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Film / The Wolf of Wall Street

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"My name is Jordan Belfort. [...] I'm a former member of the middle-class raised by two accountants in a tiny apartment in Bayside, Queens. The year I turned twenty-six as the head of my own brokerage firm, I made 49 million dollars, which really pissed me off because it was three shy of a million a week."

A 2013 American biographical crime film based on the memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio along with a supporting cast that includes Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, and Joanna Lumley among others.

Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), a New York stockbroker, recounts to the audience how he amassed his fortune through the use of shady (and outright illegal) stock manipulations, and the hedonistic drug-and-sex-fueled lifestyle he built with that fortune. His downfall begins when he is investigated by the SEC and FBI, but he refuses to leave the life he has built.

The movie was released on December 25, 2013. The trailer can be found here.

Not to be confused with Wall Street.

The film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The '90s: The movie goes far in portraying this era with an eye for detail, especially outdated phone technology, computer systems and car models, and nuances in fashion. There's a photo of President Clinton seen in the FBI questioning scene near the end of the movie.
  • Absurdly Long Stairway: Invoked. Desperately struggling to reach his vehicle through a quaalude-induced "cerebral-palsy phase", Jordan perceives a set of stairs in his path as an intimidating incline of dozens of steps. More "objective" shots reveal a measly six steps (not that it makes it easier to traverse).
  • Adaptational Personality Change: In the film, the root of Jordan's frequent drug use is pure hedonism. In his biography, he claims his quaalude dependence stems from it soothing chronic pain from a back injury (caused by Rocky, Naomi's annoying dog). On the other hand, even after it's cured his rampant drug use continues unabated, so there's a chance it was merely an excuse; the film's Jordan at one point claims he takes quaaludes for back pain, but the sarcastic delivery hints at this interpretation.
  • Anonymous Public Phone Call: At one point Jordan makes use of a public payphone because he suspects the FBI to be tapping his landline.
  • Always a Live Transmission: Jordan's infomercial seems to be filmed live, because just after the phone number appears on-screen some FBI agents appear to arrest him while another one covers the camera.
  • Always Someone Better: Another thematic similarity the movie shares with Scarface (1983). As absurdly rich as Jordan becomes, at the end of the day he is never more than a small fry by the standards of the true, big-shot Wall Street sharks. And as powerful as he feels and appears, the FBI isn't impressed by his money.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Jordan's gay butler notes that he saw Donny at a gay bar. Donny gets a little too defensive. Later Donny accuses Brad of having a thing for him.
  • An Aesop: Needless pursuit of excess is a bad thing, and audiences are smart enough to figure that out for themselves.
  • And That's Terrible: Averted. Director Martin Scorsese has publicly stated many times that he despises films that tell the audience what to think, believing the film's intent should be clear from the movie's visuals. Jordan and his associates spend the vast majority of the film doing things the audience can easily tell are grievously immoral and at no point does the story stop to tell the audience about the main characters' moral bankruptcy.
  • Anything That Moves: Both Belfort and Donnie have this attitude. Belfort under the influence is a real piece of work, crossing into Dude, Not Funny! territory when he dry humps an air hostess and has to be strapped to his chair.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Belfort hates the Forbes article that calls him "The Wolf of Wall Street," but his first wife points out that there's invoked No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, and it seems to have been his work nickname (and sexual safe word). After some hesitation, he starts Becoming the Mask and acts more like a stereotypical Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After being caught in the limo with his mistress Naomi, Jordan's first wife Teresa asks him if he loves her (Naomi).
  • Artistic License History:
    • In real life, Jordan Belfort actually met Danny Porush (the man Donnie Azoff is a stand-in for) through Porush's wife, whom he shared the bus with on their daily commute into the city for work, not at a diner.
    • Porush claims that, contrary to what the film depicts, the real life Stratton Oakmont office didn't have any pet animals other than fish nor did the employees ever have dwarf tossing contests.
    • In real life, Jordan followed through on stepping down from Stratton and let his cronies take over (though he managed to exploit a few legal loopholes to act as an advisor and make money from the firm).
    • The real Jordan Belfort never met the FBI agent who was investigating him until he was arrested.
    • Although Rocky Aoki was indicted for insider trading in 1998, his son Steve Aoki claims that Belfort's arrest a year later was unrelated. He thought that the rant scene was hilarious anyway though.
  • As Himself: Bo Dietl, the private eye Jordan has run background on Denham.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: The film switches from its native 2.35:1 ratio to 4:3 for scenes presented as video footage of the time period and 16:9 for the Stratton Oakmont commercial at the beginning and the Benihana commercial near the end.
  • As You Know: Jordan's voiceovers explaining things like how IPOs work, or why what he's doing is criminal, make an interesting variation on this trope. These explanations were not so much intended for the audience, who by 2013 were generally cognizant of these things, but for Scorsese, who wasn't.
  • Auto Erotica: In one of the opening scenes, Naomi gives Jordan head while he's driving.
  • Badass Boast: Denham boasts to Jordan that he's hunted down white collar criminals who, unlike Jordan's pretenses of Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!, were the real thing, "to the manor born", white collar crooks "whose fathers were douchebags before them just like their fathers before them" and that he's going to be a big hero at the bureau when he collects Jordan's yacht and every other possession he has.
