As the world continues its discussion of this year’s Oscar winners and losers, the Insurance Information Institute has put together its own list of movies worth celebrating—those film in which insurance plays a starring role (a couple of them have even garnered Oscars of their own). Over the past 65 years, these films have featured Hollywood legends including Edward G. Robinson, Cary Grant and Faye Dunaway and in more recent years, popular actors such Jack Nicholson and Jennifer Aniston.
Double Indemnity (1944)
Director: Billy Wilder; Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
In this classic film noir, smitten insurance man Walter Neff (MacMurray) plots the perfect murder with femme fatale client Phyllis Dietrichson (Stanwyck): Stage her husband’s “accidental” death to collect double indemnity on his life insurance, then abscond with the loot. But the lethal duo must first get past a crafty claims investigator (Robinson) who senses something isn’t kosher. What ensues is a cat-and-mouse game with fatal consequences.
Oscar Count: 7 nominations
Quote: The job I’m talking about takes brains and integrity. It takes more guts than there is in 50 salesmen. It’s the hottest job in the business… Desk job? Is that all you can see in it? Just a hard chair to park your pants on from 9 to 5, huh? Just a pile of papers to shuffle around and five sharp pencils and a scratch pad to make figures on. Maybe a little doodling on the side. Well, that’s not the way I look at it, Walter. To me, a claims man is a surgeon. That desk is an operating table. And those pencils are scalpels and bone chisels. And those papers are not just forms and statistics and claims for compensation, they’re alive, they’re packed with drama, with twisted hopes and crooked dreams. A claims man, Walter, is a doctor and a bloodhound… and a cop and a judge and a jury and a father confessor all in one.
Director: Christopher Nolan; Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Suffering short-term memory loss after a head injury, ex-insurance investigator Leonard Shelby (Pearce) embarks on a grim quest to find the lowlife who murdered his wife. To carry out his plan and compensate for his disability Shelby snaps Polaroids of people and places, jotting down contextual notes on the backs of the photos, and tattoos important facts on his body.
Oscar Count: 2 nominations
Quote: Memory’s unreliable. No no no, really. Memory’s not perfect; it’s not even that good. Ask the police. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Cops don’t catch a killer by sitting around remembering stuff. They collect facts, they make notes and they draw conclusions. Facts, not memories. That’s how you investigate. I know. It’s what I used to do. Look, memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.
The Fortune Cookie (1966)
Director: Billy Wilder; Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau
Shyster William Gingrich (Matthau) foresees a financial bonanza after Cleveland Browns star “Boom Boom” Jackson accidentally levels cameraman Harry Hinkle (Lemmon), Gingrich’s brother-in-law. Barely hurt, Hinkle is loath to help Gingrich scam the insurance company till realizing the moola might lure back his ex. A budding rapport with the guilt-ridden Jackson, however, begins gnawing at Hinkle’s conscience.
Oscar Count: 4 nominations; 1 win–Walter Matthau, Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Quote: Too bad it didn’t happen further down the street… in front of the May Company. From them, you can collect! Couldn’t you have dragged yourself another 20 feet?