A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1987 – Wall Street
“Greed is good.”
I can’t think of a better sentiment for 1987.
Oliver Stone is one of those filmmakers who seems to have his finger solely on the pulse of the country. You think about this movie, JFK, Natural Born Killers, he really finds a way to comment on what the culture is at the time, or on something we hold dear as a nation and really uncover it and get people talking about it.
This one is a really interesting one, because it’s the kind of movie that uncovered the dirty things happening on Wall Street at the time, yet also laid a very dangerous foundation for all the idiots who saw this movie and wanted to become that person. There’s that movie Boiler Room, where all the twenty-something stockbrokers of 1999 all knew this movie by heart. That’s the reality this movie created.
This is a slam dunk choice for 1987. This is what America was.
It’s so great that this movie, where all of the main characters are essentially bad people, became so influential for people wanting to enter that field, and what it says about that field that these people made others want to emulate them.
But, culturally, this is what the 80s was. Excess. Business people. I feel like almost every 80s movie, if it wasn’t an action movie or a fantasy, took place in New York, and at least one of the characters was a businessperson. And everyone was afraid the Chinese were gonna come and take over. Yuppie businesspeople are the staple of 80s cinema.
The beautiful thing about this movie is how well it foreshadowed what the financial world would become – there’s all of this stylish wheeling and dealing and people looking slick and making millions of dollars. But none of it was real or legitimate, and eventually it would come back to bite everyone in the ass and fuck them all over.
It’s one thing to have a movie that perfectly captures the spirit of its year, and also be a critical and commercial success. It’s another entirely to have a movie be so completely on the ball of what was in store for the country if greed and excess were left unchecked, yet also be the one to provide a bad example for misguided people who would emulate it and essentially enact the future the movie warned about. It’s a weird, self-fulfilling prophecy, this movie, and it’s so fascinating to look back on.