Movies That Everyone Should See: “Office Space”

Lumbergh: Milt, we’re gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs into storage B. We have some new people coming in, and we need all the space we can get. So if you could just go ahead and pack up your stuff and move it down there, that would be terrific, OK?

Milton: Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler…

“Milton” was the first short film that animator Mike Judge produced. It featured the character of Milton, dealing with the character who would eventually evolve into Lumbergh in “Office Space”. Per Judge, Milton was based on a coworker he had at his first engineering job, who was “kind of an odd guy,” with a mail order bride, whom no one at work would speak to. One day, out of curiosity, Judge approached the man and asked him how things were going.

What he got, unsolicited, was a lengthy, mumbling tirade from the man about how management had had him move his desk three times.

The encounter was so memorable to Judge that he featured the character in a series of animated shorts. He entered the shorts in a Dallas animation festival, where they got picked up by Comedy Central. Eventually they would air on Saturday Night Live. The next year, Judge would create Beavis and Butthead, and his career as an animator was underway.

A little over five years later, with “King of the Hill” to his credit as well, Judge was ready to make the move to live action. He decided to return to the characters that he got his start with, and the inane world that they lived in.

The world of corporate America.

“Office Space” takes a look at the world of corporate cubicle farms, and exposes all of their worst characteristics. From the absurdity of stop and go traffic, to the frustration of malfunctioning office equipment, to the weekend sacrifices demanded by management, “Office Space” touches upon it all. Corporations that outlay cash hiring consultants, and then downsize employees. Multiple bosses making an enormous issues out of minutiae, like TPS reports. The special level of Hell that is experienced in sitting across from a receptionist. Corporate platitudes such as “Is this good for the COMPANY?

“Office Space” champions people with pointless tasks, kept in sedentary stations in fabric covered cells, beset with banal coworkers, and smothered in pointless, annoying, corporate regulations.

In the film, Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is an enormously put upon individual. He’s acutely aware of the fact that his job is draining the soul out of him, and it’s tearing him apart. He’s subservient to heartless bosses, working on pointless tasks, and dating a woman who cheats on him. It’s made him despondent and depressed.

One night he attends a session with an occupational hypnotherapist, who puts him in a trance and convinces him that his concerns about his job are no more. He puts Peter into a state of total relaxation, but then dies suddenly before he can snap Peter out of it.

Peter is left in his state of “Deep Relaxation”.

He wakes up with a new attitude, to say the least.

He begins by blowing off reporting to work on the weekend. Then he blows off showing up on time on Monday, choosing instead to ask out the waitress he has a crush on (Jennifer Aniston). When he drops by work (in order to jot her number down in his book), he decides to keep a meeting with the consultants who have been retained by Initech to downsize the company. In fact, he enthusiastically attends.

And offers them a completely honest assessment of the company.

He proceeds to act completely as he wishes at work, showing up when and if he wants, openly playing video games, knocking down his cube wall. He becomes completely dismissive of his boss. It becomes completely obvious to everyone involved that Peter is playing by his own rules.

The thing is, he finds his rampant disregard for the rules being wildly rewarded. The girl he finally has the courage to approach is now his girlfriend. Instead of being reprimanded at work, he’s promoted. Once he sheds his inhibitions and begins to act as he pleases, that’s when his life begins to improve.

But, although Peter has changed, the corporation hasn’t. He may be reaping rewards, personally, but he discovers that his two best friends at work are about to be let go. Something needs to be done.

The Heist is on.

As bank software programmers, Peter, Michael (David Herman), and Samir (Ajay Naidu) are in a unique position to perpetrate theft. They write a code that affects a “Superman III” scheme, depositing interest which would typically be rounded off into an account that they control. Designed to siphon fractional, unnoticeable amounts from numerous accounts over a long period of time, it should eventually reap enormous amounts of money for them.

When it doesn’t perform as designed however, the three are faced with decisions to make.

Do they fess up and turn themselves in? Or roll the dice and hope they don’t get caught?

