Let’s face it: Every now and then, you could use a little inspiration in your day job. And if your boss isn’t cutting it, well, that’s why Hollywood is here: In the movies, workplaces with witty one-liners, high drama, and take-charge women are just around every corner.
We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite women in those on-screen offices. They’re not always wearing business suits or setting up shop in the C-suite, but they’re all great motivation for kicking ass, taking names, and getting the job done—when you need it most.
1. Hildy Johnson, His Girl Friday
A big-screen adaptation of the play The Front Page, His Girl Friday was supposed to feature an all-male cast. Instead, the character of Hildy Johnson was rewritten to be a woman and the ex-wife of antagonist Walter Burns (Cary Grant).
And actress Rosalind Russell holds her own in a 1940s male-dominated newsroom. She’s every editor’s dream: a hungry, razor-sharp news reporter who can’t resist a good scoop. In the end, her dedication to the job costs her one engagement (although Walter woos her back by the end), but it's the price she pays for being one of the best reporters in town. A good watch for anyone who has ever been told she puts her personal life on the back burner for her career.
2. Tess McGill, Working Girl
The ultimate “work your way up from the bottom” success story, Working Girl focuses on the tenacity of Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith). She starts as a secretary at a Wall Street investment bank and eventually lands an executive gig with one of the bank’s clients. Her journey to success is untraditional and full of dramatic twists (sleeping with your manager’s ex, for example, is not recommended) but she comes out on top, proving that an investment idea for a client was her work and not her boss’. Tess’ journey is heartwarming (albeit unrealistic) and a good pick-me-up for uninspired days.
3. Andy Sachs, The Devil Wears Prada
The assistant life is a brutal one, as Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) quickly discovers when she accepts a job with ice queen and Runway Editor-in-Chief Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). At first, she chafes against the fashion world, but eventually embraces her responsibilities, kicks ass on the job, and, of course, dresses the part.
But then, Andy goes into overdrive, making some big sacrifices in her personal life for her work. When she realizes this, she quits her job (now that takes guts), and despite her less-than-perfect exit, scores her dream gig with a little help from Miranda. A great watch when you need a glimmer of hope that your terrible boss does have your best interests at heart.
4. Natalie Keener, Up in the Air
Natalie Keener arrives at the Career Transitions Corporation, fresh from Cornell and ready to radically change the corporate world—but her plan to help the company cut costs is met with disdain by longtime employee Ryan Bingham. Natalie’s obsessive dedication to her job is often the source of humor (as she informs Ryan, she “types with purpose”), but she’s also heartbreakingly idealistic and naïve—a great reminder of how far you’ve come since your own first job. (That said, we can definitely relate to her when she can’t stomach the heartless job of firing employees.)
5. Holly Hunter, Broadcast News
Holly Hunter is one of Hollywood’s most complex depictions of a talented woman with a career: exceptionally bright but painfully neurotic, talented at her job yet prone to emotional breakdowns, eager to be accepted as a serious news professional but also hopeful that a certain male co-worker will fall in love with her despite her intensity. A must-watch for any woman who has ever been called “intimidating.”
Anusha Deshpande, a native of Atlanta, is a first year student at Harvard Business School. She spends most of her spare time listening to Bruce Springsteen, watching Red Sox games and staying up to watch late night comedy TV so you don't have to.More from this Author