People often love to see reflections of themselves in pop culture, so we wanted to dedicate a post to pop culture manufacturing references. When it comes to those who work in manufacturing or on shop floors, you would be surprised to learn or reflect back on those in the realm of pop culture who represent you. Even just a little bit.
It’s time to get nostalgic – here are the top 8 films or TV shows that have themes or any appearances of manufacturing, tooling, factories, or shop floors in them.
Jumanji – A shoe company is truly at the heart of the town that this story is based on. A boy named Alan gets trapped in a mysterious board game and is released decades later (along with some scary creatures and other deplorable characters). When he returns to his home town, he sees the consequences of his actions before he vanished – he first finds that when he damaged a machine in his dad’s shoe factory, it resulted in the firing of an employee he used to know. Also, when he disappeared, his rich father dedicated all of his time and resources to find his son. When the shoe factory shuts down because of his father’s neglect towards the company, the town takes a hit. This certainly showed the importance of an American made factory’s influence on a local economy.
Gung Ho – What happens when an American car factory is bought out by a Japanese company is explored in this comedy. This Ron Howard film featuring Michael Keaton was harshly received by some critics at the time, but it did well enough to make back more than the movie’s budget, which is a “win” by Hollywood standards. It’s all about return on investment, no matter what industry you’re in!
Elf – Buddy the Elf works on a toy assembly line in Santa’s workshop. Despite going to school for his profession (the elves had to learn to make extreme graphic chipset processors), he’s just not quick enough at what he does. He is moved to a quality assurance type position, but through a stroke of fate, Buddy ultimately finds his purpose when he goes to the human world to find his biological father.
Home Improvement – This is a sitcom that follows the life of Tim Taylor, who is the host of “Tool Time.” The show’s title was quite ironic – it was not only about Tim’s show where he teaches people how to do their own repair and tooling projects, but it was also about his efforts to be a family man. It is funny to think how many people may have been inspired by watching this show to go out and get a job on a shop floor or get a profession working with their hands.
Laverne & Shirley – This show followed the hijinks of two single ladies in the Midwest working as bottle-cappers on an assembly line in a brewing company factory. This is likely one of the first mainstream examples we have seen not only of single women working full-time jobs but to have them working in an industrial job field was quite a pop culture experience.
I Love Lucy – This delightful red head tried on a lot of different professional hats through this show’s life (even though we all know she just wanted to sing in Ricky’s show). When she could not get an acting or singing gig, she went a more traditional route. In one episode, Lucy and Ethel go to work in a candy factory on an assembly line. They don’t do a very good job, but it’s hilarious.
Flashdance – The protagonist of this iconic film is a pretty young woman who has a day job in a steel mill in Pittsburgh. Her dreams and aspirations are to dance, as she works a second job as a bar dancer at night electively because it is her passion. Her boss ends up taking a liking to her and encourages her to follow her dreams.
King of the Hill – While Hank Hill and his comical neighbors did not work in manufacturing or in a factory, there are elements to be found everywhere in the show. Their (fictional) town of Arlen is famous for pig-product processing plants, and in one episode, Hank was very passionate about saving the middle school’s shop program. He even had the kids going around the school and fixing things, such as the floors, the school’s sign, and more, to get real life applications of what shop can mean for their futures.
We even took to our Instagram account to ask our followers what movies or shows within pop culture remind them of working in an industrial career. The lists below are from their suggestions, as well as some extras we could not fit in the list above.
Some honorable mention movies that have the themes of factories or manufacturing work: Norma Rae, Coal Miners Daughter, Toys, MacGyver, The Iron Giant, Short Circuit, The Deer Hunter, Extract, Drinking Buddies, Parks and Recreation, How It’s Made, Titans of CNC, The Fifth Element, and Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.
Movies that are a bit more grisly, alternative or intense and for you to view at your own risk: 8 Mile, Kinky Boots, The Terminator, Terminator 2, Childs Play, There Will Be Blood, and The Machinist. These films are extreme, but nonetheless, have a storyline involving manufacturing, industrial work, or factory work in some way.