  • Batman Gambit: How Stratton Oakmont operates. First, the brokers offer customers good stocks in Bluechip Companies like Disney and IBM. Then, once those stocks increase in value and the customers trust the brokers, they unload the dummy stocks and earn, thanks to lower regulation, even higher commissions than they would in the real stock market.
  • Being Good Sucks: The scene at the end where Denham, a honest upstanding agent, rides a subway with other low-income middle-class passengers shows this. Belfort goes to a fancy country club prison and infamy while honest upstanding citizens will continue to take the subway.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Do not call "Mad Max" at home on Tuesday nights when The Equalizer is on.
    • Donnie and Brad get into a shouting match over their mutual disrespect, but it's not until Donnie insults his style of dress that Brad knocks him the fuck out.
    • Jordan did not take kindly to being ratted out by his Swiss banker. More insulting that the banker was arrested for an unrelated crime that involved him with the CEO of hibachi chain Benihana.
      Jordan: BENI-FUCKING-HANA! WHY?!
  • Betty and Veronica: Belfort's first wife, Teresa, is a dark-haired girl who knew Belfort when he was in his lower-middle class Nave Newcomer phase. Belfort then takes Naomi, who's blonde, gorgeous and half-English (which leads him to call her "The Duchess") as first his mistress and then his Trophy Wife.
  • Big Fancy House: Being a multimillionaire, Jordan owns one and lives in it with Naomi and Skylar. At one point he wakes Skylar up in the middle of the night by accident after staggering out of his helicopter and falling into the pool, which sets off the security alarms.
  • Bits of Me Keep Passing Out: A later stage of Quaalude intoxication, especially during the Funny Moment where Jordan has to crawl out of the country club to his Lamborghini.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Belfort gets arrested and sentenced for his criminal behavior and loses his company, wealth, and family. On the other hand, he gets off with little legal punishment by only spending three years in jail (in good conditions) and is still thriving once released. It's very ambiguous if Jordan has actually learned anything from this whole ordeal.
  • Black Comedy: Jordan and his ilk do some truly obscene, even physically violent things, which are portrayed as flippant and outlandish, yet funny all the same.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: When he invites Agent Denham to see him on his Yacht (after being explicitly told to only talk to him through a lawyer), Jordan boasts of putting on an act as a "Bond villain". He then behaves just like one by offering to bribe Denham. As Belfort's lawyer (Jon Favreau) notes, his poorly disguised attempt to bribe a federal agent is a really stupid thing to do, bringing in the very attention to his operation that he's trying to hide. An early version of the script would have had Belfort's lawyer additionally noting that subsequently waving around the money that he flung around as Denham leaves would have provided even more evidence of Belfort's intent to bribe a federal agent.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Jordan gives lengthy explanations to the camera of how pump-and-dump schemes and money laundering work, something that might have been justifiable in the time frame of when the movie is set but seems unnecessary with the degree of financial literacy in the general public when the movie came out. It's subtly lampshaded when he begins to explain what an initial public offering is, but then just drops it midway through. According to screenwriter Terrence Winter, this was an in-joke since Scorsese didn't understand the stock market terminology too well either and didn't know what an IPO was. Winter, who worked as a paralegal in Wall Street and considered becoming a broker himself knew the scene and terminology well.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Jordan's friends, especially Bodnick, and both his wives.
  • Brick Joke: Denham riding the subway.
    • Robbie suggests Ardcliffe International as one of the IP Os Stratton Oakmont should take public during the Long Island Beach Party, though Steve Madden is chosen as the company for Stratton to take public later in the movie. Ardcliffe is mentioned by a Strattoniate during Jordans As You Know narration about an IPO, though.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Donny frequently taunts Brad, a drug-dealing bodybuilder who carries a gun. In one scene, he taunts "Mad Max" when questioned about business expenses.
  • Call-Back: The ending shows Jordan at one of his get-rich-quick seminars with a test to see who can sell him a pen, just like Brad did earlier in the film.
  • The Cameo: Steve Buscemi appears as an actor on TV in the scene where Mad Max freaks out about a phone call during The Equalizer.
  • Camera Abuse: When Jordan is filming his infomercial, he is interrupted by Denham and several FBI agents, and Denham shoves the camera over.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Jordan. "When you own a yacht the size of a Bond villain's, you sometimes have to act like one."
  • Casual Kink: Belfort is at one point seen enjoying a bondage session with a dominatrix, who shoves a candle up his ass before pouring hot wax over his back (while ignoring his safeword of "Wolfie").
  • Catchphrase: Belfort has a specific putdown to people who look at him as The Hedonist and a Jerkass (which he is) — "If you don't like me or how I do things [or words to that affect]... go work in fucking McDonald's." In an infomercial about his seminars, one of the people offering testimonials uses the same catchphrase, obviously being fed his lines by Belfort.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: When Donny sees Naomi for the first time. Subverted in that he doesn't even try to hide it, despite being in the middle of a crowded party, due to being high out of his mind.
  • Central Theme: Money is a drug, it's addictive, it gives you a high and you will always want more and more, and will never really be satisfied.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Jean-Jacques Saurel. He gets busted by the FBI and rats Jordan out to save his own ass.
  • Cleavage Window: Naomi is dressed like this when she is introduced.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Donny can go off on some weird tangents.
