These Are the Best Films to Watch at Every Stage of Your Career
The rich medium of film has much to teach us all. If you're looking for some career-minded savvy, we've queued up the most influential job movies we've ever seen for your consideration. Full of quotable dialogue, rogue moves, and harrowing heroes' journeys, these relatable and instructional masterpieces are a consistent source of inspiration. Just press play.
As a valedictorian entering the workforce at the bottom of the totem pole, Generation X poster girl Winona Ryder's Lelaina Pierce in Reality Bites cycles through the full spectrum of entry-level woes. From getting by on a pittance of a salary and maneuvering around a prima donna boss to selling out and falling for the affable slacker, what Pierce goes through in this '90s classic will strike a deep chord with anyone starting from the bottom.
As an aspiring journalist working as an assistant to the editor in chief of an iconic fashion magazine, Anne Hathaway's Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada learns to meet the unreasonable demands of a tyrannical boss—but at what cost? A cautionary tale about not getting caught up in the game, the film is a must-watch for anyone who's ever fetched a coffee or two in their day.
Mike Nichols's 1988 dramatic comedy Working Girl stars Melanie Griffith as the ultimate secretary with moxie, Tess McGill. When her conniving boss, shrewdly played by Sigourney Weaver, steals her business idea without giving the proper credit, Tess doesn't get mad—she gets even. Impersonating her superior to land a major deal with a top investment broker (Harrison Ford), Tess's ascension up the rungs of the corporate ladder is as entertaining as it is inspired.
The 1980 satire starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin, 9 to 5, is a classic (and the source material for the modern remake Horrible Bosses). The tale of three secretaries who exact revenge upon their sexist boss by kidnapping and subsequently running the business in his absence, it belongs at the tip top of the queue for anyone who has ever been passed over for a promotion.
His Girl Friday remains one of the most charming plots ever weaved to get an ex back. When successful New York newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) learns his investigative reporter ex-wife Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) is engaged, he seeks to lure her away from her newfound domestic bliss with the promise of a killer story. Watching Russell's ruthless instinct take over is the ultimate girl boss throwback.
Mike Judge's 1999 cult classic Office Space is practically a how to succeed in business without ever really trying play-by-play. If you've ever had a gig that made you feel like more of a corporate drone than championed asset, here is a solace to revel in such wish fulfillment scenes as destroying company property with a baseball bat or channeling all one's energy at getting fired. Jennifer Aniston co-stars as the most adorable TGI Friday's waitress imaginable—flair or no flair.
Removed from command after his outspoken criticism of U.S. post-war strategy, World War II hero and general George S. Patton's biopic is not to be missed. Adeptly mixing laurels and politics, successes and failures, it is a reminder that the course of a hero's journey never did run smooth. If you're needing a pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps moment, look no further than this critically acclaimed classic.
Up in the Air is the most enjoyable downsizing experience the world has ever known. Directed by Jason Reitman and starring George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, and Vera Farmiga, it takes out layoff culture, corporate redundancies, and interoffice relationships in one cunning and clever blow. If nothing else, we love that this flick drives home the importance of face-to-face meetings. In our ever-evolving digital world, some things deserve to stay analog.
Cameron Crowe's heartfelt Jerry McGuire opens with the power of the company-wide reply all. When a slick and wildly successful sports agent (Tom Cruise) drafts a memo detailing his crisis of conscious and recent ethos, it is met with a swift and unceremonious firing. Armed with nothing but a goldfish, an equally idealistic secretary (Renée Zellweger), and a fledgling client roster, he starts his own agency on his own terms. Building a brand? This one features teaching moments set to Bruce Springsteen.
Thematically, City Slickers tackles a trifecta of workplace frustrations, from the mid-life crisis emotional rampages to burnout and career change. If you're in the need of "finding your smile," Billy Crystal's Mitch sets out on a cattle drive with his two best friends to do exactly that. The humor runs the gamut from dark and sardonic to buoyant and uproarious.
Ridley Scott's A Good Year stars Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard as the most deliriously beautiful love interests to ever meet on a vineyard. The ultimate quit-your-day-job fantasy flick, the plot follows the story of an investment broker who uproots his big city life and relocates to Provence after inheriting the vineyard where he spent his youth. It will surely make you want to own your own label. We didn't really need the extra push.
Have a film that has inspired your career? Let us know what we should be queueing up.
This post was originally published on July 5, 2016, and has since been updated.