• Film

Movies About Work

Monday, September 5, 2022, is Labor Day, a holiday which pays tribute to American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894.


If it’s too hot to go outside, why not celebrate by checking out a movie about working people?


Norma Rae (1979)

Sally Field in Norma Rae (1979)

Sally Field won the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama in 1980 for her portrayal of a union organizer based on Crystal Lee Sutton, a cotton mill worker whose real-life struggle to improve conditions at her factory cost her her job. The film was also nominated for Best Picture – Drama. Norma Rae is a tribute to the sacrifices borne by union members in the early 20th century and reminds us that the battle for workers’ rights is far from over.


9 to 5 (1980)

Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman, and Lily Tomlin in “9 to 5” (1980)

Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton (making her big-screen debut) decide to kidnap their despicable boss Dabney Coleman and make him a prisoner in his own home – while they make improvements for the women in their workplace. No, it’s not a very plausible plot, but it is a classic. Parton was nominated for Golden Globes for New Star of the Year and Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy in 1981.


Working Girl (1988)

Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford in “Working Girl” (1988)

Working Girl is a romantic comedy directed by the great Mike Nichols. An ambitious secretary from Staten Island (Melanie Griffith) assumes her boss’s job in the Mergers and Acquisitions department after the boss (Sigourney Weaver) breaks her leg and is supposed to stay in traction for six weeks. This is when Griffith discovers Weaver has been stealing her ideas and blocking her promotion. Throw in a romantic interest (Harrison Ford) as a successful businessman who is attracted to her “mind for business” as well as her “bod for sin,” and this movie provides an appealing story with lots of laughs. The film won the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy in 1989, Griffith won Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, and Weaver won Best Supporting Actress. Carly Simon won Best Song for “Let the River Run.”


Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, and Ed Harris in “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992)

A star-studded cast brings this David Mamet play about a group of high-pressure New York City real estate salesmen to life. All but the top two salesmen will be fired at the end of the week. This has an incredible ensemble cast: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin Spacey and Alec Baldwin. Pacino was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 1993 Golden Globes.


North Country (2005)

Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand in “North Country” (2005)

In a fictionalized version of the first landmark class action lawsuit for sexual harassment, a woman working as a Minnesota miner files a lawsuit and wins. The blatant sexism she faces will make you angry, but the performances in this movie are terrific. Charlize Theron was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actress and Frances McDormand for Best Supporting Actress in 2006.


The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt in “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

A fashion magazine is the fun workplace in The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep (playing a thinly veiled version of Vogue’s Anna Wintour) wreaks havoc on her subordinates, including a new hire (Anne Hathaway). This movie was a $325 million hit and Streep won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in 2007. The film was nominated for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy and Emily Blunt was nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category.


Up in the Air (2009)

George Clooney and Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air” (2009)

George Clooney stars as a consultant whose job is to travel around the country laying off people on behalf of his corporate clients. Recent business school graduate Anna Kendrick plays a younger, cost-saving advocate who wants to fire people remotely. Dark but funny, this film was nominated for six Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director for Jason Reitman, Best Actor for George Clooney, Best Supporting Actress for Vera Farmiga, Best Supporting Actress for Anna Kendrick, and won the Best Screenplay award for Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner.


The Intern (2015)

Robert De Niro and Christina Scherer in “The Intern” (2015)

Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old widower and former successful businessman who doesn’t enjoy retirement. Lonely and bored, searching for an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, it’s got heart and humor, and was a huge box office hit.  (Not to mention that hiring senior interns seems like a really good idea!)

Wishing a happy Labor Day to all of America’s workers!