A Look at Movies Featuring Manufacturing and Production Lines


Hollywood loves to give us themed movies that send a message. In America, it has often been the cinema that highlights the various ways American capitalism and industry have shaped the society and economy of the country, either through fictional stories or biopics of actual individuals who lived and worked in the industry. Let’s look at some of the movies that give us a picture of life on the production line.

1. Norma Rae

This 1979 film tells the story of a young single mother who risks her job and her safety to unionize her fellow factory workers after adverse working conditions take a toll on their health. Although fictionalized, the film is loosely based on the life of Crystal Lee Sutton and highlights the importance of safe working conditions for employees.

2. Detropia

This documentary follows the decline and collapse of the auto industry in Detroit following a recession. Detroit was once said to be the birthplace of the middle class, and this film implies that the collapse of American industries as depicted here might also signal the beginning of the end of the middle class in the same city where it started, serving as an example of why American industry must transition from its old ways to preserve its society.

3. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Although perhaps not so valuable for its practical knowledge of the industry, this fanciful tale of a youngster spirited away to a magical candy factory imparts many lessons in fairytale forms, such as the importance of being kind, honest, and fair, and that greed and nastiness will eventually catch up with you.

4. Working Man

When a factory in a small Rust Belt town closes its doors, one of its longtime workers must contend with unemployment and hardship. Eventually, he joins forces with neighbors in an attempt to reopen the factory. This film showcases how a single industry can be a benefit to a small community in providing jobs but a liability to all should that company close its doors.

5. Modern Times

This Charlie Chaplin film from the dawn of the movie era demonstrates the absurdity but also truthfulness, of American industry at the time as a hapless assembly line worker suffers stress and breakdown from repetitive work, leading to several mishaps that lead to his firing and mistaken identity as a Communist demonstrator. This film shows how one bad day at work for an unsupported employee can mean chaos for everyone.

6. Gung Ho

Michael Keaton stars in this film about a small manufacturer acquired by a Japanese company. This movie, which combines comedy and drama, depicts the difficulties of globalization and cultural misunderstandings as companies compete on an international stage. The cultural differences between the Japanese and Americans serve as a comedy and a somewhat factual look at how such a merger is often riddled with cultural conflict.

Manufacturing and production lines play a large role in multiple industries which ultimately impact our everyday lives. These movies are just a few examples of how the film industry captured the many different aspects of manufacturing and production lines.


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