A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Excessive desire can never be quenched and can lead people down a dark path.
Positive Role Models
The main character is very charismatic and entertaining but unfortunately doesn't have a scrap of decency or humanity. He's greedy, ruthless, and completely without qualms about doing things that are illegal. He's addicted to sex and drugs (which he does admit). He puts his business and personal interests over those of his family. And though he's eventually caught, he never seems to learn any lessons. His love interest is drawn to the money his life can afford, but quickly finds out that it comes with a host of problems.
This film exists in a White, male-dominated world, the men ranging from their mid 30s to late 60s within corporate America. The only characters of color appear in minor roles, such as one of the original traders (played by Korean American actor Kenneth Choi) or glimpsed on the trading floor crowd. All women are sexualized and/or reaffirm that women are money-chasing, sexualized beings, made to serve male storylines. Disability representation is limited to an offensive scene where little people are used as human darts, thrown against an oversized board as a game. Queer representation is limited to closeted male interactions that are deemed immoral by other characters when they come to light.
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Violence & Scariness
A terrifying storm at sea nearly capsizes a yacht. Characters fight quite often, screaming and yelling and occasionally hitting. There's an interrogation in which a character is bashed in the face, followed by sprays of blood. In the opening scene, traders play a cruel game in which they toss little people at a big target. A major character chokes and stops breathing for a moment but is rescued. A bathtub full of blood is briefly shown after an off-screen death via suicide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The main character cheats on his wife, marries a new woman, and then cheats on her with an array of sex workers. In one scene, he snorts cocaine out of a woman's anus. Many of the traders at his firm are shown briefly having raw, graphic sex with sex workers and other women. Oral sex is suggested several times. There's lots of female nudity, as well as bare male bottoms. A female character teases the main character by opening her legs in his general direction, though nothing is shown to the camera. A shot of a large orgy of men. Several references to masturbation, and in one very brief shot (so quick viewers might miss it), a masturbating man's erect penis is exposed.
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Language is extremely strong and constant, mostly involving "f--k" and all permutations, but also "s--t," "c--t," "c--k" are used without limitations. Jesus' name and references to God as exclamations. Also ableist and anti-gay slurs, such as "retard" and "f--got," are also present.
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Products & Purchases
The Steve Madden shoe company and Lamborghini and Jaguar cars play parts in the plot. Absolut vodka, Mercedes-Benz, Armani suits, and Forbes and Hustler magazines are mentioned. Benihana also plays an important role in the story, portrayed in a negative light.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character drinks to excess, snorts cocaine, and takes all kinds of pills, especially Quaaludes. (One sequence is dedicated to a memorable night in which he takes an extra-strong dose.) The character's closest friend is also a heavy drug user. Cigarette smoking is shown. At the end of the movie, it's suggested that the main character has cleaned up and become sober.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that director Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the true story of a financial broker who bent the rules, became enormously wealthy, and wasn't caught for years. Main character Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) lives a life of debauchery and excess, cheating on his wife, remarrying, and cheating on his new wife with an endless array of sex workers. Many characters are shown having graphic sex of all types. The main character uses many different drugs but especially prefers Quaaludes; the movie spends extra time on the effects of this drug. A secondary character is also a heavy drug user. Language is extremely strong and constant, with "f--k" used nearly constantly, as well as "retard," "c--t," and "s--t." There's lots of enraged shouting, plus a bloody face-bashing scene, domestic violence (a wife gets punched a couple of times), and a quick shot of a (very tangential) bloody death by suicide. Disability and racial diversity are almost nonexistent, women are objects for men to conquer, and queer men are encouraged to stay closeted. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director Martin Scorsese, assisted by his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker, keeps up an astoundingly intoxicating pace for nearly three hours. He draws on his previous movies GoodFellas and Casino for the template of The Wolf of Wall Street, packing in many outrageous details behind a criminal organization over an epic running time. The huge cast, which includes a particularly memorable turn by Matthew McConaughey, helps out with small but potent performances.
The key difference here is that The Wolf of Wall Street may be the funniest movie Scorsese has ever made. Every few minutes, it hurls something so shocking and high-spirited that laughter feels like the only response. Yet the movie's monstrous energy seems to be fueled by something both exciting and rotten. DiCaprio gives a true heavyweight performance, laced with contempt, and he's never truly redeemed. Rather, Scorsese ends the movie on a scene that illustrates the pitfalls of desire and how it can never be entirely fulfilled.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.