Working Girl

Working Girl is a 1988 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver. It was written by Kevin Wade.

Working Girl
Working Girl film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Nichols
Produced byDouglas Wick
Written byKevin Wade
Music by
CinematographyMichael Ballhaus
Edited bySam O'Steen
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 21, 1988 (1988-12-21) (United States)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$28.6 million
Box office$102 million

The film's opening sequence follows Manhattan-bound commuters on the Staten Island Ferry accompanied by Carly Simon's song "Let the River Run", for which she received the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The film was a box office success, grossing a worldwide total of $103 million.[1]

Griffith was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, while both Weaver and Joan Cusack were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film was also nominated for Academy Award for Best Picture.


Tess McGill is a working-class girl from Staten Island with a bachelor's degree in business from evening classes. She works as a stockbroker's secretary, aspiring to reach an executive position. It's clear that Tess is smart, but she's treated like a bimbo by her boss and male coworkers. We find that after shabby treatment at several placements, Tess has gotten angry at her chauvinistic bosses and quit.

The employment agency chastises Tess for causing trouble, but gives her one last shot, assigning her as secretary to Katharine Parker, a young associate in the Mergers and Acquisitions department. Seemingly supportive, Katharine encourages Tess to share ideas. Tess makes a suggestion for a merger, but Katharine later tells Tess her idea won't work.

When Katharine breaks her leg skiing in Europe, she asks Tess to house-sit. While at Katharine's place, Tess discovers some meeting notes and realizes Katharine plans to pass off the merger idea as her own. Distraught, Tess returns home to find her boyfriend in bed with another woman. She returns to Katharine's apartment.

Tess decides to use her boss' absence, connections and clothes to get ahead. She schedules a meeting with herself and Jack Trainer, the person Katharine planned to give Tess's idea to. She plans on attending a party to casually "bump into" Jack Trainer before their meeting the next day. She cuts her hair and puts on one of Katharine's fancy dresses, but has a panic attack when she realizes how expensive it is. Her friend Cyn gives her a Valium to calm her down.

At the party, Tess unknowingly meets Jack, who is fascinated by her. They have a couple of drinks, and the combined effect of Valium and alcohol causes Tess to black out in the cab. Trainer gently carries her upstairs to his apartment.

Tess wakes up the next morning in Jack's bed, and quickly leaves before he wakes. Later when she arrives at the meeting, she realizes the man she spent the night with is Jack Trainer. She pretends they are meeting for the first time, and makes her pitch for the merger. She leaves the meeting feeling the whole situation, including her pitch, was a disaster. Jack, however, arrives at her (Katherine’s) office, tells her nothing romantic happened the night before; he simply took care of her after she passed out. He also tells her that her merger idea has potential, and gives her a gift of a new briefcase.

Days later, Jack meets again with Tess, having secured a great radio network acquisition for Trask Industries. Tess tells Jack she has a meeting with Trask himself, but without Jack. Jack thinks Tess is trying to run the project solo (reminiscent of Katherine), and tells her she needs him at that meeting. Tess acquiesces, but when the day of the meeting arrives, Jack realizes Tess’ plan is to crash Trask's daughter's wedding in order to pitch the plan. Despite the crazy antics, the bold plan works: Trask is interested and a meeting is scheduled.

The duo spend the next few days cooped up, preparing the financials to present the merger proposal to Trask Industries. The proposal is a success and, in the relief and excitement of it all, Tess and Jack give in to their attraction, and end up in bed. Tess wants to tell Jack the truth about her, Katherine, and the stolen idea, but keeps quiet after learning Jack was romantically involved with Katherine. Though he swears the relationship is over, Tess realizes just how complicated the situation is.

Katharine comes home on the day of the merger meeting between Trask and the owner of the radio station. Tess is forced to run errands for Katherine, who is still laid up because of her broken leg. Jack arrives while Tess is out, but when she returns, she overhears Katharine asking Jack to confirm his love for her, but he avoids her advances. Tess rushes off, accidentally leaving her appointment book with Katherine.

