The Big Short

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Big Short Movie Poster Image
Finance dramedy turns complex ideas into gripping cinema.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 130 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 10 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Mixed messages; the characters profit hugely as the economy crumbles, but their story also shows how It's tough to be the first person to realize something important, because everyone else will be convinced you're mistaken or crazy. It's also hard to stand by your position in the face of consistent opposition; it's all too easy to start to doubt yourself. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although they bet against the housing market and reap huge gains as the economy crumbles, the main characters are portrayed as smart enough to realize that something is dangerously amiss in the global financial system, confident enough to place huge bets on their idea, and tough enough to defend a position that was initially losing money, with everyone telling them they're fools.

Violence

Heated exchanges between people who are losing lots of money. References to personal loss, including via suicide.

Sex

A few scenes that take place in strip clubs feature topless/half-dressed women. 

Language

Frequent swearing throughout, mainly "f--k," "a--hole," and "s--t."

Consumerism

Many well-established financial companies are mentioned, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Countrywide, Bank of America, JPMorgan, and more, with a special focus on Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Mac and Dell computers, BlackBerry and Nokia mobile devices, Bloomberg terminals. Discussion of the high-end restaurant Nobu. Caesar's Palace. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several scenes are set in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs where people are drinking. Some sequences show people celebrating big financial deals with liquor. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Big Short is based on the bestselling book by Michael Lewis. It follows the story of several investors (played by Christian BaleSteve CarellRyan Gosling, and Brad Pitt) who were among the first to spot warning signs in the real estate market that triggered the global financial meltdown of 2008. By betting against the housing market, they managed to reap huge gains as the economy crumbled, leaving millions out of work and homeless -- which might make some viewers feel pretty conflicted about rooting for them. There's some raucous drinking, plenty of strong language (mainly "f--k" and "s--t"), and glimpses of topless strippers/exotic dancers in this finance-themed dramedy, which is best suited for adults and older teens.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byterra100 January 5, 2016

Very important film for all adults

This is such an important film. It's an entertaining but also serious look at how the housing crisis and global economic meltdown happened. It's act... Continue reading
Adult Written byDrkat February 7, 2016

Real great film, a complex subject well presented

If you're not worried about bad language and mild nudity this film holds no worries - other than the complexity of the issue. The film is done in a way to... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byStevie111 January 4, 2016

Fairly well made, but overlong and it is definitely not a "Comedy" at all

This had very dramatic themes and content and is definitely not at all a comedy. I will say it had some funny elements that did make me laugh, but this is a dra... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bykushs August 4, 2016

Entertaining movie helps viewers grip concepts

This movie, while fairly vulgar in terms of language, is not to miss. Children and adults will be able to understand this equally, as every difficult concept is... Continue reading

What's the story?

The years leading up to the global financial meltdown of 2008 were filled with financial exuberance, as Wall Street firms made billions trading bonds made up of residential mortgages. A handful of investors smelled something amiss, eventually realizing it was all a house of cards that would inevitably crumble. Their bets against these bonds, THE BIG SHORT, eventually paid off hugely -- but only when the entire U.S. economy fell apart, leaving millions homeless and unemployed. Christian BaleSteve CarellRyan Gosling, and Brad Pitt star as the skeptical investors, all based on real people who were featured in Michael Lewis' best-selling book of the same name. 

Is it any good?

The Big Short is a flashy, quick-witted, and, yes, entertaining film about the housing and banking collapse. But it might just be a little too entertaining, a little too funny for a film that’s so sobering. You laugh at all the asides -- and they are funny, though perhaps not all of them were necessary -- and then feel terrible for laughing.  (Though we really did enjoy the celebrity-cameo-filled footnotes that explained the dizzying banking and investment maneuvers and products that basically undid the economy.)

Then again, nervous laughter may just be an appropriate response to a movie about how a small group of outsiders identified a weakness in a system high on arrogance and avarice -- a system that, unfortunately, had such weight that, when it toppled, it took so many innocent and not-so-innocent souls with it. Ultimately, The Big Short is whip smart, supported by a script that manages to educate while it amuses. And then there's the powerhouse cast, led by a brilliant Bale as a doctor-turned-hedge-fund-manager who has an ease with numbers and an unease with people.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about greed. Why were so many banks and bankers so eager to keep selling the mortgage bonds that they must have suspected were flawed? Did the huge profits make everything seem acceptable? 

  • How does the film explain very complex financial concepts? Did you learn anything new about Wall Street? Do you think this was an effective way to give viewers a sense of what was happening? 

  • How does this based-on-a-true-story film compare to other movies set in the financial world, including the ones that are all fiction (Wall Street) and others that are also based on real events (The Wolf of Wall Street)? How accurate do you think The Big Short is to what actually happened? Why might filmmakers change some facts?

  • How is drinking portrayed? Is it glamorized? Do characters face any consequences?

Movie details

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