Workplace Movies

TMPThursday Movie Picks, sponsored as ever by Wandering Through the Shelves, is brought to us this week by the letter W – for movies set in the workplace.


Office gossip can be addictive. Most people wind up spending most of their time talking about work when they spend time with their colleagues outside the office. Actually, three of the Assholes work in the same place and- when we’re not arguing about movies we’re often reminiscing (or ranting) about work. Even people who claim to hate their job tend to find the comedy and drama of any workday pretty interesting. All you need to do is capture that environment in a relatable way and you’ve got a pretty good movie.

The ApartmentThe Apartment (1960)- This has been one of my most significant Blind Spots until this week and it was worth the wait. Jack Lemmon plays an accountant at a big firm who’s just trying to get noticed. Once his superiors find out that he has a modest but nice apartment conveniently located on the Upper West Side, he becomes their go-to guy as they start borrowing his key so they can discreetly cheat on their wives. Director Billy Wilder has a lot to say about the compromises people make in the name of ambition and manages to make a movie that is still funny after all these years while he’s saying it. Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are as charming as can be too.

Office Space (1999)- Turning an animated short into a live action feature-length film could have Office Spacebeen a disaster but Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge turned any old boring day into the office into one of the funniest comedies of the 90s. Re-watching it this week, I laughed loudest when Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh- in an effort to pacify the troops- announces that Friday will be Hawaiian Shirt Day. Around our office, they charge us two dollars to wear jeans on Friday. I couldn’t help feeling bad for poor old Milton though.

MargMargin Callin Call (2011)- Yet another movie that I’m thankful to Wanderer for giving me an excuse to finally check out this week. Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Jeremy Irons, and Kevin Spacey (making my list two weeks in a row) play investment bankers who see the writing on the wall leading up to the 2008 Financial crisis and sit around wondering what to do about it. Director J. C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) knows how to set the mood and the performances are all stellar.


Up In The Air – Poor Ryan Bingham is so afraid of real life that he’s made sure his job keeps him in constant motion. His office may be at a cruising altitude of 32 000 feet but he spends a lot of George-Clooney-Whattime visiting other people’s workplaces to tell them they’re no longer employed. This is such a tough job that cash-strapped businesses are still willing to pay big bucks during a recession for him to do it in their place. He sees offices at their very worst, smells the fear and senses the instability, and is the receptacle for sometimes 20 years’ worth of pain and frustration. Our identities can be so wrapped up in our work, and in many ways, Ryan (George Clooney) is the prime example of this. Director Jason Reitman bravely tackles those creeping workplace notions of downsizing and obsolescence and asks some tough questions of the aging American workforce.

The Social Network – I love how you see the growth of the company here, the “offices” originally facebookin a Harvard dorm room, and then graduating quite quickly to the impressive work space that was eventually needed. The movie recounts a very modern invention (hello, Facebook) but its workplace themes are as old as the first profession – loyalty, jealousy, theft, power, the complicated ownership of ideas. Whether friends or enemies, friended or unfriended, colleagues or competition, this project is always work, and everybody wants to get paid.

Brokeback Mountain – The classic office romance. They meet by the photocopier, lock eyes over the  on, thwater cooler, exchange business cards in the elevator…or, you know, not. Don’t you wish your office looked like this? The scenery is breathtaking but mabrokebackke no mistake: these two cowboys meet at work, doing a job that’s not altogether welcoming to “their kind.” When their boss gets an inkling of what’s going on, the work dries up and the two spend the rest of their lives stealing secret moments and steeling themselves with memories of the best job they ever had. monsters

Bonus pick: Monsters, Inc. Sully and Mike are about as close as two colleagues can be. Mike is the more ambitious of the two, but it’s Sully’s talent and skill that make them so successful. The workplace is originally competitive, and tinged with the fear of contamination (they do bio-hazardous work with children). It may be a cartoon about fuzzy monsters, but any joke about paperwork in triplicate is likely to land huge with adult audiences.


Since Matt took Office Space and Jay took Up in the Air, I am sticking to familiar territory and making my section an all-lawyer-movie workplace bonanza!

Philadelphia – a great movie about a lawyer getting kicked out of his workplace, and then going to his other workplace, the court, to try to make things right.  Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington absolutely own this movie.  I actually did not see this until last year and I should have seen it way sooner, because it’s excellent.

A Few Good Men – I saw this in theatres, I owned it on VHS, I own it on DVD, and one of my roommates in university recited the “You can’t handle the truth!” speech every time he had more than three drinks.  And I could watch it again tomorrow.  There are so many good lines and so many good characters in here that it remains enjoyable to this day.   And again there are a few workplaces in here, namely the courts and the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

The Firm – Tom Cruise is probably the best lawyer ever, at least if you go by his on-screen performances.  He almost got Dawson and Downey freed and in the Firm he somehow outmaneuvers a whole team of crooked lawyers and the mob while still adhering to his strict ethical code.  Plus he does a lot of really fast running in the Firm which is always the best part of any Tom Cruise performance.  This movie feels really long, because it is, but it’s still a good watch.

