Great workplace movies and why we love them

We spend about half of our waking lives working, probably more if we are business owners, which is undoubtedly why films and television shows about the workplace are so entertaining for so many people.

For your entertainment, here we have listed 5 of our favourites and why they resonate with us so strongly. It’s no coincidence that many of them are comedies!

Office Space

Directed by Mike Judge and starring Jennifer Aniston and Ron Livingston, Office Space is perhaps the ultimate workplace movie. In a time before Ricky Gervais revolutionised television with The Office, this film captured the sheer mundanity and absurdity of life in an office.

While the main thrust of the film is about the central character breaking the mould and working his own way – a dream we all would like to fulfill at some point in our careers – it is the small details that really make it special. We are treated to scenes about office birthday cake, printer errors and really annoying bosses with too much time on their hands.

Somehow seeing our working lives reflected back on us in such a way helps us see the humour in our situation, if only for the running time of the movie.

Meet ‘the Bobs’

High Fidelity

This film is generally one for the guys (and any ladies who like John Cusack), adapted from the book by Nick Hornby and directed by Stephen Frears.

The drama takes place largely in a record shop owned by Cusack’s character Rob, a thirty-something who has realised his life isn’t going anywhere after getting dumped by his current girlfriend.

While this movie focuses less on everyday workplace action, it does focus on the relationships between the shop owner and the slightly eccentric staff. The record shop is Rob’s dream, which has become somewhat jaded along with the rest of his life. The film also taps into many mens’ passion for making lists of their favourite and least favourite people and things.

Treating customers with respect

Up in the Air

A recent movie about work, starring George Clooney and directed by Jason Reitman, this is the first of two films in the list which isn’t an outright comedy. The story about a man who makes people redundant for a living is not particularly uplifting, however it resonates with many people in these times of uncertainly when it comes to employment.

Once again, the draw of this film is largely in the attention to detail. Ryan Bingham, the main character, spends much of his life flying between jobs and so we see his tricks for getting through flight security quickly, checking into hotels and strange relationships with other work travelers.

The scene about the conference after party with the free bar will tickle anyone who has been to such an event, and we can all relate to generation gap issues when dealing with colleagues.

At the heart of the film is a message to all companies, large and small, that no matter what new technology is out there, nothing beats contact with real people in business.

The backpack

Employee of the month

A fun representation of rivalry between employees in dead-end jobs at one of those huge stores in America where you can buy pretty much anything, this film resonates with people in a huge variety of workplaces.

The movie, directed by Greg Coolidge and starring Dane Cook and Jessica Simpson, follows the story of a worker who couldn’t care less about his job and how his rivalry over a woman leads him to compete for the title of employee of the month.

While the storyline is silly and unrealistic, there are many aspect of this film to identify with. Things that spring to mind include the management’s blind assumption that any of the employees actually care about becoming employee of the month, the hierarchy of job roles and resulting cliques, and the inventive methods they come up with for slacking off.

The Trailer

Glengarry Glen Ross

The ultimate salesman film, the heavy atmosphere created by director James Foley, reflects the pressure that many salespeople constantly have hanging over their heads in real life, especially when the financial security of their families is hanging in the balance.

While this film might be a bit old for some people to relate to the office environment(the lack of computers being a pointer to its age), there are some good insights the nature of a sales environment in business. The story tells how a management stooge is sent to a local real estate office branch to shake things up, and how the salesmen in the office deal with the competition in their own way. Is a salesman only as good as his leads?

If you ever thought selling was easy, you should watch this film. The tagline reads ‘the hardest thing in life is sell’.

Alec Baldwin goes for the Oscar

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