- Nine to Five (1980)
With a star cast of Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin, Nine to Five is an must-watch American comedy about three working women living out their fantasies of overthrowing their sexist, bigoted and egotistical boss.
Interestingly, the song—and film—owe their titles to 9to5, the National Association of Working Women. This is an organisation founded in 1973 in the USA with the aim of bringing about fair pay and equal treatment for women in the workplace.
This is listed in the top one hundred funniest movies of all time by the American Film Institute. Nine to Five is a must watch.
2. Educating Rita (1983)
Starring Michael Caine, and Julie Walters. Educating Rita is a British Comedy-Drama based on a stage play by Willy Russell.
Walters plays a working-class hairdresser who is fed up with the monotonous nature of her routine and social life and enrols in Open University.
She begins studying with Dr. Bryant (Michael Caine), a professor using alcohol to cope with his divorce. Despite his personal problems, Dr. Bryant helps Rita realise her academic potential. In turn, her passion for learning revitalises his love of teaching. However, when Rita’s blue-collar spouse learns that his wife is more interested in education than homemaking, he becomes frustrated by her independence.
The film has an angry message that people are trapped by their environment, not their abilities. This is a film with a strong class narrative and gender politics to boot.
Walters and Caine won a BAFTA and Golden Globe for best actress and actor. The BFI ranked the film 84th best British film of all time. Go Rita!
3. Two Days, One Night (2014)
I was so excited when this Cannes nominated film from the Dardenne Brothers (Belgium’s equivalent of Ken Loach) came to the big screen. Set in a small industrial town, Sandra works in a small solar panel factory. After returning from leave for anxiety and depression, she discovers that her colleagues at the factory job where she works have opted for a 1000 euro bonus at the expense of her job, she must convince them throughout a weekend to give up those bonuses so that she can stay in her job.
Told entirely from Sandra’s perspective, Two Days, One Night is a tough watch, but a brilliant film. While it tells a simple story, the stakes have never been higher, and Sandra played by Marion Cotillard is at her best. A truly labour film! Watch now!
4. Silkwood (1983)
Starring Meryl Streep, Cher and Kurt Russell. Silkwood is a true story drama based on the real-life events of Karen Silkwood who was a nuclear whistle-blower and labour union activist working at a plutonium power plant in Oklahoma. She died under suspicious circumstances when investigating wrongdoings at the plant.
Nominated for five academy awards, Silkwood is an iconic labour film that should not be missed!
5. Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)
Happy-Go-Lucky is a 2008 British comedy drama written and directed by Mike Leigh. The screenplay focuses on a cheerful and optimistic primary school teacher and her relationships with those around her.
Starring a ferocious performance from Eddie Marsan as the volatile driving instructor, Happy-Go-Lucky is a must-see film. Watch The superb Sally Hawkins in an early starring role.
#HeartUnions week, 14-20 February 2022 is a chance to tell the story about why unions are vital for everyone at work, and encourage people who aren’t yet in a union to join. Unions help workers get together, stop people being treated unfairly and get a better deal from their employer.
As part of the campaign, we have compiled this list of five films that we love for HeartUnions week (something for you to watch over the weekend):
- Norma Rae (1979) Directed by Martin Ritt
Based on the real life story of Crystal Lee Sutton, Norma Rae is perhaps the greatest film about organising of all time. Starring the fantastic Sally Field in one her greatest roles, Norma Rae is a young single mother with a poorly paid and strenuous job as a textile worker. After seeing an inspiring speech from a labour organiser, Norma decides to take a stand, rallying her fellow workers behind the cause of unionism, despite all of the tension and contempt that it might bring from her family, fiancé, and her employers.
It’s said that Sally Field and Beau Bridges both worked in a factory to research their roles, eventually winning Sally Field a Best Actress Award at Cannes for her amazing performance.
*’A Bug’s Life’ is a similarly fantastic film about organising, although admittedly a little bit more allegorical.
2. Made in Dagenham (2010) Directed by Nigel Cole
Based on a true story, Made in Dagenham explores the movement that caused a significant law reform. Rita O’Grady (a fictional character) leads the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike at the Ford Dagenham plant, where female workers walk out to protest sexual discrimination, demanding equal pay. The strike drew major attention around the world because it was considered contrary to women’s traditional family roles. The successful strike led to the Equal Pay Act 1970.
With a fantastic cast including the always magnificent Sally Hawkins, as well as other stars such as Andrea Riseborough, the late Bob Hoskins, and Daniel Mays, Made in Dagenham is a key story of political struggle, as well as labour struggle, which ultimately would advance the cause of women’s rights across the world.
Made in Dagenham was also turned into a West End musical in 2014 in which Gemma Arteton took on Sally Hawkins’ leading role.
3. Nae Pasaran (2018) Directed by Felipe Bustos Sierra
Our most recent screening at London Labour Film Festival, but there’s no bias here. Nae Pasaran is undoubtedly one of the greatest untold stories of global solidarity, and the strength of workers standing together against injustice. In a Scottish town in 1974, factory workers at Rolls Royce refused to carry out repairs on warplane engines in an act of solidarity against the violent military coup in Chile.
Nae Pasaran is an endlessly powerful and thought provoking documentary, proving that no matter how few of us there are, the actions of good people are always worthwhile, in the face of corruption and evil.
4. Bread and Roses (2000)
Bread and Roses is a Ken Loach movie starring Pilar Padilla, Adrien Brody and Elpidia Carrillo. Dealing with the struggle of poorly paid janitors working in Los Angeles, and their fight for better working conditions and the right to unionise. It follows two latino sisters that work as cleaners in an office building.
What makes this special, is that it’s a Ken Loach foray into the American labour movement. The film is a scathing criticism of the inequalities in the USA, in particular the lack of health insurance, and the slowly decreasing wages and working conditions for janitorial workers. Bread and Roses is a lesser seen Ken Loach film, with a focus on the benefits of union organising. The film is based on the true story of the, ‘Justice for Janitors’ campaign that includes over 200,000 janitors, in over 30 cities across North America.
5. Pride (2014)
Pride is perhaps one of the greatest feel good movies of the 2010’s. Based on a true story. The ilm depicts a group of lesbian and gay activists who raise money to help families affected by the British miners’ strike in 1984, at the outset of what would become the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign. Pride ultimately documents the blossoming of the relationship between two oppressed groups, and proves the power of solidarity in bringing seemingly different groups together to fight the same fight.
The end result? The Labour party incorporating rights for gays and lesbians in their party programme under pressure from the National Union of Mineworkers, as well as hundreds of miners themselves arriving at a pride parade in solidarity.