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).

It received a sequel in 2010, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

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

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

  • Alliterative Name: Gordon Gekko.
  • Artistic License – Law: When Gekko asks Fox to follow Lawrence Wildman around, Fox complains that he could lose his license and/or go to jail. In reality, there's nothing illegal about following someone around and noting that he ate lunch in a public restaurant with other people, as this is all publicly observable information. It would only be illegal if Fox was menacing Wildman in some way, and Fox tries not to be noticed by Wildman or anyone with him. The first illegal act Fox commits is searching Roger's law firm's records (under the ruse of co-owning the cleaning company) and making copies of them for 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.
  • Big Bad: Gordon Gekko, who is an unscrupulous corporate raider and an Evil Mentor to Bud Fox.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bud saves the airline, but is facing a jail term. Likewise, the airline workers have staved off unemployment, but are facing wage cutbacks.
  • Broken Pedestal: Bud's attitude to Gekko after he intentionally plans to drive his father's cherished company into bankruptcy.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Gordon
  • Cynical Mentor: Gekko to Bud
  • Deal with the Devil: Bud does a deal with Gekko, but it comes with a high cost.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Bud is secretly wearing a Hidden Wire to record Gekko's own crimes as part of his deal with the SEC to get a lighter sentence, during their final confrontation.
  • 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.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Bud Fox is too wide-eyed about Gekko's schemes, as Gekko is solely driven by greed and wants him to obtain information by any means necessary, even if it's illegal. Bud also wanted to be like Gekko, but doesn't realize the costs of having such a lifestyle until it was too late.
    • Gordon Gekko is solely driven by self-interest and greed in order to ensure his profits, and takes a wide-eyed Bud under his wing, using him as a means to obtain insider information illegally.
  • 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: Bud Fox uses a hidden wire during his final confrontation with Gordon Gekko, in a successful attempt to provoke Gekko into confessing his complicity in Fox's insider trading and Gekko's own criminal behavior.
  • 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
  • Naïve 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."
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Gordon: Good luck, Gordon. You unknowingly spilled the beans on your own crimes and sealed your own fate to a long prison sentence, thanks to a Hidden Wire Bud was wearing during your final confrontation with him.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Gekko was loosely based on Michael Milken, the junk-bond king and Ivan Boesky, a corporate raider.
    • Bud Fox was based on Dennis Levine, a merger-and-acquisition specialist at Drexel Burnham Lambert who spent much of his career obtaining insider information.
  • 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: Bud after he's arrested for insider trading.
  • 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: During their final confrontation, Gekko gives Bud a harsh one:
    Gordon Gekko: [smugly] Hiya, Buddy.
    Bud Fox: Gordon.
    Gekko: [still smug] You sandbagged me on Bluestar. I guess you think you taught the teacher a lesson, that the tail can wag the dog, huh? Well let me clue you in, pal. The ice is melting right underneath your feet.
    [Gekko punches Bud and grabs him by the collar.]
    Gekko: Did you think you could've gotten this far this fast with anybody else, huh? You think you'd be dicking someone like Darien? No. You'd still be cold-calling widows and dentists trying to sell them 20 shares of some fucking dog-shit stock. I took you in. [hits Fox a 2nd time] A NOBODY! [hits him again] I opened doors for you. I showed you how the system works. The value of information, how to get it! Fulham Oil, Brant Resources, Geodynamics. And this is how you fucking pay me back, you cockroach!
    [Gekko hits him a 4th time, but the force of the hit knocks Bud into the ground.]
    [Gekko calms down, then tosses a handkerchief to Bud to clean off the blood on his lip.]
    Gekko: You could have been one of the great ones, Buddy. I look at you, and I see myself. Why?
    Bud: I don't know. I guess I realized I'm just Bud Fox. As much as I wanted to be Gordon Gekko, I'll always be Bud Fox.

  • Satellite Love Interest: Darien Taylor.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!:
    Bud Fox: What I see is a jealous old machinist who can't stand the fact that his son has become more successful than he has!
    Carl Fox: What you see is a guy who never measured a man's success by the size of his WALLET!
  • 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.
  • The Sociopath: Gekko is a clear example, as he not only serves as an Evil Mentor to Bud Fox, but also uses him into obtaining information via illegal means. Beneath that facade, he is actually driven by self-interest and greed, has no qualms about using Bud as a means to ensure his profits and shows no remorse when he intentionally plans to drive Bluestar Airlines (the place where Bud's father works at) into bankruptcy.
  • 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 BlueStar.