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Wall Street (1987)

Updated on July 1, 2014


'Wall Street' was a Hollywood film directed by Oliver Stone which starred Charlie Sheen (as stockbroker Bud Fox, the film's main protagonist), Michael Douglas (as famous American corporate raider Gordon Gekko, the film's main antagonist), Darryl Hannah, Martin Sheen, Hal Holbrook and Terrence Stamp (as British corporate raider, Sir Lawrence 'Larry' Wildman).

Released towards the end of 1987 just 7 weeks after 'Black Monday' (The stock market crash of October 1987 which triggered a global sell-off of stocks), the film was Oliver Stone's assault on the excess and 'power-obsessed' craze revolving around accumulation of money that had marred much of America and the first world during that era and resonated among audiences primarily due to the antagonist than the protagonist.

Oliver Stone himself said that 'Gordon Gekko' was based mostly on real-life American corporate raider, Ivan Boesky, who abused the then legal loopholes to take over companies and then strip their assets for massive profits with the help of inside-information.

Stone had dedicated the film to his own father, Louis Stone who was a stockbroker on Wall Street during the 'Great Depression' and wanted to show the audience about how the values of the business in the 80's had nothing in common with what they were between the 1920s and 1960s.

As Dynasty co-star Joan Collins put it, "Wall Street was one of the most defining films of the 80's as it showcased what began to fundamentally go wrong within America's financial system" (i.e. low interest rates, easy access to credit and consumption like there was no tomorrow and at any cost).

The film also summed up the hunger for power and money with its most famous dialogue spoken by Michael Douglas's character, Gordon Gekko, "Greed, or for the lack of a better word, is GOOD"

Trailer for Wall Street (1987)

Bud Fox's Struggle at Wall Street

Set in the year 1985, Bud Fox (Sheen) is a young and aspiring stock-broker working at 'Jackson & Steinam Co'. Along with one of his good friends on the floor Marvin (John McGinley) and many others, his job primarily designates him as a 'account executive' but it is shown he's a sales rep cold-calling prospective customers to sell investment ideas and opportunities on the stock market.

Despite the stress of failing to secure enough clients, Bud Fox is ambitious and persistently continues to try to win the patronage of his hero, corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Douglas) who's known to be a major but ruthless and fearsome player on Wall Street. Gordon Gekko's values are also shown to be in stark contrast of Fox's father, Carl (Martin Sheen) who's a blue-collar maintenance mechanic at 'Bluestar Airlines' - while Gekko makes his multi-millions by speculating on trades and buying and selling off others, Carl Fox believes there's more nobility in creating something of value and earning money from that instead of betting on profits and losses of others. During a casual conversation over a drink with his son, Carl reveals to Bud that the airline he works at was most likely to be exonerated over a fatal crash that occurred a year ago since the NTSB concluded that the crash was caused due to a faulty part provided by a supplier and had nothing to do with the airline's maintenance regime - The 'not guilty' verdict for the airline could also mean it could finally expand its network and buy new planes.

Gekko Signs Up (and So Does The Corruption)

After repeated persistence, Bud Fox finally comes face to face with Gordon Gekko and tries to convince him into investing in some stocks that he hand-picked earlier, based on his honest research. Realizing that Gekko's unimpressed and fearing he may not become his client, Fox informs him about the possible verdict on Bluestar Airlines and asks him to buy some shares in the company. Gekko eventually agrees and when Bluestar's officially cleared of negligence over the crash, the stock-price begins to climb; Gekko makes a massive profit and Fox earns a handsome commission on the sale.

While much of Bud's initial success with Gordon comes from the investment in Bluestar Airlines, his other stocks based on his honest research don't do well and lose money. It is here that Gekko tells Bud that he in fact already knew that Fox's father is a union-head at Bluestar and its due to his 'inside information' regarding the verdict that Bud was able to earn a profit else Gekko wouldn't have even considered investing in Bluestar Airlines (or an airline in general as he doesn't trust their unions and the culture that goes with it).

Gekko further convinces Bud that insider-trading is the way to go if you really want to cut it at Wall Street. Gekko soon takes Bud under his wing and becomes his mentor and asks Bud to spy on his arch rival, British corporate raider Larry Wildman to find out about Wildman's whereabouts as Gordon suspects he's up to something big. Bud's spying reveals that Larry Wildman's considering a massive but friendly take-over of a steel company named 'Anacot Steel' and upon informing Gekko of this, the latter undercuts Larry's position in the stock and forces him to buy it back from him at a premium.

Gekko begins investing more of his money and time in the young stockbroker, eventually giving him limited power of attorney on any investment decisions he makes and provides him with rewards every time he makes a profit including private jet travel, a luxury apartment in New York city's east-side and a trophy-blonde interior designer girlfriend, Darien Taylor (Darryl Hannah) who unknown to Bud, was Gordon Gekko's mistress. Fox becomes wealthier and wealthier by the day by tapping Gekko's inside knowledge and also begins using straw buyers for the same stocks, one of the straw buyers being his friend from university and now lawyer, Roger Barnes (James Spader). Unknown to Bud and Gekko at this stage, some of Bud's unusually large trades catch the eye of the authorities.

