A Controversial Leonardo DiCaprio Film Is Tearing Up The Streaming Charts

By Michileen Martin | 1 month ago

leonardo dicaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio is not known for taking safe roles. Some of his earliest prominent film roles included a boy with mental disabilities in 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and a heroin addict in 1995’s The Basketball Diaries. He’s continued to be attracted to controversial roles including playing a virulently racist plantation owner in 2012’s Django Unchained. Like Django, there’s another DiCaprio movie that’s often lauded for its craft while at same time questioned for how it handles its subject matter, and right now it’s killing it on the streaming charts; namely, the 2013 biopic/black comedy, The Wolf of Wall Street. The film hit #6 on Hulu’s top 10 streaming chart this week.

Based on the 2007 memoir of the same name, The Wolf of Wall Street stars Leonardo DiCaprio as real life convicted felon Jordan Belfort. Directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Terrence Winter (The Sopranos), the story of Belfort has quite a bit in common with Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Like Henry Hill of the earlier film, The Wolf of Wall Street gives us a Jordan Belfort who ascends to riches, but eventually his decadent lifestyle and corruption get the best of him.

leonardo dicaprio matthew mcconaughey
Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

At first, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character seems almost as unlucky as the actor’s Titanic hero. He begins his career as a stockbroker in 1987, the same year that saw the biggest one-day stock market crash in history: Black Monday. Like so many others, Belfort loses his job, but doesn’t forget the teachings of his old boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), who believes a stockbroker has no responsibility beyond making the most dough for himself. With the help of his neighbor Donnie (Jonah Hill), Jordan founds a brand new company and has plenty of success with a “pump and dump” scheme. By the early ’90s, young brokers are flocking to Jordan and Donnie’s company Stratton Oak — a name that sounds much more respectable than it is.

We don’t want to spoil too much, but considering the nature of the film, how the story progresses probably isn’t too surprising. Leonardo DiCaprio’s version of Jordan Belfort has an affair with the seductive Naomi (Margot Robbie), who he eventually leaves his wife for. Belfort keeps upping the stakes in terms of the laws he’s willing to break and initially he sees the rewards, but ultimately between his addiction to drugs and the FBI’s relentlessness, Jordan’s fate is sealed. As the law closes in and Belfort’s drug-use intensifies, he does something absolutely horrific to Naomi and loses her forever.

leonardo dicaprio wolf of wall street
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

As noted by Biography, the Leonardo DiCaprio film proved controversial for a number of reasons, most notably what many felt was a glorification of the lifestyle it was depicting. The film’s detractors argue that while, yes, Jordan Belfort and many of the other criminals in the film eventually get caught, everything they do along the way is depicted in a largely positive light. Belfort and other characters are portrayed as fun, funny people and their work environment — as long as you’re one of the money makers — looks like one of the best places you could hope to work (before the FBI shows up). The Wolf of Wall Street is seen as unbridled, lawless capitalism run rampant along with huge doses of toxic masculinity. This is likely why in spite of it’s star-studded ensemble cast, one of America’s most honored directors, and five Oscar nominations, the film is saddled with a fairly “meh” 79% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Those criticisms didn’t translate into poor ticket sales. The Wolf of Wall of Street grossed close to $400 million worldwide, against a $100 million budget. Fittingly, when it came to the dollars and cents side of things, another controversy over the film erupted. As reported by Variety, in 2020 the real life Jordan Belfort sued Red Granite Pictures — the film’s production company — for $300 million. The Malaysian government brought the company’s CEO Riza Aziz up on charges of allegedly embezzling close to $250 million from the government and using a good chunk of that money to finance the Leonardo DiCaprio flick. Belfort claimed he knew nothing about the embezzlement. You can’t help but wonder how it meant for a stand-up guy like Belfort to get scammed.

If you want to judge The Wolf of Wall Street for yourself, it’s currently streaming on Hulu. It starts Leonardo DiCaprio, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, Jon Favreau, and many more.