Cast: Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, Terence Stamp, Daryl Hannah, Sean Young, James Spader, John C. McGinley, Hal Holbrook, James Karen, Saul Rubinek, Sylvia Miles, Leslie Lyles, Tamara Tunie, Franklin Cover, Chuck Pfeiffer, Pat Skipper, John Deyle, Frank Adonis, John Capodice, Suzen Murakoshi, Dani Klein, Faith Geer, Francois Giroday, Josh Mostel, Monique van Vooren, Andrea Thompson, Lauren Tom, Ann Talman, Lisa Zebro, Rocco Anacarola, Martin Sherman, George Vlachos, Ronald von Klaussen, Thomas Anderson, Sean Stone, Millie Perkins, Jean De Baer, William G. Knight, Richard Dysart, Adelle Lutz, Astrid De Richemonte, Yanni Sfinias, Jack Pruett, Annie McEnroe, Paul Guilfoyle, Cecilia Peck, Alexandra Neil
Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a rookie stockbroker at Jackson, Steinem, an investments firm in New York. From his cramped workstation alongside other brokers he places calls to prospective customers, trying to get them to buy or sell securities, and exchanges trading tips with his buddy Marvin (McGinley). Lou Mannheim (Holbrook), an older broker who has seen better days, advises Bud and Marvin to stick to the fundamentals. Good things, he tells them, sometimes take time. Office Manager Hieronymus Lynch (Karen) talks of downward-trending sales and recommends brokers go through their clients’ investments for any portfolio adjustments. The office is full of clipped conversations, shouted trading orders, and the ring of telephones, as Bud writes down instructions from customers and looks up stock quotes. That afternoon Bud places his daily call to Natalie (Lyles), the personal secretary of Gordon Gekko (Douglas), a wealthy Wall Street investor. Bud asks to be put through to Mr. Gekko and Natalie as usual reminds him that traders talk to stockbrokers, Mr. Gekko only deals with investment bankers. Bud idolizes Gekko, a self-made multimillionaire whose corporate takeovers often appear in newspaper articles and financial news. That evening, Bud meets his father, Carl (Martin Sheen) at a bar and grill near LaGuardia Airport. Carl, a union boss at Bluestar airlines, wishes Bud had kept his job at Bluestar instead of taking what he considers to be a dodgy sales job. But Bud’s first year salary as a stockbroker was as high as Carl’s, and this year his income is significantly higher. Living in Manhattan is expensive, and Bud is still paying off his student loans. He occasionally has to borrow money from his father. Carl mentions that the FAA is about to rule that a plane crash last summer was caused by a flaw in a manufactured part rather than maintenance. The FAA will lift Bluestar’s suspension and the airline will be able to acquire new routes and improve its prospects. Back at his apartment, Bud notices an opportunity come up, the payoff of his research on Gekko’s life. Tomorrow is Gekko’s birthday. Bud buys a box of hard-to-get Cuban cigars, Gekko’s favorites. Taking time off from work, Bud wrangles his way into the penthouse offices of Gekko and Company. He meets Natalie in person for the first time and talks her into asking her boss for a brief meeting, to personally deliver his present. After a long wait, Bud is admitted to Gekko’s office. It is a splendid place, with the highest quality modern furniture, invaluable art, and high-tech gadgets. Bud seizes the moment, offers his services as a stockbroker, and mentions a couple of stocks with great profit potential. Gekko is amused by Bud’s amateurish self-promotion. He already has teams of analysts and researchers. Bud senses his opportunity slipping away, and uses the inside knowledge he learned from Carl to tell Gekko that Bluestar stock is about to rise sharply. Bud is dismissed when Gekko’s attention is drawn to urgent business. But the entrepreneur is impressed by Bud’s diligence and persistence, and later hands him a million dollar check to open an account at Jackson, Steinem. Bluestar stock rises as predicted and Bud prospers as Gordon Gekko’s personal stockbroker. Gekko tells Bud that he needs special information, unavailable to others, and will reward those that provide it. Such inside information gives Gekko a precious unfair advantage. Bud uses covert means to obtain corporate secrets of firms of interest and pass them on to Gekko. As Bud’s commissions mount up, his reputation at work rises. Gekko introduces Bud to his circle of wealthy and influential friends, and at Gekko’s lavish mansion Bud meets an attractive interior decorator, Darien Taylor (Hannah). Bud is promoted and is given his own office, complete with personal secretary. He moves to a new, larger apartment with a magnificent view, which Darien decorates. She and Bud become lovers. Gekko’s key interest is gaining control of ailing corporations that have intrinsic value exceeding their market valuation, and either restructuring them to make them profitable, or breaking them up before selling them at great profit. Gekko needs the broad support of the stockholders of Teldar Paper to wrest control of the company from its management. His speech to the stockholders is riveting. Gekko makes his case in a logical manner, as an effective way of driving inefficiencies out of corporations, like the elimination of the less fit through natural selection. The speech is in part like arbitrageur Ivan Boesky’s compelling 1986 commencement speech at the University of California-Berkeley School of Business Administration, in which he commended the positive aspects of greed. The successful acquisition of Teldar brings Bud further inside Gekko’s world. Bud realizes that his mentor often does not operate ethically, but he accepts insider trading, corporate espionage and dirty tricks as part of the practices that are making him rich and are fulfilling his aspirations. Bud is greatly satisfied when he helps Gekko thwart a business deal of his rival, Sir Larry Wildman (Stamp). But when Gekko’s interest turns to Bluestar airlines, events take a turn that put Gekko on a collision course with the business that is Bud’s father’s livelihood. Bud must decide between his ruthless mentor and his honest father.