Great Scene: “Wall Street”

Featuring one of the most memorable lines of dialogue in the last three decades.

Today as we consumers gorge on holiday sales, I thought how appropriate to feature this famous speech from the movie Wall Street (1987).

The setting: The annuals shareholder’s meeting for a corporation called Teldar. The speaker: Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) who has been allowed to take the floor to make his pitch to the shareholders against the current corporate leadership represented by Cromwell (Richard Dysart).

This monologue, along with the rest of the script, was written by Stanley Weiser and Oliver Stone, and features one of the most famous movie lines in the 80’s: “Greed is good.”

Gekko is now at floor level with a microphone. He’s calmer,
 makes his pitch to the stockholders, looking up at the
 management.
GEKKO
 …I appreciate the chance you’re
 giving me, Mr. Cromwell, as the
 single largest stockholder in
 Teldar, to speak.
 (gets some laughter
 and applause, loosens)
 On the way here today I saw a
 bumper sticker. It said, “Life is a
 bitch… then you die”.
 (gets another laugh)
 …well ladies and gentlemen, we’re
 not here to indulge in fantasies,
 but in political and economic
 reality. America has become a
 second rate power. Our trade
 deficit and fiscal deficit are at
 nightmare proportions. In the days
 of the ‘free market’ when our
 country was a top industrial power,
 there was accountability to the
 shareholders. The Carnegies, the
 Mellons, the man who built this
 industrial empire, made sure of it
 because it was their money at stake.
 Today management has no stake in
 the company. Altogether these guys
 sitting up there own a total of
 less than 3% and where does Mr.
 Cromwell put his million dollar
 salary? Certainly not in Teldar
 stock, he owns less than 1%.
 You own Teldar Paper, the
 stockholders, and you are being
 royally screwed over by these
 bureaucrats with their steak
 lunches, golf and hunting trips,
 corporate jets, and golden
 parachutes! Teldar Paper has 33
 different vice presidents each
 earning over $200,000 a year. I
 spent two months analyzing what
 these guys did and I still can’t
 figure it out.
 (a big laugh)
Cromwell is pissed.
CROMWELL
 This is an outrage Gekko! You’re
 full of shit!
GEKKO
 One thing I do know is this paper
 company lost $110 million last
 year, and I’d bet half of that is
 in the paperwork going back and
 forth between all the vice
 presidents…
 (increased laughter,
 he’s getting them)
 The new law of evolution in
 corporate America seems to be
 ‘survival of the unfittest’. Well
 in my book, you either do it right
 or you get eliminated. Teldar Paper
 is doomed to fail. Its
 diversification into casualty
 insurance has not worked. Its crown
 jewels are its trees, the rest is
 dross. Through wars, depressions,
 inflations and deterioration of
 paper money, trees have always kept
 their value, but Teldar is chopping
 them all down. Forests are
 perishable, forest rights are as
 important as human rights to this
 planet, and all the illusory
 Maginot lines, scorched earth
 tactics, proxy fights, poison
 pills, etc. that Mr.
 Cromwell is going to come up with
 to prevent people like me from
 buying Teldar Paper are doomed to
 fail because the bottom line,
 ladies and gentlemen, as you very
 well know, is the only way to stay
 strong is to create value, that’s
 why you buy stock, to have it go up.
 If there’s any other reason, I’ve
 never hear it.
 (laughter)
 That’s all I’m saying…it’s you
 people who own this company, not
 them, they work for you and they’ve
 done a lousy job of it. Get rid of
 them fast, before you all get sick
 and die. I may be an opportunist,
 but if these clowns did a better
 job, I’d be out of work. In the
 last seven deals I’ve been in,
 there were 2.3 million stockholders
 that actually made a pretax profit
 of $12 billion. When I bought the
 Ixtlan Corporation it was in the
 exact same position Teldar is
 today — I turned three of its
 companies private and I sold four
 others — and each of these
 companies, liberated from the
 suffering conglomerate has
 prospered. I am not a destroyer of
 companies, I am a liberator of them.
 The point is, ladies and gentlemen,
 greed is good. Greed works, greed
 is right. Greed clarifies, cuts
 through, and captures the essence
 of the evolutionary spirit. Greed
 in all its forms, greed for life,
 money, love, knowledge, has marked
 the upward surge of mankind — and
 greed, mark my words — will save
 not only Teldar Paper but that
 other malfunctioning corporation
 called the USA…Thank you.
Much applause as he sits. Now a standing ovation; shouts of
 approval. Cromwell knows he has lost the day, tries to
 continue the meeting by calling for “order”.
Bud watches, impressed.

And here’s the actual movie version of the scene:

A tour du force performance by Michael Douglas in a truly Great Scene.