  • Close on Title: The title doesn't show up until the end.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: This film has the record for the most uses of the word in a fiction film. (There are different counts, but all of them puts it above 500). One website counts 544 uses of the word. Vulture magazine, on the other hands, counted 569 uses. Over the course of its three-hour length, this amounts to one f-bomb dropped every 20 seconds. Jordan himself comments on how much Wall Street people curse.
    Jordan: You wanna know what money sounds like? Go to a trading floor on Wall Street. Fuck this, shit that. Cunt, cock, asshole. I couldn't believe how these guys were talking to each other.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Forbes does a "hatchet job" article where he is portrayed as a greedy monster. Hundreds of young people show-up to join Stratton Oakmont immediately afterwards.
    • At the diner when Jordan gives his "Everybody wants to make money" speech to his Stratton Oakmont employees.
  • Company Credit Card Abuse: "Mad Max" storms into Jordan's office waving an American Express bill totaling $430,000, demanding an explanation regarding certain purchases including a $26,000 dinner and a charge for what he easily determined to be a high-class prostitution ring. Jordan and Donnie's weak excuses do nothing to placate his fury.
    Mad Max: What kind of hooker takes credit cards?
    Donnie: A rich one!
  • Composite Character: Donnie Azoff is purportedly based on several Real Life members and associates of Stratton Oakmont, mainly Danny Porush, but also Dave Beall and fashion executive Elliot Lavigne.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: One more point of decadence is ridiculously expensive things for their own sake.
  • Consummate Liar: Jordan lies frequently and proudly, and elevates it to an art-form. Mark Hanna, his mentor, tells him that this is a requirement for their line of work since cashflow in the stock market is "fairy dust" rather than something real, from the perspective of investors anyway.
  • Cool Old Lady: Naomi's Aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley) is this, a pleasant woman who immediately realizes that Jordan is high as a kite in the sky, but doesn't judge him because, "I grew up in The '60s darling!". She's so cool that Jordan is surprised that he can talk to her about his drug and sex addiction.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executives: Its hard to think of a single decent corporate executive to counterpoint it.
  • The Corrupter:
    • Hanna introduces Jordan to, and encourages, the use of sex, drugs and racketeering.
    • Accidental corrupter: Teresa, Jordan's first wife, thrice: she encourages him to keep being a stockbroker even though Jordan is willing to start over at the very bottom as a stockboy, suggests he sells penny stocks to rich people who could afford to lose money, and she cheers him up after the awful "Wolf of Wall Street" article by telling him it's still good publicity. What's interesting is that, perhaps of all the characters in the film, Teresa is perhaps the least encouraging of Jordan's immoral behavior and life habits... It's just that at the points where she keeps pushing him towards stock brokerage, she has no idea what he's engaging in and is very idealistically thinking that she's pushing him towards fulfilling his potential and following his dreams.
  • Country Matters: Jordan angrily calls Naomi a "vicious fucking cunt" after she tells him that she's taking their kids with her following their divorce. This causes Naomi to slap Jordan, and Jordan to respond disproportionally.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: It's clear that with Jordan's sales skills and business acumen, he could easily run Stratton Oakmont as a legitimate brokerage firm and become wealthy by having his employees sell customers quality stocks. However, because he's so greedy and won't be satisfied unless he's obscenely rich, he chooses to rip customers off through selling penny stocks and pump and dump schemes while also committing tax fraud to keep as much money as possible.
  • Damage-Proof Vehicle: Subverted. So high on Quaaludes that he literally can't walk or talk comprehensibly, Jordan nevertheless manages to drive his Lamborghini a short distance home from the country club without, it seems, a scratch. After he's slept it off a bit and the police come, we see it as totaled.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: It is rather brief, but the film does not try to hide the attitudes towards gay people in the 1980's and 1990's in America. While Jordan, Donny, and a couple of the other main characters don't have an issue with the gay butler, they are very much the exception, and once the butler starts testing the patience of some of the investors, they openly call him the f-word openly and with no sense of shame. While it is debatable what exactly Jordan told the cops, they are shown hitting the butler with a billy club, as being homosexual, while no longer a crime in New York by the eighties, was still looked at with scorn and suspicion. Donnie's rather severe reaction to being accused of being gay also highlighted the fact that being accused of being gay in the 80's and 90's often resulted in social mistrust.
  • Destroy the Product Placement: Jordan heavily damages a genuine Lamborghini Countach (25th Anniversary Edition). That's what happens when you take too many quaaludes and think you can drive home safely and with the car intact.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • There's no friends in Wall Street. Saurel, Jordan's swiss banker, rats Jordan out as a plea bargain after getting arrested. Jordan himself initially resists this, but after facing the reality that he'd be serving at least 20 years in jail, decides to rat out all of his associates.
