Magazine article Journal of Property Management

The Greatest Real Estate Movies of All Time

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

The Greatest Real Estate Movies of All Time

Article excerpt

Everyone enjoys a night at the movies and most in the business enjoy talking about real estate. Have you ever thought about how closely the two subjects are connected? Once you think about it, you come to realize that almost every one of the best movies is, at heart, about real estate.

To begin with, virtually every Western ever made is about property rights ("No sheep farmer gonna put no fence on that range," as though the hardy herders would meekly endure the threats of a bunch of cattle ropin' varmints.) If the hero is not putting up a fence (or taking it down), the villain is stealing someone's land. The Big Country, The Magnificent Seven, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Sons of Katie Elder, Giant; the examples are too numerous to list.

Developing a Story Line

A subject often discussed in films is real estate development. My all-time favorite cinematic real estate developer is Lex Luthor, fabulously played by Gene Hackman in Superman. Lex plans to "create value" for the Nevada scrubland he owns by bombing the San Andreas Fault, and turning his land into beachfront property. What a development concept!

Of course, there are many development movies, like Bugsy and Field of Dreams. Frankly Field is a bit sappy for my taste, but it has one of the all-time great developer lines: "If I build it, they will come." Sound like any developers you know? In an update, the hero might utter: "If anyone will finance this, I will build it, and if the market is not already overbuilt, they will come." And don't forget The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, with Richard Dreyfuss cast against type as a manic developer.

Bad things also can happen when you renovate a house, as in Pacific Heights, although my personal favorite in this category, also starring Michael Keaton, is Beetlejuice. Keaton's slapstick turn as the manic title ghost, trying to scare new owners out of the house he haunts, is hysterical. See why I avoid rehab projects?

You Can Also Rent the Video

The previous section involved films about single-family homes. Those more interested in multifamily should view The Apartment, directed by Billy Wilder. Jack Lemmon lends his flat to boss Fred McMurray, for the latter's affair with Shirley MacLaine. Naturally, Lemmon falls for MacLaine, while learning about life and lease provisions. Many rate Lemmon's and MacLaine's performances as among the best of their careers.

Slightly less sophisticated--alright, a lot less sophisticated--is the view of multifamily living in Joe's Apartment. The film's stars are hundreds of roaches that live in Joe's digs. These are not ordinary roaches; they are--right!--party animals.

It's A Wonderful Flick, Too

A lump of coal for the stocking of anyone who can't name the greatest real estate finance movie ever: Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life. Too complex to recount in detail (but sufficiently well known that there is little need), Life chronicles the S&L (building loan) business the way it was supposed to be. The scene of the run on the bank, with an impassioned George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) explaining the prisoner's dilemma facing the depositors, who have lent to each other, is priceless. No Charles Keating in Frank Capra's world, and no FSLIC-insured brokered deposits! …

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