Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

In a business scandal, corporate executives walked away with over $1 billion, leaving investors and employees with nothing.

Film Signature Image
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
April 24, 2007
120 minutes
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2005 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards-Best Documentary Runner Up
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2006 Academy Awards-Best Documentary Feature
  • Director

    Alex Gibney

    Alex Gibney is the writer, producer, and director of the 2006 Oscar-nominated film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which also received the Independent Spirit Award and the WGA Award. Gibney has just finished producing Herbie Hancock: Possibilities, and directing two new feature documentaries: Gonzo, about Hunter Thompson; and Taxi to the Dark Side, Show more about American foreign policy. As a writer-director, Gibney has worked on Burning Down the House, a feature documentary on political corruption for Participant Productions and Magnolia Pictures. Recently, he also served as executive producer for No End In Sight, a documentary that won a Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. In 2004 Gibney produced Lightning in a Bottle, a film directed by Antoine Fuqua, which premiered in 2004 at the Berlin Film Festival and which was released by Sony Classics. In 2003, Gibney served as the series producer for The Blues, an Emmy-nominated series of seven films in association with executive producer Martin Scorsese. He also produced The Soul of a Man, the film by Wim Wenders for that series (also an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival), and was awarded a Grammy for producing the five-CD box set based on the series. His recent credits include The Trials of Henry Kissinger (writer/producer); Jimi Hendrix and the Blues (director/producer); the HBO documentary, Soldiers in the Army of God, (senior producer), about the radical fringe of the anti-abortion movement; Speak Truth to Power (producer), a PBS special about human rights defenders starring Alec Baldwin, Sigourney Weaver, John Malkovich, and Kevin Kline; Brooklyn Babylon, (executive producer) a feature film directed by Marc Levin and featuring the Grammy Award-winning, hip-hop group The Roots; The Huntress (executive producer) a TV movie written by Bruno Heller (HBO’s Rome) and, subsequently, a TV series for the USA Network; Sexual Century (writer, director, series producer), a six-part documentary series for ITV and the CBC; The Fifties (writer/director/producer), an eight-hour documentary mini-series based on the best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam; and The Pacific Century (writer/director/producer), a 10-hour documentary series that was honored with an Emmy, two Emmy nominations and the prestigious duPont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. Gibey is a member of WGA and DGA, a graduate of Yale University, and attended the UCLA Graduate School of Film and Television. Show less

    We fund untold stories for public media.

    Learn more about funding opportunities with ITVS.

    The Film

    Who would think a documentary about the collapse of a mammoth corporation could play out like a drama with the emotional power of Greek tragedy? But that is the impact of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, the inside story of one of history’s greatest business scandals, in which top executives of America’s seventh largest company walked away with more than $1 billion while investors and employees lost everything.

    Based on the best-selling book The Smartest Guys in the Room by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, and featuring insider accounts and incendiary corporate audio and videotapes, this tale of greed, hubris, and betrayal reveals the outrageous personal excesses of the Enron hierarchy and the moral vacuum that led CEO Ken Lay — along with other players including accounting firm Arthur Andersen, Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Skilling and Chief Financial Officer Andy Fastow — to manipulate securities trading, bluff the balance sheets, and deceive investors.

    A fascinating exploration of corporate culture and epic misdeeds, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room takes viewers from the heyday of soaring profits through the prolonged fallout, including the collapse of Arthur Andersen, the 2006 convictions of Lay, Skilling, and Fastow, followed by Lay’s death two months later, which vacated his conviction.

    Filmmaker Alex Gibney saw the Enron story as more than a corporate scandal: “I felt that the film would give me an opportunity to explore some larger themes about American culture, the cruelty of our economic system, and the way it can be too easily rigged for the benefit of the high and mighty.”