    • In the end, Jordan who tries to warn Donnie not to incriminate himself discovers that he had already made a deal with the FBI to rat everyone and Jordan out too.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Jordan and Donnie fire one stockbroker right before the Steve Madden IPO because he was wearing a dorky-looking outfit (including a bowtie) and cleaning his fishbowl, suggesting his mind may not have been 100% focused on new issue day. Not only that, Donnie screams at him, throws a cigarette on his shirt, and grabs him by the collar, eats the live goldfish straight from the bowl (much to everyone's disgust — and amusement), and does nothing as the broker's now-former coworkers ridicule him and throw stuff at him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Set at a minor-league brokerage firm on Long Island that specializes in penny-stock pump-and-dump schemes? Most of the employees foul-mouthed younger single men from modest backgrounds wearing expensive tailored suits who indulge their considerable fortunes on hookers and cocaine at debauched company parties? Motivational speeches by a charismatic asshole who drives a Ferrari? An FBI investigation closing in and turning the main character into an informant? If it sounds a lot like Boiler Room, it should because that film was also inspired by the real-life Stratton Oakmont firm. note 
  • Drugs Are Good:
    • At the start, right from the opening scene, where Belfort goes on at length about all the drugs he takes and how much he enjoys them, and the movie shows all the awesome drug-fueled parties at Stratton Oakmont. Veers to Drugs Are Bad later in the film when Jordan admits he's a drug addict and goes straight, but he still never faces any direct consequences for his drug use.
    • Played straight in one of the movie's most audacious scenes. When Donnie is choking to death after both he and Jordan take Quaaludes, Jordan, in order to perform CPR while impaired on motor skills, takes a whiff of cocaine. The film cutting contrasts that with a Popeye cartoon of the sailor taking spinach.
  • Drunk Driver: He's actually high on Quaaludes, but the effects are similar. By the time Jordan tries to drive himself home from the club, the Quaaludes have impaired his motor skills and perception and his car gets seriously smashed up during the trip home.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil:
    • Played for laughs; Jordan and his crew are amoral assholes but they seem to hate the idea of coming off as bigoted. When they beat up Jordan's gay butler for helping his friends rob the house, they repeatedly emphasize that it's not because he's gay. In a later scene, Jordan is mortified when Donnie tells him he called an airline pilot the n-word while high.
    • Despite Belfort being a sleazebag who looks at women as trophies and toys and most of his staff no different, Stratton Oakmont includes quite a few women at work including struggling single mother Kimmie Belzer.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jordan clearly loves his daughter, enough to attempt to kidnap her when things go wrong for him. And while he almost considered letting him die earlier, he also cares enough about Donny to warn him against indicting himself.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jordan may be a morally bankrupt narcissist who steals from the poor (and everyone else), lies constantly, cheats on all his wives, swears like a drunken sailor, and regularly does enough drugs to put a baleen whale into a coma, but after coming down from being drugged out of his mind on a plane, even he is horrified when he learns that he called the plane's captain a racial slur.
  • Everything is Homophobic: Jordan's butler tries to play the homophobia card when Jordan and his cronies confront him about money that was stolen during his gay orgy in the apartment. Donny doesn't like that.
  • Evil Mentor: Belfort initially thinks that brokers are there to earn money for their clients. Hanna changes his mindset, teaching him it's all racket to keep the suckers in a loop while the brokers take home cold hard cash via commissions. Hanna also prescribes that jerking off and cocaine are the keys to success in the racket.
  • Exact Words: During their conversation on the yacht, Jordan employs this to bribe the officers without officially doing so. He goes on a spiel about how one guy at his firm made upwards of $250,000 or so on just his first transaction with the firm, with heavy implications that the same could happen to Denham if he joins. When Denham calls him out for bribing a federal officer, Jordan claims that, by the letter of the law, he didn't, because he never made an official offer or ever put down an exact total that would be paid to him.
  • Executive Excess: The film is basically centered around this very idea, showing that the life of a yuppie stockbroker in the 80s is one filled with all sorts of debauchery and depravity fueled by drugs and prostitutes of varying quality.
  • Fake Brit: In-Universe. When someone does have the temerity to call "Mad Max" while The Equalizer is on, he speaks to them politely, in a British accent, complete with "Righto, mate".
  • Fanservice Extra: Stratton Oakmont might have naked hookers on permanent staff.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Donny's, ahem, public appreciation of Naomi's beauty.
    • Jordan and Naomi's last time having sex. His pitiful desperation and her clearly not enjoying it make the sequence anything but arousing to watch.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Jordan may seem charming, but he's a total Jerkass who gleefully recounts how he's abused the law, with little care for anyone he hurts along the way.
  • Film the Hand: When the FBI captures Jordan during a commercial shoot, Denham puts his hand in front of the camera.
  • Foreshadowing: Jordan optimistically tells his first group of employees that their firm is "chasing Moby Dicks" and compares them to Captain Ahab, a man who never learned to know the right time to quit.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: Jordan sometimes speaks directly to the audience when recounting the events on screen. It's not really Breaking the Fourth Wall since no one else realizes that they're in a movie.
  • French Jerk: Played with. Jordan thinks that Jean-Jacques, the French Swiss banker who aids him in laundering the profits from his securities frauds is a "Swiss dick" and he in turn thinks of him as an "American shit." Their mutual greed leads to a cordial relationship until a key element of their scheme falls apart, whereupon they hang up on each other saying exactly what the other thought they thought of them. Ultimately, while Jean-Jacques is a Jerkass, his American business partners partners are even worse.
  • Functional Addict: Barely functional but Jordan spends majority of the movie high as kite. One particular scene has him snort cocaine before he was able to effectively perform CPR. Another scene toward the beginning of the film has him rattling off a list of drugs he takes and how they directly counterbalance the other drugs he's taking.
