One of my all-time favorite movies is Wall Street. It is directed by Oliver Stone and stars Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas. If you’ve never seen the movie, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), has a short synopsis of the movie.
Bud Fox is a Wall Street stockbroker in early 1980’s New York with a strong desire to get to the top. Working for his firm during the day, he spends his spare time working an on angle with to approach the high-powered, extremely successful (but ruthless and greedy) broker Gordon Gekko. Fox finally meets with Gekko, who takes the youth under his wing and explains his philosophy that “Greed is Good”.
I’ve seen the movie countless times. I enjoy the excellent acting, the scenery from New York City and all the interesting dialogue that takes place between the actors.
But I think what is most interesting about the movie is what we can learn about the pursuit of greed and money. The main characters, all with different motivations, look at money from unique perspectives. Bud wants more of it and believes it is the answer to his happiness. Gordon Gekko’s religion is money and the pursuit of more of it is his life purpose. Lou believes the pursuit of it will control your life and lead you down a road you don’t want to go. Carl doesn’t need it nor measure it.
Bud Fox (Young Stockbroker)
Bud is in a struggle to find himself. He believes the answer is to get to the top and become rich. However, he learns his desire takes him across legal and moral boundaries. We learn that as a young broker, he is already trying to live a life style that is above his means. He sees the lack of money as failure and defines success by the amount of money one is able to accumulate.
Memorable quotes from Bud:
- I’m tapped out Marv. American Express’ got a hit man lookin’ for me.
- There’s no nobility in poverty.
- Who am I?
Gordon Gekko (High Powered Broker)
In Bud’s pursuit of excess, he desires to be like Gordon Gekko who he believes to hold the answer to success (money). Gekko cares about money and his competitive nature to win more of it leaves casualties in his path. Gekko is a believer of greed and conveys it as his answer to liberate stockholders from their overpaid and unwise spending of corporate executive leadership.
Memorable quotes from Gekko
- The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.
- What’s worth doing is worth doing for money.
- I’m talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.
Lou Mannheim (Head Of Bud’s Firm)
In Bud’s pursuit he pays little attention to the wise words of Lou who knows that money doesn’t define oneself and is an empty pursuit in the end. Bud is captured by Gekko and money and Lou wisely tries to help him see his emotional attachment and to look inside to find himself. There is no get rick quick method or short cuts in Lou’s mind.
Memorable quotes from Lou
- Bud… Bud I like you. Just remember something. Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.
- The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do.
- Good things, sometimes, take time.
Carl Fox (Bud’s Father)
Bud’s father is the simple man who doesn’t value money or wealth. He is content and believes in working hard to earn a living. But Bud quickly finds he is at odds with this father. Carl tries to point out Bud’s naivety and that success can’t be measured by the amount of money in which one has.
Memorable quotes from Carl
- Money’s only something you need in case you don’t die tomorrow…
- What you see is a guy who never measured a man’s success by the size of his WALLET!
- Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others.
Bud, through all of his emotional connection with money finds himself in the end alone and empty in the abyss Lou hints of. But not finding anyone there to help, Gekko or his riches, he finally realizes who he is and what he must do to regain his life.
As in Wall Street, but also in scripture, we know that greed, or the love of money, is not good which is contrary to what Gekko says.
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap an into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:9 (NIV)
Greed can tempt people to put money before all things, including God. As Lou states, the main thing about money (I think he means the love of money) is that it makes us do things we don’t want to do.
Photo by IMDB.