Born Rich

Born Rich

2003, Society  -   150 Comments
Ratings: 8.06/10 from 139 users.

Born RichFirst-time filmmaker Jamie Johnson, a 23-year-old heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune, captures the rituals, worries and social customs of the young Trumps, Vanderbilts, Newhouses and Bloombergs in the documentary special, Born Rich.

Offering candid insights into the privileges and burdens of inheriting more money than most people will earn in a lifetime. Narrated by Johnson, a history student at New York University, and filmed over a three-year period, Born Rich spotlights ten young adults who came into the world knowing they would never have to work a day in their lives.

These society-column names speak frankly about the one subject they all know is taboo: money. With his unfettered access to this rarefied subculture, Johnson explores topics such as the anxieties of being cut off, and the misconception that money can solve all problems.

Most wealthy people are told from a very young age not to talk about money, notes Johnson. Consequently, they are extremely reluctant to speak to people about their backgrounds. Also, many of the subjects in my film already have more public recognition than they may want, and have very little to gain by receiving more.

Among the peers Johnson interviews are: Josiah Hornblower, heir to the Vanderbilt and Whitney fortunes; S.I. Newhouse IV, of the Conde Nast Newhouses; Ivanka Trump, daughter of Donald Trump; and Georgianna Bloomberg, daughter of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The story begins with the advent of the filmmaker’s 21st birthday, and his mingled anticipation and fear of receiving his portion of the family inheritance.

Unsure about the future direction of his own life, Johnson decides to document the experiences of his privileged peers in dealing with their family’s legacies. He explores their candid perspectives on subjects ranging from life philosophies and trust funds to prenuptial agreements and career choices, ultimately revealing their common struggle to discover their own identity.

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6 years ago

Well, the movie was 'ok'. There's nothing wrong with a film, depicting the subculture of the children of the established plutocrats.

The question I have is why not a single one of them, had a single desire or passion in life. Didn't even one of them, want to write science fiction, a piece of music, or build a sculpture?

Growing up, I was never encouraged to pursue art, writing, etc, and was instead, pushed towards areas like accounting, engineering, health care, etc, because that's where the jobs were. You see, being from the lower to middle classes, doesn't exactly give one the freedom, to pursue one's passions, unless that passion is becoming a financier, management consultant, or doctor.

And for me, that's the difference between being born rich and being ordinary.

Tamara Eastman
9 years ago

But, did Jamie Johnson bother mentioning that his crack addicted sister, who was bosom buddies with Paris Hilton, committed suicide when she overdosed on drugs and booze? I guess she became a crack addict because she couldn't think of anything more worthy to spend her money on besides booze, drugs and parties. One thing's for sure - she didn't take her trust fund with her.

Victoria Grandetta
9 years ago

Dear Boy (and now a man), good on you for having the courage to do this film. It was really informative. Now as a past foster mom to 20 troubled teens, I can tell you, my heart ached for these young people you presented. Though they laughed alot and smiled, said positive things, I didnt really feel much true happiness in depth with any of them, nor did I get a sense of their being capable of true empathy or compassion. Saddest of all is they have little real awareness of the programming they have been subject to, but you can hear their hearts and souls asking for more. My suggestion for every extremely wealthy young person (on into 20's and even 30's is to take min 6 months of their lives and do an adventure. Do a discovery into the realm of the reality that the majority of humans have and see if that doesn't answer some real questions. Go get an average job, and live on that money alone, take no money from outside your income. Now experience not having all the little luxuries that you get routinely now. What you are now is 'entitled' and that is the domain of the minority (i.e. extremely wealthy) and with this you obtain a limited view on life, self, hopes and dreams. Travel in the real world for awhile and see if your knowledge and instincts do not expand phenomenally.

9 years ago

Wealth is not measured by how much money you have, but by how much you give to others. This is the secret to happiness.

John Jeffreys
9 years ago

I think everyone should start out with nothing...the truly able will always achieve. But under all of that, there's no point in living life unless you're going to enrich others' lives in the process.

Lanka Fortunata
9 years ago

It is insane how many of us have to work so hard in order not to live but just to survive and still can not have a smell of that money. By the age of 40 many of us end up to be disable from work and we have to deal with the medical on our own. Even if I creative and have insteresting ideas, I am still not Ivanka Trump or kid from wealthy family who can make their dream come true in a second.

short break
9 years ago

I would like to thank for your great creation.

Lynda C.
9 years ago

This was an interesting look into their lives. I don't think they should feel guilty. Any person worth their salt would leave a legacy for their child if they could. But the sad part is that most lack a sense of direction. Money alone is not a meaningful life. I find I don't envy them.