  • Futureshadowing: The movie is set in the late-1980s and 90s, but has many echoes of the post-recession climate. Jordan Lampshades this when he offers to tell Denham that he can give information on the greater fraud happening in Wall Street at Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers regarding trading of Internet stocks (which led to the inflation and bursting of the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s) and collateralized debt obligations (which led to the inflation and bursting of the housing in the late 2000s).
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: This is what the regular folks buying the penny stocks are after, which is how Belfort is able to exploit them.
  • Gold Digger: Naomi could be seen as this, as she doesn't decide to leave Jordan until everything crumbles around him.
  • Greed: Obviously the motivation behind everyone in this film.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: This trope is name-dropped by Jordan in relation to his father, Max. May be more of an Informed Attribute, as aside from the phone conversation from the same scene, Max appears to be the Only Sane Man in the office.
  • The Heckler: When Steve Madden steps up to the microphone at Stratton Oakmont and holds up the latest model of his shoes, the Mary Lou, Kimmie Belzer calls out "They're fat girl's shoes!" The staff then start throwing stuff since Madden is not an inspiring speaker. Considering he's a client who's making the firm very rich, this is really pushing it.
  • The Hedonist: Belfort and the entire Stratton Oakmont staff are this. For them girls, drugs and hijinks are all its about. Indeed, when Belfort, Donnie and their wives are in a yacht and caught in the middle of a storm, Belfort commands Donnie to go below deck, which is submerged in water and bring the Quaaludes stating, "I will not die sober." The miraculous survival of everyone on the yacht, their rescue by the Italian navy, and the sudden deaths of three people sent to rescue them because a seagull got sucked into their helicopter brings Belfort to an epiphany. He sincerely decides to quit and change his life. For a while, at least.
  • Hero Antagonist: Denham, the FBI agent pursuing Belford, the Wall Street crook and Villain Protagonist.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Chester and Toby do this to Belfort's butler Nicholas after Belfort finds out that one of Nicholas' friends has stolen money from him.
  • Hookers and Blow: Mark Hanna tells Jordan these are the sole reasons he's a stock broker. Jordan takes it to literal levels of shooting blow off a hooker's ass.
  • How We Got Here: The film starts out with Belfort at the peak of his hedonistic debauchery before jumping back to the start of his Wall Street career.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Jordan has multiple chances to change his ways, none of them ever stick.
    • Early on, Jordan expresses remorse over the pain he causes his first wife by cheating on her. His guilt lasts until the very next scene, where he divorces her, and then he's back to his usual philandering self.
    • After Jordan attracts the attention of the FBI, and instigates the issue by trying to bribe Agent Denham, his father urges him to quit while he's ahead and walk away from the company to live off his (already quite impressive) fortune. Jordan relents at first, then mid-way through giving a farewell speech to his employees, switches gears and decides to stay.
      Jordan: I ain't going nowhere!
    • After almost killing himself, his best friend, and their wives by forcing their ship captain to fly through a hurricane, Jordan is barely saved by an air-rescue. He resolves that this is a sign that he needs to turn around and come clean, but when he finds out his wife is divorcing him, taking half his money, and wants full custody of their daughter, he falls back into his old habits.
    • By the end of the film, Jordan is upset at losing his wife, his company, his friends but cheers up when he sees that he's being sent to a Luxury Prison Suite where he can play tennis, feeling that prison might not be so bad after all and that he's not being really punished. He winds up making a comfortable living as a public speaker.
      Jordan: For a brief fleeting moment, I had forgotten I was rich and lived in a place where everything is for sale.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After being sober for over a year, Jordan resorts to taking some backup ludes after learning about his wife filing for divorce.
  • Inner Monologue Conversation: When we're introduced to Jean-Jacques Saurel, after a ton of small talk we get Jordan's usual smug internal monologue but then we get Jean responding to him with his own, while giving a look that clearly gets the message across to Jordan.
    Jordan: (narrating, losing patience) What I'm asking, you Swiss dick, is "Are you going to fuck me over?"
    Saurel: (also narrating, smug) I understand perfectly, you American shit.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Jordan's lecherous friends drool over Naomi at the party and remark that she is hot, with one of them going as far as to say that he'd let her give him AIDS.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Played with. Jordan and Danny pop some vintage Quaaludes. Nothing happens. They pop a couple more. Nothing happens. They pop a couple more, and conclude that the Quaaludes, which were in storage for years, have expired. Jordan goes to a country club. Then they all hit at once, and Jordan discovers a new stage of Quaalude high: the "cerebral palsy" stage (meaning he can no longer talk or move).
  • Irony: The finale compares and cuts between Belfort riding a bus to prison while Denham rides a subway to work. Denham has an expression of sadness or regret that Being Good Sucks since honest people, like him and other people who ride to work on the subway have to struggle, while Belfort initially worried cheers up when he sees that he's going to a Luxury Prison Suite where he plays tennis with other white-collar criminals. So who exactly is being punished here?
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: When Jordan and his staff plan the midget-tossing event, Jordan refers to them as "it" a few times, and Donnie calls them "things."
  • Jews Love to Argue: Donnie, even in situations where it's not advisable.
  • Just Like Robin Hood:
    • A twisted example is what the real-life Forbes article first called Belfort, noting that he and his firm steal from the rich and keep for themselves, which infuriates Belfort when he reads it in the movie.
