Maddman: The Steve Madden Story

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Maddman: The Steve Madden Story Movie Poster Image
Docu on retail giant has lots of cursing, drugs.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 77 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Documentary shows how far hard work, drive, and determination can take someone. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Steve Madden is shown to be someone who works very hard at what he loves, and who learns from his mistakes. After serving time in prison, Madden found work for inmates who helped him get through his sentence, and continues to support programs that put former inmates to work. He also speaks frankly of his drug and alcohol addiction, and the toll it took on his life, and how his life improved when he became sober. 


Steve Madden's brother talks of the wild times he and his brother used to have when he lived in Miami in the 1970s. While waxing nostalgic, he talks of having numerous sexual liaisons with other women while married, and also makes reference to a sex act in which two men are having sex at the same time with one woman. Steve Madden's doorman talks of how Madden was always bringing women home while high on drugs, and tells the story of when Madden woke up from being passed out in the hallway completely naked and needed the key to get back into his apartment. When discussing Madden's stay in a federal penitentiary, a former inmate tells of the time he found Madden on the former inmate's bed seeking advice, when the former inmate informed him that sitting on another man's bed meant that "you want to be his boyfriend." 


Frequent profanity, including regular use of "f--k." "Motherf----r," "s--t," "damn," "ass," "goddamn." 


The Steve Madden shoe brand is as much a topic of this documentary as Steve Madden the man. The history of the company, its rise, fall, then rebirth, and how the company revolutionized the fashion and shoe industries is a huge theme.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Anecdotes concerning Madden's teen and young adult years are filled with stories of drug and alcohol abuse. Cocaine and quaaludes are frequently discussed. Though anecdotes are spoken of in fond nostalgia, Madden ultimately gets sober and readily admits that when he did, that's when his business and life really started to take off. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Maddman: The Steve Madden Story is a 2017 documentary about the successful shoe innovator and retail giant. Profanity is constant, including frequent use of "f--k." There's graphic discussion of Madden's teen and young adult years in which he abused drugs and alcohol -- especially cocaine and quaaludes. While discussing this time, Madden's brother speaks nostalgically about when he lived in Miami in the '70s and early '80s: of having numerous sexual liaisons while married, including a sex act in which two men have intercourse with a woman at the same time. However, Steve Madden also talks openly about how much his life improved when he realized he was an addict and became sober. While not presented as a saint, Steve Madden is shown to be someone who seems to learn from his mistakes -- including serving time in prison for stock manipulation and money and securities fraud. He used the experience to help inmates he met who helped him survive his sentence, supporting charities who help released inmates find work. The documentary shows what's possible if someone follows their passion, works hard at it, and perseveres. 

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What's the story?

MADDMAN: THE STEVE MADDEN STORY is a documentary about the life and times of the man behind the brand. It begins with his Long Island upbringing as a class clown with undiagnosed ADD and continues through his "party years" in the Miami and NYC of the late '70s and early '80s. The documentary then shows how Madden, after getting sober, took a shoe business that he started with $1,100 and transformed it into a billion-dollar company that revolutionized the fashion industry. It also discusses how Madden, who had done business with the man known in movies as The Wolf of Wall Street, is found guilty of stock manipulation and money and securities fraud, and sent to prison. He speaks of this experience, and of what he learned from serving out his sentence. Upon release, Madden works to revitalize his brand, and once more takes it to the top of the industry, in innovation and profit, expanding into international markets. 

Is it any good?

This documentary presents a full picture of the man behind the brand. Even as many of the negatives of his life -- such as drug and alcohol addiction and prison time -- are turned into positives, the overall portrait is of a driven, hands-on, no-nonsense shoe visionary who became successful through hard work, creativity, and persistence. 

Maddman: The Steve Madden Story is a documentary that's probably best enjoyed by the fashionistas of the family, or even for those who wore his shoes while reading Sassy in their '90s tween and teen years. Outside of that world, the documentary doesn't hold enough interest on the strength of its story alone. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about documentaries. How does Maddman: The Steve Madden Story compare to other documentaries you've seen?

  • How was drug and alcohol use shown in the documentary? Was it glamorized, shown to have negative consequences, or a bit of both? 

  • What impression of Steve Madden does this documentary leave you with? 

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