Category Archives: A: Highly Recommended Labor Films

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.





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