Hot take: The Wolf of Wall Street movie had a huge impact on young people and their perspective of Wall Street

I was in early high school when TWOWS came out and I remember a lot of clueless people deciding they wanted to go into finance because they thought it would be just like in the movie. At the time I was somewhat interested in finance and shrugged them off as idiots who didn't know what they were talking about (and assumed nobody who was serious would have that attitude), but some inkling of that sentiment never really went away among my finance focused peers. When people in my year at college got our banking jobs I heard stuff along the lines of "it's gonna be like the wolf of Wall Street" way more times than I'd ever have imagined back in HS. Maybe this is common sense and not much of a hot take, but personally I'm astounded at the long term impact that movie had. I personally view stuff like WSB being a cultural phenomenon or popular finmeme accounts as almost direct results of the interest that movie generated in Wall Street. Any thoughts on this? Was it as much of a unique cultural catalyst as I'm making it out to be?

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Comments (50)

  • Analyst 2 in AM - FI
Jun 23, 2021 - 10:44pm

Yeah I agree with you. Which, in regards to TWOWS, doesn't even make any sense. That story is, at best, tangentially related to finance; in reality, it's about sketchy salesmanship, scammers, and literal felons (okay, so maybe it does have to do with the finance field). Jordan Belfort is not an investor, or an investment banker (despite what the thumbnail of any investment banking video on YouTube would suggest), like at all. Nonetheless it's somewhat strange how much the influence has permeated (fwiw, the only people I've encountered who are really into that movie ears people who would never even have an interview at a legit finance firm). And I agree that the attitude continues to perpetuated by finmeme accounts, which probably isn't a good thing for the industry as a whole

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 25, 2021 - 9:29pm

>Not an investment banker

>Ran IPOs

>Traded/sold stock

You realize investment banking is more than M&A, right? The modern M&A market wasn't really developed until ~80s. He was doing what the majority of investment bankers did back then. Granted its different now, but industries evolve

  • Associate 2 in PE - Other
Jun 24, 2021 - 3:33am

Following this logic, wouldn't the Mission Impossible series have driven a lot of kids to go into espionage?

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Jun 28, 2021 - 3:21pm

I mean, pretty sure the military saw something like 14% uptick in recruitment following Top Gun's release in the 1980's. 

I think the point stands that any movie glamorizing hard but ACHIEVABLE careers like fighter pilot or...retail equity sales (lmao)...will cause a material increase in interest. 


  • 2
Jun 28, 2021 - 9:54pm

The Navy and Air Force had huge spikes in pilot candidates after Top Gun. 

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
Jun 24, 2021 - 6:41am

Okay bro we get it ur soooooo much better than ur simpleton friends who are into ws-related pop culture. How dare they!

"They say money can't buy happiness? Look at the fuckin' smile on my face. Ear to ear, baby!" - Boiler Room

Most Helpful
Jun 24, 2021 - 12:49pm

>Middle of the road

The Big Short

>Cringe, basic


>Cringe, rare

American Psycho

>Prestige, basic

Wall Street

>Prestige, rare

Margin Call

...and the Truth shall set you free
  • 12
Jun 24, 2021 - 5:11pm

It's not a hot take - others have done this, whether it's Liars Poker or the original Wall Street. A parable of excess, greed, etc. that gets turned on it's head once released. You never see the fall with these - only the highlights, good times, etc. The consequences are largely off screen.. and even when they are, we all laugh at was is effectively a narcissistic, adulterous, substance addicted thief - who fortunately has a knack for selling. 

Which is why pop culture is way more important than we often think - I still have the image of Zuckerberg from the social network, a brooding almost charismatic version and not the alien you see nowadays on TV at hearings (in fairness - who wouldn't be up in front of those bozos). Add in many of them are bright, articulate and probably sold for large portions of their career - when they have a memoir, it's gonna be awesome. 

It's not lost on me either - I read all the various books, watched the movies, follow the meme accounts. Many of them influenced my interest in finance, if only because it seems like the 'cool' thing to do - nerds coded by themselves, fun guys pretended to trade stocks in size during breaks. I didn't take a job in finance purely because of all these thing - but they provided an entertaining gateway to get started. Plus when you are 19, in college, partying anyway - who doesn't want that to extend forever (however stupid and misguided that might be). 

Jun 25, 2021 - 10:52pm

In my experience, the Wolf of Wall Street was extremely influential to high school dumbasses who didn't know what they wanted to do in life but "something business".  You know, the types that blow out their livers in HS or college and get a decent white collar job but not Wall Street.

Wall Street nowadays is much too competitive for extreme hedonists to make it, you guys work yourselves into a coma trying to snag a job.  If anything, the original Wall Street was a much better movie, captures what it's like for a young person trying to break in to the world of finance.  

Jun 27, 2021 - 12:32pm

Exactly this, I had so many friends in high school watch that movie and instantly say they wanted to go into finance/Wall Street whatever. It's all young guys who are easily impressionable and just want to be rich (I mean who doesn't). Most of them figure out what finance really is the others ehhhh.

Jun 26, 2021 - 8:44am

I definitely need to watch this movie .  Lots of my clients talk about it.   I tried to watch it on a family movie night but my wife made me turn it off.  

  • 1
Jun 26, 2021 - 11:13am

I don't think it had a ton of impact on me or my friends who actually were planning to go into finance, but it definitely meant that every time I told someone I was a finance major, interested in banking, etc. people asked if I was trying to be the wolf of wall street

Jun 29, 2021 - 1:56pm


Coffee is for closers 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Jun 29, 2021 - 2:50pm

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