Mary Coronell
9 years ago

Insightful! Not surprising! Wealth brings it's own set of problems! You can't pick your family , you just try and deal with the one you are born into! Rich or Poor we all have issues that dwell beneath the surface, would it be better to deal with them as a wealthy person ,YES! Money can't cure the mental state of mind , so if your child grows up to be a Jerk ,then rich or poor he is a Jerk! I've known quite a few wealthy people and yes some can be Snobs , but also it is because of the way society treats them ,but once they get in an environment where no one cares about how rich they are ,they tend to become more like any one else , just trying to be themselves and live life! They have something that all of us wish we could obtain. Money! We also have something that they crave so desperately ! Freedom to just be themselves and not their parents , Freedom to just step outside and take a walk with out the cameras at your every move ,Freedom to just be you!

10 years ago

The absence of reaching out and giving others a leg up,
is remarkable.

10 years ago

Money is access.
Access to good schools, universities, professional medical care,
secure homes, food security, free from want and misery.

10 years ago

Money is freedom. It provides a person the ability to pursue their passions without the limits that most of us have. Certainly, having the financial backing to pursue higher education is a real plus to a person's future. I, like the kids interviewed for this film, was born into enough money to live without working, though of course not to the extremes they have. I have been given the luxury of getting a great education without student loans, and, really, I am forever grateful for that opportunity. Already, I've enjoyed benefits that others were not lucky enough to have. The point is I can relate somewhat to what some of them are thinking, but I believe most of them are significantly short sighted about what it means to have money.

Money is opportunity. The problem that most of these kids appear is have is that they have no reason to challenge themselves. And it seems that the parents have not done the greatest job at instilling a sense of purpose. Life can be horribly meaningless without goals, and successes and failures. Although it may sound cliche, life is a journey and possibly they are feeling that they are at the end of the journey without ever taking part. Their names surmount their own thoughts of their potential. However, they misunderstand the great potential they have.

Money gives you the freedom and opportunity to truly pursue your passions, whatever they may be. But, it also gives you the opportunity to make a great impact on the world. They would not have to look far to find many people that are wealthy that are not lost in what they can provide to the world. Take for instance the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, of whom Mayor Bloomberg is now a member, that is doing absolutely wonderful work throughout the world. Most of these kids' parents were/are active philanthropists, so why do none of them wish to use the freedom, opportunity, and relationships that their money provides to create a better world? Certainly, they, like myself, are in a perfect position to pursue building oneself in the effort to be able to provide a positive impact in their lifetimes. I believe that should be the answer to their question of what they should do with their lives. It is mine.

On another note, I find it confusing how blatant some of their remarks were. There were several racist or sexist or class related comments. Possibly they didn't know that this would be released? But, nevertheless, it looks like I'll never be sending my kids to any of the NYC prep schools if kids come out acting like that. I thought the point of these schools was to provide the best education, not sheltered unaware kids.

10 years ago

I was recommended this as a sequel to "Thrive: what in the World will it take" and was very disappointed. In Thrive, Foster Gambol uses his inherited wealth to actually make a difference for humanity - to expose the deep corruption at play that is creating global poverty, destroying our planet and filling our prisons with drug users. If these young people want to really utilize their money and access in a worthwhile manor, and improve their own lives while they are at it, making changes towards a more just world would a good activity.

10 years ago

When I saw this documentary years ago on HBO I predicted that Luke Weil would end up in jail. Well guess what? He was jailed for a year in a Tribeca detention center for a year for assaulting his girlfriend. Why such a long sentence when you know he has the money for the best lawyers? Several previous assault charges. Oh yeah, and he tried to sue Johnson after the documentary was released, saying he was "tricked" into appearing in it. WHAT a douche! Fortunately, his case was thrown out of court!

11 years ago

As the heir to the Dairy Queen fortune, I find this documentary to be both vulgar and tacky. That is why I refused to participate in it when asked.

11 years ago

If I were rich, I would definitely invest in scientific researches. And maybe have my own scientific center. Because I'm very interested in a lot of things, mostly in the discovery of the mysteries of the Univers, I know exactly what I would do with so much money. Rich people who don't know how to spend/invest their money and feel like they have done everything in their lives lack interest in things that really matter. In my opinion, at a certain point of your life, you have to start thinking of how you can help others. It helps to find a meaning in life (from my short experience of it since I'm only 19).

11 years ago

I think I learned more about people when I was homeless for over a year after comming home from Vietnam. Too bad some of these kids never got to experience any of that.

