Movie News & Reviews

'Horrible Bosses' comes from a long line of 'boss from hell' movies

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

You know the type: mean, lecherous, power-hungry, condescending. He or she is the boss who makes you wish the concept of work had never been invented, the one who makes you dread your job every day.

When the movie Horrible Bosses opens Friday, it will join the long list of films about loathsome leaders of the workplace. This time around, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston play the managers who are so mean that Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day dream of killing them.

We scoured the movies made about terrible taskmasters and came up with our list, in no particular order, of the worst of the worst.

Did we miss one of your favorites? Tell us about it in comments section of this story on

Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) in The Devil Wears Prada (2006): The moment that Streep's character, a high-powered fashion-magazine editor supposedly based on Anna Wintour of Vogue, is spotted in the office and sends her minions scurrying, you know she's not winning any awards for world's best boss. Then, among her first withering lines is this killer: "Details of your incompetence do not interest me."

Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in Wall Street (1987): Embodying the over-the-top affluence of the 1980s, Gekko's ruthless corporate raider sums up his ethos in a famous speech: "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. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A."

Blake (Alec Baldwin) from Glengarry Glen Ross (1992): Inside the pitiless confines of a Chicago real estate office, one mantra rules: "A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing," Blake says. Among his motivational tactics: Have a sales contest in which first prize is a Cadillac, second place gets a set of steak knives, and third? You're fired.

Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole) from Office Space (1999): A master of passive-aggressiveness, Lumbergh, a supervisor in this cult comedy's fictional computer software firm, always disguises his instructions as suggestions: "Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, I'm also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too ..."

Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) in Working Girl (1988): In this veritable celebration of 1980s-style big hair, Parker is the boss who will do anything to get ahead, including steal her underling's idea for her own gain. Her imperious attitude is summed up in this line: "I'd love to help you but ... we can't busy the quarterback with passing out the Gatorade."

Paula (Jane Lynch) in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005): Lynch foreshadowed her ability to play the caustic Sue Silverman in Glee with this role as an oversexed, lecherous retail manager. Propositioning her staffer Andy (Steve Carrell, who played his own variety of bad boss in TV's The Office), she says, "Andy, when I was young, I developed early. By the time I was 13, I had this body you see before you. Can you imagine that?"

Franklin Hart Jr. (Dabney Coleman) in 9 to 5 (1980): Embodying the type of old-style male boss who thinks that the office women are his playthings (a kind that sadly still exists), Hart characterizes himself in one of the fantasy sequences of this brilliant workplace comedy: "I'm a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot."

Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) in Training Day (2001): Technically, Washington played Ethan Hawke's partner in this drama about a rookie cop's first day on the job with Washington's bad cop, but he was in a leadership role, so we'll include him. When explaining why he has a bag of cash, Harris says, "Nothing's free in this world, Jake. Not even arrest warrants."

Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey) in Swimming With Sharks (1994): As a hot-shot movie producer, Ackerman is snide, arrogant and just plain mean. When talking to his assistant (who eventually kidnaps him and gets payback for all the ill treatment), Ackerman says, "No offense to you, but you are just an assistant. Now, granted, you're my assistant, but still just an assistant. Dawn, on the other hand, is a producer. Her car-phone bills are more than your rent."

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