The 10 Best Documentaries on Netflix About Business, Late Capitalism, and Dirty Money

Businessmen, entrepreneurs, and financial gurus all have one thing in common—they’re workaholics that literally live by the incorrect adage that work is life. What’s a workaholic businessman to do in his free time? Well, binge-watch business-related content, of course. Because work never sleeps, and neither do businessmen apparently, here are 10 of the best documentaries on Netflix about business, capitalism, and corruption that will get your mind’s gears moving.   

Betting on Zero

The story after Betting on Zero was released might even be more entertaining than the documentary itself. This docu follows billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman who goes after the company Herbalife, claiming its meteoric rise is due to a pyramid scheme. But be warned that Betting on Zero tells only tells one side of the story, and the documentary inadvertently succeeds in intriguing viewers to dig into the truth behind the investor at the heart of it all.

The China Hustle

The desperation that followed after the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 caused a number of people to do unseemly things, even the big brokers over at Wall Street. The China Hustle dives into how U.S. investment firms colluded with Chinese firms and companies to trick investors into unwittingly giving their money into small Chinese companies.  

Dirty Money

Dirty Money, as its name suggests, features perhaps the worst and grimiest financial corruption scandals in modern history. The first season’s episodes follow: the Volkswagen emissions scandal, Scott Tucker and payday loans in the U.S., Valeant Pharmaceuticals, HSBC money laundering, the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist—and Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the second season explores: Wells Fargo, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, Jared Kushner, the U.S. gold market, elderly abuse, and the plastic plants of Texas.


Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates

For some wholesome content, this docuseries shows how one man managed to reach the top without heading an international crime syndicate or running a global money laundering scheme. Before he was a world-renowned philanthropist, Bill Gates was an astute businessman, and this docuseries lets us peek into the mindset, motivations, and dreams of one of the richest and most successful humans to ever live.

Trump: An American Dream

Contrary to how he pitches himself, Donald Trump was born into privilege, and it was his father’s trust fund that thrust him into the world of business and real estate. The docuseries follows his life as a business mogul to a public personality until finally, Trump’s first steps into the White House. It’s a bizarre if entertaining docuseries that Forbes describes as “a supervillain origin story.”

Saving Capitalism

Based on the book of the same name written by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, this documentary is a subtle and honest expose on the fundamental inequalities that come with capitalism. With U.S. capitalism as the basis for many nations’ economy, this Netflix docu is an informative primer on the flaws of the system, which has been designed for the few, instead of the many.

American Factory

China and its economy has long been demonized in the media, but this documentary paints a human portrait of the masses who carry the Chinese economy on their backs—the Chinese factory workers. It’s an empathetic portrayal of those who couldn't care less about the politics of business—the working class from both the East and the West.

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A New Capitalism

There’s no doubt that capitalism has its flaws, which has been pointed out in a number of films and documentaries if this list is anything to go by. But a new brand of capitalism is forming, featured in this documentary which follows the lives of Brazilian, Indian, and Mexican entrepreneurs who believe that the system can be used to make people’s lives better—and fairer.

Maddman: The Steve Madden Story

Who would have guessed that this famous fashion designer was once embroiled in the scandal that was Jordan Belfort, the real Wolf of Wall Street? Maddman follows Madden’s billion-dollar fashion empire, its meteoric rise, its ensuing downfall, and Madden’s eventual redemption following his prison sentence. Not many can survive jail time and rebound their company’s profit, but Madden did.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Definitely not a documentary about money at first glance, Minimalism takes a subtle approach at discussing money, business, and the noisy society we all live in now. The documentary attempts to discover how to live a meaningful life in this age, and it’s the wise insight of a former stock broker that might interest you.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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