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Going to the Office: Five of the Most Memorable Workplace Comedies Ever Made

Updated on May 12, 2012
Horrible Bosses Movie Poster
Horrible Bosses Movie Poster
9 to 5 Movie Poster
9 to 5 Movie Poster
Working Girl Movie Poster
Working Girl Movie Poster
Leap of Faith Movie Poster
Leap of Faith Movie Poster
Office Space Movie Poster
Office Space Movie Poster
Novocaine Movie Poster
Novocaine Movie Poster
Secretary Movie Poster
Secretary Movie Poster
The Devil Wears Prada Movie Poster
The Devil Wears Prada Movie Poster

When it comes to work, many people like to think that they spend 40 or more work week hours doing something they love and get paid to do it. Usually, that's always entirely the case for a decent portion of society. Most are just there punching a clock for the sake of it, while others are saddled with the job from hell that there's no escape from. It's those scenarios that are worth mentioning, because they are the situations that drive everyone crazy and make for the funniest stories.

In Hollywood, workplace comedies have become a thing that never goes out of style. Some tend to be on the darkly comedic side (Tropic Thunder and Novocaine), while others tended to bounce between sharp tongue drama with a hint of satire (Network and Leap of Faith) that poked holes at established industries known for making mistakes. Some comedies appeared to follow the same cliches about how your work life wasn't always meant to be a dream, but they somehow worked in the end. Here are a list of five workplace comedies that made the cut based on great performances, strong humor and just sheer story risks that are meant to be seen as soon as possible.

9 to 5 (1980)- This classic comedy had a very unfriendly work environment that allowed the disgruntled employees to give the payback they deserved to their employer. Three very dedicated employees Judy (Jane Fonda), Violet (Lily Tomlin) and Doralee (Dolly Parton) who got nothing to show for their work. Their egotistical boss Franklin M. Hart Jr. (Dabney Coleman) undermined them and the rest of the employees at every turn. The three women initially bonded over their mutual dislike for their boss. They ended up getting the opportunity to teach him a lesson that could get them in trouble if they didn't play their cards right. Luckily, the four leads did and made this movie a viewing staple for over three decades. It wouldn't be a surprise if Hollywood attempted to remake this classic for a new generation. Let's hope that won't be the case, because the original will always remain the best and should never be duplicated.

Working Girl/The Devil Wears Prada (1988 and 2006)- The reason why these two movies tied is because their plots have some similarities. Prada had an aspiring writer in Andy (Anne Hathaway) and Girl had a secretary in Tess (Melanie Griffith) who were both looking to make it professionally in New York City. They have the worst bosses they could possibly imagine in Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver who were the most vicious bosses on the big screen. Weaver was a cruel woman who flaunted her power in front of Tess and tore her down when she appeared interested. In the end, it was nice to see Weaver's ruthless power player get her comeuppance. Streep played a fear inducing editor in Miranda Priestly who could eat assistants daily. She gave Miranda a hint of vulnerability and showed a peak behind her personal iron curtain to show audiences that she wasn't made of stone. Of course, audiences cheered when Hathaway and Griffith got their dream jobs and sometimes the love of Mr. Right. Happy ending indeed.

Office Space (1999)- Welcome to a workplace reality where everyone hates their job and will do anything to be happy. Director Mike Judge's cult classic followed unhappy worker bee Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) who hated his job so much and had a disappointing personal life. In a twist of fate, he got a new lease on life due to a visit with a hypnotherapist and a brighter outlook on everything. He finds new love with disenchanted waitress Joanna (Jennifer Aniston) and plans to embezzle funds from his company when his friends are on the brink of getting fired. Chaos ensued and had a great villain in an evil boss (Gary Coleman) who deserved to get his comeuppance sooner or later. The audience also got to live vicariously through Peter in getting revenge against their repugnant bosses with relish and laughter.

Secretary (2002)- This unique romantic comedy showcased a very unique and unethical relationship between an emotionally unstable woman named Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who was released from the mental hospital and has to start over. She gets a job with an extremely demanding lawyer (James Spader) who ushered her into a relationship that bordered on sadomasochistic at times. Instead of filing a sexual harassment suit, she jumped into a relationship with her boss that threatened her comfortably normal relationship with her boyfriend Peter (Jeremy Davies). Secretary pursued a unique and questionable workplace/romantic relationship that worked solely on the performances of its stars Gyllenhaal and Spader. Their chemistry was genuine and made the audience want to root for their strange relationship regardless of the outcome.

Horrible Bosses (2011)- To some, this no-holds barred comedy seemed to be familiar with three working stiffs (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) who realized that their lives would be better if their dreadful bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston) were dead. The possible murder plot seemed outlandish, especially how it quickly transformed from a drunken plan to a full blown plot set in motion by three clueless people. The humor didn't fully come together until the plan was set in motion. Once it did, it was hysterical. The most outrageously funny plot was when they thought they had hired a hit man from the internet, but it turned out they were sorely mistaken. Of course, the plan didn't go according to plan, which ended up being a good thing in the end. Watch it and see how the men controlled their lives for better or worse. The movie's real breakthrough was Aniston's game changing performance as a maneating dentist that was far removed from her previous roles. She should do more like this and show the world what she's truly made of.

In the end, laughter is the best medicine after a long work week. The humor can sometimes border on the darkly dangerous to the downright insane (Waiting...), but it still cures what troubles moviegoers. Hollywood turned to workplace comedies to give stressed regular working people an outlet to escape from their high pressured jobs and see a world not too different from their own, but with a laugh track. The audience's in all its unedited glory. Enjoy it in moderation. Don't want the boss to catch on.

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    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      I really loved 9 to 5. I read the book in 1982 and saw the movie as soon as it was released - it is still really funny now, good comic performances from Coleman, Parton and especially Lily Tomlin. I also loved Devil wears Prada, Streep is great as ever but Emily Blunt manages to nick almost every scene she appears in - Hathaway is an engaging heroine in this movie too. Great hub, voted up and shared.

    • laurathegentleman profile image

      laurathegentleman 5 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      The Devil Wears Prada is one of my absolute favorite movies! I also love Horrible Bosses and 9 to 5. This is great - it's a group of movies I've never thought too much about, but they are all really great, especially when we can humorously look at something that takes up a large part of our lives!