The Five Best Movies for the Labor Day Holiday

These flicks share the realities, sometimes humorously, of the American worker — and the spirit of the holiday

The first Labor Day occurred on Sept. 5, 1882, in the streets of New York City when thousands of bricklayers, printers, blacksmiths, railroad men, and cigar makers took the day off to march on behalf of blue-collar workers everywhere.

It wasn’t until 1894, though, that President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a national holiday, one that honors the contributions of the American worker to our nation’s well-being.

The day also marks the unofficial farewell to summer. Although many people around the country fill this weekend with swimming, picnics, barbecues, and other outdoor adventures, let’s not forget the true meaning of Labor Day, as it’s more than just another government-decided holiday.

To help celebrate this year, here are five great movies that definitely have the American worker in mind.

1.) “Working Girl” (1988). Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) of New York City is smart and aggressive and has good ideas for how to make money in the financial industry. There’s just one problem — she’s a secretary and her female boss (played by Sigourney Weaver) has a bad habit of ripping off ideas from her staff and passing them off as her own.

McGill’s boss is eventually injured in a ski accident — and the young upstart takes it upon herself to pretend to be the boss (especially in several memorable scenes with investment broker Jack Trainer, played by Harrison Ford, with whom she also falls in love).

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McGill’s street-smart business tactics and common sense allow her to make some inroads — but the inevitable return of the boss complicates her success and threatens to end it.

Fun fact: Griffith and Weaver (who won Golden Globe Awards for their roles) followed many female secretaries and business leaders around, even sitting in on daily meetings to gain a better understanding of the financial industry from a woman’s point of view. Also, for her role in this film, actress Joan Cusack won an American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.

Related: Three Conservative Movies You Need to Watch This Fall

2.) “Clerks” (1994). This probably isn’t the type of movie that comes to mind for Labor Day, but sure enough, it’s a realistic look at the everyday retail worker.

The film is centered around Dante Hicks — a 22-year-old convenience store clerk — and his friendship with his best friend, Randal Graves, who happens to work beside his friend in a video store he always manages to open late.

The two slackers pass the day with conversations about all things pop culture and weird, as well as complaining about their customer base.

Dante is stuck in a rut; he hates his job. He also finds out his ex-girlfriend is engaged and that his current girlfriend has a past that makes him nervous. Anyone who has held a minimum-wage retail job will instantly recognize the hilarious world “Clerks” presents.

Fun fact: Writer-director Kevin Smith filmed the movie inside the store he worked in — at the same time. He’d pull a day shift, then invite the crew in overnight to film their scenes. When morning rolled around, it was back to his behind-the-counter gig for Smith.

3.) “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992). This is the story of four real estate salesmen in New York City and the exchange that occurs when “corporate” sends the men a “trainer” to help encourage higher sales. (The play by the same name won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984.)

The men are told that at the end of the week, only the three top salesmen will be spared while the other will be fired, and the salesman who makes the most money will win a Cadillac. The salesmen use increasingly cutthroat techniques to close a deal — everything from bribery to lies, flattery, intimidation, threats and burglary. Written by David Mamet, it’s an unforgettable picture with sharp dialogue and exchanges between the legendary cast — Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Alda, Kevin Spacey and Alec Baldwin, in what is probably the best scene of his career.

It’s not always a positive look at the lives of desperate men, but anybody who has had a sales job can likely quote it and recognize at least pieces of the bottom-line world Mamet presents.

Related: The Five Most Conservative Movies of the 2018 Summer Season

4.) “Office Space” (1999). This film focuses on mid-level employees working for a company called Initech, a generic corporation that is more like a prison than a workplace. Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) can’t stand another moment and becomes so desperate he goes to a hypnotist, who convinces him to relax and shake off some of the pressure he’s feeling. (An image from the film is shown at the top of this article.)

Gibbons starts arriving at work at 11 a.m. instead of at 8, sometimes skips work altogether, plays games at his desk, refuses to do overtime, neglects office protocol and dress codes — and knocks down a wall that blocks his view of the outside world. He’s happy as a clam.

Despite his feelings toward his job, the movie ends with a positive message about doing what one wants in life — and finding a job that brings happiness, no matter what others think.

Fun fact: During the 2016 presidential election, Ted Cruz’s campaign took to mocking then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her thousands of deleted emails by releasing an ad, which was a play on the scene in “Office Space” where employees smash a printer to bits.

5.) “9 to 5” (1980). Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton brought the core working hours to the big screen in a comedy that pitted three professional working women against their boss, whom they called a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

After a cheating husband runs off with his secretary, Judy (Fonda) finds work at Consolidated Companies as a secretary. Violet (Tomlin) is the office supervisor and introduces Judy to the staff — as well as all the gossip associated with working in a small office.

Not soon after, Judy learns their boss, Franklin Hart Jr., misuses and abuses the female staff (including sexually harassing Dolly Parton’s character) and takes credit for ideas that are not his own. The three women meet at a local bar and conspire about the demise of their pigheaded boss, everything from hunting him like an animal, roping him like a steer, or even poisoning him.

The ladies form a friendship and unbeknownst to them, their combined efforts of making the company a better place is eventually the catalyst that gets rid of the evil Hart.

Fun fact: The American Film Institute rates the movie as number 74 on its official “100 Funniest Movies” list.

Check out the trailer for “9 to 5” below:

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