Five Films for Labor Day

For most people Labor Day means a day off from work. For many kids, it means the end of summer and the beginning of school. For both groups it’s a beach day, a shopping day or a family barbeque in the back yard. But Labor Day has a deeper and more important meaning that is generally forgotten in the hoopla to catch the next sale on Amazon or the Mall. Labor Day came about due to unfair work practices, long hours and little pay.  Attached here is an article on how Labor Day came about and its true meaning.

Below are five films dealing with the working man, and woman. All are perfect films to watch today or any other day.

Norma Rae

Norma Rae works in a textile factory like many family members before here. After hearing a speech by a labor union activist, Norma sets about organizing.sally-field-Norma-Rae

Modern Times

Chaplin’s 1936 may just be the most famous working man film ever made. If not, it is definitely the most hilarious and still gets it message across.


The Molly MaGuires (1970)

Like Norma Rae, The Molly Maguires was directed by Martin Ritt. Irish immigrants working in the Pennsylvania’s coal mines rises up against the cruelty of the mines owners.



Blue Collar

Blue Collar is the story of the have and the have-nots, the powerful and the powerless. Corrupt unions doing whatever possible to keep the working man in their place. A system beating you down, destroying your hopes, dreams and even your decency. In the freeze frame ending with Pryor and Keitel ready to tear into each other, we hear in voiceover Yaphet Kotto say: “They pit the lifers against the new boys, the young against the old, the black against the white, everything they do is to keep us in our place.” You can read my complete review here.


Harlan County

Barbara Kopple’s 1976 documentary is a superb take on famed coal miners strike against the Eastover Mining Company in Kentucky in 1973. Kopple provides an in depth  background and history of both the mines and the United Mineworkers of America



 Here are a few other films with labor themes…
Matawan – John Sayles
Strike – Sergei Eisenstein
On the Waterfront – Elia Kazan
Bound for Glory – Hal Ashby
Salt of the Earth – Herbert Biberman
North Country – Niki Caro
I’m Alright, Jack – John Bolting


5 comments on “Five Films for Labor Day

  1. Miners, as in The Molly MaGuires, for me represent the most put upon worker and the greatest need for unionization. See also, How Green Was My Valley and Black Fury.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rick says:

    THE MOLLY MAGUIRES used to be on TBS all the time (back when it showed movies). Now, it’s rather hard to see. Fine cast, great background details, and an interesting exploration of trust.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent and inspiring post!

    Liked by 1 person

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