Alec Baldwin’s classic “Always be Closing” scene. Image Canva / New Line Cinema.
  • Look within your streaming services and you can find some 'property movies'
  • Prash Nayar gives us his 5 favourites, drawn from the past four decades

In the world of movies, there are few films with a property angle. Some have taken a look under the hood of real estate sales, others have shown the folly of bad property development, while others have told the story of property-related financial crashes.

In my search for films with a property theme, I found some incredible movies that showcased not only the magic but also the darker side. This latter group perhaps serves as a warning for those looking to dive into the deep end of purchasing, selling or even brokering real estate.

Here are my top 5 picks of films that made the list:

The Founder (2016)

The Founder

This riveting story of the McDonald’s franchising King Ray Kroc stars Michael Keaton (who enthralled audiences in his portrayal of a failing actor in Birdman).

In the mid-1950s, milkshake machine salesman Kroc finds the two charmingly naive McDonald’s brothers operating a small but highly efficient burger restaurant in San Bernadino, California, and sees an opportunity to expand their business.

Director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr Banks) takes us behind the scenes of how McDonald’s grew during the 1960s and beyond to become a multi-billionaire dollar franchise and property empire.

As one adviser tells Kroc, ‘You are in the property business, not the burger business’. McDonald’s owns every piece of real estate that its restaurants sit on. Its business model from day one was to buy land and finance it with long term fixed rates and today it has ownership of more than US$30 billion dollars of real estate.

The Big Short (2015)

Big-Short

Crafted by one of the most fearless masters of satire of our generation, Adam McKay (Anchorman & the upcoming Don’t Look Up) brings us a story detailing the horrors of the subprime home lending collapses of 2008.

This may hit a little too close to home for those who went through it, and lost money. Could it happen again, in Australia?

The story focusses on those that made money from the situation, ‘shorting’ the financial assets and those that held them, making billions in the process.

With an A-Grade cast and exceptional performances (Margot Robbie in a bathtub explaining mortgage bond in style is a must see), The Big Short is one to add to your list if you’ve not already seen it.

The Money Pit (1986)

Money Pit

Produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Richard Benjamin, and starring the impossibly charming couple of Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, this film has aged better than wine. Name any Tom Hanks movie that doesn’t deserve a second watch.

Based on the 1948 classic Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House, this oddball comedy is a tale of caution about what happens when a deal sounds too good to be true.

The movie title became synonymous with bad real estate deals and contractors who seemed to keep extending their 14-day contract. This could also hit close to home in relation to the current building industry?

Fun fact on the real-life home the movie was shot at. It is located in Oyster Bay New York, which recently sold for $3.5 million. This was perhaps a case of life imitating art as it had fallen into significant disrepair before being bought in 2002. The owners made a loss of almost $4 million when taking into account their purchase price and repair bill. A money pit, indeed.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Glengarry Glen Ross

Now for your look into the seedier side of real estate sales.

If you are part of the industry and have not seen this film, I suggest you look at it with a perspective of how NOT to be a salesperson. You’ll understand when you watch it.

Based on David Mamet’s Pulitzer-prize-winning play, which was, in turn, formed from his experiences working in a New York City real estate office, the film explores the overwhelming pressure of the sales environment in downtown Brooklyn over one night.

The effects of toxic masculinity and bullying in a work environment are brought to the fore, with some classic lines. The film is sure to provide food for thought.

Presided over by Alec Baldwin in one of his best roles, including the iconic line “A.B.C : Always Be Closing”, delivered with pure hatred for the salesmen he is supposed to be motivating. A star-studded cast includes Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin and Ed Harris on top form.

Motherless Brooklyn (2019)

Motherless Brooklyn

Set against the backdrop of 1950s New York and adapted by the talented Edward Norton from a novel of the same name by Jonathan Lethem, this is a cautionary tale of what happens when local people fight the powers who are determined to develop and gentrify a NYC neighbourhood.

The story centres on private investigator Lionel Essrog (Norton) giving an incredible portrayal, and features powerhouse performances from Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin (again) and Willem Dafoe.

Showcasing the sometimes shady behind the scenes world of developers and politicians, it may leave you questioning what happens in your local suburb, including how major decisions are made, and more importantly, who profits from them.

As the story goes, follow the money trail.

There you have it, five films to add to your list, if you are interested in property and like a good movie.

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