Film: Wall Street

The point is, ladies and gentlemen - that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
Gordon Gekko

Wall Street is a 1987 movie directed by Oliver Stone and starring Michael Douglas (in an Oscar-winning performance) and Charlie Sheen.

A stockbroker named Bud Fox (Sheen) wants to become top of the world. He becomes involved with his idol, Gordon Gekko (Douglas), a ruthless Wall Street player who has a conflict with Bud's father, Carl (Martin Sheen).

A sequel, Wall Street Money Never Sleeps (also directed by Stone) starring Douglas and Shia LaBeouf was released on September 24, 2010.

Not to be confused with the actual Wall Street. ...there is no such article on that here yet.

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"Tropes, for lack of a better word, are good. Tropes work."

  • Academy Award: Michael Douglas won the 1987 Oscar for Best Actor for his work on the film.
  • Alliterative Name: Gordon Gekko.
  • Better Than Sex: Gordon Gekko relates that when he made an $800,000 profit on his first business real-estate purchase, he thought making all that money was "better than sex," but years later, he only sees it as a day's pay.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bud saves the airline, but is facing a jail term. Likewise, the airline workers have staved off unenployment, but are facing wage cutbacks.
    • Subverted. The sequel reveals that Bud did serve prison time but after he served, he was released and then took over the airline. Through his leadership, the company became one of the wealthiest airlines in America. He then sold it and now he spends his days as a retired millionaire.
  • Broken Pedestal: Bud's attitude to Gekko after he intentionally drives his father's cherished company into bankruptcy.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Gordon
  • Cynical Mentor: Gekko to Bud
  • Deal with the Devil: Bud
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: While the movie goes to great length to depict the despicability of corporate raiding, it nevertheless motivated many aspiring young men with flexible morals to get into the exchange business.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: If you were to go by the earlier scenes in the movie, you would think that none of Bud's coworkers have any semblance of morality. However, towards the end of the movie, when they all find out about Bud's involvement in fraud, almost everyone in the office is giving him a cold stare.
  • Evil Mentor: Gordon Gekko to Bud Fox. In this case it's the student who pushes for the mentor's advice. As soon as Bud Fox makes himself useful to Gekko's financial schemes, Gekko takes him under his wing and gives him the life he always wanted while teaching him to be driven solely by greed and use illegal means if necessary to ensure his profits.
  • Greed
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: The confrontation between both Sheens. Martin even said "the size of your WALLET!" was inspired by another ham, George C. Scott, in The Hustler.
  • Hidden Wire
  • Ironic Echo: Early in the movie, Gordon advises against getting emotional about stock. Later in the movie, Bud repeats this back to Gordon.
  • Lonely at the Top
  • The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: This is an anti-corporate, anti-capitalist movie produced by a major movie studio using corporate finance with the ultimate aim of making a profit.
    • Actually, Word of God states that the film is actually more of a criticism of the cynical, quick-buck culture of the '80s business world, and is neither pro- nor anti- Wall Street. It was made to paint a picture of that world (the director's father was a stock broker himself), and leave viewers to form their own opinions. Given the many, many different views of the film, he's succeeded. There is probably a very high correlation between one's opinion of the film and one's economic views.
  • Na´ve Newcomer: At first, Gordon Gekko dismisses Bud Fox as naive about the stock exchange.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: No one with the last name Gekko is likely to be an upstanding guy.
  • New Era Speech: Three words: "Greed is good." Also the movie's Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • The Oner: A great piece of acting by Sheen, as Bud is arrested for the insider trading he did during his time with Gekko, and slowly breaks down as he's handcuffed and led out of the office.
  • Perp Walk: The scene mentioned above.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Stewart Copeland.
  • Present Day Past: The film, released in late 1987, has an opening title saying the movie takes place in 1985. Yet within a minutes a character makes a reference to the Challenger disaster, which happened in early 1986.
    • This was the result of adding the "1985" title after most of the film had been completed, as a way of setting it before a number of insider-trading scandals that had unfolded over the time the film was made.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Darien Taylor. The role earned Daryl Hannah that year's Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress, thus making this the only film to ever win both an Oscar and a Razzie.
    • Oliver Stone even said he considered trading her with Sean Young, who plays Gekko's wife. Considering that Hannah later admitted her performance suffered because she disliked playing such a shallow character, and Young ended up stealing the costumes she wore after production wrapped because her part wasn't as big as she thought it would be, Stone probably should have.
  • Smug Snake: Subverted. Gordon Gekko is clearly in love with himself, but also remembers to Pet the Dog on occasion.
  • Status Cell Phone: Gordon has an extravagant, top-of-the-the-line, and brick-sized cell phone. This is used as a Technology Marches On gag in the sequel 'Money Never Sleeps' when he is released from prison and gets said phone, now obsolete, returned to him.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: In particular, technology and the lifestyles of the wealthy seem to change more noticeably than other things do. Arguably, this is Lampshaded in the first scene of the sequel, when Gekko gets back his enormous cell phone.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Gordon is inspired by several corporate raiders during the 1980s, and in fact the famous speech was based on one given by Ivan Boesky who like Gordon, got arrested for his financial activities.
  • Victory Is Boring: After winning the takeover battle, Gordon complains about how difficult it has been to turn around Teldar even after he's fired most of the management. For that reason he initially rebuffs Bud's suggestion that he buy and turn around Blue Star.

