'I'm Mad as Hell': Famous Movie Quotes About the Workplace
When fictional television anchor Howard Beale leaned out of the window, chanting, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" in the 1976 movie 'Network,' he struck a chord with workers everywhere.
"Movies about the workplace resonate with audiences because -- even though we may not have it as bad as some characters, and we may never climb as high as others -- we've all had to work at some point in our lives, and it's a comfort to know that we're not alone," said Staci Layne Wilson, author of 'Animal Movies Guide' and '50 Years of Ghost Movies.'
When it comes to the workplace, there are some movie lines that are quoted repeatedly, such as that phrase uttered by actor Peter Finch 35 years ago. Another more contemporary favorite is 1999's 'Office Space,' a dark comedy starring Ron Livingston and Jennifer Aniston.
"I've seen it about 50 times," said television production assistant Christian Schraf. "I love it for its rebellious attitude and how it worked out for the main guy and he didn't even try. Most of us wish we had that life, " he added.
A host of great quotes
For those who have not seen this oft-quoted movie, the plot revolves around a group of workers who hate their jobs. After they are downsized, they decide to get revenge against their greedy boss and the company. The trials and tribulations of these workers, and the unexpected ending, have earned the movie and its lines a cult following.
For instance, this great one-liner:
Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston): "We don't have a lot of time on this earth! We weren't meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements."
Or this exchange:
Peter: "So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life.
Dr. Swanson (Michael McShane): " What about today? Is today the worst day of your life?"
Peter: " Yeah."
Dr. Swanson: "Wow, that's messed up."
Or this short-and-sweet sentiment:
Bob Porter (Paul Willson) about taking time off: "Looks like you've been missing a lot of work lately."
Peter: "I wouldn't say I've been missing it, Bob."
For greedheads everywhere
Although movies depict both bad and good work situations, for some reason, the bad ones are quoted more often -- and there is no "worse" character than Gordon "Greed is Good" Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in 'Wall Street' (1987). Here's part of the famous speech:
"The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind."
Some other great zingers
Here are more notable quotables (in chronological order) from movies that capture the frustrations of the workplace experience:
2010, 'Repo Men' -- Remy (Jude Law): "A job is not just a job. It's who you are."
2004, 'Kill Bill Vol. II' -- Budd (Michael Madsen): "They say the No. 1 killer of old people is retirement. People got 'em a job to do, they tend to live a little longer so they can do it."
2003, 'Head of State' -- Mitch Gilliam (Bernie Mac): "You got to dress for the job you want, not the job you got."
1996, 'Sgt. Bilko' -- Sgt. Ernest Bilko (Steve Martin): "All I've ever wanted was an honest week's pay for an honest day's work."
1995, 'Mallrats' -- Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee): "I love the smell of commerce in the morning."
1993, 'Dave' -- Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline): "It's not about the paycheck, it's about respect; it's about looking in the mirror and knowing that you've done something valuable with your day."
1992, 'Glengarry Glen Ross' -- Blake (Alec Baldwin): "We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize?"... "Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is -- you're fired."
1990, 'Joe Versus the Volcano' -- Frank Waturi (Dan Hedaya, speaking to Joe Banks, played by Tom Hanks): "Do you think I feel good? Nobody feels good. After childhood, it's a fact of life. I feel rotten. So what? I don't let it bother me. I don't let it interfere with my job."
1988, 'Working Girl' -- Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith): "You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you're trying to get there. And if you're someone like me, you can't get there without bending the rules."
1980, 'Nine to Five' -- Violet (Lily Tomlin): "I am your employee and as such I expect to be treated with a little dignity and a little respect!"
1967, 'How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying' -- J. B. Biggley (Rudy Vallee): "I realize that I'm the president of this company, the man that's responsible for everything that goes on here. So, I want to state, right now, that anything that happened is not my fault."
1960, 'The Apartment' -- J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray): "Normally, it takes years to work your way up to the 27th floor. But it only takes 30 seconds to be out on the street again. You dig?"
1957, 'Sweet Smell of Success' -- Sally (Jeff Donnell): "But Sidney, you make a living. Where do you want to get?"
Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis): "Way up high, Sam, where it's always balmy. Where no one snaps his fingers and says, 'Hey, Shrimp, rack the balls!' Or, 'Hey, mouse, mouse, go out and buy me a pack of butts.' I don't want tips from the kitty. I'm in the big game with the big players ... In brief, from now on, the best of everything is good enough for me."
1956, 'The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit' -- Tom Rath (Gregory Peck): "I don't know anything about public relations."
Bill Hawthorne (Gene Lockhart): "Who does? You've got a clean shirt and you bathe every day. That's all there is to it."