Celebrate Independence! The Best Films Where a Character Gets Fired

Firing has never been more popular – from Keir Starmer’s lightning bolt dismissal of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the Shadow Cabinet to the growing list of celebrities who have lost jobs due to problematic comments or actions unearthed from their past. Here, we take a look at movies where getting the boot drives (or at least aids) the plot.


Many protagonists rebound from being ‘let go’, but others not so much – as we shall see.


Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins - Didn't you get the memo?


The first picture in Christopher Nolan’s ground-breaking trilogy saw a satisfying piece of symmetric sacking. In Bruce Wayne’s absence, ambitious WE CEO William Earle (the late Rutger Hauer) has fired the already demoted science boffin Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). But when young Bruce returns to take control of Wayne Enterprises, Earle finds that the tables have swiftly been turned:


Wanted (2008)

Wanted (5/11) Movie CLIP - Wesley's Breakdown (2008) HD


Another comic book adaptation, this secret assassin society story finds Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) discover his inheritance and pre-empt his sacking with a broadside against his nasty boss Janice (Lorna Scott) Oh, and administer some payback to ostensible best buddy Barry (Chris Pratt) who’s been carrying on with Wesley’s unfaithful girlfriend Cathy (Kristen Hager).


Burn After Reading (2008)

Burn After Reading (1/10) Movie CLIP - Osbourne Is Out (2008) HD

The Coen brothers’ spy farce is a mite too pleased with itself, but contains a memorable scene where John Malkovich’s querulous CIA Analyst Ozzie Cox is being side-lined by The Company: At a breezy 97 minutes the picture doesn’t overstay its welcome and the Coen’s stellar contact book provides a top-notch cast that also includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, and J.K. Simmons.


The mid-to late 1990s saw a spate of movies dealing with the subject, here’s a few that are definitely worth checking out.


Wolf (1994)

Wolf - Breaking the News to Stewart


With the help of an uncredited Elaine May (Heaven Can Wait, Primary Colors), the script to Wolf elevates what could have been a by-the-numbers werewolf picture into sharp workplace satire. After being bitten by a wolf in the woods of Vermont, publisher Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) finds his mojo returning. To the detriment of former mentee Stewart (James Spader) who’s been both bedding Randall’s wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan) and conniving to take his job.


Nice chap.


Jerry Maguire (1996)

No Small Parts - Best Evil Colleague (Jay Mohr, Jerry Maguire)


Rather a marmite experience if you’re not a Tom Cruise fan, with the actor playing the titular character, a rather bumptious sports agent who finds himself on the outs with his employers. Colleague Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) brings the hammer down on Jerry in this brief scene above. And this being Cruise, he uses the power of positive thinking to set himself up on his own.


Office Space (1999)

Bill Lumbergh and the Bobs

Mike Judge’s Office Space has long been accorded the status of cult classic. A workplace comedy where downtrodden employees fight back, aided by a half-completed confidence boosting hypnotism session and a scheme to skim cash from the company using a plot device cheerfully pilfered from Superman III (1983).


Here we see business consultants The Bobs (John C McGinley and Paul Willson) discuss downsizing Initech with the supremely annoying VP Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole) and colleague Portwood (Joe Bays). For other 90s pictures with some classic scenes of employees being canned see also Leaving Las Vegas(1996), Fight Club and American Beauty (both 1999).


For our final trio of movies, I’m returning to the 2000s/2010s, but you’ll have to visit here to read the rest.




Arnell Esq

Arnell Esq

Broadcast consultant - former Director/Creator of ITV3, ITV4 in the UK, producer/writer (most recently Bob Fosse for Sky Arts in May 2019), commentator/rent-a-gob for trades, broadsheets and magazines. Also occasional lecturer (University of Westminster, London). Content provider. Accept no substitute (terms & conditions apply) 'Nullum bonum amico, nullum peius hostes'