Best 1980s movies and shows to watch on Labor Day

It's time.  Labor day is here.  The most important day of the year, because we are now looking forward to Halloween, then Turkey Day, then eggnog and Christmas. 

But you are probably expecting something about Labor Day.  It’s actually pretty cool. It was established as a Federal holiday in 1894 to honor the American laborer. So take a bow!

As a holiday, though, it kind of sucks. What are you even supposed to do to celebrate it? And is there any such thing as Labor Day movies?

At this point, feel free to insert your own “why do we get a day off to commemorate all the work” joke.   We refuse to stoop that low.

But anyway, let's take off our jackets,  roll up our sleeves,  and get down to the business of not getting down to business. (OK. We did stoop that low).

The original Labor Day celebration was a picnic. But we just did that for Memorial Day and the 4th of July. And, as mentioned, Halloween is lurking in the shadows not too far off. Plus school has already started, and so it’s hard to get into the picnic vibe.

Plus, have you ever heard of Labor Day movies? No, you haven’t any more than Arbor Day movies. But since Labor Day celebrates the American Worker, there are movies and television shows that show hard working women and men earning a living, busting their butts, and sticking it to the Man whenever they don’t get a fair shake.

And the 1980s gave us some of the best working class movies and shows you could ever want. So take 90 minutes this Labor Day and enjoy the hardworking American worker at his/her cinematic best.

Best 1980s movies and shows to watch on Labor Day

Best 1980s movies about workers for Labor Day

9 to 5 (1980)

By, Fair use,    

We would risk incurring a hefty fine if we omitted this comedy about working women in the office. This classic comedy takes aim at the misogyny of the business world by, um, kidnapping the sexist, egotistical, verbally abusive boss. 

There’s more to it than that. It’s fun, the workers win in the end, and was the movie that made Dolly Parton into a Hollywood success (on top of her already solid musical stardom).   

Mr. Mom (1983)

Michael Keaton’s first major role has him as Jack Butler, a laid off automobile engineer, while his wife steps back into a full time marketing job until he can get back to work. While he’s searching for work, he has to learn how to run a household.

There’s ton a good stuff in this film, particularly where we see Jack’s ego take a few hits as he struggles not being the breadwinner. This leads to one of my favorite quotes to come out of the 80s: “220. 221. Whatever it takes.”

Tron (1982)

In the 1980s, as computers became more and more prominent in daily life, Tron did its best to make computer programming exciting. All it took was zapping Jeff Daniels, breaking him down electronically, and trapping him inside a digital world.

And look, the special effects might seem a tad archaic today, but at the time they were amazing. But that wasn’t enough to woo everyone. They were so different, and the storyline so science fictiony, that at least one movie reviewer decided his utter confusion meant the movie was boring because he had no idea what was going on. Check this out:

The reviewer gives some other reasons for not liking the film, but this lead-off is a bit of a giveaway that he simply didn't get the movie.

But we get it. The trailer is wonderfully cheesy, and the movie is still fun to watch.

Best 1980s movies and shows about entrepreneurs for Labor Day

Ghostbusters (1984)

The original Ghostbusters tells the story of hardworking American entrepreneurs who identified a major gap in the market, and who put it all on the line to make their business work.

The business of busting ghosts crops up everywhere in this film. From Spengler and Venkman’s attempts to keep overhead low by trying to negotiate a lower facility rent:

To having to hire additional labor in order to keep up with demand:

To, of course, having to deal with State and Federal regulations.

So now when you bust out your old DVD of Ghostbusters, you can simply say you’re celebrating Labor Day.  

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Workers have fought for a long time to wrestle some vacation time from their employers. And I challenge you to name another movie as iconic as Vacation about, well, going on vacation. This is the movie that started the Chevy Chase National Lampoon Cinematic Universe (which is what I’d guess they’d call it today).

This is also some Inception-level relaxing, as you relax on Labor Day by watching someone try to relax.

Best 1980s show about teachers for Labor Day

Greatest American Hero (1981-1983)

By, Fair use,

We often say that teachers are heroes, and we’re right to do so.. In the case of Ralph Hanley (played by William Katt), he is a literal superhero. If you happen to have forgotten, he gets his powers from a special suit given to him by space aliens). The only problem is that loses the  instructions on how to use the suit, so he’s got a lot of trial-and-error to do. The results are some hilarious, and sometimes intense, adventures (3 seasons worth!).

Plus, the show gave us one of the best TV theme songs of the 1980s, which is saying something:

Not-so-fun fact that almost everyone who grew up during the 80s knows: the character’s name was originally Ralph Hinkley, but thanks to an assassanation attempt on President  Ronald Reagan by John Hinkley, the show quickly changed Ralph’s name.

Best 1980s movies and shows about public servants for Labor Day

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

This may seem like an odd choice for Labor Day, but we argue it’s a perfect fit. Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is a hard working Detroit police detective who likes to get things done, and get it done for the right reasons. When he takes a little vacation to Beverly Hills to solve the murder of his childhood friend, he gets to see first hand the disparities between the lifestyles of two very different economic classes.

There. That makes it a Labor Day movie. You’re welcome.

Stripes (1981)

Young men and women throughout America’s history have looked to the military for opportunities that they can’t find anywhere else. For instance, the opportunity to steal a top secret military RV and to graduate basic training by performing your own, customized drill routine.

If you’re a stickler for proper military details in movies, skip this, In terms of realistic military anything, it’s horrible. But for those of who can set that aside (if only with extreme effort), this is a treat.

The Rockford Files (1974 - 1980)

Jim Rockford (James Garner) is our favorite entry on this list. He’s the epitome of the working class guy just trying to earn a living the best way he knows how. Starting with the pilot episode (with guest star Lindsay Wagner!), we see he’s got a keen interest in being a detective and also in paying his bills (how many other TV detectives have to deal with bounced checks from clients?).

Jim is tough, smart, and just wants to be paid for his work. We can all relate to that.

Not to mention, the show has probably the best theme song ever. 

And finally, we would mention Die Hard, but everyone knows that's a Christmas movie,  with the aforementioned eggnog.

Let's be honest, this is also a list of movies and shows we simply just want to watch. Labor day, vacation day, Sunday.  Whatever.  Also,  Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, even if you have to call in sick.

What did we miss? Let us know what movies or shows celebrate American workers of any stripe in the comments below.

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