|Stop by your local video store, grab a bucket of popcorn and study these films about fraud and fraud deterrence. Get the books at your local library or bookseller to discover even more details about the fraudsters and investigators.
Movies – New Listings
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
The Prime Gig
The Inspector General
Scroll down for the movie and book summaries,
and more alphabetical listings
|1. Catch Me If You Can (Film released 2002, VHS 2003, DVD 2003)Based on the bestselling book, this is the autobiographical story of Frank Abagnale Jr. Pursued by the FBI, Abagnale spent four years of his life impersonating an airline pilot, doctor, and attorney – all before he was 21.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Martin Sheen, Christopher Walken, James Brolin, and Jennifer Garner. Frank W. Abagnale Jr. appears in the movie as a French policeman.
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Book: New York Times bestseller. “Catch Me If You Can: The Amazing Story of the Youngest and Most Daring Con Man in the History of Fun and Profit” by Frank W. Abagnale. Hardback, 1980. Hardback, publisher Mainstream, 2001. Paperback, publisher Broadway, 2000. Audio cassette, Audio CD, and e-book also available.
2. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
(Film April 2005, DVD January 2006))
An excellent documentary about the fraudulent, fast growth of Houston-based Enron Corporation into the seventh largest US company and its rapid destruction. It was worshiped by investors and feared by rivals. The leaders were lauded as visionaries. Major banks, brokerage firms, politicians, and auditors at Arthur Anderson were caught up in the frenzy. It seems like an entertaining fairytale, but it changes into a catastrophic shocker as more facts are revealed. The movie includes videos from the energy company’s meetings and television coverage, arrogant phone conversations, internal memos, and document shredding. Oddly-named schemes like “Mark-to-Market,” “Raptor,” “Death Star Transactions,” “Ricochet Purchasing,” “Get Shorty,” and “Rolling Blackouts” are explained. The movie shows how greedy executives like Kenneth Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andrew Fastow, and Lou Pai were involved in the schemes. The executives reaped millions of dollars in compensation and left the employees, pensions , and the State of California in a financial crisis. Obviously, Enron did not follow one of its own mottos – “Ask Why.” The film includes interviews with whistleblower Sherron Watkins and the authors of the book.
Directed by Alex Gibney
Studio: HDNet Films/Magnolia Pictures
The movie is based on the best-selling book “The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron.” It was written by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, senior writers for Fortune magazine. McLean also wrote “Is Enron Overpriced?” for the March 2001 issue. Hardcover, 2003, Penguin Group (USA). Paperback, 2004, Portfolio.
|3. The Prime Gig(Film 2000, VHS 2002, DVD 2002) Pendleton “Penny” Wise is a gifted telemarketer who can sell almost anything over the phone. He works for a small-time operator who goes bust and doesn’t pay Penny his sales commissions. Broke and out of a job, Penny is approached by Caitlin Carlson, who is recruiting telephone salesmen for Kelly Grant. Grant is a legend in the telemarketing industry, but not always for positive reasons; one of his previous operations landed him in jail, and Penny isn’t sure if Grant’s latest scheme — selling shares in a gold mine — is on the level. Greed, distrust, and betrayal are at the core of this drama of high-pressure boiler room operations.
Starring Vince Vaughn, Julia Ormond, Ed Harris, George Wendt, and Wallace Shawn.
Directed by Gregory Mosher.
Studio: New Line Home Video
|4. The Inspector General(Film released 1949, VHS 2004, DVD 2004)
An illiterate stooge is fired from a traveling gypsy medicine show. He wanders into a Russian village begging for food and is picked up on a vagrancy charge. The villagers and corrupt officials mistake him for the inspector general, they think is traveling in disguise. Fearing he will discover they’ve been pocketing tax money, they make several bungled attempts to bribe and kill him. He falls in love with the only honest person in the village. This is a hilarious view of loyalty, deception, mistaken identity, and friendship. The film was also released under the title “Happy Times.” It is included in several boxed sets of comedy classics.
Starring Danny Kaye, Walter Slezak, Barbara Bates, Elsa Lanchester, Alan Hale, Alan Hale Jr., Gene Lockhart, and John Carradine.
Music by Johnny Mercer and Sylvia Fine
Directed by Henry Koster.
Studio: Warner Brothers
The film was based on the Russian masterpiece “The Government Inspector” by Nikolai Gogol (1809 – 1852). When the satirical play was first performed in 1836, Gogol was driven into exile.
