If you haven’t watched 9 to 5 recently, now’s a good time to give it a spin. The 1980 movie tells a story about sisterhood and solidarity. And it’s as good a movie today as it was when it was when it first hit theaters – Dec. 19, 1980, or 35 years ago this week.
The film starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton as Judy Bernly, Violet Newstead and Doralee Rhodes, respectively. And notably it had these characters sticking together for the greater good, overcoming obstacles to workplace injustice and wearing amazing peak-of-the-1980s fashions all the while. In case you need motivation to watch 9 to 5 (either again or for the first time), we’ve assembled a list of 15 reasons why it’s still worth your time, 35 years later.
1. It has the best theme song ever
Beyond the James Bond outings, movies don’t too often have theme songs anymore. This should change, and 9 to 5 can demonstrate why. Written specifically by Dolly Parton for the film, the song “9 to 5” captures the spirit: resigned to the grind but refusing to let it crush your spirit. In addition to scoring her two Grammys and an Oscar nomination, the song hit No. 1 on both the Billboard country western charts and the Hot 100. Go Dolly!
2. And it made Dolly Parton a movie star
The film provided the blonde bombshell with her first major acting role and transformed her from “Dolly Parton, country star and embodiment of all that is good” to “Dolly Parton, actress, country singer and embodiment of all that is good.” She subsequently went on to star in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Steel Magnolias and more.
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3. It was inspired by real working women
The idea for the film began with Jane Fonda. As the actress explained to an Australian newspaper in 1981, “A very old friend of mine had started an organization in Boston called Nine To Five, which was an association of women office workers. I heard them talking about their work and they had some great stories.” Ultimately, it was decided that the story should be told as a comedy, not a drama, to avoid being too preachy.
4. It’s still relevant today
It would be nice to look at this movie as a snapshot of a bygone era, but the fact is that if Violet, Judy and Doralee were able to see what the American workforce is like today, they might be a little disappointed that the “pink-collar ghetto” still exists, 35 years later. It continues to be tough to be a lower-level employee, women face challenges men don’t, and in particular it’s just a lot of work to be a mom with a full-time job. In fact, if someone were to remake the movie today, they wouldn’t have to change many of the challenges faced by the characters in the original.
5. It makes you loathe Dabney Coleman
There’s a lot to like in 9 to 5, and in particular the three lead actresses do a great job, but it should be mentioned that Coleman is fantastic as the film’s chauvinist slimeball of a villain, Mr. Hart. Too often, when all the great things about this film are being named off, Coleman gets forgotten – simply because he does such an effective job at making you hate his guts.
6. It has awesome fantasy sequences
Most of 9 to 5 holds up well today, but there’s one segment that might seem out of place in a modern movie: the series of fantasy sequences in which Violet, Judy and Doralee dream up how they’d off Mr. Hart. That’s not a knock. The movie is all the better for these weird, fun departures: Doralee would lasso him, rodeo-style, Violet dreams of doing him in while dressed as Snow White (complete with animated woodland friends), and Judy hunts the jerk down like an animal.
7. It’s a cautionary tale about judging women based on how they dress
At the beginning of the film, Violet and Judy don’t know Dorelee. They just see her coming into the office done up and as buxom as, well, Dolly Parton. Violet assumes that she’s sleeping with Hart. Here’s the thing: She’s not. She routinely refuses Hart’s advances, and she’s faithful to her husband, and Violet only learns the truth when circumstances force them together. The moral? Someone’s appearance is not indicative of her character.
8. It’s a celebration of hard-working people
In that same 1981 interview, Fonda explained her goal in getting 9 to 5 made: “What I found was that secretaries know the work they do is important, is skilled, but they also know they’re not treated with respect,” she said. “So when we came to do the film, we said to [director Colin Higgins], ‘Okay, what you have to do is write a screenplay which shows you can run an office without a boss, but you can’t run an office without the secretaries!’ ”
9. And it’s a reminder that women are better off helping each other
Yes, yes – everyone is better off working together, but when you’re not the ones in charge, you’re better off allying yourself with your equals rather than pitting yourselves against each other. That sounds like a big “no duh,” sure, but before our three heroines team up, no one in the office can do anything to better the working conditions. United, they have the power to make the office a better place. That’s a good lesson to keep in mind – in zany workplace comedies and in life.
10. It’s a look into the world of early ’80s fashion
On paper, Fonda’s character should look like a office-ready version of Lola from Mama’s Family. In practice, however? Fonda actually makes this outfit look good.
11. And the stars allegedly got along on set
Those themes of togetherness and sisterhood would be undercut if it turned out Fonda, Tomlin and Parton were at each other’s throats while the movie was shooting. According to the director, they meshed better than he could have hoped. “I must admit that I expected some tension,” Higgins said in a 1981 interview. “But they were totally professional, great fun and a joy to work with. I just wish everything would be as easy. They have their different ways of working and it’s interesting to see how they approach their roles.”
12. It was a success
In an alternate universe, American moviegoers might have been alienated by the film’s progressive messages and shied away, leaving 9 to 5 a noble failure. That’s not what happened, however. Made on only $10 million, 9 to 5 proved to be a massive hit, making back its cost ten times over.
13. There’s a random Sheena Easton connection
Hey, what was the name of that 1980 Sheena Easton song about her hardworking boyfriend? If you’re American, you’d probably say “Morning Train.” But if you’re British, you’ll call it by its original title, “9 to 5.” The song was retitled in the U.S. specifically to avoid confusion with Parton’s song. And speaking of Sheena’s song, have you ever watched the video for it before? The reason her baby takes the morning train isn’t because he works downtown; it’s because he’s the train conductor. That’s an oddly literal interpretation of the lyrics, right?
14. Its spinoffs weren’t half bad
You’ve probably heard that a lot of great ’80s moves ended up becoming less-than-stellar TV shows – among them, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Working Girl and Dirty Dancing, just to name a few. 9 to 5 also became a TV series, with the important difference that it actually lasted three seasons. Rita Moreno played the Lily Tomlin role, while Valerie Curtin (little sister to SNL‘s Jane Curtin) played the Jane Fonda role, and Rachel Dennison (real little sister to Dolly Parton) played Doralee. And in 2008, the musical version of 9 to 5 debuted. Here’s to keeping the legacy alive.
15. And there’s a chance for a reunion
In 2015, Frankie and Grace premiered on Netflix. The series has Tomlin and Fonda once again acting opposite each other. In May, when Parton had a press conference about her NBC TV movie Coat of Many Colors, she fielded a question about whether she’d like to reconnect with her 9 to 5 co-stars on Frankie and Grace. Parton responded that it was a possibility: “I told them whenever I get a little block of time, I’d love to come be on the show,” she said. “We always talked about a reunion,” she was quoted as saying in the Hollywood Reporter. Cross your fingers, people.