Movie Review: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Rating: R
Year: 2005
Runtime: 110 mins


An elegant and informative depiction of Enron’s rise and fall.  The film describes in detail how, with a combination of a weak moral compass and accounting fraud, Enron became ground zero for the greatest corporate crime of the century.


The movie used the phrase “Useful Idiots” to describe the investment bankers that were duped into investing in Enron.  Having worked with many a banker in my lifetime, I feel this is an accurate depiction of the profession.

The movie linked George W. Bush to Kenneth Lay, the mastermind behind the Enron scandal.  They show a video where W professes how great a person Lay is.  He then directly and blatantly supported Lay in his effort to rip off California during the energy crisis.  We know now that these are two people America simply would have been better without.  And this was only 2001.  I still can’t believe that we elected Bush twice.

The voice recordings of the traders are very profound.  You can hear them laughing and joking with each other as California suffered through rolling blackouts.  And yes, traders do really act like that and they do make that much money.


When I rented the movie, I kind of wondered why it received an “R” rating, which is somewhat odd for a documentary.  I soon found the reason a few minutes into the movie when they talked about how one of the Enron executives frequented strip clubs.  The scenes themselves weren’t particularly distasteful and they did add intrigue to the story, but it seemed a little inappropriate for a documentary.  Man do I feel sorry for the accounting professor who plays this in front of his class without screening it first.

The movie only addresses the accounting fraud at a surface level.  While I do agree with the  movie’s contention, that Enron was more of an issue of morality rather than accounting.  However, the accounting side of the fraud was complex enough to take down a Big 5 (now Big 4).  I wish they went into more detail about how they “cooked the books,” to a degree in which they were able to take down Arthur Andersen.

Bottom Line:

A great rental if you’re a closet accountant like me.

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