Almost of everyone in the western world seems to have worked in an office at one time or another, so you can see why filmmakers like to use it as a setting. Like first love, frustrating families, coming of age and fun road trips, the office is something that writers and directors know will strike a chord.
But movie offices have entertained, appalled and amused us in countless ways. Here are five of the most memorable examples from down the years…
Jack Lemmon’s more famous romantic lead was in Some Like It Hot (with a twist, of course!), but The Apartment is both sweeter and darker – and has more to tell us about modern life. The early scenes in the office of an insurance company offer a wonderfully vivid account of what it’s like to try and not be anonymous amongst endless rows of employees in a big corporation.
Glengarry Glen Ross
After his career-defining role in The Apartment, it was certainly a clever casting move to put Jack Lemmon in this biting, clack and foul-mouthed satire about the dog-eat-dog world of real-estate sales. It’s a bleak portrait of workplace rivalry, but also offers up little glimpses of the affection and banter which always plays a part in office culture.
This French drama did surprisingly well at the English-language box-office. A flustered woman is visiting her psychiatrist for the first time, stumbles into the wrong office, and accidentally tells a completely different man (a financial planner, no less) all about her issues. What sounds absurd on paper actually works wonders on film – the movie gives us a real sense of how an office can quickly become a stage for intimate and deeply personal exchanges.
It might be a stretch to call this a film about life in the office, but don’t forget that great scene early on when Marion (Janet Leigh) is at work. It’s got it all: the colleague who wants to chat more than you do, the dull furniture, the big client showing off in the front of the staff, the empty niceties. It’s no wonder Marion want to get out, clear her head, and take a shower…
Being John Malkovich
Sometimes, an office can seem like the most ‘normal’ place in the world. But every office has somewhere tucked away, a little space which nobody really knows about – what it’s for, or who it’s there for. It might be a cupboard, a room… or a portal to the mind of a famous Hollywood actor! Yes, Being John Malkovich is about as fantastical as an office movie could be, but it only works because we relate to something in it. Whether it’s the workplace romance or the constant sense of mischief, this film is like a weird ode to office life.
I write on office services for Glen Cleaning but I wish I was a movie star – who would have guessed!