“‘Fight Club’ would be the movie that Peter Gibbons, in his head, he thinks he’s in,” – Ron Livingston

The movie plays like a cubical dweller revenge fantasy. Teeing off on the faulty office machines, telling the boss exactly what they think, literally busting down the walls of their cubes. Flipping the boss off. A fraud is perpetuated that robs the company of a lot of money. Someone eventually burns the office down.

It’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy film for everyone who’s been a captive in a cube, wishing they could be someplace else. Or just simply people who hate their jobs.

Which is why so many people have latched on to it. Whether or not you work in an office, everyone can relate to hating work. Everyone has had a boss they’d like to give the finger to. Who doesn’t want to come and go as they please, never have to bite their tongue, and yet never pay the price for it?

“Office Space” was a flop during its theatrical run, barely recouping its $10 million budget at the box office. But it caught on like wildfire on home video, and has since become a cult classic.

It gave us such memorable characters… Lawrence the unpretentious, unassuming blue-collar neighbor, Lumbergh the terrifyingly soulless boss, Milton the vengeful persona non grata. The Bobs. Samir Naga… Naga… Naga… Not gonna work here anymore, anyway. It’s put numerous phrases and concepts into the pop culture lexicon. “Pieces of flair”, “PC Load Letter errors”, “TPS Reports”, “A Case of the MONDAYS”. Everyone knows who you’re referring to if you say “I celebrate the man’s entire catalogue”.

Prior to this film, Swingline was no longer making red staplers… the production team for the film custom painted some in order to make them stand out visually onscreen. After “Office Space” caught on, requests were so numerous and so many knock offs appeared online that the company put them into production officially.

It became their top selling stapler.

It’s an extremely funny comedy that speaks to people’s inner, unspoken frustrations. It’s every bit as applicable today as it was upon its release in 1999. It’s become, rightfully, a cultural touchstone for office drones everywhere.

It’s definitely a “Movie That Everyone Should See

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53 thoughts on “Movies That Everyone Should See: “Office Space”

  1. I ADORE this film. Everything about it. Love it all. Hilarious is one word I would openly use for it. The malfunctioning office equipment, the kicking in of the printer, Milton, LOVE this film. Like you say, anyone can relate to this film. There’s something in it for everyone.

    Have you seen Extract? It’s another Mike Judge film, a lot of people see it as a sort of follow up to this. A development, of sorts, of Mike’s position in life. Sadly, I really did not like it. Got bored! None of the memorable characters or antics.

    • I have seen Extract, yeah. Wasn’t a big fan, but it had its moments.

      Office Space, meanwhile, is a classic. So many of us can relate… and the characters are so perfect. They’re like Caricatures of office tropes… but they work SO well. :) Glad you’re a fan of this one Jaina, that’s awesome!

  2. Another film to grace my collection. Definitely a classic. I especially love the line where Peter is told he has missed a lot of work. His reply-“No, I don’t miss it at all”. That line is pure platinum.

    • LOL Yeah, it is. I love all the scenes with “The Bobs” they crack me up.

      Meanwhile, does your collection have any crap in it? :) All we hear about is the great movies. There’s no junk? No Roger Cormans? :)

      • Of course I have crap in my collection. Lot of Cormans, low budget films, bottom of the barrel horror films, but all stuff I can have fun with. (You know, the so bad it’s good catagory) Besides, your topic is movies everyone should see, not movies everyone should stay away from.

  3. “Hey Peter, man! Check out channel 9, the breast exam! Doesn’t that chick look like Anne?”

    “Michael…..Bolton? Are you related to that singer guy? No, it’s just a coincidence.”

    “What do you say….ya do here.”

    So many one liners in this movie. It’s astonishing how many I still use or reference. Great choice and write up, Fogs. Only thing I can add to it is “Damn, it feels good to be a gangster.”

    • There WAS nothing wrong with my name, until I was about 12, and that no talent ASS-CLOWN started winning Grammys.

      Yeahhhhh, and I’m gonna need you to come in on Sunday, too. We lost a lot of people this week, gotta catch up.