Student edition, paperback, 2003, Methuen Publishing.
The Government Inspector has been translated 17 times by other publishers. A new paperback will be available in April 2006.
Movies – Alphabetical
Catch Me If You Can
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Eight Men Out
The Emperor’s New Clothes
The Flim-Flam Man
The Music Man
The Scam (Afera)
Six Degrees of Separation
The Sting II
Waking Ned Devine
Scroll down for the movie and book summaries.
|5. Boiler Room
(Film released 2001, VHS 2002, DVD 2002)
In this morality tale, a college dropout abandons his illicit casino to please his father who is a judge. He joins a low-end stock brokerage firm which turns out to be a bigger scam. High-pressure salesmanship is used to bilk families out of their life savings.
Starring Ben Affleck, Giovanni Ribisi, Nia Long and Vin Diesel.
Directed by Ben Younger.
Studio: New Line Studios
|6. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
(Film released 1988, VHS 2002, DVD 2003)
Two international con artists cross paths as they ply their trade on gullible wealthy women up and down the Riviera. Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) is a loud crass American. His competitor, Laurence Jameson (Michael Caine), is a suave European. The two are forced into a rivalry which results in a wager to see who can be the first to bilk an American heiress out of $50,000. The winner gets to stay in the area to continue his schemes and the loser has to leave. Is there honor among thieves?
Starring Steve Martin, Michael Caine, and Glenne Headly.
Directed by Frank Oz
Studio: MGM/United Artists
This hilarious comedy is a remake of the film farce “Bedtime Story” starring Marlon Brando, David Niven, and Shirley Jones (Film released 1963, VHS 1994).
A musical adaptation of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” premiered in 2004 at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego. It moved to Broadway in March 2005 and stars John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz, and Joanna Gleason.
|7. The Emperor’s New Clothes
(Film 1987, VHS 1993)
A funny satirical tale by Hans Christian Anderson about vanity, incompetence, corruption, and lies. It interweaves schemes by the Emperor’s court and tailors to deceive him. Two swindlers persuade the emperor that their magical cloth can’t be seen by any person who is foolish or incompetent. Only one young lad dares to tell him the truth. Starring Sid Caesar, Clive Revill, and Robert Morse.
Original music by Sid Caesar.
Directed by David Irving.
Studio: MGM/United Artists
8. Eight Men Out
(Film released 1988, VHS 1999, DVD 2001)
Based on the 1977 book, “Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series” by Eliot Asinof. A historical portrayal of bickering baseball team owners, famous crooks, lowlife gangsters, and the low-paid baseball players of the Chicago White Sox. It details the conspiracies, payoffs, scandals and trial of the team that won the pennant and intentionally lost the World Series.
Starring D. B. Sweeney, John Mahoney, Charlie Sheen, John Cusack, Studs Terkel, and Christopher Lloyd
Directed by John Sayles.
Studio: MGM/United Artists
Book: “Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series” by Eliot Asinof. Hardcover, publisher Henry Holt, 1977. Paperback, publisher Henry Holt, 2000. Audio download also available.
Film release 1996, VHS 2003, DVD 2003)
A dark, funny thriller about a rural Minnesota car salesman who scams General Motors and he’s about to get caught. In desperation, he orchestrates the kidnapping of his own wife for ransom and things go horribly awry. A very pregnant sheriff runs across the scheme while trying to solve multiple murders in the middle of a snowy winter.
Starring Frances McDormand (who won the Academy Award with this performance), William H. Macy, Harve Presnell, Jose Feliciano, and Steve Buscemi.
Directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Studio: MGM/UA Video
Awards: Academy Award for Best Screenplay
|10. The Flim-Flam Man
(Film released 1967, VHS 1997)
A comedy-drama about Mordecai Jones with his quicksilver tongue, the hands of a grifter, and a heart full of pure larceny. It follows the scams of Jones and his apprentice Curley Treadaway on their train-hopping travels in North Carolina.
