Oliver Stone’s next film also recalled elements of his own experience, but instead of Vietnam took place in the battleground of the stock-broking world. 1987’s Wall Street was yet another critic and commercial success for Stone, and gave pop culture the iconic character of Gordon Gecko. Said to symbolize the excess of the ‘80s, Wall Street is very much a product of its time, yet the notion that “greed is good” can still be understood by today’s audiences, and many of the characters and quotes have survived and influenced other works. After Wall Street, Stone made the film Talk Radio, which follows a day in the life of a liberal Jewish radio host in Dallas. While one of his lesser known films, Talk Radio still shows Oliver Stone’s enthusiasm for making movies and contains a strong performance by lead Eric Bogosian.
Then again in 1989, Stone released another film about Vietnam. While I can only postulate as to what Stone experienced as a young soldier, it’s fairly clear from his films that the war left an enormous scar on his mind, and seems to continue to haunt and drive him. Born on the Fourth of July opens with a parade celebrating the troops, but quickly descends into tragedy when real-life veteran Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) is wounded in Vietnam and permanently confined to a wheel chair. This film is far more of a trip into Kovic’s personal experience, and while Stone still goes all out it differs from the hellish scenarios of Platoon, instead showing us the possibly equal terror of coming home from war.
In 1991 Oliver Stone released The Doors, a biopic about the rock band starring Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison. A departure from anything Stone had done before, The Doors portrayed the counterculture of the 1960s rock-and-roll singer through the lens of Oliver Stone, but the true reason people remembered this film was probably due to Kilmer’s stellar performance as Morrison. The same year, Stone released JFK, which since then has become known as one of the greatest films of his career. JFK, which follows the investigation into a conspiracy surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy, is a big, bold film with great ambition. Instead of suggesting a probable truth, the film investigates a variety of theories, and brilliantly portrays the feeling of Americans at that time, showing confusion, determination, patriotism, and energy. While the facts of the film have been called into question, this is without a doubt a masterpiece work, and as Roger Ebert put it, ”Oliver Stone was born to make this movie”.
Stone followed on with Heaven & Earth, a 1993 drama which again looks at the Vietnam War, but this time through the eyes of a young Vietnamese woman. While it suffered in comparison to Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, this movie was still ambitious and the result intimate. Then in 1994 came Natural Born Killers, Stone’s crazed serial-killer piece about lovers who become a mass murdering sensation, capturing the glory of mass media as they rampage across the country. Natural Born Killers, which was originally based on a script by Quentin Tarantino, the end product was a violent and visually unique picture of controversial proportions. Robert Downey Jr.’s supporting role as the journalist so infatuated with a story about the killers embodies America’s obsession with violence, and Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are dynamic as the fictional famed killers.
Next came Nixon (1995), a slightly more stripped-down film than his last couple, which looked at the President and his time in office. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Nixon was a finely made movie. After that Stone made U Turn (1997) and Any Given Sunday (1999), the first a poorly received effort starring Sean Penn, and the second a slightly more appreciated football film. Since then, Stone has continued to direct strong films such as Alexander (2004), World Trade Center (2006), W. (2008), a 2010 sequel to Wall Street, and most recently Savages (2012). Throughout his many years in film, Oliver Stone has created many marvelous movies that embody the spirit of their time and contain a personal touch from Stone himself. His many dark films about war or violence are complimented by his many political works; coming from two genres that reflect upon each other well, especially when helmed by someone as talented as Stone.