Wall Street

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Wall Street Movie Poster Image
Timeless cautionary tale of excess has other mature themes.
  • R
  • 1987
  • 126 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie's theme is an ancient one: a character sells his soul to "the devil" in exchange for untold riches and power. But he soon realizes that he has neglected some of the most important things in life, such as family, loyalty, and friendship. In the end, he realizes his mistake and sacrifices everything to try and correct it, and to save his father's livelihood.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gordon Gekko is the movie's most interesting and seductive character, but he's also "the devil," capable of the vilest kinds of evil. Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is the movie's hero, but he spends most of the movie under Gordon's spell and enjoying his wealthy lifestyle. Perhaps the best role model in the film is Bud's father, Carl (Martin Sheen), who runs a small business and recognizes what's really going on. He remains cool-headed and offers his support, love, and trust to Bud, even as he understands that Bud must eventually learn his own lessons.

Violence

Some verbal sparring and one brief fistfight.

Sex

There's one sex scene shown in silhouette, and a comic suggestion of oral sex in the back of a limo (but not shown). A naked girl climbs out of the hero's bed one morning. It's suggested that the female lead (Daryl Hannah) is sleeping with two different men. Lots of sexual innuendo with a negative tone against women, who are also treated like sex objects.

Language

Plenty of foul language including multiple uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Plus "scumbag," "c--ksucker," "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," "hell," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "jerk," and "piss," among other examples.

Consumerism

No real product placement here, but the movie is all about accumulating wealth and buying "the best of everything." The movie is beyond brand names, the art objects are one of a kind, and the clothes are tailored.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Most adults in this movie drink in a background, responsible way. Characters drink beer or wine with dinner, for example. Some characters smoke, and one character receives a box of cigars as a birthday present.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this popular 1980s-era tale of greed and corruption is filled with strong language and sexual references, as well as a condescending attitude toward women. Characters smoke and drink, but not to excess. The main character eventually comes around and realizes what's really important in life: his relationships.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLowe's man June 7, 2014

A good introduction to the goods and evils of the business world.

When Bud Fox meets Gordon Gekko he thinks that Gekko can teach him about the business world. Fox starts to think otherwise when he sees that Gekko is greedy an... Continue reading
Adult Written byGary Mc August 8, 2018

Good cautionary lesson about greed and critical thinking.

Call me prudish but they could have done without the full frontal nudity within the first 3 minutes. Aside from that, great performances by excellent actors bri... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byevolinag October 2, 2012

Language caused R-rating in interesting drama about money and greed.

"Wall Street" is a film drama by Oliver Stone. This movie is about a man (Charlie Sheen), who wants to become rich via stock market, and another man (... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written by80sfan8 January 29, 2014

Might bore some older kids

Besides the brief nude scene and language, there isn't too much questionable content in this movie, but this movie will bore some older kids. It is a very... Continue reading

What's the story?

Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) works for a brokerage firm, impatiently trying to make a living through cold-calls. Fed up, he talks his way into a meeting with high-roller Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Gekko takes a liking to Bud and shows him how to make some real money on Wall Street, even if the methods are a bit shady. Bud begins to enjoy his newfound wealth and power, as well as a high-class girlfriend (Daryl Hannah). He starts to set up a deal to save the small-scale airline business run by his good-hearted father (Martin Sheen), but discovers that Gordon is more interested in making money than in helping people. So Bud must decide whether to sacrifice everything he has worked for in the name of family, love, and loyalty.

Is it any good?

Directed by Oliver Stone, and dedicated to his stockbroker father, WALL STREET plays out with Stone's usual bombastic intensity. Some of the 1980s-era details may seem a bit dated, and the movie's attitude toward women is slightly despicable, but the overall story arc, echoing the "Faust" tale, is timeless. It can be on the predictable side, but movie as a whole is still effectively seductive.

It's telling that Michael Douglas won the movie's only Oscar for his portrayal of Gordon Gekko, who is something of a devil/Mephistopheles character, and effortlessly steals the show away from the more heroic characters. Eventually, right wins the day, but the movie is more memorable when Gekko, like the Grinch, is being bad. (And it's still remembered for Gekko's infamous "greed" speech.) Additionally, Wall Street manages to capture the mood and methods of Wall Street without getting too complex, and the overall story is told clearly and well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about greed. Is it good? Is it possible for businesses to work without being greedy?

  • Why is the Gordon Gekko character the most seductive and the most interesting? How do we come to see him for the first time? What does he represent?

  • Was Bud really happy when he was rich and working for Gordon? Can money and objects buy happiness for a short while? For the long haul?

  • What other media is a commentary on excess and greed? Is it still glorified? Expand your thinking to outlets that didn't exist in the '80s like Reality TV (My Super Sweet 16, for example).

Movie details

For kids who love dramas and redeption tales

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate