Lights! Camera! Fantasy! Movies are where we go to forget how boring our lives are. Well, unless you’re into obscure independent movies that aim to capture our tortured, meaningless existence in gritty, hand-held camerawork. But on average, movies let us disappear into the celluloid world for a couple of hours and get lost in the images flashing on the screen.
Sometimes a movie can make us feel good about ourselves. Not because the story is uplifting but because we look at the characters and think, “At least I’m not you!” And that feeling of schadenfreude is worth the ticket price. In that spirit, we put together a list of movie characters whose jobs are less than ideal. The real-life equivalents of these jobs are perfectly fine, but in these movies no paycheck would’ve persuaded you to accept the position.
Here are the 10 worst movie jobs:
Barney Matthews in ‘Silence of the Lambs’
No, Matthews doesn’t get eaten in the movie, but that doesn’t mean his job is peachy. How would you like to be the primary caretaker for one of the scariest inmates a prison cell has ever seen? Anyone who works in incarceration facilities has to be thick-skinned and on alert at all times, which is why not just any person is up to the challenge of the job. Throw in having to deal with Hannibal Lecter and I’d guess the list of qualified and willing candidates gets even smaller.
Chris Parker in ‘Adventures in Babysitting’
Haven’t we all babysat to earn a little cash at some point in our lives? At worst, we had to cut gum out of a toddler’s hair or rush someone to the ER for unsuccessfully doing cartwheels off of the couch. But suburbanite Chris Parker takes three children into the scary world of downtown Chicago in the 1980s without telling their parents. They outrun gunshots, knife fights and organized crime. Oh, and they’re forced to sing the blues in a nightclub. Totally not worth the five bucks an hour.
Commissioner Gordon in all the ‘Batman’ films
I’ll say right now that I’d love to live in Gotham and have Batman protect me from crazy villains. However, I would not want to be the police commissioner who doesn’t get much of the spotlight for defending the city. Think about how long Gordon worked to get to that post, and now that he’s there, some guy in a cape gets all the credit for protecting citizens.
Dorothy Boyd in ‘Jerry Maguire’
Forget about the happily ever after. The two hours leading up to the end of this movie aren’t that great if you’re Jerry Maguire’s assistant. You’re the only employee in his newfound company, so that means doing anything he doesn’t want to do. You don’t have all the perks of your previous job, which you left for him, and business is shaky, seeing as Maguire’s agency has only one client. Oh, and you fall in love with your boss only to realize he doesn’t love you all that much (at least for a while). The performance bonus had better be awesome.
Everyone in ‘Office Space’
The fake software company in “Office Space” is the epitome of the beige cubicle world that’s been demonized by every movie, TV show and comic strip in the last few decades. It’s what so many college students fear is their future. Look at poor Milton, whose job is so pitiful he cares more about his stapler than anything else. The setting makes for a fun movie but a horrible workplace.
Grace Coddington in ‘The September Issue’ / Andy Sachs in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’
These are two different films. “The September Issue” is a documentary about the work that goes into publishing an issue of Vogue magazine, which is under the watch of Anna Wintour. The other film is a fictitious take on what it’s like to work at a glossy fashion magazine under icy editor Miranda Priestly, who shares many similarities with Wintour.
Coddington is a stylist and creative director for the magazine and, as the film shows, her hard work getting just the right look for a spread can take weeks of planning. Then Wintour can walk in, wrinkle her nose and decide the images won’t appear in the magazine. In “Prada,” Sachs is an assistant who works herself into a frenzy just to keep Priestly happy – or as close to happy as possible. Only she quickly finds out that Priestly doesn’t care how long it takes to do something or how much effort you put into it – if it’s not what she wants at that moment, it’s useless to her. We’re not saying everyone should be handled with kid gloves, but the occasional pat on the back seems like the least a boss could do for any employee.
Lucy Kelson in ‘Two Weeks Notice’
Kelson wants to work in the nonprofit world and go after the big corporate enemies. Instead, she finds herself working for a greedy, narcissistic head honcho. Of course they fall in love and things get sorted out because that’s what romantic comedies do, but forget that part. If you don’t have a business mind and you want your job to align with your core values, taking a job that contradicts everything you believe in is a bit torturous. Every day you earn a fancy paycheck but hate yourself for it. All the while you’re catering to a boss you hate (though secretly love, of course). Get past the heartwarming smiles of Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock and you have one pretty crummy job situation.
Norma Rae Webster in ‘Norma Rae’
Any mention of Norma Rae in a list of workplace characters is a bit cliché, but her situation is the epitome of the workplace pits. Her struggle to stay healthy in an overwhelming and physically taxing workplace is bad enough, but when her efforts to change things at the factory cause her trouble at work and at home, life gets worse. Kind of puts the arguments about who ate your last string cheese from the lunch-room refrigerator into perspective, no?
The staff in ‘Jurassic Park’
You’d think that getting to work alongside dinosaurs would be pretty cool, but one power outage later and suddenly the gig isn’t so sweet. Even the best veterinarian or the most scholarly paleontologist wouldn’t be able to handle himself or herself against a carnivorous velociraptor. Stick to your regular amusement park jobs where you can ride the roller coasters for free and eat cotton candy.
Wall-E in ‘Wall-E’
Sure, Wall-E is the cute little garbage compactor everyone loves, but his job is actually kind of horrible because he’s all alone. Not alone the way you might feel in your cubicle with your headphones on. I mean alone alone. As in nobody-else-in-the-entire-world. For hundreds of years he’s gone about his job, organizing the mess left behind by humans, and he only has his cockroach pal to keep him company. I think we’d at least want to have the obnoxious chatty co-worker to keep us company.
Did we forget anyone? Let us know your picks.