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What movie is the GS strategies in?

When it comes to movies about the finance and investment industry, the GS Strategies are an iconic concept that immediately come to mind. GS Strategies refers to the business practices and work culture of Goldman Sachs, one of the largest investment banks in the world. Though fictionalized, the GS strategies are most famously portrayed in the 2000 film American Psycho starring Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, an investment banker working at the fictional Pierce & Pierce, inspired by Goldman Sachs.

American Psycho Overview

Based on the controversial 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho is set in 1980s New York City and follows Patrick Bateman, a wealthy and materialistic investment banker who leads a secret life as a serial killer. Though the violence and gore in the film often took center stage, the portrayal of elite finance culture was eye-opening for many viewers. We are introduced to a world obsessed with status, wealth, and competition amongst the young ivy-league graduates and finance bros working at top firms like P&P. Designer brands, fine dining, business cards, and comparing vacation homes in the Hamptons were constant preoccupations. The “business card scene” in particular, where Bateman and his colleagues haughtily compare the quality and styling of their business cards over dinner, perfectly encapsulated the competitive type-A personalities drawn to excel in finance.

GS Strategies Depicted in American Psycho

While American Psycho exaggerated this culture for both satirical and dramatic effect, the foundation of the portrayal was very much based on the real Wall Street investment banking world in the 1980s era of greed defined by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. The GS strategies we see in American Psycho include:

  • Ultra-competitive colleagues vying for status and promotions in a strict hierarchy
  • Long work hours and sacrificing personal life for professional advancement
  • Social activities focused on wealthy/elite restaurants, clubs, events
  • Obsession with material possessions like clothes, gadgets, and real estate as status symbols
  • Cult-like work culture and social scene that sucks people in and takes over their identity

While the murderous violence was a disturbing fictional addition, the core Wall Street culture depicted aligns with accounts of Goldman Sachs and other top investment banks in that period. The high pressure environment bred a certain identity and mindset focused on individual success above all else. Making money at all costs and using people as means to get ahead was part of the implicit code subordinates had to embrace to thrive and move up the corporate ladder. This is certainly not unique to Goldman Sachs, as most ultra-competitive companies can develop these cultural traits.

Other Examples of GS Strategies in Movies

American Psycho may be the most direct fictional portrayal of the GS strategies, but there are other movies about finance that demonstrate similar cultural dynamics:

The Wolf of Wall Street

This 2013 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as real-life stock broker Jordan Belfort shows his rise and fall in Wall Street in the late 1980s/1990s. The hard-partying, illegal, and unethical culture of his firm Stratton Oakmont bears resemblance to the GS strategies of pushing limits and valuing money/success over all else.

Wall Street

The 1987 film starring Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, whose “greed is good” speech became famous. It shows the profit-at-all-costs mentality that defined Wall Street in that era. Young stock broker Bud Fox embodies selling one’s soul to succeed financially.

The Big Short

This 2015 film follows several outsiders in the mid-2000s who predicted the housing market collapse and decide to bet against the market through complex financial instruments like credit default swaps. Though not directly depicting GS, it shows the widespread unethical practices and excessive risk-taking engaged across the investment banks that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

Margin Call

Similar to The Big Short, this 2011 film dramatizes the early stages of the 2008 crisis, showing a fictional investment bank inspired by Lehman Brothers realizing they are over-exposed to risky mortgage-backed securities on the verge of collapse. The focus is on the personal choices employees at all levels of the bank face as the crisis unfolds and ethics are pitted against self-interest.

Bonfire of the Vanities

The 1990 film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s novel, set in 1980s New York City displays the greed, social class tensions, and self-interested motives among Wall Street bankers, traders, and investors at that time. The Sherman McCoy character is an ambitious bond trader focused on social status and wealth.

What the Movies Get Right and Wrong

These movies collectively get a lot right in portraying the competitive culture of high finance, particularly in the 1980s period up until the 2008 financial crisis. While their depictions sensationalize and exaggerate aspects for dramatic effect, the core mindsets and principles that define the Goldman Sachs style strategies of success at any cost are apparent throughout. The focus on status, wealth over ethics, self-interest, and greed comes across.

However, it is also important to note the excessive lifestyle and unethical behavior displayed in these films represent the far end of the spectrum. Not everyone in investment banking culture takes it to such immoral criminal extremes as depicted in a movie like American Psycho or Wolf of Wall Street. The movies focus on the most jaw-dropping misconduct since that makes for good entertainment, even though misconduct was sadly too common.

Most real-life finance employees fall somewhere in the middle of simply trying to advance and earn a living within a cutthroat environment, without violently murdering colleagues or engaging in rampant illegal activities. The culture brings out the most competitive and self-interested instincts in employees, but not necessarily to sociopathic levels. Where the line is drawn between healthy ambition and unethical behavior does get very gray in such a high-pressure workplace though.

