20 Modern Films With an Old-fashioned and Vintage Style

From the most prolific film lover to the casual movie fan, we all can find something to love about the classic era of cinema. For the modern filmmaker, examining the evolution of film in terms of story, tone, and genre is an essential tool when crafting their movies. 

And often, they will employ a specific style reminiscent of the past. While some of these films have that vintage feel because they are period films, many also feature elements that make them feel like they were made in that time. Although each of these movies still has a modern touch, they also undoubtedly have that old-fashioned flair, giving us the best of both worlds. 

From movies reminiscent of a 1940s noir film to sweeping adventures to screwball or swanky comedies of the 1930s and 1960s, let's look at 20 of the best modern vintage-style films.

Image Credit: Universal.

Indiana Jones Franchise (1981-Present)

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Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Steven Spielberg's rousing adventures about archeologist and history professor Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones have entertained and inspired filmgoers for 40 years and spawned four films, with another releasing in 2023. Harrison Ford stars in the title role as the brave and charming explorer who finds himself thrust into many a journey, including searching for the Ark of the Covenant, mystical stones in India, the Holy Grail, and the mythical Crystal Skull.

Taking a cue from the matinee serials of the 1930s, director Spielberg and writer George Lucas infuse the Indiana Jones franchise with rollicking action, flirtatious romance, a bit of corny humor, and inspired visuals such as showing a plane traveling across a map. It makes each installment feel as if it is lifted straight out of the films and comics of an era imbued with rugged but romantic heroes. 

A classic and timeless hero, if there ever was one, Indy's whip and fedora are now synonymous with old-fashioned adventure. And one needs only to hear the stirring theme by John Williams to be transported back in time.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Amazon Prime with SHOWTIME)

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The Natural (1984)

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Courtesy of Tri-Star Pictures

This poignant film tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a young man who dreams of being the greatest baseball pitcher of all time, but a grave mistake sets him down a different path. Sixteen years later, he gets his chance again as a hitter with strong and spectacular abilities. 

But his real strength comes from how he overcomes adversity with integrity and courage. The Natural is a beautiful golden-hued movie with lovely cinematography, an inspiring musical score, and a gentle and soft overall feel and look. We feel like we are watching a story from the 1920s and 30s.

(Available on DVD and to rent on Amazon Prime)

Image Credit: Tri-Star Pictures.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

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Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

A ground-breaking film in many regards, Who Framed Roger Rabbit seamlessly blends traditional 2-D animation and live-action with the most dynamic and realistic results ever put to screen. 

It's also a film that harkens back to the hard-boiled detective and film noirs of the 1940s with sharp dialogue, shadowy figures, and a story of mystery, intrigues, speakeasies, murder, and mayhem. 

In a world where people and cartoon characters live and work side by side, the story follows Detective Eddie Valiant, who is the one person who can prove that cartoon star Roger Rabbit is innocent of the murder of Marvin Acme. 

As the mystery and truth unfold, Roger and Valiant must contend with the dreaded Judge Doom and his literal band of weasels who want nothing more than to kill every Toon with their deadly formula “Dip.”

The unique quality of Who Framed Roger Rabbit is that it features some of the most popular and recognizable animated characters appearing side by side together. Most notably are Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny sky diving and the hilarious Donald Duck and Daffy Duck engaging in a piano battle. 

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of the most incredible creative collaborations ever. Taking a beat from the classic detective films such as The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man and combining that with classic cartoon charm and humor, Who Framed Roger Rabbit has a unique quality all its own, making it remarkable in every sense of the word.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Disney+)

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken (1991)

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Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

An inspiring and sweet-natured film, Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken, follows the true life story of Sonora Webster, a girl who dared to live her dreams. Set during the Great Depression, Sonora decides to leave home with the goal of getting to Atlantic City. 

When she stumbles upon a county fair show featuring a woman high-diving into a pool of water while on horseback, Sonora and the audience are completely captivated. And she finds a new dream to aspire to. 

As Sonora's hard work and persistence pay off, she finds true love but especially finds something extraordinary within herself. 

The gentle story, performances, and cinematography make this film not only stirring and poignant, but one that is likened to the touching, beautifully told, and inspiring dramas of the classic era such as National Velvet. Wild Hearts Can't be Broken is lovely in every way.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Disney+)

Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

The Rocketeer (1991)

the rocketeer jennifer connelly walt disney pictures MSN
Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

The Rocketeer is a spirited, old-fashioned adventure reminiscent of pulp serials from the 1930s that bolsters an impressive cast and gee-whiz quality that makes for an earnest and shining gem of a movie. 

