Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re feeling unmotivated or bored at work is just to take a break. A good movie does wonders when you need a distraction, but just because you’re being entertained doesn’t mean you can’t also get some inspiration. If you want to binge on your Netflix subscription or iTunes account with a good cause in mind, turn to these 18 movies -- they’ll provide a mental break while also lighting a fire to your career motivation levels!
1. The Devil Wears Prada
Who doesn’t love how convincingly Meryl Streep plays an icy Anna Wintour type? What we love even more is what Streep told Vanity Fair about why she took the role. She explained that she believes there are “perceived deficits...of women in a leadership position. Chief among them is to expect women to be endlessly empathetic, a sense of employees’ discomfiture that she doesn’t give a shit, all the things that they would not ask of a male boss….There’s that explanation that hurts women more in leadership than it does men. I’ve seen it in so many different places.”
2. The Intern
70-something Ben Whittaker is endearingly played by Robert DeNiro and has discovered that retirement is, well, rather dull. He decides to take a chance and try something new by applying to intern at an online fashion company run by none other than Anne Hathaway. She’s a young female founder lady boss incarnate; she’s smart, tough, but also cracking under the pressure of “doing it all” as a wife, mother, and hands-on CEO. In the end, it’s her work relationships and her sense of self that save the day. (Ok, technically this movie isn’t out on Netflix yet -- but you know you’ll be obsessively checking for it’s availability now that we’re reminding you of how great it is).
3. Office Space
A classic and beloved film especially among techies, the moral of the story is not that all will end well because your office eventually burns down. But if you’re working in IT or any other white collar job that you hate, that doesn’t mean you can’t start over and find a job you love more -- even if it’s in a field as different as construction, which is where protagonist Peter Gibbons ends up (and happily).
4. 9 to 5
What’s not to love about three women working out a way to get even (and spoiler alert: ultimately overthrow) of their tyrannical, sexist boss? (Even better: two of those women are played by Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton). A box office hit in the 1980s, this movie will still inspire you to fight the good ‘ol boys club.
5. Up in the Air
If you haven’t seen George Clooney fire his way across the United States in the most corporate way, you’re missing a classic. Technically Clooney’s character is a human resources consultant who makes a living providing “termination services.” While the transformation of industries is deeply painful for those who have lost jobs and whose skills are now redundant, there’s always a business case to be made. For anyone who has ever questioned whether they’ve become someone they don’t like through their work, this film shows it’s never too late to change.
Ok, so what does a movie about a woman who inherited everything by birthright have to do with your career? She inherited a role ruling over a vast kingdom at the tender age of 25 and lacked any previous governing experience. Still, she stepped up and trusted her instincts and governed a England for 45 years during a period that’s now considered the Golden Age. It’s a lesson in leadership and growing into roles you think you’re not ready to handle.
7. Horrible Bosses
Hate your boss? Hopefully things aren’t as bad as they are for the characters in Horrible Bosses and you’re not going to attempt anything like murder any time soon. For a movie to give you some perspective about how bad things really could be -- this film probably is a winner. The kicker at the end shows that even in a movie plot, the grass can seem greener on the other side.
8. The Social Network
Facebook is now a part of all of our lives, but it’s start was in a college dorm among a group of awkward, nerdy undergraduates. This movie is loosely based on the founding story of the company and an inspiration for any entrepreneur or business person who worries about not seeing a straight path to overnight success. The real business world can sometimes produce better dramas than you could envision in fiction.
Based on a true story about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, Brad Pitt plays an unconventional, smart outsider who makes big waves in an industry that’s not generally open to new ideas about how to do things. This movie shows that it can be an uphill battle to try something radically different -- but that perseverance and smarts eventually pay off.
10. The Pursuit of Happyness
Will Smith plays a man who’s always struggled to make ends meet but ends up getting his sh-t together when he wins custody of his son. This movie shows that with a lot of work and determination, you can get through really difficult periods and end up making something of yourself even when you think it’s “too late.”
11. Boiler Room
Boiler Room is pretty male. In fact, there isn’t a significant female character in the whole bunch but the movie does show that career ambition and morality (not to mention legality) can sometimes clash in a big way. Consider this movie a sobering reminder that get-rich-quick schemes are probably always worth a closer look. Sometimes there really are no short-cuts against hard work and tenacity.
12. Bad Moms
Many working moms can relate to Mila Kunis’ character, Amy, in this slapstick movie about what it means to set boundaries and let go of “being perfect” when you’re juggling a family and work -- with too-little room for yourself. Oh and the moral of the story? Setting limits ends up doing wonders for both your children, your romantic relationships and your job.
13. Jerry McGuire
The movie won a lot of Academy Awards and we love the way fast-talking Tom Cruise’s character portrays the business of sports -- including how much integrity and personal relationships matter to your success at work. That’s a lesson that applies to anyone -- whether you’re a sports agent or a paralegal or communications analyst.
14. Erin Brockovitch
Erin Brockovitch is based on the true story of a woman who took on a big corporation (in this case PG&E in California) and rallied a community together. It’s the classic case of David and Goliath and we love the strong female lead played by Julia Roberts.
15. Hidden Figures
If you’re looking for a reason to believe that women can succeed and do incredibly well in STEM, look no further than Hidden Figures. Written about three female “computers” (as they called them then) who worked on the NASA program to put the first man into orbit during the U.S. space race days, this movie breaks all racial and gender stereotypes about who has contributed to our country’s scientific and mathematical breakthroughs. While this film is still raking it in at the box office, you’ll hopefully soon be streaming it on a sofa near you.
The protagonist in this movie is an ambitious, successful investment banker. And she’s female. This is a movie about what it’s like to be a woman on Wall Street who loves to make money and isn’t shy about being good at her job.
As Naomi Bishop’s character puts it, “I’m so glad it’s finally acceptable for women to talk about ambition.” Invested by women working in the industry, the film won accolades for showing what it’s really like for senior women working in cut-throat, traditional industries like finance (not known for being one of the best industries for women). The characters are complex and the dialogue is whip-smart. These investment banking heroines, while far from perfect, are certainly stereotype-defying...and impressive.
17. Field of Dreams
Every aspiring entrepreneur has asked herself “If I build it, will they come?” Similar thoughts haunted Kevin Costner, playing midwest farmer Ray Kinsella when he decided to build a baseball field in the middle of his cornfield. If you work hard and play things right, this feel-good movie will be an inspiration for anyone taking a big risk, or interested in becoming a first-time entrepeneur.
18. Working Girl
You’ll get throwback big hair but who doesn’t love Melanie Griffith playing Tess McGill. She’s tough as nails and even if she gets knocked down a few times, in the end she ends up in the corner office (and Harrison Ford). A nice of ending to the 80’s as we could ask for.
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