Working Girl
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Nichols
Written byKevin Wade
Produced byDouglas Wick
CinematographyMichael Ballhaus
Edited bySam O'Steen
Music by
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 21, 1988 (1988-12-21)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$28 million
Box office$103 million

Working Girl is a 1988 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols, written by Kevin Wade, and starring Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, and Melanie Griffith. Its plot follows an ambitious secretary from Staten Island who takes over her new boss's role while the boss is laid up with a broken leg. The secretary, who has been going to business night school, pitches a profitable idea, only to have the boss attempt to take credit.

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[1] and the Golden Globe Award[2] for Best Original Song, and the Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television,[3] making her the first artist to win this trio of awards for a song composed and written, as well as performed, entirely by a single artist.[4] The film was met with critical acclaim, and was a major box office success, grossing a worldwide total of $103 million.[5]

Working Girl was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for Griffith, while both Weaver and Joan Cusack were nominated for Best Supporting Actress.[1] The film won four Golden Globes (from six nominations), including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actress – Musical or Comedy for Griffith, and Best Supporting Actress for Weaver.[2] It also received three BAFTA nominations: Best Actress for Griffith, Best Supporting Actress for Weaver, and Best Original Score for Simon.[6]


Tess McGill is a working-class woman from Staten Island who dreams of climbing the corporate ladder to an executive position. Despite holding a business degree earned through evening classes, her boss and male co-workers at the stockbroker firm in lower Manhattan where she works as a secretary treat her like a bimbo, even though they benefit from her intelligence and business instincts. After reaching her limit with her boss's humiliations, Tess dramatically quits.

Tess then lands a job as an administrative assistant to Katharine Parker, a young associate in Mergers and Acquisitions. At first, Katharine seems supportive of Tess, encouraging her to share ideas, but eventually tells Tess her proposed purchase of a radio network by Trask Industries wouldn't work out.

When Katharine breaks her leg skiing, she asks Tess to house-sit. While there, Tess discovers meeting notes that reveal Katharine plans to pass off the Trask Industries idea as her own. She later returns home to find her live-in boyfriend having sex with another woman. He attempts to reconcile and proposes marriage, but she responds ambivalently, and they end things. With her boss away, Tess decides to use Katharine's connections and clothes to move ahead with her merger plans. With the help of her friend Cyn, Tess cuts her hair and borrows Katherine's stylish clothing to look more professional. Tess schedules a meeting with Jack Trainer, a mergers and acquisitions associate from another company. The night before, she attends a dinner on Katharine’s behalf, hosted by Trainer’s firm in an attempt to say hello prior to their meeting. Trainer is attracted to and approaches Tess at the bar but does not reveal his name, even after she inquires whether he knows a Jack Trainer. Tess eventually leaves and he follows, taking her back to his apartment after she passes out in a cab from a combination of Valium and alcohol.

Tess leaves early the next morning, believing them to have slept together, to attend her meeting with Trainer and is surprised to see he is the man from the previous night. They both feign non-recognition. Although Tess lacks confidence during the meeting with Trainer and his associates and leaves thinking it was a failure, Jack soon arrives at her office, telling her they did not sleep together and that he wants to move forward with her idea. Together, they prepare the financials for the merger proposal, and they give in to their attraction, ending up in bed. However, Tess is tempted to confess the truth about the idea's origins, but she demurs after discovering Jack is also involved with Katharine, whom he planned to break up with before her injury.

Katharine returns home on the day of the merger meeting, and while Tess is helping her get settled, Katharine brings up the Trask merger, saying she was intending to take it to Jack and give Tess credit eventually, but was restricted due to Jack’s strict ethical code preventing him from looking at other’s work without verifying the source after being accused of stealing himself. Jack eventually arrives to end things with Katharine. Tess accidentally leaves her appointment book in Katharine's apartment before leaving for the same meeting, leading to Katharine discovering Tess's deception.

At the meeting, Tess asks Jack whether he has such an ethical code, and he denies this or that he was ever accused of stealing. Katharine confronts Tess during the meeting, outing her as her secretary and accusing her of stealing the idea. Tess feels she can't defend herself and leaves, apologizing profusely. Days later, Tess is offered an entry-level job with Trask Industries after Trask confronts Katharine, who is unable to explain where she got the merger idea and promises to have her fired for her actions. Jack and Tess embrace and start a relationship.

On her first day at Trask, Tess meets a colleague named Alice, who Tess initially assumes will be her new boss but who she then realizes is actually her (Tess's) secretary. Tess insists they work together as colleagues, showing she will be very different from Katharine. Finally, Tess calls her friend Cyn from her own office to tell her she has made it.