Set in 1930s Los Angeles, a down-on-his-luck pilot Cliff Secord discovers a jetpack that allows someone to strap it to their back and fly through the air. Sought after by the FBI, the Hollywood actor Neville Sinclair, and even Nazis who have unscrupulous plans for the jetpack, Cliff becomes the “Rocketeer” and unwittingly gets caught up in a storm of danger and adventure.

Things only get more complicated when his girlfriend Jenny becomes entangled with Sinclair, and the race to save her and the world's fate hangs in the balance. 

With winning performances, a sweeping score, and stylish art deco production design, The Rocketeer features a tone and style that harkens back to the classic films that starred the likes of Clarke Gable, Errol Flynn, and Douglas Fairbanks. The Rocketeer is rife with 1930s Hollywood flair and is sincere, rollicking fun.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Disney+)

Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

That Thing You Do! (1996)

That Thing You Do
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The directorial debut of Tom HanksThat Thing You Do, takes place in 1964 in Eerie, Pennsylvania. The Beatles and rock music are all the rage, and drummer Guy Patterson spends his nights jamming on the drums in his Dad's appliance store to jazz music, especially his favorite Del Paxton. So when friends Jimmy Mattingly, Lenny Hayes, and T.B. Player need Guy to fill in for their drummer who breaks his arm, Guy, on instinct, changes Jimmy's ballad into an up-tempo number. And quickly, it catapults the band into superstardom.

Soon The Oneders become The Wonders, and with the help of a new manager, they become members of the Playtone Galaxy of Stars and watch their hit “That Thing You Do” skyrocket to the top of the charts. On tour, The Wonders and Jimmy's girlfriend Faye enjoy all the luxuries and excitement of becoming a popular music group. 

But tensions quickly arise when egos and differences threaten to make them simply “One-Hit Wonders.” The common tale of many a music act, this story not only is a fantastic look at the 1960s rock music craze but also features excellent period details in mid-century modern delights and colorful costumes. 

That Thing You Do is an upbeat and delightful movie that transports us to that time musically, visually, and with a sweet-natured story that could play along with A Hard Day's Night or Gidget.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Amazon Prime with STARZ)

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

L.a. Confidential (1997)

L.A. Confidential
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The sunny and glamorous life in 1950s Los Angeles contrasts with the seedy underbelly rampant with corruption and violence amongst the police and gangsters. With murders plaguing the city, one mysterious, unsolved one is tackled by three police officers who could not be more different from each other. 

One is the proverbial golden boy of the force who is not above accepting special treatment, one has a brutal temper and willingness to break the rules to get to the truth, and the other is more interested in the glamour of Hollywood and sells information to a sleazy tabloid. 

An intricate and intense film, L.A. Confidential is what would be classified as a Neo-Noir film, taking inspiration from both the gangster and film noirs of the 1930 and 1940s through a more modern lens. 

And indeed, from the story of police corruption and gangsters to the style of the direction, this film is very reminiscent of those classic films. Although this film exudes modernity with brutal violence and language, L.A. Confidential is an inspired artistic feat that blends a vintage style with contemporary parameters. 

From the femme fatale played by Kim Basinger to cinematography filled with shadowy streets and neon glows, this Oscar winner is stylish, captivating, and a perfect example of giving us the best of the old and the new in cinema.

(Available on DVD and to stream on STARZ)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Pleasantville (1998)

Pleasantville
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

Taking inspiration from classic television instead of film, this fantasy from the 1990s is a funny but also poignant film that examines themes of complacency, tolerance, and the balance between traditional old-fashioned tastes and values with current and ever-changing ideas and lifestyles. Two teenagers, the twins David and Jennifer, are given a magical remote by a television repair man unbeknownst to them. They are then transported into the fictional world of the 1950s sitcom Pleasantville. David is at first thrilled, while Jennifer is frustrated by this place where everything is, for lack of a better word, pleasant. And that is just the issue. It is a nice place where things are simple and easy, people are friendly, and nothing ever goes wrong. 

But it's also a black and white word devoid of color, literally and metaphorically. The books are empty, the streets go nowhere, and conflict and excitement are non-existent. 

When David and Jennifer begin to influence the townspeople, color appears everywhere in their lives, and it's visually and thematically beautiful to witness. 

Pleasantville is a social commentary on the problems of repression, segregation, and lack of creativity, understanding, and compassion. And it manages to do so without completely condemning the concept of the shows the film is inspired. In truth, these sitcoms of the 1950s, such as Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best, are not nearly as perfect and saccharine as one may think. 