11 years ago

Call me crazy but I dream of a world like Star Trek. I beleive that one day money will not matter. That the only "grind" we will be on is discovering how to make the world better for everybody. Until that happens enjoy the life you have and continue to move forward.

11 years ago

The rich get richer, The poor get poorer,It is hard some days going with out Money but we Got God and he will help us, Not with Money but with love, The rich don`t have love they just what more money. It would be nice to have Money like the rest. But this is it. I would love to have Home and Money, But My Parents give me love to pass round.

Ms. D
11 years ago

I just would like to be able to afford gas to put in my car to make it to work week after week..and feed myself daily. Life's simple pleasures

11 years ago

When I think of the rich, I often wonder if they (most anyway) know what it would be like to live the way that I do. To go into a store and buy whatever I want with no worries, or to buy a home or car with no worries would be absolutely fasinating. But then, would I be happy? Money buys things, but things go have a happy life, there is your key to success. I serve a Mighty and Awesome God, who is everything to me. more than silver or gold, He is more than enough. To serve God is more rewarding then anything money could buy.Now, reading most of these see people talking about us (the not so fortunate), we know what happiness truly is...and it is not in money. Try God!!

11 years ago

Rich or poor people abuse drugs to escape their problems.
Rich or poor people will have problems.

By statistics, to achieve this level of happiness you need 70,000 dollars per year. If you can make that typically the marginal benefit of money diminishes greatly.

When you inherit money, the only thing i can think of is buying a trophy wife. But all this prententious love how long will that last billionaires also go through divorces. I suspect that some of the people in there will die regretably death just based on the kind of mentality they project.

They may have a nice house to live towards the end but as companies fail and their fortune diminishes they will fall hard and never climb back.

The only thing that they should be lucky for is the for the education that they got However education is free these days and people are playing on level ground just because some people own jets do not make them more competient.

I hope for the best for these people but I see grey futures as their generation will disappearin three nations. And their grandkids will remember these people as the "spoiled rats" generations.

11 years ago

Thought provoking perspective of a fortunate life that most in the world cannot even imagine.

It is sad that most rich are simply born that way, sadder yet, that most born poor, dream only of becoming rich.

Imagine the freedom to pursue anything in life you wanted to. Imagine, the guilt you may have for not earning your elite stature.

I dream of a new world awakening, with a reward structure other than fiat money, everyone is able to earn a comfortable living and where everyone can pursue their own interests. Rewards are earned by your humanitarian deeds and works, where poverty is eradicated and obscene wealth is so embarrassing that nobody even dreams of it.

A world where good behavior is rewarded, instead of bad behavior, as in our current system. A world where crime does not pay, but good deeds do. The more you earn, the more you give, and by giving, you only earn more. You could never run out of means, nobody could become rich, and nobody could become poor. Simply taking care of each other, would insure that you all would never need for anything.

A world in which one is judged by their words, as well as their actions, instead of on the size of their bank account, or their color, race or gender. A world where all religions can follow the root commandments of their religions and finally understand that they are all worshiping the same ethics, morals and values.

I believe that the biggest lie in history, is that man cannot rule themselves. We could, I believe, if we only changed are value system and let wise men, instead of rich men rule us. We have not only allowed the obscenely rich elite to rule us, most of us are to busy dreaming of being like them to even consider another way, making it almost impossible to break the cycle of greed and despair, war and poverty.
But, we could..if we all, only wanted it bad enough.

It's good to be a real dreamer, the American dream was a lie.

11 years ago

For the most part truly the most vile individuals I have ever had the misfortune of seeing .
All money , No class .

11 years ago

Sections of this film show Mr. Johnson, the elder, blathering and mumbling. It reveals how hereditary wealth, passed on to offspring, breeds a class of listless drones with no imagination. In spite of that sad observation, because they can afford to be surrounded by educated sycophants called "wealth preservation experts", they're in no danger of losing it. That fact debunks the myth of an American meritocracy through achievement...the game where each new player born into our free market paradise gets a fair role of the dice. The Johnsons are an archetype of how 1% wealth (a zero sum game) gets concentrated in the control of a few families...generation after generation after generation after...
Makes even a calm, non-revolutionary type like me want to upset the Monopoly board and shout "Hey, start over...already!!!"

11 years ago

Well done Jamie for giving us a free insight into the private lives of the rich and famous. Your documentary is very informative and educational. Now I look forward to being wealthy with an informed attitude and balanced focus.
Thanks man! And, enjoy your life man...

