At the box office, it was. But, "as a vehicle for social change," Michael Lewis says, "it was a catastrophe."
One lesson that might be drawn from Oliver Stone’s 1987 movie, Wall Street, is how little control a movie director has over his audience. [...] What [Stone] wanted to do, it appeared, was to prosecute the values underpinning American capitalism. He cast Michael Douglas as a diabolical money manager named Gordon Gekko, and Charlie Sheen as a young stockbroker named Bud Fox, who, seduced by this devil, abandons his ideals, betrays his family, and is destroyed.
As social documentary, even as art, the original Wall Street was a great success. [...]
As a vehicle for social change, however, the movie was a catastrophe. It did not show Wall Street in its best light, yet Wall Street was, by far, the movie’s most enthusiastic audience. It has endured not because it hit its intended target but because it missed: people who work on Wall Street still love it. And not just any Wall Street people but precisely those who might have either taken Stone’s morality tale to heart or been offended by it. To wit, not long before hedge-fund manager Seth Tobias was found dead in his Florida swimming pool, with an unlucky mixture of cocaine, Ambien, and alcohol in his bloodstream, he gave an interview for Wall Street’s DVD bonus reel, in which he said, “I remember when I saw the movie in 1987. I recall saying, That’s what I want to be. I want to start out as Bud Fox and end up as Gordon Gekko.”
Michael Douglas often expresses his astonishment at the many Wall Street males who have sought him out in public places just to say, “Man, I want to tell you, you are the single biggest reason I got into the business. I watched Wall Street, and I wanted to be Gordon Gekko.”