Updated 8/11/2020; Original post 1/18/2017
For me, this list is an opportunity to revisit movies and learn from them.
Yes, they are colored with the window glaze of Hollywood, but for those who need a visual example of bullies behaving badly (and how the issues were addressed) in the workplace – this is a starting list.
The last few years have been exhaustive with workplace incivility, harassment, and bullying – frequently reported and represented in the media, politics, and in our workplaces. The fact is adults who bully exist in our workplaces across all industries, job roles and responsibilities, and teams.
What can we learn from these movies?
I’m sure, if you have ever held a job, or currently have a job, you will find a movie scene that you can relate to. Maybe you can also identify a tactic you can adapt to your work situation.
Let’s get started…
13. The Internship (2013)
After losing their sales jobs, two former salesmen fight to remain relevant after joining Google in an internship program competing with young, tech-focused workers competing for a paying job at Google. During the internship, they are bullied by a much younger, college-age intern, while working for the manager of the internship program who doubts their abilities. They are considered “dinosaurs”.
- Featuring: Vince Vaugh, Owen Wilson
- Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5bmAwbk9TI
12. The Help (2011)
The workplace in this moving drama is the home, as this movie follows the difficult working conditions of African American women working as house maids for overbearing, dismissive white women in Mississippi in the civil rights era of the 1960’s.
- Featuring: Octavia Spencer; Viola Davis, Emma Stone
- Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPRkiLhwI6o
- Awards: Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role; Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Cast; Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor; Critics Choice Award; Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress; NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress; NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress; NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture
11. Up in the Air (2009)
A movie about the bully – who is hired by organizations to do the dirty work – handling layoffs and firings.
- Featuring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick
- Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbbXGW5czKo
- Awards: Golden Globe Award Best Screenplay; MTV Movie Award; NY Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
10. Bamboozled (2007)
A television executive is constantly harassed by his boss, who uses racially charged speech while dismissing his abilities and job goals.
- Featuring: Damon Wayans, Savion Glover, Jada Pinkett Smith
- Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWiH6IhQjwY
9. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
A recent college graduate and aspiring journalist, takes a job as a junior assistant to the difficult, overbearing editor in chief of a major fashion magazine. Daily bullying from her boss, long hours, and constant threats of losing her job are endured.
- Featuring: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci
- Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTDSwAxlNhc
8. Click (2006)
A workaholic architect, with a difficult boss, neglects his family and choosing work over his family time. He finds a universal remote that allows him to fast-forward and rewind to different parts of his life. Complications arise when the remote starts to overrule his choices.
- Featuring: Adam Sandler; Kate Beckinsale; Christopher Walken; Henry Winkler
- Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWBXMNcKhj4
7. Employee of the Month (2006)
A slacker competes with a repeat winner – who happens to bully his co-workers – for the “Employee of the Month” title at work, in order to gain the affections of a new female employee. After the workplace bully doesn’t win the employee of the month for the first time (after 17 consecutive wins) – he then takes steps to cause even more harm to the new winner. Bad behavior continues among coworkers.
- Featuring: Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson
- Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRIjLp-wbEY
6. Waiting… (2005)
Young employees at sports bar/restaurant called TaTa’s Wing Shack collectively stave off boredom and adulthood with their mischievous antics while attempting to serve food to guests.
- Featuring: Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris; Justin Long
- Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrfwRY4T71k
5. In Good Company (2004)
In this dramatic comedy, a middle-aged print media salesman played by Dennis Quaid gets a new 26-year-old boss and has to adjust to restructuring, a new corporate culture led by billionaire Teddy K, and a changing advertising landscape. An excellent cast and story make it one of my favorite workplace movies of all time. I still think of this movie every time I hear the word “synergy”.
- Featuring: Dennis Quaid; Topher Grace
- Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_SiOD-YMGU
4. Boiler Room (2000)
This crime drama explores concepts of greed and corruption in business. An excellent ensemble cast takes us into the dark world of a stock brokerage and their cold calling center. At a time today where companies are increasingly using inbound marketing and sales, Bolier Room provides an excellent look at the good, the bad and the ugly in classic sales.
- Featuring: Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Ben Affleck; Scott Caan.
- Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VoXMvNrQro
3. Tommy Boy (1995)
After attending college for 7 years, a recent college graduate returns home to work for the family auto parts business. After his father passes away, Tommy must deal with unfortunate and difficult family members, and take matters into his own hands to save the business.
- Featuring: Chris Farley, David Spade
- Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nQ4K2bvVxY
2. Working Girl (1988)
In New York City, an administrative assistant, works for a boss who takes credit for her ideas. Due to an unexpected medical problem with her boss, she has an opportunity to change her future and takes it – by imitating her boss in her absence.
- Featuring: Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver
- Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkR7ITaa2ko
- Awards: Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, Golden Globe Award for Best Actress; Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
1. Disclosure (1994)
A movie focused on sexual harassment of men by a female, also a former lover, in the workplace. The man later as a hard time proving his innocence, after being accused of sexual harassment by the female in questions.
- Featuring: Demi Moore, Michael Douglas, Donald Sutherland
- Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzhWS1_8TDo
Honorable Mention Movies
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest | (1975)
- 9 to 5 | (1980)
- Back to the Future | (1985)
- Big Bully | (1996)
- Joe Somebody | (2001)
- Living the Dream | (2006)
- Imagine That | (2009)
- The Proposal | (2009)
- Burnt | (2015)
- Carole Matthiew | (2016)
Michel Hobson is one of the most sought-after workplace training leaders in the region. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans multiple countries and hundreds of companies. | HobsonTraining.com