Category Archives: A: Highly Recommended Labor Films

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

92m; U.S.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy

Cast: Paul MuniGlenda Farrell and Helen Vinson

Synopsis: Wrongly convicted James Allen serves in the intolerable conditions of a southern chain gang, which later comes back to haunt him.


How Green Was My Valley (1941)


Director: John Ford

Cast: Maureen O”Hara, Roddy McDowall, Walter Pidgeon

Synopsis: Huw Morgan, an old man who has decided to leave his Welch valley forever, tells his story. Huw is the youngest in a family of 6 brothers and 1 sister and the film centers on his struggle toward manhood amid conflicting demands of faith, economics, education and family loyalty. Set in a Welsh mining community at the beginning of the 20th century, based on the novel by Richard Llewellyn. Welsh choral music and quaint patterns of speech are nice period details.



Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)

103m; U.S.2015.02.05_harlan-county-usa
Director: Barbara Kopple
Cast: Norman Yarborough (Himself – Eastover Mining President); Houston Elmore (Himself – UMW organizer); Phil Spark (Himself – UMW staff); John Corcoran (Himself – Consolidated Coal President); John O’Leary (Himself – former Bureau of Mines director); Dr. Donald Rasmussen (Himself – Blackwing Clinic, WV); Dr. Hawley Wells Jr. (Himself); Tom Williams (Himself – Boyle campaigner); Chip Yablonski (Himself); Ken Yablonski (Himself); Logan Patterson (Himself – negotiator); Harry Patrick (Himself – UMW secretary-treasurer); Mike Trbovich (Himself – UMW VP); Bernie Aronson (Himself – UMW staff); Guy Farmer Himself (BCPA General Counsel)

Synopsis: Harlan County, USA is a 1976 documentary film covering the efforts of 180 coal miners on strike against the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1973. It was directed by Barbara Kopple, who has long been an advocate of workers’ rights. Harlan County, U.S.A. Coal miners.  The film won the 1976 Oscar for Best Documentary. Kopple and her crew spent three years filming within the mining community and 180 families’ bitter struggle to win a contract.  Facing dangerous and violent anti-union gun thugs and the brutal murder of one of their own, the striking miners fearlessly face the picket line day in and day out in the hopes of securing a fare wage and a better way of life for their families.  The film is a tribute to the working families of America, particularly the women of Harlan County who actively organized and spearheaded efforts to keep the struggle alive.

View complete film online.



The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

129m; U.S.

Director: John Ford

Cast: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell and John Carradine

Synopsis (IMDB): A poor Midwest family is forced off of their land. They travel to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.


At The River I Stand (1993)

56m; U.S.

Director: David Appleby, Allison Graham, Steven Ross

Synopsis: Documents the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike and the historical forces which came together with the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. NOTE: see I Am A Man for a 10m version.

Opening Sequence


9 to 5 (1980)

110m; U.S

Director: Colin Higgins

Cast: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton

Synopsis (IMDB): Frank Hart is a pig. He takes advantage in the grossest manner of the women who work with him. When his three assistants manage to trap him in his own house they assume control of his department and productivity leaps, but just how long can they keep Hart tied up?






Bound for Glory (1976)

147m; USA

Director: Hal Ashby

Cast: David Carradine, Ronny Cox and Melinda Dillon

Synopsis: Film biography of American folksinger Woody Guthrie.





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