The movies also may exaggerate the glamorous or exciting lifestyle aspects of young bankers blowing money at fancy cocktail parties and restaurants. In reality, the majority of their hours are spent in the office crunching numbers and grinding away on menial tasks and deliverables.

So in summary, the core mindsets and principles of the GS strategies shine through, even if the extremes portrayed are pushed further for cinematic purposes. Themes of greed, corruption, and winning at all costs clearly resonate as defining aspects of the culture.

How Accurate is American Psycho?

Of all the films, American Psycho focuses most squarely on satirizing the GS strategies and mindset. When the film came out in 2000, many labeled it as sensationalized shocking entertainment with too exaggerated a take on 1980s yuppie culture. However, in retrospect, while the serial murder aspect was unrealistic, much of the finance culture and Wall Street lifestyles portrayed have proven surprisingly accurate. The egotistical competition, social elitism, objectification of women, obsession with status symbols, and a “success at any cost” mentality were very real trends in that era.

Patrick Bateman is clearly a sociopath and serial killer, which is not representative of the average banker. But in more minor details like the focus on business cards, restaurant reservations, branding, and keeping up elite appearances, American Psycho tapped into the real culture far more than audiences initially realized. Instead of a total caricature, Christian Bale’s performance captures real themes of toxic masculinity, greed, and capitalist excess that defined much of Wall Street.

So while any true life murderous impulses were pure fiction, American Psycho remains arguably the most insightful and uncomfortably realistic portrayal of the peak “greed is good” Goldman Sachs-inspired strategies and mindset of the 1980s. Under the glamorous surface, it exposes the ugly ego and competitive instincts driving so many bankers and institutions. Patrick Bateman just takes these twisted impulses to their most demented conclusion. The more subtle details and interactions offer a true time capsule of Wall Street culture in that era.

The Appeal of GS Strategies in Movies

What makes the GS strategies and their fictionalized portrayals so compelling? A few key factors:

  • Vicarious experience of extreme wealth and luxury – audiences get to imaginatively experience the lavish lifestyle of young bankers like a behind the scenes view.
  • Soapy drama and conflict – the competitive personalities and unethical behavior make for exciting drama and intrigue.
  • Time capsule qualities – preserve a vivid portrait of 1980s Wall Street for future generations.
  • Schadenfreude – satisfaction from seeing the downfall of arrogant bankers engaged in unethical behavior.
  • Morbid fascination – disturbingly analyzing the warped psychology and viewpoints of bankers losing their humanity and morality.

Whether as a cautionary tale, time capsule, indulgent escape, or psychological study, portrayals of the GS strategies offer a revealing window into this elite world that most people know little about beyond headlines and news reports. The movies offer a fuller experience of walking in these characters’ shoes and seeing events unfold from their worldview. Audiences have an insatiable curiosity about the lifestyle, personalities, and drama behind the finance industry empires.

Do These Strategies Still Resonate Today?

While regulations have tightened in the decades since the 1980s and excessive risk-taking that led to crises like 2008 have been curtailed to some degree, echoes of the GS strategies depicted in these movies still resonate in today’s finance world. The competitive culture and drive to get ahead remains. Insider accounts of Goldman Sachs today still describe long intense work hours and the difficulty balancing personal lives.hatch But since the 2008 crisis especially, finance culture has also evolved with less overt gluttony and recklessness. Firms realize the need for more ethical standards, accountability, self-regulation, and focusing on clients versus short-term profits. Diversity, inclusion and stronger controls are now emphasized more as well.

So the core GS mindset portrayed in films like American Psycho arguably remains, but some of the most unethical and predatory behaviors are at least less outward. As with any industry, finance culture will always reflect both positive and negative aspects of human nature. Striking the right balance remains an ongoing process. Efforts have been made to temper some of the worst excesses dramatized in the movies, but the competitive drive and greed instinct underpinning the GS strategies still lurk close beneath the surface.


The GS strategies, exemplified by American Psycho’s satirical portrayal of Patrick Bateman and Wall Street investment banking culture in the 1980s, live on as a symbol of capitalist excess and ambition taken to immoral extremes. Though other finance films like The Wolf of Wall Street depict similar dynamics, American Psycho remains the quintessential damning indictment of the GS mindset and methods. Underneath the distracting serial killer plot lies a prescient and insightful skewering of the culture. The mix of glamour, wealth, competition, ego, and greed on display continue to captivate audiences while making us confront the darker sides of human nature. The strategies echo today in tempered forms, reminding us of the fine line finance often walks between healthy ambition and self-interested avarice.