Katharine snoops through the appointments in the book, and discovers Tess’ meeting with Trask. She rushes to the meeting, storms in, outs Tess as her secretary, and accuses her of having stolen the idea. Tess begins to protest but feels nobody would believe her. She leaves, apologizing.

Days later, Tess clears out her desk and then bumps into Jack, Katharine, and Trask at the lobby elevators. Katherine attempts to appear like the bigger person, telling Tess they should bury the hatchet, but in one of the more memorable lines of the movie, Tess replies, “You know where you can bury your hatchet? Now get your boney ass out of my sight.” Katharine tries to lead the group away, but Jack stays and says he believes Tess. Though Trask initially thinks Jack is blinded by love, his attention is piqued when Tess mentions a possible hole in the merger. He hops off the closing elevator, leaving Katharine still in the lift. He gets on another elevator with Jack and Tess, where Tess then gives her elevator pitch, explaining where she got the inspiration for the merger idea.

When they get to their floor, Trask confronts Katharine, asking if she can explain how she came up with the idea. She stumbles and balks and is unable to explain the idea's origin. She looks at Jack for help, but he refuses. Trask assures Katherine he will have her fired for her fraud. He then offers Tess an entry-level job with Trask Industries, which she happily accepts.

When Tess arrives for her first day at her new job at Trask, and is directed to her new office, she sees a woman in it, on the phone with her feet up. Tess assumes this is her new boss, and starts to settle in at the receptionist desk outside. The woman comes out of the office and identifies herself as Alice. There is confusion between the two until it finally dawns on Tess that Alice is, in fact, her secretary and that she is the new junior executive. Tess insists they work together as colleagues, showing she will be very different from Katharine. She then calls her best friend from her own office, to tell her she has finally made it.


Other notable performers appearing in minor roles in the film include Olympia Dukakis as a Personnel Director, David Duchovny as one of Tess' birthday party friends and Ricki Lake as a bridesmaid.



Many scenes were shot in the New Brighton section of Staten Island in New York City.

Tess's office building lobby scenes were shot in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center (one of the buildings destroyed in the September 11 attacks). The scenes of Tess's secretarial pool and Katharine Parker's office were filmed at One State Street Plaza at the corner of Whitehall and State Street. One Chase Manhattan Plaza was featured at the end as the Trask Industries building.[2]


Working Girl (Original Soundtrack Album)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 29, 1989

The film's main theme "Let the River Run" was written and performed by American singer-songwriter Carly Simon, and won her an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Grammy Award for Best Song.[3] The song reached number 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 11 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in early 1989.[4]

The credits for the film read "music by Carly Simon, scored by Rob Mounsey". A soundtrack album was released on August 29, 1989, by Arista Records, and it peaked at number 45 on the Billboard 200.[5]

Track listing

  1. "Let the River Run" - Carly Simon
  2. "In Love" (Instrumental) - Carly Simon
  3. "The Man That Got Away" (Instrumental) - Rob Mounsey, George Young, Chip Jackson, Grady Tate
  4. "The Scar" (Instrumental) - Carly Simon
  5. "Let the River Run" - The St. Thomas Choir Of Men And Boys
  6. "Lady In Red" - Chris De Burgh
  7. "Carlotta's Heart" - Carly Simon
  8. "Looking Through Katherine's House" - Carly Simon
  9. "Poor Butterfly" (Instrumental) - Sonny Rollins
  10. "I'm So Excited" - Pointer Sisters


Box officeEdit

The film was released on December 23, 1988, in 1,051 theaters and grossed $4.7 million on its opening weekend. It went on to make $63.8 million in North America and $39.2 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $103 million.[1]


