Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)



Critic Consensus: A concise, entertaining documentary about the spectacular failure of Enron.

Movie Info

Alex Gibney, who wrote and produced Eugene Jarecki's The Trials of Henry Kissinger, examines the rise and fall of an infamous corporate juggernaut in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which he wrote and directed. The film, based on the book by Fortune Magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, opens with a reenactment of the suicide of Enron executive Cliff Baxter, then travels back in time, describing Enron chairman Kenneth Lay's humble beginnings as the son of a preacher, his … More

Rating: R (for language and some nudity)
Genre: Documentary, Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: Alex Gibney, Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 17, 2006
Box Office: $3.9M
Magnolia Pictures - Official Site

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Critic Reviews for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

All Critics (131) | Top Critics (44)

Alex Gibney takes a notorious tale of corporate greed and plays it as Greek tragedy, Texas-style.

Full Review… | June 25, 2005
Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Top Critic

Deft, entertaining and infuriating documentary about one of the most egregious cases of corporate corruption in American history.

Full Review… | June 10, 2005
Miami Herald
Top Critic

A meticulously researched and ably handled chronicle of one of the largest corporate scandals in American history.

Full Review… | May 26, 2005
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

This essential documentary skillfully maps out the shady "mark to market" accounting device that the men who called themselves "the smartest guys in the room" used to commit corporate fraud on a colossal scale.

Full Review… | May 9, 2009

A fun and demoralizing roller-coaster ride that will whet appetites for the Lay and Skilling debut in court as The Most Nervous Guys in the Room.

Full Review… | March 1, 2007
Film Journal International

goes a long way to explain exactly why Enron imploded

Full Review… | January 31, 2006
Old School Reviews

Audience Reviews for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

This documentary spins the tale of the nation's most disastrous failure of accounting standards and corporate greed in recent memory.
The narration and visuals uniquely balance a straight presentation of the facts and an indictment of the scandal's main players. We get images of lurid strip clubs, where one of the Enron executives spent his billions of loot, and we also see sober, intelligent investigative reporters telling us about mark-to-market accounting and stock options. However, I think, by the end of the film, the balance tips in favor of pathos arguments, as the film attempts to get us more outraged.
Also, the film hints at a broader social commentary, but I don't see this followed through. One "talking head" says, "[The Enron scandal] could happen again." I'm assuming this is even after Sarbanes-Oxley. Likewise, we're instructed by the film to get to know these characters, and by knowing them, perhaps we could see their hubris elsewhere. However, as I said, I don't see these themes explored with the depth they deserve. I want to hear people smarter than I explaining why Americans feel the obsessive need to compile what eventually amounts to Monopoly money. After all, it's virtually impossible to spend a hundred billion dollars in a lifetime, but we sure do try.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

The Smartest Guys in the Room is a fascinating and well made documentary. It chronicles the rise and fall of Enron and it's corrupt leaders. It balances the serious situation with some humor well, making it an entertaining look at Enrons fall.

Melvin White

Super Reviewer


One of the better contemporary documentaries I've seen, this film is thorough but accessible, and it's on rock-solid footing, based on the book by journalist Bethany McLean as it is. Even if you're not well-acquainted with the business section of your daily newspaper, you will stay with this one until the end. Enron is a stunning story, and this doc captures it well. What the film does best is this: it answers its own questions. I watched it with my girlfriend, who might be the only person I know that's less business savvy than me, so we paused a few times to discuss. Every time we hit play, the film answered the question that we had just asked. A very conscious and worthwhile film.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

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