Starring George C. Scott, Harry Morgan, Jack Albertson, Alice Ghostley, and Slim Pickens
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Book: “Ballad of the Flim-Flam Man” by Guy Owen. Hardcover, publisher AMS Press, 1965. Paperback, publisher Coastal Carolina Press, 2000.
|11. The Freshman
(Film released 1990, VHS 1991, DVD 1998 and 2002)
Carmine Sabatini is a powerful New York importer, who bears a funny resemblance to Don Corleone in “The Godfather.” Clark Kellogg is a naive film student who is short on cash and accepts a job working for Sabatini. His misadventures involve lost luggage, the boss’s beautiful daughter, contraband, and an organized crime family. As if he is trapped in a comic nightmare, Clark finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into an ingenious scam involving an endangered Komodo Dragon and an illegal gourmet club. When the FBI asks Clark to snitch on his colorful employer, he discovers a strange loyalty to this wry and wise fatherly figure.
Starring Matthew Broderick, Marlon Brando, Bruno Kirby, Penelope Anne Miller, and Bert Parks.
Directed by Andrew Bergman.
Studio: Columbia Tristar
|12. The Grifters
(Film released 1991, VHS 2002, DVD 2002)
Based on the novel by Jim Thompson. The story of a mother, her son, and his girlfriend who are con artists caught in a world of ropers, suckers, grifters, and squares at the race tracks, bars, and the streets in between.
Starring John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, Annette Benning, Sandy Baron, Pat Hingle, Jeremy Piven, J. T. Walsh, and Martin Scorsese
Directed by Stephen Frears
Book: “The Grifters” by Jim Thompson. Paperback, publisher Vintage, 1990. Audio cassette also available.
|13. Matchstick Men
(Film released 2003, VHS 2004, DVD 2004)
There is no honor among thieves – or is there? This is a dramatic comedy that centers on Roy, a divorcee whose career as a master con artist or matchstick man is complicated by his ongoing struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder with various quirks and rituals and his distrust of banks. He and his partner swindle elderly people out of money by posing as telephone marketers who promise trucks, package vacations, and other fabulous prizes which they never get. For a quick buck, they follow up with schemes using money couriers, overhyped water filteration systems, rescams and mutilated lottery tickets. His wily partner Frank has criminal ambitions that are greater than Roy suspects. They are on the verge of a lucrative swindle involving money laundering and a Jamaican switch when a punky 14-year-old girl arrives claiming to be the daughter Roy has never known. It turns out that she has a knack for dad’s profession.
Starring Nicholas Cage, Sam Rockwell, and Alison Lohman, and Bruce Altman.
Directed by Ridley Scott
Studio: Warner Home Video
Book: “Matchstick Men” by Eric Garcia. Hardback, 2002, Random House. Audio book, 2003, read by Stanley Tucci, HarperCollins Publishers.
|14. The Music Man
(Film released 1962, VHS 1998 and 2000, DVD 1999 and 2004)
This musical is based on Meredith Wilson’s 1957 Broadway hit. A fast-talking traveling salesman, Professor Harold Hill, goes from town to town selling citizens on starting a boys band. He extracts money from them to order instruments and uniforms, with the promise that he will reduce crime and teach the kids to be musicians. After collecting his bankroll, he usually skips town. Marian the librarian in River City considers him a fraud when he promotes The Think System of learning music. This is a masterpiece of con games, romance, and fun.
Starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Paul Ford, Hermione Gingold, Pert Kelton, Mary Wickes, and Ron Howard.
Directed by Morton Da Costa.
Studio: Warner Home Video
Awards: Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Musical.
|15. Quiz Show
(Film released 1994, VHS 1998, DVD 1999)
An entertaining thriller based on true stories of the 1950s game show scandals, when TV shows were rigged to attract higher ratings and lucrative sponsorships. The story focuses on the Congressional investigation of the quiz show “Twenty-One.” Popular contestant Charles Van Doren agrees to win by using answers supplied by the show’s producers. They even coached him on his facial expressions, so that he appeared to be struggling with difficult questions. The reigning champion Herb Stempel is unfairly beaten and blows the whistle on the scam to deceive the players and the TV viewers.
Starring John Turturro, Ralph Feines, Rob Morrow, Paul Scofield, Hank Azaria, Mira Sorvino, Martin Scorsese, Calista Flockhart, Ethan Hawke, and Barry Levinson.
Directed by Robert Redford
Studio: Hollywood Pictures
Awards: Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. Golden Globe nomination for Best Director.
|16. The Scam (Afera)
(Film released 2001, VHS 1993, DVD 2004)
Successful businessman and former physicist Andrei Davydov plots an unprecedented scam aimed at causing the downfall of the world’s financial markets. He has no doubts that he will succeed, but speculating on an ecological catastrophe is a dangerous gamble. Especially when love interferes with his carefully thought out scheme of operation.