The film received generally positive reviews from critics with an 84% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes[6] based on 43 reviews. The site's consensus is; "A buoyant corporate Cinderella story, Working Girl has the right cast, right story, and right director to make it all come together." and a 73 score at Metacritic.[7]Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, "The plot of Working Girl is put together like clockwork. It carries you along while you're watching it, but reconstruct it later and you'll see the craftsmanship".[8] In her review for the Washington Post, Rita Kempley described Melanie Griffith as "luminous as Marilyn Monroe, as adorable as one of Disney's singing mice. She clearly has the stuff of a megastar, and the movie glows from her".[9] Janet Maslin, in her review for The New York Times, wrote, "Mike Nichols, who directed Working Girl, also displays an uncharacteristically blunt touch, and in its later stages the story remains lively but seldom has the perceptiveness or acuity of Mr. Nichols's best work".[10] In his review for Time, Richard Corliss wrote, "Kevin Wade shows this in his smart screenplay, which is full of the atmospheric pressures that allow stars to collide. Director Mike Nichols knows this in his bones. He encourages Weaver to play (brilliantly) an airy shrew. He gives Ford a boyish buoyancy and Griffith the chance to be a grownup mesmerizer".[11]



Award Category Nominee Result
Academy Award Best Picture[12] Douglas Wick Nominated
Best Director[12] Mike Nichols Nominated
Best Actress[12] Melanie Griffith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress[12] Joan Cusack Nominated
Sigourney Weaver Nominated
Best Original Song[12] Carly Simon Won
Golden Globe Award Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Douglas Wick Won
Best Director Mike Nichols Nominated
Best Actress – Musical or Comedy Melanie Griffith Won
Best Supporting Actress Sigourney Weaver Won
Best Screenplay Kevin Wade Nominated
Best Original Song Carly Simon Won
British Academy Film Award Best Actress Melanie Griffith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Sigourney Weaver Nominated
Best Film Music Carly Simon Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media Carly Simon Won
Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing - Feature Mike Nichols Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Kevin Wade Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Award Best Actress Melanie Griffith Won
Best Supporting Actress Joan Cusack Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Award Best Actress Melanie Griffith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Sigourney Weaver Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Award Best Actress Melanie Griffith Runner-up
National Society of Film Critics Award Best Actress Melanie Griffith 3rd-place


The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Home mediaEdit

Working Girl was released on DVD in Widescreen format on April 17, 2001 by 20th Century Fox.[19] Special features included two theatrical trailers and three TV spots. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc on January 6, 2015.[19][20] The special features from the DVD release were carried over for the Blu-ray release.

In other mediaEdit


Working Girl was also made into a short-lived NBC television series in 1990, starring Sandra Bullock as Tess McGill.[21] It lasted 12 episodes.


A broadway musical version is in the works as of 2017, with a score to be written by Cyndi Lauper from Fox Stage Productions and Aged in Wood Productions. For Aged in Wood, the producers were Robyn Goodman and Josh Fiedler. Instead of a production company on Working Girl, the musical adaptation was switched to a license production by Aged in Wood Productions since Disney took over ownership of Fox Stage in 2019.[22]


  1. ^ a b "Working Girl". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
  2. ^ "Working Girl Movie - The 80s Movies Rewind". 1988-12-21. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
  3. ^ "Carly Simon Official Website - Awards". Archived from the original on October 19, 2007. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  4. ^ "Carly Simon Chart History". Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  5. ^ "Awards". Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 21, 1988). "Working Girl". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
  9. ^ Kempley, Rita (December 21, 1988). "Working Girl". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
  10. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 21, 1988). "The Dress-for-Success Story Of a Secretary From Staten Island". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
  11. ^ Corliss, Richard (December 19, 1988). "Two Out of Five Ain't Bad". Time. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
  12. ^ a b c d e "The 61st Academy Awards (1989)". Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  13. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  14. ^ a b "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  15. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  16. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  18. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-20.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  19. ^ a b "Working Girl". Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  20. ^ " Working Girl [Blu-ray]: Movies & TV". United States: January 9, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
  21. ^ "Working Girl (TV Series 1990-)". Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  22. ^ Caitlin, Huston (July 2, 2019). "Fox Stage Productions to merge into Disney Theatrical". Broadway News. Broadway Brands LLC. Retrieved July 12, 2019.

External linksEdit