. Hello, I think that almost any Mafia or organized crime movie has got something to do with the topics mentioned. From recent ones, The Irishman and Black Mass comes to mind. Best regards.

  6. 42, which is the Jackie Robinson story. It was a civil rights milestone, as we all know, but it is arguably one of the most important business ethics story ever. A business leader (Branch Rickey) decided what was the right thing to do and pursued it against great odds and by selecting Jackie Robinson, who would be known as much for the quality of his character as his play on the field.

    • Ah, super suggestion.

  7. I offer up:

    Wall Street
    Rogue Trader
    The Smartest Guys in the Room (documentary)
    Network (I seem to find a way to put this on just about any movie list)

    • All outstanding! Great list.

  8. The Informant! starring Matt Damon

    • That’s a super story. Good suggestion.

  9. Thanks to everyone for the brilliant recommendations. Here are 2 more:
    The Wizzard of Lies (2017) with Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff.
    And Netflix: The Mechanism (1st season 2018; 2nd season 2019) inspired by the Operation Lava Jato in Brasil.

  10. Car wash operation under Netflix Show “The Mechanism”.

  11. My favorite classic corruption movie moment is in Casablanca: “I am shocked! Shocked! To learn that gambling is going on in here!” “Your winnings, sir.” “Thank you.”

    • Casablanca, and that dialog, is tough to top. Good one!

  12. I love “Catch Me If You Can” and “War Dogs.”

  13. “You see, corruption is part of us. All of us. The very heart of us.”

    -the corrupt businessman Jack Osborne (as played by Lee Marvin) in the film Gorky Park

    • Terrific movie, from a really good book.

  14. Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer
    Michael Clayton
    Miss Sloane

  15. Dirty Money – episode called Bank Cartel (this is also great to recommend to clients – great insight into third party management)

  16. The Canadian series INTELLIGENCE…Looks at drug trafficking and government intel in British Colombia; over 2 seasons introduces the audience to why narco-traffickers want to own their own Bank in the Caribbean! There are a few shows called INTELLIGENCE so do look for lead actor Ian Tracey, 2005-2007, on Prime Video or other.

    • Sounds really interesting. Thank you!

  17. The Spanish Prisoner by David Mamet. An elegantly simple movie starring a very serious Steve Martin.

Comments are closed for this article!