It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): Is there a better movie to show how the best in people comes out during the worst of times? Plus, we used to watch that scene of people trying to withdraw their money from the bank with a sense of detached bemusement. But that’s actually happening.
Fun With Dick and Jane: Either the original with George Segal and Jane Fonda (1977) or the horrid remake with Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni (2005), take your pick; they both paint a pretty good picture of the lengths some people go to not only keep up appearances, but also just to survive.
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985): Woody Allen’s Depression era-set tragicomedy illustrates what was true then and is definitely true now: Movies are the best way to escape harsh reality.
Wall Street (1987): If they ever reissue this movie, it should come with the following disclaimer: “Any resemblance to Bernie Madoff is completely unintentional.” But even 20 years ago, the evils of Wall Street and unchecked greed were staring us right in the face. Oliver Stone, we were wrong. You were right.
Trading Places (1983): Another great look at Wall Street’s power to end lives in a heartbeat, only this one is much more fun. And let’s face it: A look at Jamie Lee Curtis’ breasts is exactly the kind of stimulus package most of us need right now.
Sullivan’s Travels (1941): Like The Purple Rose of Cairo, a great movie about the power of slapstick comedy in hard times. Unfortunately, it also paved the way for Paul Blart: Mall Cop, so it isn’t all good.
Fight Club (1999): How can you ignore this subversive masterpiece, with its subplot about the collapse of everyone’s financial history? (What? Used your credit card after you were foreclosed on? All is forgiven.) It also includes the fantastic line for our troubled times, “It’s only when we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
A Simple Plan (1998): Think a lot of money is going to solve all your problems? Watch this modern noir and you’ll think having just enough to get by will seem like the ideal lifestyle.