5 Classic Rags-to-Riches Films

Posted by: Joseph Kuo | November 26, 2021

Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite cinematic financial triumphs.

Everyone loves a good comeback story, and you can’t go wrong with a classic rags-to-riches film. Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite cinematic triumphs. Some relate to finances and some are just a feel-good story. What’s your favorite rags-to-riches tale?

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Jamal Malik grew up in the slums of Mumbai and has only known poverty, gangs, and life on the streets. When he gets the chance to compete in India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, his whole life could change. Slumdog Millionaire is an amazing story about life, love and everything we learn along the way. Will Jamal and his family finally be able to leave the slums behind?

Wall Street (1987)

New York in the 1980s has a special kind of magic, and this film takes Wall Street in the 80s to the next level. A success-hungry stockbroker is determined to do whatever it takes to get ahead, even if that means acting on illegal insider information. The motto of the movie is “greed is good,” and while it may start as a rags-to-riches film, we quickly find out that overnight riches come at a price. The film features an all-star cast, and viewers follow Bud through the rollercoaster of investing as he learns that “every dream has a price.”

Bonus trivia: Bud Fox is played by Charlie Sheen, and his father in the movie, Carl Fox, is played by Charlie’s real-life father, Martin Sheen.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

The Pursuit of Happyness is a true rags-to-riches film that follows Christopher Gardner (played by Will Smith) as he struggles to make ends meet for himself and his young son. Christopher is at the brink of financial ruin after investing all of his money in a bone-density scanner that ends up being a flop. His wife leaves him and he loses his home, forcing him and his son to sleep in homeless shelters and train stations throughout San Francisco.

But there is one light at the end of the tunnel: Christopher has an unpaid internship as a trainee at Dean Witter, a leading stockbroker. He knows the competition to get a paying role is tough, but he doesn’t give up and works harder than he’s ever had to. With so much on the line, this position is his last chance.

Bonus trivia: Will Smith’s son in the movie, Christopher Gardner Jr., is played by his real-life son, Jaden Smith.

Trading Places (1983)

Does nature or nurture have more impact on our success in life? This is the question at the center of Trading Places. In the film, a super successful stockbroker loses a bet and has to switch lives with a con artist who works the NYC streets. In the process, the two learn what it really means to be wealthy and become better individuals in the end. There are many comedic twists and turns along the way, and this rags-to-riches film teaches us that the rich aren’t always the happiest.

The Founder (2016)

Arguably, there’s not a bigger name in the fast-food industry than McDonald’s, but that success didn’t happen overnight. The Founder tells the tale of Ray Kroc, a traveling salesperson who sells milkshake machines to restaurants. When he meets Richard McDonald and Maurice McDonald, the brothers who founded the first McDonald’s in San Bernadino, CA, he recognizes the potential there. He works with the brothers to grow their franchise (but not without stepping on some toes along the way). The movie shows the rise of one of the biggest names in fast food today, and it all started with some burgers, fries and milkshakes.

These are just a few motivational, humorous, and sometimes heartbreaking rags-to-riches movies. Have you seen them all? What other films would you add to the list?