Ten Timeless Business Movies

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With the job market being so abysmal right now, there are many people with a lot of time on their hands. After weeks or months spent sending out resumes and applying to the scant few “help wanted” ads, the process starts to feel awfully isolating. And for those still employed, the overwhelming work load and job instability can be equally mind-numbing. 

To relieve stress and prevent loss of sanity, take a well-deserved break and pop in any of these movies. They’ll make you laugh and shed a few tears, and some of them will remind you that success and happiness are still possible within the job world—particularly with Harrison Ford by your side.

1. Working Girl (1988)
What it’s about: Melanie Griffith stars as Tess McGill, a smart secretary stuck in the admin pool. When her scheming boss (played with an icy smile by Sigourney Weaver) steals her idea for a merger, Tess plots a scheme of her own posing as a high-flying businesswoman. Tess ultimately triumphs in a David-and-Goliath success story, but the movie reminds us why it’s a bad idea to mix business and pleasure (even if the pleasure involves a young Harrison Ford).
Why it works: Even if they don’t remember shoulder pads and feathered bangs, anyone who’s fetched coffee and made a zillion copies can relate to Tess’ dream of climbing the corporate ladder.

2. Office Space (1999)
What it’s about: Peter Gibbons (played by Ron Livingston) works at a fictitious company called Initech. His life seems pointlessly dull until he visits a hypnotherapist who puts him into a state of euphoric detachment, then promptly dies. When Peter’s two closest colleagues get downsized, the three plant a virus in Initech’s computer network so they can profit from their boss’ utter cluelessness.
Why it works: Everyone can relate to the mundane humor of this cult classic.

3. Wall Street (1987)
What it’s about: Charles Sheen stars as a young broker who gets entangled in the underhanded dealings of Wall Street bigwig Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Sheen’s character ultimately has to choose between business and family alliances.
Why it works: This movie is classic 80s with big egos and big hair but it speaks to timeless issues of morality and loyalty.

4. (2001)
What it’s about: This documentary chronicles the rise and fall of a dotcom started by two friends, Kaleil and Tom, as they navigate the world of investors, lawyers, and more.
Why it works: Captures the real world excitement and anguish of starting a business. Watch this before you jump in!

5. Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
What it’s about: Based on a true story, Will Smith stars alongside his real-life son Jaden as a struggling salesman who dreams about becoming a stockbroker and living the “good life.” The two endure abandonment, homelessness, and jail time before Smith’s character gets his big break on the trading room floor.
Why it works: Everyone loves a success story, and Jaden and Will Smith make an incredible onscreen duo,

6. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

What it’s about: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, and Kevin Spacey star in this dark drama about the cutthroat real estate world. Several frustrated businessmen break into their office after hours in an attempt to secure better sales leads.
Why it works: An all-star cast and intense dialogue, including the now famous “always be closing” speech.

7. Trading Places (1983)
What it’s about: In a modern twist on My Fair Lady, this rags-to-riches and riches-to-rags tale features two scheming commodity brokers who make a friendly wager that they can turn a beggar into a broker and broker into a beggar . What follows is a humorous Prince and the Pauper role reversal.  
Why it works: Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd team up as an unlikely set of allies and the comic effect is priceless.

8. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)
What it’s about: J. Pierpont Finch, a young window-washer with big ambitions, buys a book called How to Succeed in Business and earns a rapid succession of promotions through a combination of charm, luck, and careful strategy. In the process, Finch falls for a young secretary who uses some charms of her own. Robert Morse stars in the movie, but this musical parody was revived on Broadway in the 1990s starring Matthew Broderick of Ferris Bueller fame.
Why it works: Despite the 1960s sets and costumes, many of the jokes about corporate life and its inanities still ring true forty years later.

9. Gung Ho (1986)
What it’s about: Michael Keaton stars in this East-meets-West comedy about a Japanese company that takes over production for a failing auto plant in the Midwest.
Why it works: Though a little dated, the scenes with Japanese businessmen and their families assimilating to American culture and American factory workers discovering Japanese culture make for a comical culture clash.

10. Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)
What it’s about: In this remake of the 1970s comedy, Dick Harper (Jim Carrey) thinks he’s got it made when he’s promoted to VP. Then when the company’s stock tanks unexpectedly and Dick’s house is foreclosed, he and his wife (Téa Leoni) turn to a life of crime to try to steal back the money and status they lost.
Why it works: Watching the Harpers sink further and further into debt and disaster is pretty funny, especially since it’s so far-fetched that very little of it would ever actually happen.

By Susan Johnston of Young Money


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