      LOL. This is one of those movies that you can just go on and on and on with. “If you want people to wear 37 pieces of flair, why dont you just make 37 the minimum??” LOL It’s a great flick. I think everyone can relate to the frustrations of working…

  4. Absolutely agree! It’s amazing how I’ve never worked in an office but I can still utterly relate to it. One the most quotable classic comedies of the last twenty years. And with this, American Beauty and Fight Club all released in the same year, 1999 is officially the best year for film ever!

    • Ohhhhh LOL. Now there’s a debate! Although I definitely do love all three of those. :D

      That’s cool, that you can relate without having been a cubical prisoner. LOL. Because it definitely IS a classic. Like you say, it’s infinitely quotable. Hell, you could just do a Lumbergh voice or a Milton voice and make up your own dialogue and people would know what you meant! :D

  5. Amazing movie! Great post. I enjoy the character arc pre and post hypnotist.
    An MTESS with which working people can relate.

    Peter Gibbons: What if we’re still doin’ this when we’re 50?
    Samir: It would be nice to have that kind of job security.
    Peter Gibbons: Lumbergh’s gonna have me work on Saturday. I
    can tell already. I’m gonna end up doin’ it, because, uh…
    because I’m a big p*ssy… which is why I work at Initech to
    begin with.
    Michael Bolton: Uh, yeah, well, I work at Initech and I don’t
    consider myself a p*ssy, OK?
    Samir: Yes, I am also not a p*ssy.

    Michael Bolton: Peter, you’re in deep shit. You were supposed
    to come in on Saturday. What were you doing?
    Peter Gibbons: Michael, I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing,
    and it was everything that I thought it could be.

    • Ha! That Samir line is great. I was tempted to make that this week’s tagline.

      Which reminds me, I have to change the tagline. LOL.

      Thanks as always for both the support and the contribution. :D

      • Just to complete your thought from tagline when Peter’s character takes down cubicle wall to play tetris and eat cheetos…

        PETER: I’m, I’m kinda busy. In fact, I’m going to have
        to ask you to go ahead and just come back another time.
        I have a meeting with the Bobs in a couple of minutes.
        BILL: Uh, I wasn’t aware of a meeting with them.
        PETER: Yeah, they called me at home.
        BILL: That sounds good, Peter. Uh, and we’ll go ahead and,
        uh, get this all fixed up for you later. ;-)

  6. Just to let you know, that picture of Jennifer flipping off her boss is now wallpaper on my monitor.

  7. It’s been a while since I saw this, might be time for a rewatch. Sooo many interesting characters here but oh how I feel for that poor Milton, Lumbergh is just the quintessential boss from hell, ahah. I think Aniston has a knack for comedy if they wrote her right, just not rom-coms!

    • I know, right? Have you seen Horrible Bosses? She was wicked funny in that. SOOO filthy. Good grief, I still cant believe some of the things she said! :D

      I didnt get to work it into the review, but on the special features I saw Stephen Root say he was wearing contacts underneath those magnifying glass glasses Milton wore, in order to counter effect the vision problems, and they still didnt work. Anytime he needed to touch something, it was 50/50 whether he’d hit the target. LOL

  8. Great movie, and one which has had a lasting influence on work culture. To this day I still insist the Friday is Hawaiian Shirt day (although most of my co-workers dont seem to know why). Also the “Happy Birthday Dirge” has become a tradition of sorts.

    And lets not forget that this movie was the inception of “The ‘O’ face”.

    The most meaningful part though for me was the part about “How many bosses I have”. Believe me, working in an inherently top heavy organization, like the U.S. Govt, that part really hits home.

    Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.
    Bob Porter: Don’t… don’t care?
    Peter Gibbons: It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s the motivation? And here’s something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.
    Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?
    Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.
    Bob Slydell: Eight?
    Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

    … I have more than 8 bosses.

    • I actually HAVE been trying to forget the “O Face” LOL

      There’s way, way, way too many things here that hit way too close to home. I’ve been dealing with “The Bobs” at work for awhile now (not fun), and I’ve actually seen Happy Brithday sung that way, too, yeah. It’s great. :D

      I dont envy you the multiple bosses, I’ve been there. Not at this particular point now, but yeah, I can relate.