Instead, that's a common misconception that has grown over the years. Pleasantville is both inspired by the misconception and demonstrates an antithesis of these values. And in the end, this film shows that a bit of both worlds can be a wonderful thing.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Hulu)

Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

The Mummy (1999)

Rachel Weisz Movies
(L-R) Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, and John Hannah | Courtesy of Universal Pictures

An enthralling and humorous adventure film, The Mummy, evokes the tone and feel of the classic movies of the 1930s. In this film, a librarian named Evelyn, who thirsts for adventure, sets out for an archeological dig in the mythical and ancient Egyptian city of Hamunaptra. 

With her brother in tow, she saves a man's life, the brave and brash Rick O'Connell, who says he's been there and can lead the siblings to the city. The journey is arduous, and they are not the only ones on this quest. Inevitably romance blossoms and dangers arise when they accidentally unleash an ancient mummy from its rest, and the world's fate is threatened. 

Without a doubt, a fun, lively, and pulpy popcorn film, The Mummy harkens back to the adventures of the past in many ways, with plenty of modern-day touches in terms of action. And amazingly so, the dialogue, the production value, and the chemistry between the leads, Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, feel both old-fashioned and fresh. The Mummy is a thrilling ride from start to finish.

(Available on DVD and to rent on Amazon Prime)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Down With Love (2003)

Down With Love
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The most pristine example of a film taking direct inspiration from films of a specific genre and time period, Down With Love is a hilarious, zany, candy-colored dream of a movie for those who love the romantic comedies of the 1960s, most especially the films of Doris Day and Rock Hudson. 

The story follows the romantic escapes of Barbara Novak, the woman who writes the best seller, Down With Love, which encourages women to live their lives in a more independent, free-thinking way, and Catcher Block, “the man's man, ladies man, man about town.” 

Angry that women are no longer giving him the time of day, Catcher pretends to be a sweet-natured astronaut so he can expose that Barbara is still a woman who only wants love and marriage.

This film is directly inspired by the romantic comedies of the 1960s that permeated the cinematic climate of the time. These movies held traditional romantic ideals but with women who also focused on their careers and were more feminist and progressive in tone and theme. 

The plot of Down With Love is a combination of several films that starred Day and Hudson and one with Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis. Down With love is just as delightful but represents the best of both worlds again. 

It works as both a loving homage and parody to these films of the 1960s with quite a bit of more risqué and modern undertones. The kitschy vintage aesthetics, hilarious performances, and inspired story make Down With Love a glittering and colorful gem.

(Available on DVD and to stream HBO Max)

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

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Image Credit: Paramount.

A visually stunning, charming, and technological breakthrough, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow can be deemed a kind of retro-futuristic, diesel-punk fairy tale, with inspirations coming from the 1939 World's Fair, comics, and serials of the 1930s, and adventures of the 1940s ala Flash Gordon

However, it also holds a distinction that many films do not: except for the actors and a few props, nearly the entire movie was created digitally.

The story follows reporter Polly Perkins who stumbles upon an intriguing mystery of the world's leading scientists disappearing without a trace on the cusp of an attack on New York City by frightening, imposing robots. She enlists the help of her former flame, Henry “Joe” Sullivan, otherwise known as “Sky Captain,” and the two embark on a journey of epic proportions through the skies, the oceans, the jungles, and almost to the heavens to stop an impending Doomsday.

The visuals are retro, and the chemistry between leads Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law exudes the kind of bickering romance akin to the likes of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell or Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. All of these things make Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow a dazzling combination of wit and adventure. 

As a result, this incredible film is simultaneously state-of-the-art and vintage in look and feel.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Amazon Prime with STARZ)

Image Credit: Paramount.

Hidalgo (2004)

Hidalgo
Image Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

Reminiscent of the sweeping epic films of the 1950s and 1960s, such as The Searchers and Lawrence of Arabia, Hidalgo is a touching and rousing tale that could be called an Arabian Western. 

Following a stoic, down-on-his-luck Pony Express rider and cowboy who is part of Buffalo Bill Cody's traveling show, the film was inspired by the true events of Frank Hopkins and his amazing horse Hidalgo. He enters a horse race that spans 3000 miles across the Arabian desert where the dangers range from severe wind storms, locusts, raging heat, and devious fellow contestants who will stop at nothing to win. 

