Movies are a timeless tradition—whether you’re out at the theater, snuggled up at home, or increasingly, on the move. (When was the last time you took a plane ride or train ride and didn’t see someone watching a movie?)
Movies allow us to escape from our lives and become involved in someone else’s story, if only for two hours.
I was talking with Dr. Marla Gottschalk about workplace movies, and we both thought it would be fun to showcase the best workplace and business-related American movies of all time on LinkedIn, the online home for all things workplace and career-related. Now, I’m no movie critic—I’m just an entrepreneur, writer, and, like so many of us, a movie lover. But here are my top 10, along with a clip, quote, and few words about each:
10. “9 to 5” (1980)
This hilarious comedy stars Dabney Coleman as a very bad boss, and Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton as the employees who exact revenge on him. The movie is a sobering reminder of how women have been treated at many companies.
“I am your employee, and as such I expect to be treated equally with a little dignity and a little respect!”
9. “Working Girl” (1988)
This romantic comedy tells the story of a Staten Island commuter secretary (Melanie Griffith, nominated for an Academy Award) who seizes an opportunity to put together her own deal at the Wall Street investment bank where she works.
“You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you’re trying to get there. And if you’re someone like me, you can’t get there without bending the rules.”
8. “Up In The Air” (2009)
George Clooney stars as a consultant who travels around the country firing people on behalf of his corporate clients. This movie also introduced me to Anna Kendrick, who plays a younger, bottom-line focused woman who wants to fire people remotely via webcams.
“The slower we move, the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks.”
7. “You’ve Got Mail” (1998)
This romantic comedy stars Meg Ryan as an independent bookstore owner and Tom Hanks as the owner of a large bookstore chain. It’s a fun movie with two great leads, but it’s also interesting to think about the independent bookstore versus chain battle 15 years later, now that the new battle is Amazon versus any remaining brick-and-mortar bookstores. Of course, the movie title is a huge reference to AOL and the beginning of the Internet and email.
“Because we’re going to sell them cheap books and legal addictive stimulants. In the meantime, we’ll just put up a big sign: Coming soon: a FoxBooks superstore and the end of civilization as you know it.”
6. “Boiler Room” (2000)
This drama explores concepts of greed and corruption in business. An excellent ensemble cast takes us into the dark world of a stock brokerage and the cold-calling center. At a time today where companies are increasingly using inbound marketing and sales, “Boiler Room” provides an excellent look at the good, the bad and the ugly in classic sales.
“And there is no such thing as a no sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock, or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made; the only question is who is gonna close? You or him? Now be relentless; that’s it, I’m done.”
5. “The Help” (2011)
The workplace in this moving drama is the home, as this movie chronicles black women working as nannies for white women in Mississippi in the 1960s. An excellent cast led by Emma Stone and Octavia Spencer, and a memorable story make this movie a winner. Plus, you’ll never look at chocolate pie the same way.
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
4. “Office Space” (1999)
This comedy was not a huge hit during its original box office run but has since become a cult classic. Written and directed by Mike Judge, Ron Livingston stars in this satire of a 1990s software company, worth a view for the printer destruction scene alone.
“So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.”
3. “The Social Network” (2010)
Famed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin fictionalized the story of Mark Zuckerberg, the founding of Facebook, and its early years in this Academy Award-winning drama. Whether or not you are a Facebook user, and whether or not you believe this version of its story, there’s no questioning the fact that Zuckerberg is one of the true entrepreneurial greats of our time and the Facebook story is one for the ages.
“You know, you really don’t need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this. If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”
2. “In Good Company” (2004)
In this dramatic comedy, a middle-aged print media salesman played by Dennis Quaid gets a new 26-year-old boss and has to adjust to restructuring, a new corporate culture led by bilionaire Teddy K, and a changing advertising landscape. An excellent cast and story make it one of my favorite workplace movies of all time. I still think of this movie every time I hear the word “synergy.”
“Seats were terrific. But I’m still not going to advertise in the magazine. My son-in-law tells me that people don’t read much any more. Too much effort moving eyes back and forth. So we’re gonna put most of our budget into television, radio, Internet.”
1. “Baby Boom” (1987)
The top spot for me goes to this comedy. Diane Keaton plays a top female executive in New York who inherits a baby, moves out to a cottage in Vermont, and becomes an accidental entrepreneur. Her baby-food business takes off, and she realizes that city life and corporate life aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, compared with family life and entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur also dedicated to my children, I love this hilarious movie and could watch it over and over.
“You see, I can’t have a baby because I have a 12 o’clock meeting.”
Marla Gottschalk has posted her own “Top Ten Workplace Movies of all Time” right here—and it even includes “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
Now it’s your turn.
With every top 10 list, there are many missing. What excellent workplace movies do you think are missing from this list? Please share in the comments section below.
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