Co-written by Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser, Gekko is claimed to be based loosely on several actual stockbrokers, including Stone's own father Louis Stone. According to Edward R. Pressman, producer of the film, "Originally, there was no one individual who Gekko was modeled on," he adds. "But Gekko was partly Milken", who was the "Junk Bond King" of the 1980s, and indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and fraud in 1989. and a healthy dose of Carl Icahn.
In 2003, the AFI named him number 24 of the top 50 movie villains of all time.
In 2008, Gordon Gekko was named the fourth richest fictional character by Forbes who attributed US$8.5 billion net worth to him.
Gekko has become a symbol in popular culture for unrestrained greed (with the signature line, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good"), often in fields outside corporate finance.
On September 25, 2008, Michael Douglas, acting as a UN ambassador for peace, was at the 2008 session of the United Nations General Assembly. Reporters sought to ask him off topic questions about Gordon Gekko; "Douglas was asked whether he bore some responsibility for the behavior of the greed merchants who had brought the world to its knees thanks to his (aka Gekko's) encouragement." Trying to return to topic Douglas tried to "suggest that the same level of passion Wall Street investors showed should also apply to getting rid of nuclear weapons."
The actor was also asked to compare nuclear Armageddon with the "financial Armageddon on Wall Street". After one reporter inquired, "Are you saying, Gordon, that greed is not good?" Douglas stated, "I'm not saying that. And my name is not Gordon. It's a character I played 20 years ago."
On October 8, 2008, the character was referenced in a speech by the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his speech "The Children of Gordon Gekko" concerning the Financial crisis of 2007-2010. Rudd stated “It is perhaps time now to admit that we did not learn the full lessons of the greed-is-good ideology. And today we are still cleaning up the mess of the 21st-century children of Gordon Gekko.”
On July 28, 2009, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone cited Gekko's Greed is good slogan in a speech to the Italian senate, saying that the free market had been replaced by a greed market, and also blamed such a mentality for the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
In the computer game Fallout 2, an NPC named Gordon resides in the town of Gecko. Upon initial conversation by one's character, Gordon proceeds to recite a "Greed is Good" monologue.
In the UK sitcom Only Fools and Horses, the main character Derek Trotter sees the film Wall Street and tries to dress like Gordon Gekko even commenting, 'I've got Gordon Gekko braces'.
In the movie Boiler Room (2000), the characters played by Nicky Katt and Vin Diesel recite by heart lines of Gordon Gekko in front of a crew of their co-workers, while Wall Street is playing on TV.
In the fourth episode of the first season of The Sarah Silverman Program, titled "Not Without My Daughter", Sarah witnesses a young girl, who later becomes her protégé, reciting Gordon Gekko's famous "Greed is Good" speech before a panel of beauty pageant judges.
In Season 4 of Robot Chicken, Gordon the Gecko appears as Kermit the Frog's businessman cousin. The majority of his lines are direct quotes from the movie, including his "Greed is Good" speech.
In Season 4, episode 14 of Psych, Shawn Spencer gives a "Greed is Good" speech while stalling on stage at a business presentation.
In a 2010 radio advertisement, AFSCME tries to paint United States Senate candidate Pat Toomey as a Wall Streetvillain. In the commercial, the narrator says that it was Gordon Gekko who introduced the idea that "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." All throughout the commercial, bullet points of Toomey's faults are listed—each one followed by the haunting words, "Greed is Good."
Mentioned in the song "Greed" featured on Patrick Stump's debut solo album Soul Punk released October 18, 2011.
In episode 18 of Season 2 of Felicity, Sean refers to Ben as Gordon Gekko when he received an internship at a stockbroker's office.
In Season 1 Episode 5 of Suits, Trevor remarks on Mike's new businessman like appearance saying: "You look like Gordon Gecko's little brother. You working on Wall Street now?"
In Season 4 Episode 9 of Futurama, "Future Stock", the main antagonist "That Guy" is an 80s financier, woken up from cryogenic sleep. The style of the character, in terms of clothing and mannerisms, is largely modelled after Gordon Gekko.
Notwithstanding the popular cultural significance of the character (and the wide repetition of this particular quotation), Gekko never actually uttered the exact words "Greed is Good" in the original Wall Street film, although the trailers for the film featured a montage of edited scenes that resulted in the phrase being heard as such. The full text of the quotation is below:
Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.