NPR logo In the Office, at the Movies

In the Office, at the Movies

In Good Company is the latest in a long line of movies that looks at office politics and the corporate world. Over the years, Hollywood has used the workplace as a stage for exploring everything from greed and sexual politics to Darwinian competition and a culture of conformity. Here are seven films and their distinctive takes on the corporate workplace.

1. In Good Company (2005): Topher Grace plays an uppity MBA who usurps the job of sales exec Dennis Quaid while secretly dating his daughter. Grace is terrific as the Starbucks-swilling, would-be synergist.

Related NPR Stories

2. Office Space (1999): Ron Livingston stars in this low-budget black comedy about the mindlessness of cubicle culture. Livingston plays a worker bee at a software company who wins promotion into upper management after he stops coming to work and shows open contempt for the entire system.

3. Wolf (1994): Jack Nicholson and James Spader show their fangs, literally, in this inter-generational battle set in the New York publishing world. Nicholson plays a middle-aged book editor who finds his inner beast after he’s bitten by a wolf and turns into a werewolf. All the better to thrash Spader, the ambitious yuppie who steals his job.

4. Working Girl (1988): Melanie Griffith stars as an ambitious, big-haired secretary from Staten Island. Director Mike Nichols uses her rise to the corner office as a metaphor for an American meritocracy and the materialist drive of the Roaring '80s.

5. Wall Street (1987): The flip-side of Nichols' sunny story. Oliver Stone sets his morality tale on greed in the New York financial world. Charlie Sheen is a stockbroker who must choose between father figures. One is a high-flying, inside trader played by Michael Douglas. The other is a union worker, played by Sheen's real father, Martin. Douglas channels Ivan Boesky and his "greed is good" speech helps win him an Academy Award.

6. The Godfather (1972): One film critic calls this the ultimate tale of corporate conflict. College boy Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) turns out to have far more of his father, Vito, in him than anyone suspects. He takes over the family business and wipes out the competition in a bloody, operatic climax.

7. The Apartment (1960): Billy Wilder’s classic. Jack Lemmon stars as insurance clerk and corporate climber who lends his apartment to executives for their extra-marital liaisons. Trouble ensues when his boss (Fred MacMurray) brings home a woman Lemmon yearns for — an elevator operator played by Shirley MacLaine.