Gekko's shows his Real Cards

Trusting Gordon to be his mentor and a well-wisher, Bud asks him to buy a significant part of Bluestar Airlines and supply it with the capital injection it desperately needs to upgrade baggage handling and reservation systems and to also upgrade its fleet. Gordon seems interested and proposes a plan at a meeting with union members (including union-head and Bud's father, Carl Fox).

While some union members seem keen on Gordon's involvement with the airline, Carl is unconvinced and distrustful of Gekko as he believes Gekko doesn't care about the airline and will eventually asset-strip it and sell it off. Father and Son then have a bitter fight and Carl soon suffers a heart-attack. Bud also finds out from Roger Barnes (his lawyer friend from NYU who he used as a straw buyer for other stocks) that Gekko was indeed planning on destroying Bluestar and not turning it around - he instead wants to cash in on the airline's over funded pension plans (to the tune of $75,000,000.00) after stripping off its assets. Devastated and guilt-ridden, Bud tearfully apologies to his father for not believing him before and promises revenge against Gekko. Bud angrily breaks up with Darien after she refuses to plot against Gekko who she regards as the architect of her career.

Bud then sells off his Manhattan apartment (albeit suffering a loss due to a housing recession) and begins to focus all his energies on plotting his revenge against Gordon.

Bud's Alliance with Wildman (and Revenge against Gekko)

Bud Fox approaches Lawrence Wildman and asks him to take over the airline with union concessions but only if he promises on contract that he will not destroy it - Seeing this as an opportunity to destroy Gekko and seek revenge over Anacot Steel, Lawrence agrees and both him and Bud devise a plan to sell Bluestar into a more brighter future and see the downfall of Gordon Gekko.

On the day of trading on Wall Street and the suspected takeover of the airline by Gekko, Bud artificially manages to drive Bluestar's stock price up by having all his colleagues and clients mass-buy its shares until mid-day when he orchestrates union members to meet Gekko and refuse to allow him to take over the airline. Realizing that Gekko has no more union concessions, he sells off the stock he already held earlier for a small profit.

Fox then asks everybody on the floor to dump Bluestar stock and asks Larry Wildman to buy it all when prices hit rock-bottom by day's end. The plan succeeds with Larry Wildman buying a most in the airline at a massive discount and Gekko losing a potentially multi-million dollar making opportunity.

While Bud potentially saves his father's airline from potential bankruptcy, thanks to Wildman's stepping in, the celebrations don't last long - Bud's suspicious trades eventually lose the race against the SEC and he's soon arrested and escorted out of his office.

Bud's Final Encounter with Gekko

Gekko then confronts Bud Fox and assaults him before accusing him of being ungrateful for sandbagging him on Bluestar. Gekko tells Fox that without the former's help on inside-information on a few companies, Fox wouldn't even have been half as successful unless he knew how the system worked. It is then later revealed that Fox met Gekko on the instructions of the authorities and their whole conversation had been recorded. The SEC authorities tell Bud that due to his testimony, his punishment would be reduced.

In the last moments of the film, Bud is driven to the court by his parents who tell him again that there's no such thing as easy money and he should begin working for Bluestar in the position created for him by Larry Wildman since his take over the airline. Bud tells them that they all know he will be incarcerated for what he's done but he hints without saying that he can at least now live with a clear conscience.

Please rate this article

5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Wall Street (1987 film)


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    • Prisana profile image

      Prisana Nuechterlein 

      2 years ago from Thailand and Colorado

      Excellent review!

    • Hackslap profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Hey Amanda. .thanks for your feedback ... well Wall Street truly captured the spirit of that 'me the person' mentality that really shot up during the 80's especially in the west (that same mentality which is now creeping up amongst the emerging economies of the world today).. .. and your analysis is spot on that Bud actually became a client for Gordon like a puppet ....

      Money Never Sleeps was well made but then somehow it felt a bit 'mellow' and less fast paced ...

    • amandajoyshapiro profile image


      5 years ago

      Wall Street seems like a typical story of greed in the 1980s but your review shows that it was also a typical story of family and morals for any era. After watching this film you realize why it's called the Bull market: because it is an unpredictable beast that determines whether you can stay on or be thrown to the ground. Though Gordon had to sign on to be Bud's client, doesn't it seem that Bud ended up working for Gordon?

      What did you think of Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps?

    • Hackslap profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Cheers EWF.. I'll definitely try to watch it!

    • Eric Flynn profile image

      Eric Wayne Flynn 

      5 years ago from Providence, Rhode Island

      "Wolf of Wall Street", out on Xmas day.. Scorsese's take on the culture. Should be interesting to see. I doubt it will have the power of "Wall Street" but it's worth a look.

      PS Thorough synopsis


    • Hackslap profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for commenting Oswalda and the follow :) .. Please take time to read some of my other blogs .. I look forward to reading yours too..

    • Oswalda Purcell profile image

      Oswalda Purcell 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Your comprehensive reviews put my own to shame! Extremely thorough and analytic. Thanks for the flashback. The only thing that does not hold up in this movie is the technology. The tech just looks so silly today. Other than that, as you noted, the corruption of Bud is timeless and still resonates.

    • Hackslap profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      thanks for the feedback bat!

    • bat115 profile image


      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      This was a great movie and your review reflects that.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 

      5 years ago from Hawaii

      This is a nice review.

    • Hackslap profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for reading MsDora :)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Real life in the arts. This could be a history lesson, later. Thank you for the review.


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