Hidalgo is a simple story beautifully told, with a standout performance from lead Viggo Mortensen and incredibly gorgeous direction and cinematography. It most definitely had some modern sensibilities, but the feelings it evokes are touching and old-fashioned ones as well. Hidalgo is equally adventurous and moving.

(Available on DVD and to rent on Amazon Prime)

Image Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

Flyboys (2006)

Flyboys
Image Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Movingly told and exquisitely filmed, Flyboys tells the story of the Lafayette Escadrille, a group of young American men who voluntarily joined the French military during World War I before the United States entered the war. 

They train to become the first-ever fighter pilots and must contend with myriad obstacles beyond the dangers of combat, from their fears and egos to alcoholism and arrogance. They learn humility and what it takes to become a great pilot technically and combatively. 

Flyboys echoes similar wartime epics from as early as the 1920s with Howard Hughes' film Wings to the 1930 and 1940s war films such as All Quiet on the Western Front and Sergeant York. Not only are the types of storytelling similar, but Flyboys also evokes an old-fashioned sense of patriotism where these brave heroes were to be honored and immortalized on film for their service and sacrifice. 

This film is dripping with sincerity and beauty but also showcases the horrors and sorrows of war. It is a sweeping story, made greater with moments of quiet intimacy and somber truths.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Peacock and Tubi)

Image Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Leatherheads (2008)

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Image Credit: Universal.

Director and star George Clooney took keen inspiration from the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s for this comedy about a football team on the brink of failure, the golden-boy war hero who could turn things around, and the feisty reporter determined to expose the truth about said hero's story. 

Made with the same pizzazz, enthusiasm, and sincerity of the films of the past, Leatherheads lovingly and wonderfully captures the essence of these films while bringing in a few modern touches along the way thanks to the sumptuous production design and costumes, and performances by Clooney, Renée Zellweger, and John Krasinski. 

The former especially demonstrates the fast-talking, witty quips with simmering attraction beneath that several of these films were known for. It literally feels as if we are watching scenes from His Girl Friday or The Philadelphia Story. Leatherheads is earnest, cheeky, and pleasing in its vintage style but still accessible enough to win the hearts of a captive audience.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Freevee)

Image Credit: Universal.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day
Image Credit: Focus Features.

Based on the novel by Winifred Watson, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day simultaneously feels like a stage play and a comedic drama from the 1930s era of cinema. With its fast-paced dialogue and story, the brilliant direction follows the characters but allows them to breathe. 

The story set in London follows Guinevere Pettigrew. She is a woman unfairly dismissed from her employment with no money or prospects. In desperation, she takes it upon herself to take a job meant for someone else as a social secretary for an effervescent and flighty young singer named Delysia LaFosse.

Delysia, who has dreams of wealth and fame, is faced with the dilemma of choosing between three men: the owner of the nightclub and flat that her livelihood depends on, the very young producer who promises to cast her as the lead in a play, or her real love, the poor piano player who loves her for who she truly is. 

While Miss Pettigrew helps Delysia manage a very hectic day, she meets Joe, a man of the same age with whom she finds an instant kinship as the people around them live in a fantasy world oblivious to the impending war.

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day is perfectly and delightfully reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the past while giving us the more modern lens that understands the gravity of what was the come for the world. 

Miss Pettigrew is like a champagne cocktail and steak dinner rolled into one: glittering, sweet, and light, but also robust and hearty at its center. And it captures the heart of the era flawlessly.

(Available on DVD and to rent on Amazon Prime)

Image Credit: Focus Features.

Be Kind Rewind (2008)

Be Kind Rewind
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

The first of the films set in the present day on this list, rather than the past, one may question the inclusion of Be Kind Rewind. It is the most modern film in terms of content and story but also has a great sense of nostalgia and reverence for the past. 

Moreover, the respect and love of the movies is a vital component of what makes this film what it is. Amusingly enough, it is already a bit of a period piece, with the center of the story revolving around a video rental store not being able to compete with its more modernized competitor.

The crux of the story here is that after an accident that exposed a man to electro-magnetic energy, he accidentally erases all the videos in the struggling store. So, he and his friend, who was left in charge, attempt to recreate all the films themselves. And the results are hilarious. But what makes Be Kind Rewind undeniably old-fashioned is that at one point, that hilarity turns to sincerity. 

We then feel as if we are watching a film by Frank Capra or Preston Sturges with the way the locals come together in the name of the community. It is heartwarming and touching.

(Available on DVD and to rent on Amazon Prime)

Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Midnight in Paris - Sony Pictures
Image Credit: Sony Pictures.

