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Five movies you never knew were actually about money

  • The first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been released, and tickets have gone on sale for its release on 14 December.
  • You'd be forgiven for thinking that the only money lesson it can teach us is the power of a movie franchise to generate cash for the studio.
  • However, like its predecessor, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it could teach cinema-goers something meaningful about money too.

With this in mind, we have tracked down five films that teach us valuable lessons about money.

1. The Force Awakens is about scams

At the opening of the film, Rey acquires the fugitive droid, BB-8, and is offered an almost irresistible 60 portions of food to part with him. It’s only later that she learns that had she taken the offer, she would have destroyed any prospect of defeating the dark side.

Movie money lesson

If something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If an unregulated adviser is offering an unregulated product guaranteeing of a higher rate of return over a shorter term than is available elsewhere (often around 10%), it pays to be especially wary.

2. Mary Poppins is about savings

The children’s classic is a useful lesson in how hard it can be to save when you’re faced with spending temptations. In the film, Michael’s desperation to buy bird feed rather than open a bank account sparks a run on the bank.

Movie money lesson

If you force yourself to make an active decision to save every month, you’ll be making life harder for yourself: so automate it. Set up a direct debit to come out of your account at the start of the month, before you have time to factor it into your spending plans.

3. The Full Monty is about debt

It can be easy to be distracted by the more eye-catching themes of the film, but among the stories is that of Gerald, who couldn’t face telling his wife he was unemployed, so hid his lack of work and growing debts from her. Things come to a head when the bailiffs arrive.

Movie money lesson

It’s not uncommon to try to hide debts from your other half, in fact one person in six does it. However, it can be incredibly damaging. Your partner is going to face the consequences, so sharing debt issues gives them the opportunity to help put things right before they get out of hand.

4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is about life insurance

Early in the first film, just after learning he’s a wizard, Harry is taken to the bank to see that his parents have left him a pile of gold – giving him the freedom to pursue his unorthodox education.

Movie money lesson

In the real world, the odds of being offed by an evil wizard are lower, but parents must consider what will happen to their loved ones after they are gone. Life insurance offers simple and inexpensive protection for dependent children, and if it is written in trust it will fall outside your estate for inheritance tax purposes.

5. Austin Powers is about inflation

Dr Evil, cryogenically frozen in 1967 and reawakened in 1997, decides to hold the world to ransom and demands $1 million. At that point he learns that $1 million isn’t exactly a lot of money to hold the world to ransom for any more.

Movie money lesson

It’s a useful demonstration of how we can miss the subtle effects of inflation on a day-to-day basis, but when we look over the long term, the effects are striking. It means, for example, that any old and uncompetitive bank account offering 0.05% isn’t just failing to grow, it’s shrinking dramatically over the years.

Sarah Coles, Personal Finance Analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown:

"While cinema-goers are side-tracked by explosions, popcorn or steelworkers in a state of undress, there are plenty of major blockbusters that quietly teach us something useful about our finances."

"And while it’s tempting to assume we can’t learn anything new from a blockbuster, in many cases a dramatic demonstration of a financial issue can resonate far more than any technical explanation. Next time you visit the cinema, perhaps you can come away having learned more than the value of taking your own snacks."