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The Wolf of Wall Street

R18: drug use, sex scenes and offensive language

Spoiler alert

This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.

The Wolf of Wall Street poster

Date registered: 23/12/2013

About the film

The Wolf of Wall Street is a flamboyant drama based on the true life events of Jordan Belfort, a Long Island penny stockbroker who was sent to prison for defrauding investors in a massive 1990s securities scheme that involved widespread corruption on Wall Street and in the corporate banking world, including shoe designer Steve Madden.

The film focuses on Belfort's rise from small beginnings to become wealthy co-founder and chairman of brokerage house Stratton Oakmont. As he leads an increasingly reckless and dishonest life, Belfort quickly transforms from a law-abiding citizen to an uncaring, drug-addicted, white-collar criminal.

A still image from the film - Jordan makes a triumphant speech to his employees

Classification criteria: Sex

The film frequently deals with matters of sex in regard to sexual references, full-frontal nudity and implied sex scenes. The strongest depictions occur when Belfort hosts outrageous parties at his company office and hires prostitutes as entertainment. Women are objectified during these scenes, with their naked bodies on display for the men's pleasure. The sexual activity is often shown in conjunction with drug use, particularly cocaine. The overt sexual material is clearly aimed at an older audience, who are expected to have some knowledge of sex, sexual behaviours and sexual relationships.

A still image from the film - sex scene

Classification criteria: Crime

The film deals with matters of crime in regard to extensive depictions of drug use. Belfort and his friends regularly snort cocaine and swallow a variety of pills. Drug use is presented as a normal way of life for Belfort and his closest friends, somewhat glamorising and normalising it in this way. However, adults are likely to have wider understanding of some of the negative consequences of cocaine and pill use. Overall, the characters in the film that use drugs are not very likeable characters and behave in a very puerile, misogynistic manner.

A still image from the film - using cocaine

Classification criteria: Violence

The film deals with matters of violence. The strongest depiction occurs when Belfort hits his wife Naomi across her face several times and punches her in the stomach when she tells him she wants a divorce.

A still image from the film - Jordon fights with his friend and business partner Donnie

Classification criteria: Highly offensive language

Under section 3A of the Classification Act the film contains frequent use of highly offensive language. It is often used in a threatening or aggressive manner. The normalisation of the highly offensive language is likely to adversely affect impressionable children and younger teenagers who might emulate this language, or be highly disturbed by it.

A still image from the film - Jordan makes the middle finger 'fuck you!' gesture

Decision summary

The dominant effect of The Wolf Of Wall Street is a flamboyant drama laden with sex and drugs. The unrestricted availability of the publication would be injurious to the public good given the manner in which it deals with matters of sex, crime and, to a lesser extent, violence. The film normalises drug use to a high degree by presenting it in an attractive light and often free from consequences. This is in conjunction with frequent scenes of sex and sexualised nudity, with women often objectified for the men's entertainment.

Children and teenagers are unlikely to have the cognitive and emotional development needed to correctly interpret these depictions and are likely to be harmed or disturbed by seeing them. Adults are likely to have the maturity and life experience to put these images and themes into the context of a drama based on true events. The inclusion of highly offensive language and sexual references also contribute to the need for a restriction.

Balancing these harms against the right to freedom of expression as set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, a restriction on the availability of the publication to adults would be the lowest reasonable restriction which could be applied in order to prevent injury to the public good.

Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.

R18 label
R18: drug use, sex scenes and offensive language