  9. Great pick Fogs. Highly quotable to this day. I think I sent you a photo from my cubicle today with a quote on it (may be considered NSFW)…

  10. Not just a movie that everyone should see, but a movie that is absolutely mandatory for computer techs. Because whenever a tech sees it for the first time, there is one phrase you can guarantee they’ll utter at some point. “Oh my god, I know these people! I’ve worked with them!” It might be because they are such broad-strokes characters, but everybody has dealt with the guy who has more neuroses than neurons, the guy who has a chip on his shoulder because of random happenstance, the guy who keeps his head down but is still pissed off, the obnoxious boss who thinks he’s smarter than he is, the dead wood who genuinely thinks he’s useful… and, of course, the guy who has burned out so badly he literally doesn’t care anymore. And if you don’t know a Peter, chances are it’s you.

    I’ll openly admit I have been, and pretty much still am, Peter. My give a damn is officially busted. Even though I’ve never had all of these personalities and situations to deal with at once, I’ve dealt with them all over my career (except trying to scam the company, of course). 8 bosses is no exaggeration. At one point, I had a job acting as a bug fixer… and every bug required a number of supervisors to sign off on it, depending on what exactly it was being fixed. The lowest I ever got away with was 4. The most I remember was somewhere around 15 signatures. It took all day to track them all down… and then the person I did it for couldn’t stop gushing about how amazing it was that I had completed the task so quickly. She had thought it would take all week. I never had the heart to tell her that if it wasn’t for all the red tape, it would have been a ten minute fix.

    • :D So will this potentially be a “Favorite Films” entry then, eventually?

      Sorry to hear about the work related suckitude. We all have BS like that, there’s no doubt.

      I DO think the characters appeal because they’re “broad strokes”, but its a comedy, so that works. And works well, in this case! :D

      • It will absolutely be a “Favorite Films” entry one day. I don’t know exactly when, but it’ll happen.

        And yeah, I think a large part of the appeal here is that we’ve all had at least one bad job… or are going to. :P

  11. theytldmetomovedownherebutIdidn’twanttoit’sjustbeenthethirdtimethisweek andididn’tgetmycheckthisweekumi erit’snotyourstaplerandItoldhimI’d burn the place down.

    • :D LOL

      And,andItoldDontoo becausethey’vemovedmydeskfour timesalreadythisyear,andIusedtobeoverbythewindow,and Icouldseethesquirrels,andtheyweremarried,butthenthey switchedfromtheSwinglinetotheBostonstapler,butIkeptmy Swinglinestaplerbecaus itdidn’tbindupasmuch,andIkept thestaplesfortheSwinglinestaplerandit’snotokaybecauseif theytakemystaplerthenI’llsetthebuildingonfire…

  12. Pingback: Duke & The Movies :: With A Little Help From My Friends

  13. Such a great movie. Before I was stuck working in an office I found it hilarious. Now that I’ve been working office jobs for a bunch of years, this movie is depressingly realistic.

  14. Oh man, now you’re talking, buddy! This may be my all-time favorite comedy. I can’t even count how many times I have watched this, and it’s one of those rare movies where I still quote it often. I never got into much of Judge’s other work, but man did he strike gold here. Great writeup, man.

    • No? Not a fan of Beavis and Butthead? I loved those guys.

      This is a great comedy, though. I’ve seen it a ton, all my friends have too, much quoting goes on. Mucho. :D

      Anyways, thank you for the kind words, man! Appreciate that. :D

  15. Well said. Great film. It makes me happy not to work in a cubicle, that’s for sure. I just watched this the other day and found that I appreciate it even more. I love the soundtrack.

    • Yeah, the soundtrack is some fun stuff. I love the juxtaposition…

      I guess that Ajay Naidu was actually in a bunch of dance troupes and stuff growing up, that’s how he busted out that breakin’ move at their party LOL :D

      There’s BS everywhere you work, lets put it that way. I’ve had some blue collar jobs, too, and they’re not BS free, thats for sure!

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