Gordon Gekko

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Gordon Gekko
Wall Street character
First appearanceWall Street (1987)
Last appearanceWall Street:
Money Never Sleeps
Created byOliver Stone
Stanley Weiser
Portrayed byMichael Douglas[1]
In-universe information
OccupationCorporate raider
SpouseKate Gekko (ex-wife)
ChildrenRudy Gekko (son) (deceased)
Winnie Gekko-Moore (daughter)
RelativesJacob Moore (son-in-law)
Louis Moore (grandson)

Gordon Gekko is a composite character in the 1987 film Wall Street and its 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,[2] both directed by Oliver Stone.[3] Gekko was portrayed in both films by actor Michael Douglas, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the first film.[4] In 2003, the American Film Institute named Gordon Gekko No. 24 on its Top 50 movie villains of all time.[5]


Co-written by Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser, Gekko is said to be based loosely on several real-life financiers, including Stone's own father Louis Stone,[6] Wall Street broker Owen Morrisey, an old friend of Stone's[7] who was involved in a $20 million insider trading scandal in 1985, investment banker Dennis Levine, arbitrageur Ivan Boesky,[8] corporate raider Carl Icahn, investor and art collector Asher Edelman,[9] agent Michael Ovitz, and Stone himself.[10] For example, Gekko's line "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good" was adapted from a remark by Boesky, who himself was later convicted on insider trading charges.[11][12] Delivering the 1986 commencement address to the School of Business Administration at the University of California, Berkeley, Boesky said, "Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself."[13]

Edward R. Pressman, producer of both films, said, "Originally, there was no one individual who Gekko was modeled on", but that "Gekko was partly Milken", the "Junk Bond King" of the 1980s.[14] According to Weiser, Gekko's style of speaking was inspired by Stone: "When I was writing some of the dialogue [...] I would listen to Oliver on the phone and sometimes he talks very rapid-fire, the way Gordon Gekko does", he said.[15]

Cultural impact[edit]

Gekko has become a symbol in popular culture for unrestrained greed (with the signature line, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good"), often in fields outside corporate finance.[16][17][18]

When creating the character for Gekko, Weiser wrote that " I formed an amalgam of disgraced arbitrageur Ivan Boesky, corporate raider Carl Icahn, and his lesser-known art-collecting compatriot Asher Edelman. Add a dash of Michael Ovitz and a heaping portion of, yes, my good friend and esteemed colleague Stone (who came up with the character’s name) -- and there you have the rough draft of ‘Gekko the Great.’ Gekko’s dialogue actually was inspired by Stone’s own rants." After the film's original character Gordon Gekko]began being perceived as a hero instead of a villain, for his line "Greed is good," in 2008, Weiser wrote in op-ed in the Los Angeles Times titled "Repeat After Me: Greed is Not Good." He wrote that when he wrote the screenplay, "I never could have imagined that this persona and his battle cry would become part of the public consciousness, and that the core message of “Wall Street” -- remember, he goes to jail in the end -- would be so misunderstood by so many."[19]

In the movie Boiler Room, a group of stock brokers (played by Vin Diesel, Nicky Katt, and Ben Affleck) gather at a friend's house and watch Wall Street. The characters begin to perfectly quote Gekko's phone conversation when he first is introduced to Bud.

In 2003, the American Film Institute named Gordon Gekko No. 24 on its Top 50 movie villains of all time.[5]

On September 25, 2008, Michael Douglas, acting as a UN ambassador for peace, was at the 2008 session of the United Nations General Assembly. Reporters sought to ask him off-topic questions about Gekko. He was asked whether he "bore some responsibility for the behavior of the greed merchants who had brought the world to its knees". Trying to return to topic, Douglas suggested that "the same level of passion Wall Street investors showed should also apply to getting rid of nuclear weapons."[20] Douglas was also asked to compare nuclear Armageddon with the "financial Armageddon on Wall Street". After one reporter inquired, "Are you saying, Gordon, that greed is not good?" Douglas stated, "I'm not saying that. And my name is not Gordon. It's a character I played 20 years ago."[20][21][22]

On October 8, 2008, the character was referenced by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his speech, "The Children of Gordon Gekko" concerning the financial crisis of 2007–2010. Rudd stated "It is perhaps time now to admit that we did not learn the full lessons of the greed-is-good ideology. And today we are still cleaning up the mess of the 21st-century children of Gordon Gekko."[23]

In the October 30, 2008, episode of American comedy series The Office, Ryan Howard's Halloween costume is Gordon Gekko.