Anyone had an office love? Office hook up? Office BFFs?

28 thoughts on “Workplace Movies

  1. Modesto

    Wow, I didn’t even consider Monsters, Inc. It would have definitely been good enough to make the final cut!

    Office Space has to be the most popular choice this week. I obviously have to finally take the time to see it.


  2. Myerla

    Margin Call! Fantastic choice. I’ve seen it, think it’s a great film and didn’t even think about it. Kudos for that one and reminding me of it.


  3. Brittani

    Yay, another Up in the Air! I love that Brokeback Mountain made it. That’s not one I would’ve thought of for work place, but it fits so well. Great picks, guys!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. seanathant Post author

      Thanks, I just worry about what will happen if I ever get a warning call as I’m about to head into a meeting with the partners, as Tom Cruise did in the Firm. That’s where a little extra speed would really come in handy.


  4. joelnox

    Office Space is everywhere! Fun film with a ton of memorable moments. This is the second time I’ve seen The Apartment pop up today, what a great pick and film. Wilder’s direction and the supporting cast, especially Fred MacMurray playing a bastard for a change, add so much to the film but without Jack and Shirley the film wouldn’t be half what it is. I had never heard a thing about Margin Call when I happened upon it so I was delighted when it turned out to be so gripping with really terrific performances by all including Demi Moore.

    I like Sean’s theme within the theme even if I’m only a really big fan of one of his picks. The one I really enjoy is A Few Good Men, I’m not the biggest Cruise fan but he is at his charismatic best in this and the movie overall is an involving one. The Firm is good enough but I guess because of Cruise’s casting I’ve always compared it to Good Men and found it wanting. I’ve never much cared for Philadelphia, its heart is in the right place but I’ve always found it too preachy and removed from its subject unlike something along the lines of Longtime Companion. Still all fit the theme very well.

    Love the inclusion of Brokeback Mountain! What a great sideways view of the theme and of course a great movie. I’ve never understood the praise for Social Network, I liked it but one view was plenty for me but I know it has its devoted fans, that’s movie viewing for you. Sorry I loathed Up in the Air so much I almost walked out on it, I only stayed because I hoped it would get better. For me it never did. Haven’t seen Monsters, Inc.

    My first thought was 9 to 5, I expected it to turn up everywhere so I didn’t include it, such a perfect fit and a terrific film, however Office Space turned out to be the hot title of the week and I haven’t seen the Lily/Jane/Dolly starrer anywhere. My three for the week:

    Soapdish (1991)-It’s high time for hilarity on the set of “The Sun Also Sets”. Taking place mostly in the offices and sets of the soap with a cast that any show would kill for this shows the day by day insanity that sometimes goes on behind the scenes. Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Shue, Robert Downey, Jr., Carrie Fisher, Kathy Najimy and Teri Hatcher are all brilliant in parts large and small but the two true standouts are Sally Field as Celeste Talbert, the rapidly unspooling America’s Sweetheart and Cathy Moriarty as grasping diva Montana Moorehead, she’s positively unhinged.

    Desk Set (1957)-Tracy & Hepburn comedy set right at the dawn of the computer age. Kate is the head of a reference department for TV network when efficiency expert Spencer shows up with a proposal to install an electronic brain, as computers were referred to at the time, it takes up an entire room! They spar and do the dance they do so well as they circle each other. One of their best with a delightful, peppery performance by Joan Blondell in support.

    Executive Suite (1954)-When the head of a large furniture manufacturing firm dies suddenly his vice-presidents scramble to see who will assume the presidency. A sharp drama of corporate maneuvering with an all-star cast including William Holden, Fredric March, June Allyson, Shelley Winters and Barbara Stanwyck.


    1. seanathant Post author

      I am glad you liked the Few Good Men pick. That one is one of my favourites regardless of category and as you said, it features Tom Cruise doing his best Tom Cruise. For many years I considered it a guilty pleasure of mine but apparently it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar so it’s not just me!

      I think I saw Soapdish immediately after getting my wisdom teeth out so I am not sure I will be rewatching it and revisiting that experience anytime soon (the wisdom teeth, I mean). I have not seen the other two but they sound very interesting and I will check them out.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. J.

    Some great picks there – particularly Office Space and The Apartment. Good call on Monsters, Inc too.

    Favourites of mine are Clerks and Glengarry Glen Ross.


    1. Jay

      Those ARE great – unfortunately we’d already used Clerks elsewhere (black and white week, if memory serves…makes sense, so I’m sticking with it). Two very different movies though!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. themesongsteve

    Cheers for The Apartment, and the outside call for Brokeback Mountain. J. beat me to my favorite, Glengarry Glen Ross, so I will throw in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times–a workplace classic!


  7. Pingback: Top 10 Actors Who Play Assholes | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

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