Movies at Work

What are you favorite workplace and labor-themed flicks?

By Jere Hester
|  Sunday, Sep 6, 2009  |  Updated 10:00 PM CDT
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Charlie Chaplin gave audiences both laughs and social commentary about the workplace in "Modern Times," released during the heart of the depression.

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A Labor Day Weekend opening hardly seems appropriate for “Extract,” the latest comedy from Mike Judge, who gave us the cubical-culture classic “Office Space.”

“Extract,” after all, looks at the workplace from the perspective of the boss.

Judge’s new release also is an oddity of sorts if only because there aren’t a ton of workplace-themed movies these days, and certainly none among this summer’s blockbusters.

Transformers don’t punch time clocks. Hogwarts is a school. The Starship Enterprise may technically be a place of business, but that’s not what “Star Trek” is about.

The movies, of course, are a favorite form of escapism, never more so than when times are tough – it took a great like Charlie Chaplin to give audiences both laughs and social commentary about the workplace in “Modern Times,” released in the middle of the Depression. Hollywood executives, who no doubt want to keep their jobs, may be avoiding producing films about working when the national unemployment rate is approaching 10 percent.

Workplace-themed entertainment long has been the province of TV, from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” through “The Office."

Still, there is a tradition of folks shelling out hard-earned bucks to catch clever depictions of working life on the big screen.

We’ve seen everything from funny revenge fantasies (“9 to 5”) to serio-comic movies about job loss (“The Full Monty”) to flicks that proudly sport the union label (“Norma Rae”).

So as you mark the end of summer, we’ll ask you to do a little work on Labor Day: use the comments section below to tell us your favorite workplace flicks.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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