Alec Baldwin’s fascinating rant in Glengarry Glen Ross gets in honorable mention here because it’s technically not an actual firing, but more of the threat of being fired.
Oh, have I got your attention now?
10. John Bloom – Casino (1995)
Don Ward (Bloom) is the dumb country shmuck who can’t seem to catch a break from his boss, Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro). Ace gives Ward many warnings before finally firing him. The result is one of the most entertaining scenes of an extremely entertaining film, here is an excerpt, spoken entirely by Ace:
“Listen you fuckin’ yokel, I’ve been carrying your ass in this place ever since I got here…If you didn’t know you were being scammed, you’re too fuckin’ dumb to keep this job. If you did know, you were in on it, either way YOU’RE OUT!”
9. Tamala Jones – Up in the Air (2009)
In a list of this kind, it’s impossible not to name at least one lay off featured in a movie about firing people. There are many to choose from in Up in the Air, but the one that strikes me most is when poor Anna Kendrick lets a middle aged woman go, only to find out that employee plans to kill herself. There’s a very specific apathy in the woman’s voice that is truly haunting. Kendrick’s character is as freaked out as we are. Appropriately so.
8. William Wise – 13 Conversations About One Thing (2001)
Alan Arkin’s Gene is forced to make cuts within his department. Given that Gene is a resentful old codger, he decides to fire Wade Bowman (Wise), the most cheerful man in the entire office. The ironic beauty is that Wade takes the news in stride, boasting that everything happens for a reason. Gene, of course, is pissed he didn’t ruin Wade’s day. What happens next only adds to the glorious mockery of the situation.
7. Tom Cruise – Jerry Maguire (1996)
“I came here to let you go,” a smug Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) says to his mentor, Jerry Maguire. The bafflement on Cruise’s face speaks volumes. He goes through a gamut of emotions within a matter of seconds.
“It’s real, you should say something,” Sugar chimes in.
6. Robin Williams – One Hour Photo (2002)
Of all the people on this list, I don’t think anyone loved their job more than Sy Parrish (Robin Williams). Sy lets his employment for a one-hour photo lab mask his obsession with a local family. He prints so many extra copies of the family’s pictures, that his boss, Bill (Gary Cole) soon takes notice. When Sy is finally let go, he lets out a pathetic little whimper that breaks my heart. My sympathy fades when logic kicks in, and I’m left asking, What the hell is this guy going to do now?
5. Dustin Hoffman – Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Ted Kramer needs his job. He’ll soon battle his bitter ex-wife in a vicious custody hearing for their son, and without a job, Ted’s chances are nonexistent. But his boss thinks Ted has been slipping. His work has faltered and his attention has diminished. So he takes Ted out to lunch and fires him. The scene is only made more devastating when the boss offers a hand-me-out to Ted – a little money to tide Ted over.
“Shame on you,” Ted expertly says as he exits the table. And really, what is there left to say?
4. Andrew Garfield – The Social Network (2010)
Not so much fired as completely screwed over, but Andrew Garfield’s best scene in The Social Network occurs when his character, Eduardo Saverin, realizes his Facebook ownership shares have been diluted to .03%. The worst part? He led himself into the trap. That stings.
3. William Holden – Network (1976)
I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so elated to fire an employee than Robert Duvall canning William Holden in Network. After Duvall gains control of the news division of their network, he looks Holden right in the eye and unleashes a vengeful monologue of sheer fire and brimstone.
“I’m making all network decisions, including one I’ve been wanting to make for a loooooong time – you’re fired.”
And believe me, that’s the nicest thing Duvall says in the scene.
2. Mark Wahlberg – Boogie Nights (1997)
Drowning in a sea of pure coke, heavy liquor, and endless sex, Dirk Diggler is so fucking out of it when his director, Jack Horner, fires him that he doesn’t even realize what’s happening.
“I’m not going to shoot you in the state you’re in,” Horner says diplomatically.
“What do you mean ‘state’? State of California? I KNOW WHERE THE FUCK I AM, JACK!”
God, I just love this scene.
1. Nicolas Cage – Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
One of the most devastating sequences in one of the most devastating films I’ve ever seen is when Nicolas Cage’s Ben Sanderson is let go from his Hollywood screenwriting job in Leaving Las Vegas. Just look at the way Ben barely makes it into his boss’ office, correcting his clothes and posture as he sits down. His boss lets him go and slides Ben a severance check. Ben thinks it’s too much, then apologizes for his behavior while crying. He knows he’s a fuck up, and he knows his boss has to do this. And it’s that sense of immediate acceptance that just kills me.
There are many more to choose from (I really wanted to include Tom Hanks’ crushing blow in Philadelphia) so be sure to tell me some of your favorites.
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