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    20 Of The Best Workplace Movies To Get You Ready For Going Back To The Office

    Office Space, Clockwatchers, Being John Malkovich, and 17 other titles that'll bring the watercooler chat to the comfort of your home.

    You've spent the last year and a half calling your couch your workstation and having to have watercooler conversations only with your cat. But now your office is starting to open back up, and you will be expected to be around people all day. That can feel overwhelming, which is why I compiled 20 movies that will help you prepare for the sometimes wonderful, sometimes horrifying reality of being back at the office.

    Office Doldrums

    Work sucks, I know. It's no secret that jobs are often extremely boring. These five movies excel at showing just how brutally dull work often is.

    Up in the Air (2009)

    Anna Kendrick looks at George Clooney with slight apprehension
    Dreamworks / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a guy who finds his entire identity in his work, where he basically travels all around the world to help companies fire people. Hell, his biggest ambition in life is to earn 10 million frequent flyer miles, which is perhaps the saddest life goal that has ever existed. At the start of the movie, Bingham is convinced he has it all figured out, but after being teamed up with Natalie (Anna Kendrick), a young, ambitious new coworker, he eventually starts to question his entire life philosophy and eventually comes to realize there might be more to life than work. 

    Watch it on Amazon Prime with Cinemax.

    Office Space (1999)

    Gary Cole checks his watch while talking to Ron Livingston
    20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Does any movie capture the mind-numbing, soul-sucking boredom of working a dead-end job in a cubicle better than Office Space? From battling over a stapler to having eight different bosses, it perfectly captures all of the pointless and endless minutiae we've all had to endure or are currently enduring every day for the sake of a paycheck. And when Peter (Ron Livingston) declares, "I don't like my job and I don't think I'm gonna go anymore," at least half of the people watching are likely nodding their head in agreement.

    Watch it on Amazon Prime with Starz.

    Cabin in the Woods (2011)

    Richard Jenkins, Amy Acker, and Bradley Whitford walking
    Lions Gate / Courtesy Everett Collection

    On the surface, Cabin in the Woods is a clever meta-horror film about the tried-and-true tropes of the genre. But it's really a workplace movie, as the entire cabin scenario is an elaborate setup meticulously orchestrated by a lab in order to stave off the end of the world. And what makes this puppeteer storyline work so well is the ambivalence that Gary (Richard Jenkins) and Steve (Bradley Whitford) show toward their absolutely horrifying job. Sure, they're responsible for staving off the apocalypse, but it's clear they've been doing it so long that at this point, it's just a living. Hilariously, the only real emotion either of them shows is Steve's frustration over not getting to see a mermaid.

    Watch it on Peacock.

    Waiting... (2005)

    Justin Long looking ahead while Ryan Reynolds looks at him with his arms crossed
    Lions Gate / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Anyone who has worked in the service industry knows how much crap you have to endure, all in hopes of getting a reasonable tip from an annoying customer who fails to treat you with a basic level of human decency. But even if you've never waited a table, you can appreciate Waiting... Watching the young, directionless serving staff try to survive a shift at Shenaniganz is as hysterical as it is excruciating. Just as in life, everyone copes with their less-than-pleasant reality in their own way, with Monty (Ryan Reynolds) choosing to nihilistically accept his fate, while Dean (Justin Long) switches between hating his job and hating himself.

    Watch it on Hulu.

    Burn After Reading (2008)

    J.K. Simmons looking perplexed sitting at a desk
    Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Burn After Reading is a fantastic film that features blackmail, murder, espionage, and Brad Pitt. But hands down the best parts of the movie are the scenes where CIA officer Palmer (David Rasche) and his superior (J.K. Simmons) discuss the events of the film with a mixture of frustration, disbelief, and apathy. By the end, they have no idea what they've learned from everything that happens, and they pretty much agree to move on without dwelling on it too much. It's hard to call a Coen brothers movie underrated, given their long-held reputation as one-of-a-kind auteurs, but it feels like this dark comedy is not given due credit in its absurd venture into just how stupid almost every job is. 

    Watch it on Amazon Prime.

    Office Terror

    Yes, it's a bummer when work is kinda dull, but that is nothing compared to when your office feels like a place of terror that you genuinely dread going to every day. These five movies perfectly demonstrate what it's like when work is a living nightmare.

    Horrible Bosses (2011)

    Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, and Charlie Day drinking at a bar
    Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are lifelong friends who decide to kill their respective bosses, all of whom are making their lives absolutely miserable. A dark premise? To be sure. But it feels like the extrapolation of a long venting session that most of us have had with our friends during post-work beers. And the three bosses' villainy is dialed all the way up to 11, so you can see why these guys would want them out of the picture. After watching this movie, you may even find yourself appreciating that your boss is just your run-of-the-mill jerk instead of a total monster.

