Contemporary Film and Economics: Lights! Camera! Econ!

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1. The Economics in Film    
1.1 Economics as Backstory
1.2 Economics in Contemporary Film
1.3 The Art of Visual Storytelling
1.4 A Few Caveats and Qualifications

Chapter 2. A Passage to Choice    
2.1 Who Benefits?
2.2 Decisions, Decisions
2.3 The Maddening Value of Trade
2.4 Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 3. The Economics of Greed, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation    
3.1. Greed is Good...Or Not
3.2 Putting the Social in Entrepreneurship
3.3 A New Type of Entrepreneur in Film?
3.4 The “Joy”of Entrepreneurship
3.5 Entrepreneurship and the Future of Narrative Film


Chapter 4. The Labor Market Costs of Crime, Pride, and Prejudice    
4.1 The Radically Upward Sloping Supply Curve
4.2 What’s in Your Bank Account?
4.3 The Dignity of Work
4.4 The Social Costs of Discrimination
4.5 Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 5. Financing the Housing Crisis and the Great Recession  
5.1 On the Precipice of Financial Armageddon
5.2 Who Killed the World Economy?
5.3 Whither the Banks and Corporate Finance?
5.4 Did Occupy Wall Street Scuttle the Economics in Hell or High Water?
5.5 Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 6. The Nature and Causes of Wealth in Film     
6.1 Is Capitalism an Unknown Ideal in Film?
6.2 The Tropes of Economic Stagnation
6.3 Can Movies Get Beyond Economic Tropes?
6.4 Rescuing Movies from Tropes
6.5 Bringing Movie Narratives on Growth Back to Earth

Chapter 7. Government Without Romance     
7.1 Politics Without Romance
7.2 The Economics of Factions and Governing
7.3 Rent Seeking
7.4 Beyond Corruption and Political Cynicism
7.5 Regime Uncertainty and Political Succession
7.6 Is Government a Blind Spot for Filmmakers?

Chapter 8. Conclusion: The Economics Behind the Story

Movies! What does economics have to do with them? More than you might think...


What does the movie Lion tell us about why some societies grow rich and others remain poor? What can the global, box-office juggernaut Jurassic World tell us about entrepreneurs and the ethics of business? Can the movie Passengers give us insight into human motivation and decision making? This book surveys more than 40 wide-release movies to answer these questions and much more.

Movies do a lot more than entertain. They also project important insights, often unintentional, into the way the world works and the values society cares about. Indeed, their stories are often grounded in the real-world experiences of everyday people. As part of this, movies also provide a window into understanding and evaluating economic behavior. Economics is, after all, the study of how scarce resources like labor, capital, and technology are used to improve (or reduce) our welfare. It also helps us more fully understand the consequences in our lives that result from those choices and decisions. Through exploring a wide variety of films ranging from Passengers to Victoria and Abdul, this book delves into economic concepts such as opportunity costs, profit maximization, greed, monopoly, economic growth, and entrepreneurship.

Contemporary Film and Economics is a must read for anyone interested in how movies project and interpret economic ideas, craft popular narratives for how economies operate, and explore motivations for economic behavior. Economists will find the analysis useful for starting wide ranging discussions on key concepts, while filmmakers will find the discussions of economic concepts a provocative way of thinking about how to craft engaging stories that are grounded in practical experience.


Nearly 50 movies!


The Big Short, Birth of a Nation (2016), Castaway, Chinatown, Darkest Hour, Deepwater Horizon, Divergent Trilogy, Elysium, Fences, The Florida Project, The Founder, Gifted, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, The Hunger Games, Interstellar, It’s a Wonderful Life, Jason Bourne, Joy, Jurassic World, La La Land, Lincoln, Lion, Mad Max: Fury Road, Magnificent Seven (2016), Margin Call, Miss Sloane, Moonlight, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, New Jack City, Passengers, The Queen, Scarface, Slumdog Millionaire, Snowden, Star Wars, The Untouchables, Victoria and Abdul, Wall Street, War Dogs, The Wolf of Wall Street


Check out Sam Staley's movie reviews here!