"Tropes Never Sleep":

     Wallstreet: Money Never Sleeps 
  • Advertising Campaigns: During the original airing of the pilot of $#*! My Dad Says (Written as "$#*! My Dad Says"), special ads for Money Never Sleeps - which would open the next day - were headlined "$#*! Gordon Gekko Says".
  • Anti-Hero: Gordon morphs into this the sequel.
  • As Himself: The movie features not only famous person lookalikes, but also several people playing themselves, including Warren Buffet.
  • Batman Gambit: Gorgon Gekko's plans
  • Dead Guy Junior: Happy Birthday, Louie!
  • Demoted to Extra: Bud, the protagonist of the first movie, appears in exactly one scene.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Gordon spent over 11 years in prison for a "victimless" crime. That's twice as long as what most rapists get!
    • This is questionable, given the far-reaching consequences of white collar crime. Yes, its punished as a light offense, but in the real world the implications can be staggering.
      • Gordon's crime was specifically insider trading, though. Which is ironic since we see him do many unethical things which were (and still are) entirely legal in the original Wallstreet. Still, Gordon's sentence seems unusually harsh given the criminal activity of his much-worse peers (who served as character witnesses AGAINST him).
    • It's revealed that what happens to Louis Zabel's firm was revenge by Bretton James when Louis refused to help with a deal gone sour eight years earlier. While Bretton was able to recover from that, his revenge was tanking Zabel's company altogether and creating a global financial panic in the process.
  • Driven to Suicide: Louis Zabel (Jake's mentor), 20 minutes into the movie.
  • Enemy Mine: Gordon Gekko and Jake Moore team up against Bretton James, a thoroughly despicable stock gambler who has wronged them both.
  • Expy: Churchill Schwartz is a very, very obvious Expy of Goldman Sachs, right down to the article Jake Moore writes about them, the excerpt of which we see is literally taken word-for-word from Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone now-classic article about Goldman Sachs with only the names changed. Bretton James is also pretty obviously heavily influenced by JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, although going so far as to call him an Expy is probably stretching it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Played with. Gordon Gecko rebuilds his reputation on Wall Street by serving as a reformed lecturer on corporate ethics. Whether or not he is sincere in his changed attitude is anyone's guess until the end. He is, sort of.
    • Gordon seems to draw the line at defrauding clients versus the insider trading and company liquidation he was guilty of in the first movie. played with as he defrauds his prospective son-in-law/student only to pay him back with interest at the end.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: All of the characters wear suits in morally ambiguous shades of grey. The villain, Bretton James, wears a demonic red suit.
  • Heel-Face Revolving Door: Gekko goes 360 degrees in his hero-or-villain status.
    • See YMMV Alternate Character Interpretation for a possibly consistent reading of his character.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Gordon Gekko, who else?
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: One of the more extreme examples, where neither Jake nor Gekko take any of Winnie's values or opinions into consideration - her only purpose it to serve as a leverage for their "trading".
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Josh Brolin. The trailers give off the impression that Gordon is once again the Big Bad, rather than the Anti-Villain he has become.
    • Susan Sarandon plays Jake's mother, with a subplot devoted to Jake bailing out her failing real estate business.
  • Shout-Out: The subplot with the Cracker Jack ring references Breakfast at Tiffany's.
  • The Social Darwinist: Gordon Gekko
    • Subverted. Gordon seems repulsed by the outright criminal behavior of modern Wall Street.
  • Smug Snake: Bretton James, who gives even a guy called Gordon Gekko a run for his money.
  • Snicket Warning Label: Inverted in Money Never Sleeps. If you turn off the film about five minutes before the end credits roll, it's a Downer Ending: Gordon Gekko reminds us all why he's a quintessential Magnificent Bastard by winning the Financial Crisis of 2008, and everyone else gets screwed over, whether they deserve to or not. Keep watching the last five minutes, however, and for no adequately explained reason everything resolves itself into a perfectly happy ending for everyone involved. note 
  • Stealth Pun: Before Jake tries to get revenge against Bretton James for destroying Zabel's company, his friend Robby comments that "It's a dish you stick to cold, pal." Jake responds that "I'm about to serve it up hot, Robby." However, his initial efforts achieve only paltry success. Much later, though, he finally manages to get true revenge against Bretton — with the help of a website called Frozen Truth.
  • Technology Marches On: There's a gag when Gordon, leaving prison, is given his old (formerly extravagant and top of the line) brick-sized cell phone back (it's one of the trailers for the movie).
    • Also, when one considers that 'Wall Street' itself no longer exists, as it has traditionally been understood. Trading is no longer the province of a few stock brokers in New York City, but is considerably decentralized and personal, thanks to the Internet. So, Finance Marches On, perhaps.
    • Overlaps with Society Marches On. As he's leaving prison, Gordon sees an inmate be greeted by his family in a limousine. What was once an icon of status and wealth is now accessible to the common man.

Alternative Title(s):

Wall Street Money Never Sleeps