    • As the movie shows, Belfort's long running senior staff is composed of drug dealers and other lowlifes who would never get access to the education and opportunity to work in Wall Street for real and Belfort trains them to speak professionally and make them more palatable to audience tastes. As his Pet the Dog moment below shows, he provided help to a struggling single mother and empowered her to make money.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: For all of his idiotic and impulsive actions, Jordan's arrest never comes from his own actions. He gets busted 2 years after he goes straight for a crime he wasn't even related to.
  • Kissing Cousins: Donny and his wife.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Patrick Denham is world-weary, tired, and cynical. Yet he still believes in doing the right thing and never lets up in his attempts to take Jordan down.
  • Lack of Empathy: Jordan is an unrepentant narcissist who only cares about himself. The suicide of a fellow Stratton Oakmont employee is casually brushed aside, and when Aunt Emma dies of old age, he blithely ignores Naomi's crying at the death of her aunt to take them to Switzerland so he can settle his money instead.
  • Large Ham: At first invoked by Jordan, who imitates Mark's over-the-top charismatic leadership style. By film's end, he's Chewing the Scenery every chance he gets.
  • Lie Back and Think of England: Right before Naomi tells him that she wants a divorce and she's leaving him, she lets a horny Belfort have sex with her despite not being into it, since it will be the last time.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: A less exclusive example: The prospect of prison terrifies Jordan at first, until he remembers that he's a rich man going to jail for white-collar crimes and thus gets sent to a comfortable minimum-security prison that even includes a tennis court.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Played for Laughs when Donny masturbates to Naomi in public while under the influence of Quaaludes.
  • Marital Rape License: The final sex scene between Jordan and Naomi. It's pretty clear that Jordan isn't seeking her consent, and several times Naomi tells him "No" and "Get off of me." Midway through, she grants permission for him to finish (even encourages him to do so) although she is obviously pissed and doesn't enjoy it at all. It reads less as her giving retroactive consent and more as her realizing that if she encourages him, it'll be over sooner.
  • Medium Awareness: Despite never really breaking the fourth wall, there are a few moments of the film where characters get brief glimpses of awareness. In one of them, Jordan's narration describes Rugrat's hair as a "piece of shit hairpiece", which causes Rugrat to walk off camera, waving the middle finger.
  • Mic Drop: At the end of an announcement to a cheering crowd at his pool party, Jordan lets the mic drop to the floor in a display of coolness.
  • Mile-High Club:
    • A poor Sexy Stewardess is groped by a very high Jordan, with Donnie playing along at first. Belfort goes as far as dry humping her, which gets him restrained and tied to his seat. The scene is something to behold.
    • Jordan's bachelor party qualifies as a Mile High Orgy.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Margot Robbie as Naomi has many scenes where she's topless or in lingerie or a bikini. However, the scene of her teasing Jordan by flashing him is framed so the audience doesn't see anything except her legs.
  • Money Fetish: To the point of literally having sex on top of a pile of money.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Even at Jordan's most extreme drug usage and betrayal of his friends, it's still funny. The laughs end when he hits his wife.
    • When Jordan is discussing the crazy sex in the office and talks about Pam, one of the salesgirls who was the Office Bicycle who Jordan states had a threesome with him and Donny. One of their colleagues married her despite knowing this. We see a montage of their wedding, which cuts to shot of the guy in a bath-tub of blood with his bloody arm sticking out.
      Jordan: Two years later...he killed himself...Anyway...
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jordan. The FBI has him bang to rights, he has just fallen Off the Wagon and after hitting his wife, attempted to flee with his daughter. Jordan realizes how far he has fallen. Though, see Ignored Epiphany above, it doesn't stick for long.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: A mundane variation. When first starting out as a stockbroker, the tiny commission Jordan gets from his sales (around one percent) requires him to get his clients to buy large amounts of stocks for him to make any money. He keeps these tactics when joining the penny stock firm after Black Monday, even though his commission is much higher (fifty percent), letting him make money much more quickly. He makes two thousand dollars in his first sale there, and, as he puts it, "The other guys looked at me like I'd discovered fire."
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Jordan forgetting about this is what leads to his final downfall when he slips Donnie a note warning him that he's wearing a wire. Donnie promptly turns it over to Agent Denham, who revokes his deal with Jordan.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: invoked Teresa, Belfort's first wife says this word for word, when Belfort complains about the real-life article that first called him "The Wolf of Wall Street". She's proven right, as Stratton Oakmont gets five thousand job applications a week later.
  • Non-Indicative Title: To some extent and Lampshaded in the film, but Jordan Belfort only works briefly at Wall Street before the 1987 crash ended his career as a legitimate broker. Stratton Oakmont starts as a penny stock operation, at Long Island, and Jordan exploits the fact that it's even more deregulated than Wall Street to make his fortune.
  • N-Word Privileges: When he gets high on a flight, one of the things Jordan does is call the captain racial slurs. After Jordan's dry-humping of the stewardesses, this is the last straw in the captain's temper, and he straps Jordan into his seat for the remainder of the flight. Notably, when Jordan sobers up and hears about his use of slurs, even he is shocked by this.
    Jordan: I called the captain the n-word?
    Donnie: Yeah, he was very upset.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the market bell sounds in the middle of the trading day on Black Monday, everyone knows it's a very bad sign.