11 years ago

there is no reason to hate on any of these folks. I applaude this guy for making a movie where they get their say.. but overall, they didn't say much. still, a start on an interesting topic.

11 years ago

I found this to be a very honest attempt to look at the lives of rich kids ... thanks! I did know one rich kid when I was young that ran in that crowd. He was from Europe and he was a serious druggie. I felt sorry for him and realized back then ... it is hard to come from wealth ... to fit in anywhere except a small enclave of other rich people. On a personal level, it's a very limiting experience ... obviously on a material level it great ... what a problem ... wish I had it.

11 years ago

why dont the rich get together, get some science books and future tech books and invest in the future???

How about investing in engineering and science to better society?

Population control/education
Vertical Farming
Electric cars, solar panels, fusion reactors
A.I. and cars that drive themselves.

Instead these kids sit around and mop about how much money they have and all the pressures... that way they can for-fill themselves.

11 years ago

The irony of Jamie Johnson making a film about rich kids isn't being sued by his wealthy subject, but, rather, at age-21 trading on his name and connections to finance and produce a widely-received documentary, and without having done the groundwork that would be required of any "ordinary" journalist serious about building a media career.

In the case of the super-rich opportunities to earn high incomes to a large extent are inherited and there is little distinction between the two seemingly seperate sources of wealth - pursuing a career becomes a socio-political undertaking to attain the kind of position of power and influence necessary for ultimately protecting and reinforcing a family's economic stronghold.

Johnson's upper class subjects fear they may be portrayed as undeserving of everything they have but the truth is they would prefer to absorb the benign critique coming from within rather than face the scrutiny of a real journalist genuinely representing the people they systematically exploit to their own self-serving ends.

11 years ago

The documentary offered a entry into the lives of the rich. The second and third generation hier and heiress. The doucementary tells a story that the rich also have problems and worries that are normally kept by the other classes in the world. The documentary tells a story line of heir and heiress getting a better understanding of being rich and what it is by society at large defintion of rich and rich people culture.

11 years ago

These people make me want to vomit uncontrollably and then shove my head into a 1800's black-powder cannon and ignite it. How can we ever expect the world to improve when the richest people around are like this? or worse... I hate to say it, but in the interest of preservation of the human species these people should be hospitalized and imprisoned, they are the true narcissistic scumbags and psychopathic villains we make Hollywood movies about.

12 years ago

to the author: dont u see your father wants you to get in skull and bones or something like that?

12 years ago

vanderbilt gets out of the metro loll... or tries to

12 years ago

Don't you think the author sounds like "Mr Bean"?

12 years ago

usually 3rd gen will lose it all so they say(lehman brothers and etc )

Hun Nie
12 years ago

'There is no luggage rack on a hearse'

Brandon Schultz
12 years ago

God, Ivanka Trump is full of herself

12 years ago

Except for a few level-headed individuals, most of these losers seemed to revel in being able to whine and admitted to having no sense of direction or meaning in their lives. Clearly, grandfather's endless mountain of money does not buy common sense, feelings of self-worth, or intelligence. They all loved to brag and whine, tediously so.

marcus alexander
12 years ago

i will love to say that im glad that i was not born into wealth. i want to geniunely pursue my own path, and earn my way through life so i can appreciate what i buy and know truly with satisfaction that i earned "that" thats why people by bentleys because they earned "that" people only live one life...its best to express your own identity the best way you can...not with someone elses money

12 years ago

I have no idea what it's like to have that kind of money. To never have to worry about missing a meal, or going without electricity for a few days... it has to make things easier. But the kids in this film seem pretty normal. Dealing with depression, parents who don't care or understand, trying to fit in with others and even get bullied. Some seem more likeable than others but they are a pretty average bunch in my opinion. The only thing that really bothered me was the A&P lady who laughed about helping the homeless. It really isn't a funny situation. It makes me sad now to know that my grandmother would only shop there. Very sad.

12 years ago

This was a well made film & the young Johnson heir strikes me as a likable & intelligent young man. What I found alarming here is how maladjusted the majority of the males seemed. The fatiguing guy who ultimately sued Johnson claimed that he and his friends were precocious. what evidence does he cite? The fact that they were abusing LSD in the 6th grade! That would be shocking in the most run-down underprivileged neighbourhood. Who was raising these poor little rich boys? They are suffering from a distorted value system: they've mistaken decadence for degeneration and they seem to have suffered some neurological damage from extensive substance abuse (their mouths and eyes do not move normally). How sad!They seem to have no sense of having a place in the world or even a sense of intrinsic self-worth. What's with the handsome guy hoarding old telephones? Why the obsession with bespoke suits-you know that master tailor thinks that this client is daft! The poor Johnson chap had best be wary of his layabout father's influence lest he wind up drifting aimlessly through a heap of crumbling maps wondering vaguely where Jeeves left his
top hat.