Starring Mariya Globkina, Alexander Lazarev, Jr., Emmanuil Vitorgan, and Vladimir Siminov.
Directed by Yevgeny Lavrentyev
Studio: Image Entertainment / Alchemy-Film
Russian with subtitles in Russian, English, French, Spanish, and German.
|17. Shattered Glass
(Film released 2003, VHS 2004, DVD 2004)This drama is the true story of a fallen journalist and pathological liar Stephen Glass. It demonstrates how Glass could single-handedly betray the trust of vigilant editors, writers, fact-checkers, and copy editors. He falsified 27 praised articles for The New Republic, a weekly political magazine in the late 1990s. Glass gets caught when a writer for the online Forbes magazine tries to research the sources in the articles and no one can trace them. The revelations of fraud had a profound effect on the ethics and operations of the publishing business. The disclosures were as shocking as those about Janet Cooke at the Washington Post and Jayson Blair at the New York Times.
Starring Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, and Hank Azaria.
Directed by Billy Ray.
Studio: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Book: “The Fabulist” is a novel by Stephan Glass. Hardback, Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 2003.
|18. Six Degrees of Separation
(Film released 1993, VHS 2000, DVD 2000)
Based on John Guare’s hit Broadway play about an Upper East Side New York couple that gets bilked by a charming young black man who claims to be Sidney Poitier’s son. Inspired by a true story, it reveals that art dealers and wealthy people have scams as well.
Starring Will Smith, Donald Sutherland, Stockard Channing, Ian McKellan, Mary Beth Hurt, Bruce Davison, Anthony Michael Hall, and Peter Duchin
Directed by Fred Schepisi
Studio: MGM/United Artists
Book: “Six Degrees of Separation” by John Guare. Paperback, publisher Vintage, 1990. Hardcover, publisher Bt Bound, 2001. Audio cassette, Audio CD, and Audio download also available.
(Film released 1973, VHS 1998 and 2001, DVD 1998)
Winner of 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Set in 1936, a bogus bookie joint is set up to run a variety of cons with lots of twists in Chicago. It’s a high-stakes game of small time grifters played against the police and the master of all cheating mobsters.
Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Ray Walston, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, and Leonard Barr
Directed by George Roy Hill
Studio: Universal Studios
|19. The Sting II
(Film released 1983, VHS 1998)
The sequel to The Sting.
Starring Jackie Gleason, Mac Davis, Teri Garr, Karl Malden, Oliver Reed, and Harry James
Director: Jeremy Paul Kagan
Studio: Universal Studios
(Film released 1996, VHS 1998, DVD 2000)
A gypsy-like clan of Irish con artists sells defective trailers and runs construction scams in the southern United States.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Bill Paxton, Julianna Margulies, and Jo Ann Pflug
Directed by Jack N. Green
Studio: Hallmark Home Entertainment
|21. Waking Ned Devine
(Film released 1998, VHS 2001, DVD 2003)
A clever comedy about 51 inhabitants of a village in Ireland who devise schemes to deceive lottery officials and share the new wealth of Ned Devine, who died of shock when he discovered he had a winning ticket worth 7 million pounds.
Starring Jackie O’Shea, Michael O’Sullivan, David Kelly, Ian Bannen, and Jimmy Keough
Directed by Kirk Jones III
Studio: Twentieth Century FoxBook: “Waking Ned Devine: An Original Screenplay” by Kirk Jones, Danny Boyle and Andrew MacDonald. Paperback, publisher Screenpress Books, 1999. Includes deleted scenes.
|22. The Yards
(Film Released 2000, DVD 2001)
Leo is a young, poorly educated ex-con who is out on parole for a crime he didn’t commit. He seeks an honest job from his relatives, so he can support his ailing mother. Soon he discovers his uncle’s business and family loyalties are not what he expected. The dark gritty business of repairing New York City subway trains involves bribery, racketeering, sabotage, political corruption, contract rigging, a conspiracy of silence, and revenge.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron, James Caan, Ellen Burstyn, Faye Dunaway, Tony Musante, and Steve Lawrence.
Directed by James Gray
DVD – Digital Video Disc, a five inch optic disc that has more storage capacity than a compact disc (CD). DVDs were introduced in 1996.
VHS – Video Home System, a half inch wide video tape format, packaged in a plastic cassette and introduced by JVC in 1976.by Larry C. Adams