On July 28, 2009, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone cited Gekko's "Greed is good" slogan in a speech to the Italian Senate, saying that the free market had been replaced by a greed market, and also blamed such a mentality for the 2007–2008 financial crisis.[24]

The FBI has used Michael Douglas' Gekko for an anti-insider trading campaign.[25][26][27][28][29]

In 2013, psychiatrists Samuel Leistedt and Paul Linkowski published a study of the portrayal of psychopaths in film, and cited the Gekko character as a realistic portrayal of the successful, "corporate psychopath": "In terms of a 'successful psychopath'", they write, "Gordon Gekko from Wall Street (1987) is probably one of the most interesting, manipulative, psychopathic fictional characters to date."[30]

The character Gordon Gekko is commemorated in the scientific name of a species of gecko, Cyrtodactylus gordongekkoi.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zarroli, Jim (February 17, 2008). "Gordon Gekko, Preaching the Gospel of Greed". NPR. Retrieved September 26, 2010.
  2. ^ Burrough, Bryan (February 2010). "The return of Gordon Gekko". Vanity Fair. Retrieved January 16, 2010.
  3. ^ Ramallo, Ruben (September 7, 2021). "Gordon Gekko, el inescrupuloso y genio de las finanzas del film Wall Street, existe: ¿quién es realmente?". Iprofesional.com (in Spanish). Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  4. ^ Osborne, Robert A. (1999). 70 years of the Oscar: the official history of the Academy Awards. Abbeville Press. p. 286. ISBN 978-0-7892-0484-4.
  5. ^ a b "AFI 100 years...100 heroes and villains". American Film Institute. Retrieved January 16, 2010.
  6. ^ Anthony Vieira (September 23, 2010). "Review: Wall Street Money Never Sleeps". The Film Stage. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
  7. ^ Lavington, Stephen (2011). Virgin Film: Oliver Stone. Ebury. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-7535-4766-3.
  8. ^ Crowdus, Gary (1988). "Personal Struggles and Political Issues: An Interview with Oliver Stone" (PDF). Cinéaste. Vol. 16, no. 3. pp. 18–21. ISSN 0009-7004. JSTOR 41687728. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 26, 2008.
  9. ^ Vardi, Nathan (May 4, 2011). "Greed is so-so". Forbes. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  10. ^ Weiser, Stanley (October 5, 2008). "Repeat After Me: Greed is Not Good". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 17, 2008.
  11. ^ Dickerson, John F. (June 24, 2001). "Battling Boeskys". Time. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  12. ^ Sigesmund, B. J. (July 19, 2002). "The Return of Greed". Newsweek. Archived from the original on September 11, 2010.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  13. ^ Greene, Bob (December 15, 1986). "A $100 Million Idea: Use Greed For Good". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  14. ^ Goodley, Simon (October 27, 2008). "Brace Yourself, Gekko is Back". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  15. ^ Riordan, James (1996). Stone: A Biography of Oliver Stone. New York: Aurum Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-85410-444-1.
  16. ^ "Wall Street – Gordon Gekko".
  17. ^ Lananh, Nguyen; Jeng, Melodie (August 3, 2021). "Pandemic changes how Wall Street wolves dress: Polo shirt & sneakers rule Manhattan streets". The Economic Times. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  18. ^ Upside, The Daily (July 26, 2021). "U.S. Insider Trading Laws Are Getting Reimagined, But Not Without Concerns". The Motley Fool. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  19. ^ Weiser, Stanley (October 5, 2008), Repeat After Me: Greed is Not Good, Los Angeles Times, retrieved April 28, 2024
  20. ^ a b Coorey, Phillip (September 26, 2008). "Michael who? It's Gekko we're after". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  21. ^ Nguyen, Lananh; Jeng, Melodie; Murray, Brent (August 2, 2021). "A Wall Street Dressing Down: Always. Be. Casual". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  22. ^ "Douglas goes nuclear: I'm not Gordon Gekko!". The Sydney Morning Herald. September 25, 2008.
  23. ^ Kevin Rudd (October 6, 2008). "Edited extract of the speech: The children of Gordon Gekko". The Australian. Archived from the original on January 16, 2009. Retrieved October 6, 2008.
  24. ^ Krause-Jackson, Flavia (July 28, 2009). "Vatican Slams 'Greed Is Good' Wall Street Mantra". Bloomberg News. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  25. ^ Protess, Ben; Ahmed, Azam (February 27, 2012). "Michael Douglas Tackles Greed for F.B.I". The New York Times.
  26. ^ Palazzolo, Joe (February 27, 2012). "Gordon Gekko Is Cooperating with the FBI". The Wall Street Journal.
  27. ^ "Gordon Gekko: Greed Is Bad". The Wall Street Journal. February 27, 2012.
  28. ^ Strasburg, Jenny; Albergotti, Reed (February 28, 2012). "Insider Targets Expanding". The Wall Street Journal.
  29. ^ "Most Popular E-mail Newsletter". USA Today. February 27, 2012.
  30. ^ Perry, Susan (January 17, 2014). "Why psychopathic film villains are rarely realistic — and why it matters". Minnpost. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  31. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Gordon Gekko", p. 104).

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