The divide between the uber-rich and the lower class has grown starker than ever these days. Over the last decade or so, people across the world (especially the United States) have suffered significantly due to the economy’s effects on them. Prices are skyrocketing, human beings need multiple streams of income to put towards paying increasingly unaffordable rent, and the depth of corporate greed seems to know no bounds. The increasing romanticization of Kardashian-level lavish lifestyles that most consumers could only dream of causes many of us to compare our own lives with the lives of those with much more money than us.
There’s often a dark side of having it all – whether it’s glaringly obvious or hidden in plain sight – and acquiring such significant assets doesn’t come easy. When documentaries center around the underbelly of the upper class, audiences glean more truths than they may have expected. Here are 10 addictive documentaries about the sordid lives of rich people.
10 Generation Wealth (2018)
Generation Wealth delves into the world of the well-off, led by Lauren Greenfield, who has told this multifaceted story through multiple mediums. These formats, which all share the same name, include the documentary film alongside a museum exhibit and a monograph. Throughout the film, Greenfield’s exposé of exorbitant excess is brought to life.
A View into How the Other Side Lives
As a tale that was continually told across different platforms, the depth and reach of Generation Wealth extends beyond its reputation if it had only been a movie. This documentary really allows viewers to get up close and personal with the “other half” as we see how they live. It also showcases exactly how much the culture of the United States contributes to the normalization and glamorization of these behaviors.
9 Requiem for the American Dream (2015)
Headed by Noam Chomsky, Requiem for the American Dream allows audiences a close-up look to the increasingly vast divide between classes, driven by the closeness of fortune and influence. Based on Chomsky’s book of the same name, the documentary film explores the “10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power” that he utilizes to drive his original text.
A Focus on Class Divide
With a voice as significant as Chomsky’s leading the conversation, his perspective as both an academic and an activist adds another level to the content of his arguments. Throughout the film, he emphasizes the shrinking of the middle class in the United States due to the drastically widening class divide. Almost 10 years after its release, Requiem for the American Dream might ring even truer today than in 2015.
8 The Men Who Stole the World (2018)
As its title suggests, The Men Who Stole the World introduces audiences to the faces behind the downfall of American economics. This documentary centers around the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession and its continued fallout, examining it from 10 years further into the future. The film emphasizes the frequency of greed, perpetrated largely by a group of men.
A Perspective from the Outside
The Men Who Stole the World is a French film, which gives it an extraordinary layer of nuance when we realize that it was not necessarily made from a fully American perspective. By looking into the mess of our country from the perspective of another, audiences gain another valuable viewpoint on the issues the film mentions.
7 Dark Money (2018)
We know how corrupt money can make people on an individual and corporate level, but Dark Money showcases how wealth has the power to drive and influence elections. In the United States, election fraud and corruption have been a hot topic across the last decade. Specifically, this movie delves into the hand that money has to play in the state of Montana.
A Magnifying Glass Looking at Corruption
Dark Money takes a subject that many people don’t know much truth about and continues to flesh out the corruption behind what often looks like a smooth process. By looking into the processes of just one state, viewers can imagine the extent of election interference through the flow of funds in terms of national and presidential elections. The film won a Sundance award, solidifying its significance in its content and its stunning audiovisual execution.
6 Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)
Capitalism: A Love Story was released into a world where so many people were struggling financially, due to the economic atmosphere of the late 2000s. Director and writer Michael Moore takes viewers across the United States to trace the depths of company avarice and its devastating effects to the people who keep the system running.
Capitalism Runs All
Capitalism inundates almost everything we do, especially if we’re American. By looking through the lens of this documentary, it’s cathartic to examine capitalism through an academic perspective that doesn’t champion it – like so many other aspects of life. Capitalism: A Love Story also delves into America’s past leaders’ visions and motivations towards their future, and holds that example up against how we actually do things here in the present.
5 Born Rich (2003)
How many times have you wished you were Born Rich? This documentary examines what living that life might look like through looking closely at the lives of certain people who have experienced it. It’s directed by Jamie Johnson, who happened to be born into the family behind Johnson & Johnson. Johnson utilizes his perspective to lift the curtain up, allowing others to look into the ins and outs of this lifestyle.
Don’t We All Wish We Were Born Rich?
Just hearing about and seeing the lives of these obscenely rich individuals might be enough to make some viewers jealous. They get to enjoy having that outlook on life simply because they were lucky enough to be born into it. Through Johnson’s perspective, he involves more famous figures like Ivanka Trump, Georgina Bloomberg, and Stephanie Ercklentz.
4 The Queen of Versailles (2012)
The Queen of Versailles
- Release Date
- July 6, 2012
- Lorraine Barrett , June Downs , Phillip Froehlich , Marissa Gaspay , Jonquil , Tina Martinez
The Queen of Versailles isn’t about the legendary French feat of interior design, but instead, a family trying to bring a similar vision of opulence to life against a backdrop of financial devastation. In 2008, the monetary situation for so many people across the world became dire – including the Siegel billionaires, who are constructing their Florida mansion, also called Versailles.
How This Movie Keeps Audiences Engaged
This movie is one of the first times Jackie Siegel and her incredibly wealthy family have been the subjects of a documentary exploring the depths of wealth. Director Lauren Greenfield went on to explore this subject (and work with Siegel) more deeply in other projects like Generation Wealth, expanding upon these narratives.
3 The One Percent (2006)
The One Percent is another work of Jamie Johnson’s, with this one released earlier on in his life. From his perspective as writer and director, Johnson looks into the United States’ one percent – those who are quite literally the richest in the country. The disparity between them and those further downstream from them emphasizes the rich’s dominance over the economy.
Important During a Recession
Obviously, with its release date, this movie came out before the 2008 financial crisis, which exposes how deeply these systems of wealth have run for years. The long list of interviews with wealthy figures allows audiences to gain more understanding about how life works for them – this includes people like Steve Forbes, Bill Gates Sr., and Chuck Collins.
2 Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020)
As a Netflix original limited series, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich exposes the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein by including stories from survivors of his abuse. Epstein’s conviction as a sex offender drives his identity in the world’s perception of him now, but as an influential financier, he acted with the support of massive amounts of money. This docuseries shines a light on how exactly he weaponized his success and fueled his crimes through it.
The Necessity of This Docuseries
Jeffrey Epstein’s name and his increasingly visible connections continue to come up in the international conversation. The obscurity of so many details comes to light in this series, and the series’ existence on a platform as popular as Netflix continues to introduce new audiences to the extremity and the extent of the situation. As the truth around Epstein and his web continues to emerge, the series centralizes pieces of valuable information, encouraging conversations and investigations to continue.
1 Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal (2021)
Getting accepted into college is almost always an initially stressful and collaborative situation. Some parents would cross absolutely any line in order to ensure their child’s success, especially when that kid is about to leave the nest and graduate high school. Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal follows the 2019 college admissions fiasco, also known as the Varsity Blues scandal.
An Engaging Crime Story
It’s genuinely fascinating to conceptualize just how much money and power can encourage so criminal activity under the guise of seeking academic validation through the status of a student’s college. The stories of Jane Buckingham, Lori Loughlin, and the other parties involved feel palpable through reenactments of what truly happens. As viewers piece the crimes together, the depth of the fraud and its effects come clearly into focus.