    Watch it on HBO Max.

    The Assistant (2019)

    Julia Garner talking on the phone while looking at the computer at her desk
    Bleecker Street Media / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Arguably no movie covers the #MeToo movement more effectively than The Assistant as viewers are given a front-row seat to the sinister and pervasive culture of sexual harassment. It's a brilliant but brutal watch as Jane (Julia Garner), a bright-eyed junior assistant at a production company in New York, experiences sometimes subtle, sometimes not-at-all subtle sexism every day from her coworkers while discovering that her unnamed, unseen boss uses his position of power to sleep with young women who dream of breaking into the entertainment industry. When Jane finally decides to speak up, she is confronted with the systemic nature of the issue in the form of the company's head of HR (Matthew Macfadyen, best known as Tom on Succession), who belittles her complaints and threatens her career.

    Watch it on Hulu.

    Compliance (2012)

    Ann Dowd talking on the phone
    Magnolia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Sandra (Ann Dowd), manager of a ChickWich fast-food restaurant, receives a phone call from someone identifying themselves as Officer Daniels, saying that an employee from her store was accused of stealing from a customer. Sandra believes it is Becky (Dreama Walker), and once Daniels confirms, things take a horrifying turn, as Sandra believes she is following orders and is willing to do whatever it takes to get Becky to admit that she is the culprit. I won't spoil anything that happens, but needless to say, it reaches extremes that will make your stomach turn. And what makes it really horrible is that almost everything you see in the movie actually happened in real life at a McDonald's in Kentucky.

    Rent it on Amazon Prime.

    Two Days, One Night (2014)

    Marion Cotillard walking by her coworkers
    IFC Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Sandra (Marion Cotillard) returns from work following a leave of absence due to anxiety and depression, only to discover that all except two of her coworkers voted to make her redundant in exchange for $1,000 bonuses. She convinces her manager to let her keep the job if she can get enough of her coworkers to support her in a revote. Two Days, One Night doesn't pull any punches when it comes to exposing the brutality of trying to survive paycheck to paycheck, as Sandra has to give up her dignity and basically beg just to be allowed to keep working a job she hates.

    Rent it on Amazon Prime.

    9 to 5 (1980)

    Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda talking
    20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Julie (Lily Tomlin), Violet (Jane Fonda), and Doralee (Dolly Parton) are three wildly different women with one very major thing in common: their boss, Franklin (Dabney Coleman), a belligerent misogynist who makes all of their lives a living hell. When they mistakenly believe they accidentally poisoned him, they end up kidnapping him and then running the office in his stead under the pretense that he is working from home. Nearly every "work sucks" movie owes a debt to this classic comedy that also inspired Parton's absolutely phenomenal song of the same name.

    Rent it on Amazon Prime.

    Office Camaraderie

    You usually don't get to choose your coworkers, but they often are the people you end up closest to because of the amount of time you spend together. These five movies remind us that the real treasure is the friendship you make along the way.

    Clerks (1994)

    Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson talking behind the counter
    Miramax / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Could Clerks have technically qualified for "Office Doldrums" and "Work Horror"? Absolutely. But the real core of the movie lies in the "misery loves company" friendship between Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson). Despite Dante's constant whining about how much he hates working as a retail clerk at Quick Stop Groceries and how he "wasn't even supposed to be here today," he finds brief moments of enjoyment during his interactions with Randal, who works at the video store next door. Whether they're playing hockey on the roof or discussing the moral implications of working as a contractor on the Death Star, it's clear these two rely on each other for survival.

    Watch it on HBO Max. 

    Monsters Inc. (2001)

    Mike Wazowski giving a thumbs-up to Sulley
    Walt Disney / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Work is a lot easier when you know someone has your back no matter what, and that's exactly what Mike and Sulley have in each other. Before they accidentally unleash a child onto Monstropolis and uncover a giant conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of Monsters Inc., Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (John Goodman) are just living the dream of getting to work with your best friend in the world. Other than when Mike has date night with Celia, they are virtually inseparable, with Mike helping Sulley train so he can break the scare record, while Sulley uses his clout to get Mike a reservation at Harryhausen's. 

    Watch it on Disney+.

    Clockwatchers (1997)

    Lisa Kudrow talking while Parker Posey sits by the window
    Rialto Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Iris (Toni Collette), Margaret (Parker Posey), Paula (Lisa Kudrow), and Jane (Alanna Ubach) work together as temps for a company that makes no attempt at treating them with any sort of respect. Despite their awful jobs, they are able to stay afloat and kill time through the unexpected bond they end up forming. And though they're totally different people with differing perspectives on just about everything, they become friends. It's the exact type of friendship we've all formed at work, partially out of convenience and partially out of necessity. But because of the (mostly miserable) experiences you've endured together, you can end up becoming closer than you ever imagined, just like these four.

