Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Timely Classic: Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street (Guest Post)

The poor state of the world financial market is constantly the top story of news outlets across the globe. Much of the financial crises that plague various countries can be accredited to corporate greed and poor government oversight of financial misdoings. The ensuing drama is rich material for a movie adaption. I can’t think of any better movie that depicts such financial irresponsibility on such a large scale than Oliver Stone’s 1987 classic Wall Street.

Although it was released over twenty years ago, Wall Street has many themes and characters that would resonate with today’s moviegoers. Stone recently made a sequel to the classic in 2010 called Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, but I feel that the original movie captures the overall moral of the story better. So let’s take a look at this classic movie and what makes it so great.

A few plot points for context

The film follows the rise and fall of the young stockbroker Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, as he navigates the treacherous waters of the New York Stock Exchange. Though he shows some promise as a stockbroker at his early age, he’s eager to earn more and more money and live the extravagant lifestyle he’d always dreamt of. His idol is a sleek trader named Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas (Douglas went on to earn an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role). Bud Fox has been conducting trades based on old fashioned by the books tactics that he learned in school, but he’s quickly convinced by Gordon Gekko that the only way to make it big on Wall Street is to user insider information to leverage great trades.

Of course Bud starts committing acts of insider trading under Gekko’s instruction, and becomes extremely wealthy in the process. This movie is a great depiction of the financial excesses of the 80’s (and a good idea of what the super-rich are like today), and Oliver Stone doesn’t pull any punches as he shows Wall Street traders practically swimming in their wealth. For a moment, it seems like Bud and Gekko can do no wrong.

The company whose fate is at the center of this film is an airline called Bluestar Airlines, a business where Bud Fox’s father Carl, played by Martin Sheen, works as a foreman and a card-carrying union member. Carl and Bud have many ideological conversations about the nature of insider trading: the father distrusts the sleazy methods that Gekko taught Bud, and discourages from proceeding any further with such dealings. At a certain point the stocks of Bluestar Airlines becomes central to the plot of the movie, whereupon Bud must make a decision between helping his father keep his job and getting filthy rich by selling the company. I won’t tell you what happens next, you’ll have to watch the movie—trust me, it’s a great flick!

Why Wall Street matters

Sure, Oliver Stone’s film can get a little preachy at times, but that’s part of the movie’s appeal. Hollywood often depicts unlimited wealth and success as a great gift with few consequences, but Wall Street is about the flip side of that story. The movie shows traders making huge sums of money not through years of hard work or devotion to a career, but by a few strategic stock market trades that make them millionaires overnight. Such is the financial greed that proved problematic in the 80’s, just as it proves problematic today.

Amanda Watson is an experienced freelancer blogger who covers web-based businesses and higher education. She writes about the latest online mba news and current trends among online entrepreneurs. You can reach Amanda at

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