The Best Movies Ever – Office Space

Office Space

Ever since I started working, every single day has been worse than the day before it. Which means, every time you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.

What about today? Is today the worst day of your life?


Wow, that’s messed up. 

Working in a menial office job is an experience so many millions of people share. And yet, somehow, it took until the year 1999 for a movie to come out about that singular experience. And of all the filmmakers and creatives in the world, it took the man responsible for Beavis and Butthead to do it.

The world of an office is just packed to the brim with things you don’t experience anywhere else. There are the characters – your squirrelly lifers, your insufferable middle-aged would-be jokers, your petty, power hungry middle managers, and the countless dead eyed drones just running out the clock day after day. It’s a world of un-funny Dilbert cartoons pinned to fabric walls, of outdated printing technology, of terrible coffee. And above all that atmosphere of pointlessness and defeat that chips away at the soul, bit by bit, and forces a person who is truly alive to better their situation or give up what vitality they still possess. And it’s the perfect stage on which to set a comedy!

Office Space has all of that – but also something more: Hope. The central premise of the film is pure wish fulfillment. What if you – the North American Reticulated Office Worker – had the freedom and the courage to cast aside your metaphorical shackles and rebel against ALL of that petty, soul-eroding corporate slavery? And what if by doing so, you not only failed to lose your paycheck but got praised and promoted for it?

Of course, it’s entirely unrealistic, which is why the film is a madcap comedy. But the deeper thread that runs throughout the entire film is simply about finding peace with yourself, and with the knowledge that, most likely, you will have to work for most of your life in order to be comfortable. But that doesn’t have to imprison you in a gulag of mediocre despair – that only happens if you let it.

I haven’t even mentioned the cult status the film has gained over the years. It was largely ignored theatrically, and only found a following on video (a theme you’ll see repeated quite often in this blog series). I myself discovered it as part of a short-lived movie club thing in high school, and it struck a chord with me immediately despite having no idea how accurate the movie’s depiction of office life was (a concept I’m all too familiar with today I’m afraid).


We all know the famous lines. “O-face”, “pieces of flair”, “I believe you have my stapler”, everything Bill Lumbergh says and so on and so on. All that stuff is great and the movie is genuinely hilarious, and benefits from repeat viewings. But what I always come back to is that feeling of hope. Offices are a by-product of the modern age; a physical manifestation of the concept of a corporation: The complete absence of humanity, despite being made up quite literally of humans. Some people thrive in that environment, others wither and die (inside). And if you are the latter – it’s time to get out of that place.

I think that Office Space is a little too goofy, and occasionally low-brow, to be considered a traditionally high-quality film. There’s quite a bit of casual swearing, a bit of toilet humor, a sprinkling of racial comedy. And let’s not forget, as previously mentioned, it is the brainchild of Mike Judge who in 1999 was only known as the Beavis and Butthead guy. That MTV Films logo at the top of the opening credits probably didn’t help either.

A few years later, Waiting attempted to do for the restaurant world what Office Space did for offices, and (in my opinion) failed on a number of levels. Waiting was focused on trying to play to the culture of people who work in restaurants without having anything to say about it – as though making an instant classic comedy was as simple as nudging the audience with your elbow and going “Hey, you’ve worked with a guy like that I bet! Aren’t those kind of customers just THE WORST?”

But I don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen Office Space. It’s good enough to appeal to people who have never set foot in a cubicle, but for those who have, it’s gospel.

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