White collar crime. We lock up murderers, rapists, pederasts and that one astronaut that drove cross-country in diapers to kidnap a romantic rival for years, even decades, and their records are forever (often rightfully) tarnished. But when Wall Street collapsed in 2008, when Enron was exposed or when the President tries to get dirt on Joe Biden from the Ukraine, you rarely see anyone do any hard time. And, when they do go to the big house, it’s typically a minimum security facility – club Fed for society’s crooked Madoffs.
Quite simply, we’re too easy on white collar criminals, largely because they’re so tough on violent offenders. They want the violent criminals off the streets so that they, the rich, can run off with the money under our noses. However, white collar crime is constantly on the rise, and criminal lawyers are seeing more cases developing in this sector of the law.
Insurance frauds are also a fascinating topic often displayed in movies. Here are the seven movies about insurance frauds, depicting this white collar crime in gritty details:
1. Cedar Rapids (2011)
What’s puzzling is that, for the most part, films ushered into production by Alexander Payne are better than his directorial efforts. They have the same tone, atmosphere and sleight mid-western sensibility while also a great deal of charm and character depth. The difference is they aren’t an over-indulgent slog to sit through.
In the case of Cedar Rapids, Ed Helms insurance man is perfectly likable as a man sent to an insurance company competition that, unbeknownst to him, is bought and paid for. But John C. Reilly and Isiah Whitlock Jr. do most of the heavy lifting – both incredibly funny and entertaining. It also manages what at one time seemed an insurmountable task: making Anne Heche likable.
2. Double Indemnity (1944)
This classic film noir is easily, and rightfully, considered tone of the best movies about insurance frauds. The movie begins with Fred MacMurray, gutshot and bleeding out, narrating just what led he him into the fix he’s in. Turns out it’s a woman, of course. In this case, femme fatale Barbara Stanwyk, who wishes her husband dead and hatches a scheme with MacMurray to get rich doing it. The title refers to an insurance policy that pays out two-fold should the victim’s death be an accident like, say, falling off a train. Natrually, the “fatale” in femme fatale comes to the forefront and things go belly up.
3. Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
The same year Fay Wray became the love interest of a giant ape, she starred in this little-seen classic. Most are more familiar with one of the two remakes, House of Wax – the first in 1953 shot in 3D and the second with…um…Paris Hilton. But the first is just as good, as wax sculptor Ivan Igor begins using humans covered in wax in his 1920’s Madame Taussuad’s rather than make them from scratch.
But it doesn’t start out that way. The wax museum is deemed a failure for the invstor, who suggests Igot burn down the building for the insurance money, an act so egregious it brings Igor to his macabre decision.
4. In The Mouth of Madness (1994)
It’s a surprise how many movies about insurance frauds are horror-themed, considering insurance fraud sounds like such a dull subject. Nevertheless, the third film in John Carpenter’s loose “apocalypse” trilogy follows Sam Neill’s insurance investigator as he is hired to track down a Stephen King-esque author who has mysteriously disappeared.
Of course, Neill believes it’s a PR stunt for the author’s latest novel. But as his investigation goes on, he comes to learn not only that the author is missing intentionally, but that he himself is a character in one of the books. It didn’t sell well at the time, but like most Carpenter films, it has a huge cult following.
5. Save the Tiger (1973)
Jack Lemmon’s oscar nomination came from this film, about a man in the garment industry whose business is struggling. The film is quite simple, a quiet meditation from the director of Rocky, as Lemmon debates whether or not to torch his building, seeing as it’s the only way he’ll turn any kind of profit.
6. Sicko (2007)
Whatever one may think of Michael Moore – he’s a leftist, he uses deceptive editing, he’s a showboat – it’s hard to deny he’s capable of crafting one hell of a story. In his documentary, Sicko, Moore explores the profiteering U.S. Healthcare system as opposed to those in other countries. He particularly focuses on how the U.S. system uses every loophole and political lobby possible to remain lucrative.
7. Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
It’s hard to make death funny, but no one was rooting for Bernie Lomax, insurance CEO, when he’s assassinated in his vacation home. After his death, two low-level employees decide to pretend he’s still alive, resorting ventriloquism, puppeteering and a pair of sunglasses in order to enjoy his summer home.
Little do they know that they were originally the targets for murder, with Lomax planning to kill them and pin a major embezzlement fraud on their corpses. The film was successful enough to spawn a sequel in which the corpse is re-animated via a voodoo curse, but it’s just too ridiculous to really discuss.