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The best films to watch to understand the shadowy crypto and NFT world

Confused about the NFT marketplace? Here are our favorite documentaries to learn more

After a crypto winter that seems more like the onset of a new Ice Age, enthusiasm and demand for speculative investments has been decimated over the last year. It’s not like blockchain, cryptocurrency, and NFTs have disappeared along with their value, though. As long as the world stays connected, the new artistic and financial aspects of the NFT marketplace are likely here to stay.

Given this reality, The Manual is here to provide a guide on the best films and documentaries that illuminate how these digital means operate — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The following are not ranked in any particular order but are compiled to give a broad survey of the still-emerging Web3 currencies.

Explained (2018)

tv-ma 3 Seasons
Genre Documentary
Created by Ezra Klein
Netflix’s Explained series, now on its third season, joins forces with Vox Media for 15- to 25-minute segments that provide succinct yet illuminating views on the world around us. Cryptocurrencies exemplifies this effort. Led by host Christian Slater, the 14-minute short breaks down the mysterious new electronic finance format, from its origins to future functions. Using great pacing, graphics, and engaging leading tech professionals, Cryptocurrencies takes viewers from the roots of paperless money with the 1970s Diner’s Club card into the blockchain world — what it is, how it works, and why it’s better (and worse) than the current fiat financial system.

Bitcoin: Beyond the Bubble (2018)

Bitcoin: Beyond the Bubble
Genre Documentary
Stars Andreas M. Antonopoulos
Directed by Tim Delmastro

If you’re looking for a bit deeper and more optimistic dive into Bitcoin and its possibilities for helping to ease an inequitable international monetary system, then Bitcoin: Beyond the Bubble is for you. At over 35 minutes, this documentary delves into the evolution and reasons behind the decentralized currency.

The film responds to Bitcoin critics by highlighting how blockchain technology can encourage wealthy nations to extend credit to impoverished countries, help to uplift people out of poverty, deliver private transactions, protect against election fraud, and, of course, protect against fraud.

Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains & the Future of the Internet (2020)

Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains & the Future of the Internet
Genre Documentary
Stars Torsten Hoffmann, Roger Ver, Charlie Lee
Directed by Michael Watchulonis, Torsten Hoffmann
Checking in at an hour-and-a-half, Cryptopia is the 2020 follow-up to director Torsten Hoffman’s 2015 film, Bitcoin: The End of Money as We Know It. Hoffman leaps from Bitcoin’s history and explosion as a currency and an investment to the now accepted blockchain as it’s being utilized by potential scammers and co-opted by big business and centralized finance through new asset classes. From here, the director digs into what the future of this technology might hold in, and for, a decentralized, Web3 world.

StartUp (2016)

52 %
tv-ma 3 Seasons
Genre Crime, Drama
Cast Adam Brody, Edi Gathegi, Otmara Marrero
Created by Ben Ketai
This 2016 series may be a little dated, but StartUp remains one of the best dramatic depictions of developing fraudulent cryptocurrency for nefarious business purposes. The main characters — Nick, Ronald, and Izzy — all invest in “Gencoin,” an independent cryptocurrency created for laundering dirty money. The tension remains taut throughout with criminals like Haitian drug lords, Cuban hackers, and desperate bankers all forced together to try to keep this scheme going without killing or ratting on each other.

Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King (2022)

Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King
r 90m
Genre Documentary, Crime
Directed by Luke Sewell

If it’s crime that rings your bell, this fictional 2022 dive into the seedier and more mysterious side of the crypto world is going to sound like music to your ears. The Hunt for the Crypto King is essentially the search for a dead man who may or may not have stolen $250 million. Gerry Cotten’s mysterious death left the cryptocurrency exchange that he founded bereft, and investors want to know what the heck is going on. Their investigation into his untimely death overturns some scary stones and reveals the potential perils of crypto investment.

The Greatest NFT Film Ever Made (2021)

Cover for The Greatest NFT Film Ever Made.
The Defiant

Why people would ever buy an NFT is a primary question from those unfamiliar with the digital product. In The Greatest NFT Film Ever Made, documentary filmmaker Robin Schmidt takes the audience on a journey through the non-fungible token universe, an exploration that looks at not only art, but also music, fashion, and finance in an oft-misunderstood digital world. Crypto art players show the spaces where they operate and what benefits NFTs offer over analog peers. Along the way, Schmidt “fails” to cover what is an ever-more expansive electronic place.

“There’s no way I can cover it all. Not without boring you rigid. But I hope that if you do make it to the end of this utter beast of a film you come out properly armed to dismiss or embrace them,” Schmidt explains in “Greatest’s” YouTube description.

Watch Now

Bonus: “Aku Was Here”

Aku the NFT explorer.

While technically neither a film nor a documentary about NFTs, Aku may be a good young man to know in the Web3 universe. Sporting a space helmet and T-shirt, the prodigious explorer is an NFT that is one of the first pioneers that can be optioned for TV and movie projects. Now, as Variety reports, Aku will join film projects as an NFT via the Anonymous Content and Permanent Content production companies (a partnership between Shawn Mendes and his manager, Andrew Gertler). Token holders can help create and shape the places Aku goes and the adventures he gets into.

According to his Web 2.0 home description, Aku is “a character created by former MLB player turned artist, Micah Johnson, after hearing a young boy ask, ‘Can astronauts be black?’”

No major movies are out yet, but you can watch Aku take his maiden voyages at his Instagram page:

Learn More

NFT and crypto enthusiasts are both optimistic and pessimistic as the technologies break new ground in creating a more equitable, more accessible, and more decentralized Web3. No matter you do, there’s no way to avoid either technology without becoming a relic. It’s probably best to get in on the ground level now, before the world is too wide to grasp.

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Matthew Denis
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Matt Denis is an on-the-go remote multimedia reporter, exploring arts, culture, and the existential in the Pacific Northwest…
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