    Watch it on Amazon Prime.

    The Intern (2015)

    Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway looking at a computer
    Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

    When Ben (Robert De Niro) is first hired as an intern at a startup to escape the boredom of retirement, Jules (Anne Hathaway), the company's CEO and founder, wants as little to do with him as possible. But slowly, Ben is able to win Jules over by working hard and earning her trust as a coworker and, eventually, a friend. By the end of the movie, they are a dynamic duo who both help each other grow as people. So next time an intern shows up at your office, stop by and say hello. You may end up with the De Niro to your Hathaway.

    Rent it on Amazon Prime.

    Barbershop (2002)

    Cedric the Entertainer, Carl Wright, and Ice Cube talking in the barbershop
    MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

    On a particularly cold winter day in Chicago, Calvin (Ice Cube) has decided he's had enough and agrees to sell his barbershop, which was handed down to him from his dad. But over the course of the day, Calvin remembers what he loves about the shop: mostly shooting the breeze with his coworkers as they cut people's hair. It's the type of work environment most of us only get to dream of, as the crew of barbers get to engage in half-informed debates about whatever the hell comes to their minds at any given moment. 

    Rent it on Amazon Prime.

    Office Romance

    Finding love at work sounds great, but in reality, it often gets extremely messy and complex. These five movies offer a few different perspectives on the pros and cons of an office romance.

    Two Weeks Notice (2002)

    Sandra Bullock talking to Hugh Grant
    Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is a relentless, uncompromising lawyer who reluctantly takes a job as head of counsel for billionaire George Wade (Hugh Grant) in order to save the community center from her childhood. But George starts to rely on Lucy for pretty much everything, so Lucy gives her two-week notice. Of course, things are never that simple, so despite her frustration with George and his arrogant playboy ways, the chemistry between them is undeniable, and she finds it increasingly difficult to pretend that she doesn't have feelings for him. And it's hard to blame her when her boss looks and talks like Hugh Grant.

    Rent it on Amazon Prime.

    Being John Malkovich (1999)

    Catherine Keener talking to John Cusack while walking out of an elevator
    USA Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a struggling puppeteer who is stuck in a miserable marriage with Lottie (Cameron Diaz). He finds work as a file clerk, and there he falls for his coworker Maxine (Catherine Keener), who clearly does not feel the same way about him. When Craig discovers a secret tunnel hidden in the office that allows him to occupy the mind of John Malkovich, he tries to use it to win Maxine over. This hilarious absurdist dark comedy (which was the screenwriting debut of Charlie Kaufman and the feature film directorial debut of Spike Jonze) does not offer the most cheery outlook on office romance, but watching the incredibly bizarre events unfold is a treat.

    Watch it on Peacock.

    Working Girl (1988)

    Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffth sitting at a table
    20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    The relationship between Tess (Melanie Griffith), the ambitious secretary who is determined to make it as an executive, and Jack (Harrison Ford), an investment broker, is a complicated one. They first meet just after Tess finally gets her big break, and they have an instant connection. Jack seems to be the only person who really believes in Tess and sees her talent and drive. But Tess is unaware that Jack is the man she is giving her first big pitch to the next day. They end up becoming partners in trying to land a major deal, but as their relationship develops, more complications arise. 

    Watch it on Amazon Prime with Starz.

    Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

    Hugh Grant pouring wine into Renée Zellweger's glass
    Miramax / Courtesy Everett Collection

    There is plenty about this movie that has not aged particularly well, most notably the mean-spirited, relentless attacks against Bridget (Renée Zellweger) because of her weight. Some have even argued that the power dynamics at play in the relationship between Bridget and her boss, Daniel (Hugh Grant), are questionable. But the movie doesn't really make an effort to hide the fact that Daniel is a sleazy jerk who only notices Bridget when she "turns her life around," treats her poorly when they get together, and cheats on her. It all builds up to Bridget getting one of the all-time great cinematic send-offs and serves as a reminder of why office romances are often better in theory than in practice.

    Watch it on Amazon Prime with Starz.

    Kissing Jessica Stein (2001)

    Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt sitting on a bed
    20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Kissing Jessica Stein is widely considered a groundbreaking film for its depiction of a lesbian romance onscreen during a time when that was still considered extremely taboo. While the primary romance in the movie is between Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Helen (Heather Juergensen), there is also the ongoing flirtation and mutual interest between Jessica and her boss, Josh (Scott Cohen). As far as onscreen office romances go, the connection between Jessica and Josh is pretty sweet and innocent, which is often not how these things go.

    Watch it on Amazon Prime with Starz.