  • Once More, with Clarity: Jordan's real ride home after he sees the car wrecked.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted; both of the Belfort estate's security guards are named Rocco. Also with Nicholas the butler and Nicky "Rugrat" Koskoff, whose complete first name is Nicholas, as confirmed by Saurel.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Jordan's friend Brad. While still a drug dealer and criminal, he shows a lot more common sense than the other characters. He doesn't join in the firm along with Jordan's other friends, preferring to be a silent partner to help keep money off the books. After he gets caught and sent to jail for three months, he decides to get out of the game entirely rather than continue on with Jordan's schemes, even refusing to have Jordan pay for his time in jail. Of all the people Jordan brings in to help him establish his own firm, he's the only person who manages to understand Jordan's "Sell me this pen" motivation speech.
    • Amid his hot-blooded outbursts of anger, Jordan's father Max is the only one who consistently offers him good and level-headed advice.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Australian Margot Robbie seems to forget her New York accent in her first scene. Also, at the end of the film when Jordan is in New Zealand, the people he calls on to sell the pen sound much more like Aussies than like Kiwis.
  • Pet the Dog: A minor one near the end of the film, when Jordan is making what he believes will be his last speech to the company he helped found. He tells the story behind Kimmie Belzer (one of the original 20 brokers and probably most successful woman at the firm) and her hiring, where she asked for a $5,000 advance to pay for her son's tuition. Kimmie tells everyone how Jordan gave her $25,000, because he "believed in her."
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure: In the beginnings of his firm, Jordan uses Moby Dick and Captain Ahab as an allegory for determination, but the other guys don't even know what he's talking about. Of course, neither does Jordan - see Foreshadowing, above.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film differs much from the Jordan's biography (and real life).
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: The film chronicles Jordan Belfort's journey from Nave Newcomer to Morally Bankrupt Banker to pretend police informant to either The Atoner or the Karma Houdini who as a motivational speaker will inspire new hopefuls to invest in the market and the belief that money will make you happy..
  • Really Gets Around: Jordan and the other guys in the office, though mostly with prostitutes. Jordan mentions a sales woman who sucked off every guy in the office and was doubled teamed by Jordan and Donnie.
  • Real Person Cameo: The actual Jordan Belfort appears near the end of the movie, playing the person introducing DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort at a seminar.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Many, many lines are crossed emphasizing just how decadent and debauched Jordan and his inner circle have become after getting filthy rich, but their casually, matter-of-factly discussing the terms of hiring a circus midget to be thrown at a board like a human dart by the firm employees probably takes the cake for most outrageous (complete with Donnie mentioning, very calmly, that there'd be legal benefits to not considering the midgets human).
  • Remarried to the Mistress: After Jordan's affair with Naomi leads to Jordan and his wife Teresa divorcing, Jordan marries Naomi instead. This new marriage does not stop Jordan from cheating on Naomi herself with various prostitutes.
  • Rich Boredom: Jordan admits he doesn't know what to do with all the money he's been making and quickly grows bored of his lavish lifestyle.
  • "Rise and Fall" Gangster Arc: Scorsese is no stranger to this trope in the context of organized crime, but this film takes the unusual approach of applying it to White-Collar Crime.
  • Rousing Speech: Jordan's speech where he welshes on his deal with the SEC to leave the firm and the securities business in exchange for pleading guilty to a few violations of their regulations. Indeed this seems to be his real talent and in the end he decides to Cut Lex Luthor a Check and work as a motivational speaker which is his present day real life self's real occupation.
  • Safe, Sane, and Consensual: Averted with a scene where Jordan engages in BDSM with a dominatrix, who proceeds to completely ignore his safeword (although he also seems to enjoy that as well).
  • Schmuck Bait: In Mark Hanna's view, the Stock Market functions on this principle. As brokers and investment bankers, they don't create anything, so their livelihood depends on making people invest and continue investing while they earn on commissions:
    Mark Hanna: Cause they're fucking addicted. And then you just keep doing this, again, and again, and again. Meanwhile, he thinks he's getting shit rich, which he is, on paper. But you and me, the brokers?"
    Jordan Belfort: Right.
    Mark Hanna: We're taking home cold hard cash via commission, motherfucker.
    • Jordan Belfort's penny stock operation takes this up to eleven, via a Batman Gambit of offering good stocks in blue chip companies and then unloading the dummy stocks and earning, thanks to lower regulation, even higher commissions than they would in the real stock market.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Belfort's life philosophy, most dramatically illustrated when he refuses to take a deal with the SEC that probably would have allowed him to get off scot-free. From his speech when he's about to leave Stratton Oakmont but then decides not to at the last second:
  • Self-Made Man: Deconstructed; everybody needs a little help. Even a person starting their own business could bring in family or friends or something.
  • Sex at Work: Employees use the bathrooms for sex so much that it becomes part of the work culture.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show, Don't Tell: Tropes Are Tools, and we are shown how Jordan's lifestyle tears his life apart rather than given An Aesop. Though (see Do Not Do This Cool Thing in the YMMV page) it may have been too subtle a message for some moviegoers.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Extremely cynical. Main story aside, almost everyone in this movie is a Jerkass.
  • Smug Snake: Jordan is overconfident.
    Jordan: Was all this legal? Absolutely fucking not!