A luminous and witty film, Midnight in Paris centers on the idea of the “golden age” nostalgia. In other words, it is adoration and propensity to romanticize an era other than your own that you love and dream of living in. 

Writer Gil Pender is perfectly content with his life, engaged to a beautiful girl and on vacation in the City of Lights, Paris, France. But one evening, while on his own, a car arrives and magically takes him back in time to the 1920s. And for multiple nights that follow, he spends his time sharing drinks and laughs, speaking about life, love, and philosophy with Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and waxing poetic about art and literature with Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Gertrude Stein. 

Amazed and dazzled by these wonderful nights, Gil also begins falling for a lovely and free-spited woman he meets as they dance and talk the nights away on the lantern-lit cobblestone streets. Witty, romantic, and thoughtful, this modern film is unique in its honest and astute observation of what nostalgia does: it presents a beautiful, often idyllic look at a bygone era with a longing to be transported to that time. 

Midnight in Paris is dreamy, poignant, and intelligent and shows us that dreaming of the past must never stop us from living in the present.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Amazon Prime)

Image Credit: Sony Pictures.

Hugo (2011)

Hugo
Image Credit: GK Films.

Director Martin Scorsese takes the children's novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik and beautifully creates a breathtaking film filled with moving themes, kinetic energy, and a reverence for the history and beauty of cinema. 

The setting is 1931 Paris, and young and orphaned Hugo Cabret lives inside a train station's walls and catacombs, keeping the clocks working and doing his best to get by on food he must steal. Soon Hugo embarks on a grand adventure with a sweet girl he meets involving a strange automaton his father possessed and the sad toy store owner, who is truthfully one of the most significant individuals in history. 

It is a gorgeous film visually and thematically and showcases an appreciation not only for the past but for the people who created and innovated the magic of the movies. 

There are references to silent era films, including the Georges Méliès classic A Trip to the Moon, the Harold Lloyd gem Safety Last, and Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat by the Lumière brothers. Those who love and appreciate the art of filmmaking and the wonder and joy movies can evoke from us at any age will fall in love with Hugo.

(Available on DVD and to stream on HBO Max) 

Image Credit: GK Films.

La la Land (2016)

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Image Credit: NBC/Universal.

Damien Chazelle's love letter to the golden age of Hollywood musicals is an enchanting, colorfully saturated, masterfully crafted film that both honors the past and reflects the present. 

The story follows the romance between an aspiring actress with big dreams and a struggling musician who wants to open a jazz club. The heart of the story is the struggle between keeping their respective pursuits and their relationship afloat. 

But the film's heartbeat is the lovely, lively, and magical musical sequences, brilliant direction, winning performances from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and dazzling ways classic musicals are referenced and alluded to throughout the movie. 

Chazelle understands when to infuse a scene with energy and movement and when to slow a moment down and focus on the intimacy of the scene. Moreover, the symbolic and gorgeous use of color reflects the characters' journeys and the film's themes. 

And it is clear that the appreciation and knowledge of classic musicals are prevalent and only enhance the movie. We can see influences from Gene Kelly's classics Singin' in the Rain and An American in Paris, the Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn gem Funny Face, and many more musicals from the 1930s through the 1950s. 

In the end, La La Land gives us the hope to dream, foolish as it may seem.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Hulu)

Image Credit: NBC/Universal.

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Hail Caesar
Image Credit: Universal.

An interesting and unique film by the acclaimed Coen Brothers, Hail Caesar is deeply influenced by Hollywood's classic era, showcasing the glittering facade and the more serious, often sordid realities of the inns and outs of the industry in the 1950s. The story revolves around a Hollywood fixer who would take care of the scandals and problems involving actors, directors, and producers before they get out to the public.

There are obvious references to many individuals of the era and other more complicated people: Scarlett Johansson reflects Esther Williams professionally and personally other actresses of the time. Channing Tatum's dancing sailor musical role is modeled after Gene Kelly, but the truth about him is more complicated. 

George Clooney's epic movie star status is meant to be like Tony Curtis or Kirk Douglas. Alden Ehrenreich's singing cowboy is very much like Roy Rogers. And lastly, Tilda Swinton's twin sister gossip columnists share an obvious connection to Dear Abby and Ann Landers. 

All in all, Hail Caesar features the vintage look, feel, and allusions while giving the audience a fresh and more provocative view of Hollywood's past.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Netflix)

Image Credit: Universal.

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This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks.

Featured Image Credit: Universal.


Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.