In 1987, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes a stockbroker job at an established Wall Street firm. His boss (Matthew McConaughey) advises him to adopt a lifestyle of sex and cocaine in order to succeed. Barely into the job, the firm fails after Black Monday.
Out of work and with a poor job market for stockbrokers, Jordan's wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti) pushes him to take a job with a Long Island boiler room which deals in penny stocks. His aggressive pitching style soon earns him a small fortune. He befriends Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a salesman who lives in the same apartment complex as him, and they decide to open their own firm together. They recruit several of Jordan's friends, some of them experienced marijuana dealers, and his accountant parents and form Stratton Oakmont. Despite the respectable name, it is essentially a pump and dump scam. An exposé in Forbes dubs Jordan the "Wolf of Wall Street", and soon hundreds of ambitious young financiers flock to his company.