  • The Social Darwinist: Jordan Belfort and everyone else at Stratton Oakmont, except for Jordan's dad, are about exploiting the less business savy so they can thrive.
  • The Sociopath: Jordan; Impulsive, anti-Social, violent, hedonistic, views everything and everyone as a possession. He may or may not have wised up to his sins by the end.
  • Speed Sex: Jordan is gone in eleven seconds the first time he's with Naomi. He's immediately ready for the second round.
  • Start My Own: Jordan Belfort on the first day of his job at Wall Street is described as being "lower than pond scum" and after the 1987 crash, he loses his job. Stratton Oakmont (complete with fake Old Money respectable title) is essentially his version of Wall Street, where he uses the deregulated penny stocks and pump-and-dump operations to become semi-respectable enough to make it back in Wall Street. Jordan Lampshades the same when talking about his firm's big break, the IPO(Initial Public Offering) for Steve Madden.
    Jordan: Stratton Oakmont was rising out of the primordial ooze. Pond scum no more!
  • Surrounded by Idiots: While Jordan is not really better and in some cases worse, he acknowledges Donnie and the other staff at Stratton Oakmont are not that bright and full hedonists, and would much prefer the smarter and composed Brad to work for him who in turn doesn't want to join Jordan's firm for that exact reason.
  • This Loser Is You: While not explicitly following this trope, the tone of the ending certainly follows this. The ending, consisting of Jordan Belfort giving a motivational speech to his audience, ends with a shot of the audience starting at Belfort with interest. Word of God dictates that the audience is meant to represent American society as a whole, and that the reason people like Belfort get away relatively easily is because we have the innate desire to have this same wealth and luxury. In other words, we let people like Belfort win because we secretly want the same thing.
  • Title Drop: The Wolf of Wall Street was a title of a Forbes article on Belfort and Stratton Oakmont that first brought the FBI's attention to his business. The title is discussed by Belfort and his wife after the article is published in-universe.
  • Understatement: During the bedroom argument, Naomi complains about Jordan once flying back home on his helicopter at 3 AM and inadvertently waking up Skylar doing so. The scene cuts to a flashback of a completely intoxicated Jordan downright stumbling out of his helicopter and falling into his pool, triggering an alarm so loud that that woke up Skylar. Naomi doesn't even bring up that Jordan would have risked drowning due to his wasted state at the time.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Dropping enough quaaludes to kill a bull elephant and then trying to drive home while barely able to breathe, let alone walk, firmly puts Jordan in this category.
    • Likewise Donnie, equally high, gobbles down a fistful of ham from the dinner table while trying to escape Jordan's wrath after getting Brad arrested. He immediately starts choking to death and Jordan spends a good few seconds hesitating because of how much he'd enjoy seeing Donnie die of his own stupidity.
    • When Jordan sails his yacht into a Mediterranean storm of biblical proportions to get to Switzerland to save 20 million of his money, he cares more about rescuing his supply of quaaludes than the safety of everyone aboard, not to mention the gigantic wave that's about to capsize the boat. Afterwards, even he concludes that the whole event might just be a hint that even God wants him dead if he doesn't change his ways.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Jordan Belfort, or so says Word of God (Terence Winter). In one scene he brags about successfully driving home while severely intoxicated, only to discover in the morning that he smashed his car all to hell.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The movie has elements from the autobiography.
  • Villain Has a Point: As noted under Futureshadowing, Jordan points out to Denham that the big Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers don't operate entirely within the law themselves and aren't that different from him. Considering their tactics were a big contributor to the late 2000s recession and let to several lawsuits and prosecution, he's not wrong.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Jordan invites Agent Dunham to his yacht, hoping to impress or bribe him to quit the FBI and tank the investigation. Dunham's refusal to play ball quickly gets under Jordan's skin to a pathetic degree.
  • Villain Protagonist: Jordan Belfort is a prime example of this trope, being a vile and amoral sociopath who lives lavishly at the expense of all the people he's defrauded. He is charming though.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Donnie tosses his cookies after the butler's blood splashes on him.
  • Wacky Startup Workplace: Stratton Oakmont seems to regularly have strippers and human-sized dartboards on the premises, and all of the staff drink heavily while engaging in bizarre stunts.
  • Wealthy Yacht Owner: Jordan's yacht is a plot point; taking it becomes a metaphor for bringing him down.
  • Who's on First?: Jordan and Danny discussing non-alcoholic beer.
  • World of Jerkass: Almost everybody is a selfish, greedy, or bastardly Jerkass, with the exception of Jordan's parents, his first wife, Naomi to some extent, their kids, and Denham.
  • Would Hit a Girl: When his wife tells him she wants a divorce and custody of their children Jordan slaps her in the face and punches her in the stomach in order to get to his daughter.
  • The X of Y: The Wolf of Wall Street, although, as noted in the film, Belfort did not actually operate on Wall Street when he and his business became famous.

"For a moment, I had forgotten I was rich, and I lived in a world where everything was for sale. Wouldn't you like to know how to sell it?"


Video Example(s):


Boisterous Donnie

Donnie Azoff may talk big in taunting the FBI by pissing on the US Goverment's subpoenas, but at the end of the day/movie, he's just a Caper Tiger cowering in his office while the Feds do a mass arrest of Strattonites.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / PaperTiger

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