The last thing most people want to think about on Labor Day is work. Fortunately, the workplace has been the setting for some of Hollywood’s funniest and most incisive comedies. Here are four funny films that take place at work.
9 to 5 (1980) follows three secretaries – Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda), Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin) and Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton) – who work for Frank Hart (Dabney Coleman), a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” Dissatified with how they are treated, the trio decide to take matters into their own hands and change things around the office, which requires holding Frank hostage. It’s ludicrous and preposterous, yet it also speaks volumes about the glass ceiling and the contributions women can make in the office. It’s also one of the most madcap comedies you’re likely to see.
Working Girl (1988) appeared just eight years after 9 to 5, and ambitious women have broken the glass ceiling. Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is hired as a secretary for Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), whom she admires at first – until Katharine steals one of Tess’s ideas. When Katharine is out with a broken leg from a skiing accident, Tess poses as Katharine and teams up with Jack Trainor (Harrison Ford) on a major business deal, unaware that Jack is Katharine’s boyfriend. It’s not as wacky as 9 to 5, but it’s a smart comedy that showcases the talents of the three leads, as well as a stellar supporting cast (Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack, Kevin Spacey and Olympia Dukakis).
Swimming with Sharks (1994) stars Kevin Spacey as Buddy Ackerman, a Hollywood producer who is just about the worst boss in the world. Guy (Frank Whaley) thinks he’s made it to the big time as Buddy’s new assistant, only to find that he is belittled and screamed at on a daily basis. That is, until Guy turns the tables on Buddy and gives him a taste of his own medicine. Swimming with Sharks is a dark comedy: if revenge fantasies against bad bosses is your thing, then this is the movie for you. If not, you can check out two other Kevin Spacey films where he’s playing an evil employer: the comedy Horrible Bosses and the drama Glengarry Glen Ross .
Office Space (1999) has achieved cult status and is arguably the quintessential modern workplace comedy. Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) hates his job as a cog in the wheel at Initech. He especially hates his boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole). When Initech hires two consultants who recommend downsizing, Peter and his buddies hatch a plan to embezzle a small amount money from the company, but the plan goes haywire. Meanwhile, Peter connects with Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), who hates her job as a waitress at a chain restaurant known for it’s “flair.” Office Space will make you squirm as often as it will make you laugh if you’re familiar with the pettiness of the daily grind.