Wall Street was released on December 11, 1987, in 730 theaters and grossed USD $4.1 million on its opening weekend. It went on to make $43.8 million in North America.
The film has a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 56 metascore on Metacritic. In his review for The New York Times, Vincent Canby, while quite critical of the film overall, praised Douglas' work as "the funniest, canniest performance of his career". Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and praised it for allowing "all the financial wheeling and dealing to seem complicated and convincing, and yet always have it make sense. The movie can be followed by anybody, because the details of stock manipulation are all filtered through transparent layers of greed. Most of the time we know what's going on. All of the time, we know why". Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "This time he works up a salty sweat to end up nowhere, like a triathlete on a treadmill. But as long as he keeps his players in venal, perpetual motion, it is great scary fun to watch him work out". In his review for the Globe and Mail, Jay Scott praised the performances of the two leads: "But Douglas's portrayal of Gordon Gekko is an oily triumph and as the kid Gekko thinks he has found in Fox ('Poor, smart and hungry; no feelings'), Charlie Sheen evolves persuasively from gung-ho capitalist child to wily adolescent corporate raider to morally appalled adult". Rita Kempley in the Washington Post wrote that the film "is at its weakest when it preaches visually or verbally. Stone doesn't trust the time-honored story line, supplementing the obvious moral with plenty of soapboxery".
Michael Douglas won the Academy Award for Best Actor and thanked Oliver Stone for "casting me in a part that almost nobody thought I could play". However, Daryl Hannah's performance was not as well received and earned her a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress thus making this the only film to win both an Oscar and a Razzie. The "quintessential financial high-roller's attire" of Michael Douglas in the movie, designed by Alan Flusser, was emulated in the 1980s by yuppies.
Wall Street enjoyed renewed interest in 1990 when the cover of Newsweek magazine asked, "Is Greed Dead?" after 1980s icons like Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky ran afoul of insider trading laws. Over the years, the film's screenwriter Stanley Weiser has been approached by numerous people who told him, "The movie changed my life. Once I saw it I knew that I wanted to get into such and such business. I wanted to be like Gordon Gekko". In addition, both Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas still have people come up to them and say that they became stockbrokers because of their respective characters in the film. In recent years, Stone was asked how the financial market depicted in Wall Street has changed and he replied, "The problems that existed in the 1980s market grew and grew into a much larger phenomenon. Enron is a fiction, in a sense, in the same way that Gordon Gekko's buying and selling was a fiction ... Kenny Lay—he's the new Gordon Gekko". Entertainment Weekly magazine's Owen Gleiberman recently commented that the film, "reveals something now which it couldn't back then: that the Gordon Gekkos of the world weren't just getting rich—they were creating an alternate reality that was going to crash down on all of us".
A 20th-anniversary edition was released on September 18, 2007. New extras include an on-camera introduction by Stone, extensive deleted scenes, "Greed is Good" featurettes, and interviews with Michael Douglas and Martin Sheen.
In reviewing the film's sequel 23 years later, Variety noted that though the original film was "intended as a cautionary tale on the pitfalls of unchecked ambition and greed, Stone's 1987 original instead had the effect of turning Douglas' hugely charismatic (and Oscar-winning) villain into a household name and boardroom icon -- an inspiration to the very power players and Wall Street wannabes for whom he set such a terrible example".