Category Archives: A: Highly Recommended Labor Films

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.





Full Film



Burn! (1969)

132m; Italy

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo

Cast: Marlon Brando, Evaristo Márquez and Norman Hill

Synopsis: Pontecorvo’s follow-up to The Battle of Algiers tells a story of imperial intrigue on a fictional Portuguese “sugar and slaves” colony in the Caribbean in the 1840s.  Marlon Brando plays a British agent who helps convince Jose Dolores, one of the island’s many African slaves, to lead a revolt – which temporarily aligns with the local elite and wins independence.  However, the African slaves’ economic and social position remains virtually the same under the new regime.  Years later, Brando’s character must return as the Africans are now revolting against their new masters.   Pontecorvo uses the story as a metaphor less for any one particular historical incident, but as a left-wing commentary on the full history of slavery, empire, neo-colonialism and resistance for the past two centuries.

Opening Title

Full Film (in 12 Parts)


Baran (2001)

94m; Iran

Director: Majid Majidi

Synopsis: Immigrant construction workers in Tehran through the eyes of a young child worker.







Brassed Off (1996)

101m; U.K.

Director: Mark Herman

Cast: Pete Postlethwaite, Tara Fitzgerald, Ewan McGregor, Jim Carter, Sue Johnston, Stephen Moore, Ken Colley, Grimethorpe Colliery Band

Synopsis (IMDB): Laid-off miners in 90’s England. “A small Yorkshire mining town is threatened with being shut down and the only hope for the town’s men is to enter their Grimley Colliery Brass Band into a national competition. They believe they have no hope until Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald) appears carrying her Flugelhorn. At first mocked for being a woman, she soon becomes the only chance for the band to win. In joining the band she puts her relationship with her childhood sweetheart Andy (Ewan McGregor) on the line.”



Key Scene


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The Bicycle Thief (1948)

93m; Ital

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Cast: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola and Lianella Carell

Synopsis (IMDB): A poor young father in postwar-ravaged Rome who finally finds work putting up Rita Hayworth posters around town, only to have his precious bicycle stolen the first day on the job. In a light moment as the father and his young son chase after the thief, the boy attempts to relieve himself against a wall, and his father lets him know they don’t have time for that. In another scene, the father tracks the thief into the kitchen of a brothel.



Black Girl (La Noire de…) (1965)

60M; Senegal

Director: Ousmane Sembene

Cast: Mbissine Thérèse Diop, Anne-Marie Jelinek and Robert Fontaine

Synopsis (IMDB): A Senegalese woman is eager to find a better life abroad. She takes a job as a governess for a French family, but finds her duties reduced to those of a maid after the family moves from Dakar to the south of France. In her new country, the woman is constantly made aware of her race and mistreated by her employers. Her hope for better times turns to disillusionment and she falls into isolation and despair. The harsh treatment leads her to consider suicide the only way out.



Full Film



Bread and Roses (2000)

110m; U.S.

Director: Ken Loach

Cast: Pilar Padilla, Adrien Brody and Elpidia Carrillo

Synopsis (IMDB): Maya is a quick-witted young woman who comes over the Mexican border without papers and makes her way to the LA home of her older sister Rosa. Rosa gets Maya a job as a janitor: a non-union janitorial service has the contract, the foul-mouthed supervisor can fire workers on a whim, and the service-workers’ union has assigned organizer Sam Shapiro to bring its “justice for janitors” campaign to the building. Sam finds Maya a willing listener, she’s also attracted to him. Rosa resists, she has an ailing husband to consider. The workers try for public support; management intimidates workers to divide and conquer. Rosa and Maya as well as workers and management may be set to collide.