Everybody loves a great movie villain, and some of the best cinematic scoundrels we've seen over the years have one thing in common: Their unabashed, uncontrollable greed.
Think of lines like, "Show me the money!" in Jerry Maguire or the ubiquitous "Greed is good," from Wall Street, which is pretty much the reigning film about someone's lust for money. Gordon Gekko has become the poster child for the soulless villain consumed by a lust for cold, hard cash, and we love him for it. We probably just wouldn't want to cross paths with him in real life, or trust him with our funds.
There are also the classics like Goodfellas, The Godfather, and Casino, which chronicle the rise and fall of men (and women) who sell their soul for the big payout. It's a theme that never gets old, and here's a look at ten of the best films about characters corrupted by riches.
Spring Breakers: Four college girls in search of a good time take off for spring break, only to become consumed by a desire for money, fame, and guns. James Franco plays a drug dealer called Alien, who brags about his gold bullets, Calvin Klein cologne, and nunchucks. The girls want what he's got, and they go to some pretty evil lengths to get it.
American Psycho: Patrick Bateman is a Wall Street player with a gorgeous Manhattan apartment, the finest clothes and facemasks, and the most expensive business cards money can buy. He's also a psycho killer corrupted by the rarefied world he lives in. The film (and book) is a dark comedy, but it's still pretty scary to witness Bateman's moneyed world and what it does to him.
The Bling Ring: This one's based on the true story of some L.A. teens obsessed with fame and money who rob celebs like Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom so they can live the life of a star. The fun doesn't last long, though, and their greed lands them in handcuffs. A scary, real-life account of what the desire for luxury can do to a couple of kids.
The Wolf of Wall Street: Like Wall Street, this one pretty much became an instant classic. Scorsese and DiCaprio don't hold back, and the debauchery in this one is shocking, and pretty funny. Another true story about a man seduced by the "American dream." If you haven't seen it, prepare yourself for some insanity.
The Queen of Versailles: This 2012 documentary follows billionaire couple Jackie and David "Time Share King" Siegel, who were building a 90,000 square foot mansion in Florida equipped with multiple kitchens, a skating ring, and marble flown in from China. But the building comes to a halt when the economy crashes and the Siegels find themselves shopping at Target instead of Saks. It's a fascinating look at the ugly side of money.
21: Another fact-based story about a group of MIT students who are trained to be card counting experts, and scam Las Vegas casinos out of millions of dollars. It's young, innocent math lovers lured by fancy penthouses and fine champagne. They had such promising futures, and then greed got in the way. Vegas can do that to a person.
There Will Be Blood: Daniel Day-Lewis' Daniel Plainview is one cold-hearted, calculating SOB. He's a turn-of-the-century oil prospector who doesn't care whose lives he ruins in his quest for more: More money, more oil, more power. "I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money I can get away from everyone," he says at one point. Nice guy.
Citizen Kane: An epic saga about the rise and fall of publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane (who is based on real-life magnate William Randolph Hearst). Orson Wells' masterpiece is one of the greatest and most loved films of all time, and it's hard to watch films like The Wolf of Wall Street or The Godfather without seeing its influence.
Trading Places: This is one of the best films about money and its affect on people. Eddie Murphy is a homeless guy who changes lives with snooty country club member Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) in a bet made by two hard-hearted millionaires. It doesn't take long for Murphy's character to get seduced by the good life, but this one's a comedy about realizing what's important instead of a drama about the consequences of excess. It's a comedy classic that's still relevant today.
Scarface: Oh, Tony Montana. Al Pacino's iconic character is now a legend, even though the film bombed when it was first released. It only became a cult classic later, and now it's one of the most quoted films abut greed, drugs, money, and corruption. "In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women." That's Tony's philosophy. Like Kane, Gekko, and Don Corleone, the American Dream wasn't all it was cracked up to be.