Not all wealthy children grow up to be all screwed up. The Trump kids seem to be doing well by any standard & Anderson Cooper would make any parent proud.

It is ironic how much very wealthy & very poor kids have in common. Kids at both extremes of the socioeconomic spectrum often suffer from the same parental neglect & have a distorted value system.

The Count/Viscount guy ought to come with a 'damaged goods' label: pity the woman who marries him! She'll need all that money for psychotherapy & anti-depressants.

12 years ago

Surprisingly well done. Utterly watchable. Interesting glimpse into a world so few of us will ever know. Of course the one guy who sued was the biggest a**hole (although neck and neck with the Royalty dude, bleh) . I presume this fact escaped his notice. A born lawyer. LOL.

Muun Macdonald
12 years ago

The one thing I found strange about their attitudes to their wealth was that not one of them actually considered using their wealth and time to uplift the people who are worse off than themselves (although one lady joked about it). Is it so mysterious to acknowledge that helping others is a source of happiness. Obviously money doesn't buy happiness but you could certainly do great things for your fellow beings with lots of money and time. Perhaps these are the experiences that they are cut off from living in the world of privilege.
I really dislike money and lets face it we toil endlessly for money so that we too can accumulate. For what? When we get old we are tired and most of us will be poor anyways.
screw work
and screw money

12 years ago

i'm sorry, did this person just compare losing his wealth with losing a parent or sibling? to each his own i suppose.

12 years ago

boring and limiting, worst documentary ever made by anyone. Ive seen more interesting documentaries at some of the worst schools by freshman who had other things going on.

12 years ago

I would have found this more interesting if the guy wasn't so boring

12 years ago

I've discovered what it is. All the criticism, the reason why they are resented/envied is exactly because they are not exceptional, that they are on many levels simply 'average'. If they were extraordinary then you could say to yourself 'Ah! that's why they deserve it', then you would be able to excuse the affluence and not have to say to yourself 'Well I'm just as good or better than so why has it been denied to you'.

12 years ago

I found this documentary interesting and honest but its the comments about the doc that's even more fascinating. Essentially there are those who resent and/or envy those who inherit wealth enough to judge them as simply mediocre, untalented, etc.

Its said that you can 'see the effects of drug-abuse and alcoholism' in these personalities, that they are poor in 'mind & soul & charisma', which essentially is to say that they are like most people and go through much of the same angst as most people. And why shouldn't they? Any middle or lower-class high school will have youth who dabble in alcohol and drugs and most of humanity is without charisma and creativity. I didn't find any of them to be without 'mind or soul'. They are accused of not being 'enlightened' as if its something you would find in the middle and lower classes. Ha! Keep dreaming folks!! There are very few and far between who are what sam the drunk would call 'enlightened'. The documentary is well done because it highlights otherwise normal people who have been impacted by the birth-right of privilege and its the privilege some here seem to resent NOT the people themselves. Much of life is about luck. We love to pretend that life is about hard work but if you have ever been to a poor developing country you realize that its the poor who carry the burden of hard work and no matter how hard they work they will never accumulate enough wealth to protect themselves from the strain of poverty. Its not the fault of wealthy children that they were born affluent as opposed to poor in Somalia for example. They are lucky because they are prepped to succeed in something or anything depending on their natural skills. They are prepped for the good life where the security of money means not having to worry about just that, money. Snobbery or self-consciousness didn't show up in all of these people. Just look at how thoughtful Newhouse and even Johnson are about their wealth, they were not as self-conscious as those who's parents were not born into money, so there is a difference in attitude between old and new money.

For those who call them 'wasteful' but they would not point that out about the middle-class family member who purchases a Chia-pet. For those who call out to see their 'knowledge' remember this documentary was intended to examine what how they felt about their own wealth. Its fair to say that they probably know more than most as education, travel and access means the ability to know more in general than the average person but that like many members of different sub-groups they are probably also insulated from many other experiences. But so what? So are we.

What is unenlightening is judging these young people simply because they live better off than the majority of people in the world, almost as if they were supposed to apologize for having been born into money. Sad.

12 years ago

I am not wealthy at all but I must say that the first person who said money does not buy happiness was obviously poor! Lol
I beg to differ. But maybe that's just my envy talking. :)