Screenwriter Kevin Wade was inspired to write the screenplay after visiting New York City in 1984 and witnessing throngs of career women walking through the streets in tennis shoes while carrying their high-heels.[7]


Melanie Griffith read the screenplay for Working Girl over a year before the production began, and expressed interest in playing the role of Tess McGill.[7] Approximately a year later, Mike Nichols agreed to direct the film after reading the screenplay while shooting his film Biloxi Blues in Alaska.[7] Following Nichols' attachment, Griffith had a formal audition for the role.[7] Molly Ringwald auditioned but was deemed "too young."[8] Nichols was so determined for Griffith to have the part that he threatened to drop out of the production if the studio, 20th Century Fox, would not hire her.[7]

Following the casting of Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford—both major stars at that point—the studio agreed to cast Griffith, as they felt Weaver and Ford's involvement gave them a higher chance of box-office success.[7]


Principal photography of Working Girl began on February 16, 1988, in New York City.[7] Many scenes were shot in the New Brighton section of Staten Island in New York City. One half-day of shooting to complete the skiing accident scene took place in New Jersey.[7] Four different buildings portrayed the offices of Petty Marsh—1 State Street Plaza; the Midday Club, which served as the company's club room; the lobby of 7 World Trade Center (one of the buildings destroyed in the September 11 attacks); and the reading floor of the L. F. Rothschild Building.[7] One Chase Manhattan Plaza was featured at the end of the film as the Trask Industries building.[7] Filming completed on April 27, 1988, with the final sequence being shot on the Staten Island Ferry.[7]

Throughout the shoot, Griffith was in the midst of struggling with a years-long alcohol and cocaine addiction, which at times interfered with the shoot.[9] "There were a lot of things that happened on Working Girl that I did that were not right," Griffith recalled in 2019. "It was the late '80s. There was a lot going on party-wise in New York. There was a lot of cocaine. There was a lot of temptation."[10] After Nichols realized that Griffith had arrived on set high on cocaine, the shoot was temporarily shut down for 24 hours.[11] Griffith elaborated on the experience:

Mike got so mad at me, he wouldn't talk to me. Mike Haley, the first [assistant director], just came up and said, "We're shutting down. Go home", and I knew I was in so much trouble. … The next morning he (Nichols) took me to breakfast and said, "Here's what's going to happen. You're going to pay for last night out of your pocket. We're not going to report you to the studio, but you have to pay for what it cost", and it was $80,000. They wanted to get my attention and they really did. It was a very humbling, embarrassing experience, but I learned a lot from it.[11]

Three weeks after filming was completed, Griffith entered a rehabilitation facility to receive treatment for her addiction.[12] Ironically, according to the biography Mike Nichols: A Life, written by Mark Harris, Nichols had been battling a cocaine addiction of his own around the same time.[13]


Main article: Working Girl (Original Soundtrack Album)

The film's main theme "Let the River Run" was written, arranged, and performed by American singer-songwriter Carly Simon, and won her an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Grammy Award for Best Original Song,[14] making Simon the first artist to win this trio of awards for a song written, as well as performed, entirely by a single artist.[15] As a single, "Let the River Run" reached No. 49 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 11 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in early 1989.[16]

The film's additional soundtrack was scored by Simon and Rob Mounsey. The soundtrack album was released by Arista Records on August 29, 1989, and peaked at No. 45 on the Billboard 200.[17]


Box office

The film was released in the United States on December 21, 1988,[7] in 1,051 theaters and grossed $4.7 million on its opening weekend.[5] 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.[5]

Home media

Working Girl was released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1989 by CBS/Fox Video; "Family Portrait", one of the shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show featuring The Simpsons, was included before the movie on the VHS release. The film was released on DVD on April 17, 2001, by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.[18] Special features included two theatrical trailers and three TV spots. The film was released on Blu-ray on January 6, 2015.[18][19] The special features from the DVD release were carried over for the Blu-ray release.[20]


Critical response

Working Girl received critical acclaim upon release. It has an 83% "Fresh" rating as of 2024 on Rotten Tomatoes[21] based on 48 reviews, and an average score of 7/10. 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." The film also has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100 at Metacritic based on reviews from 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[22] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[23]

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".[24] 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".[25] 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".[26] 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".[27]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Picture Douglas Wick Nominated [1]
Best Director Mike Nichols Nominated
Best Actress Melanie Griffith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Joan Cusack Nominated
Sigourney Weaver Nominated
Best Original Song "Let the River Run"
Music and Lyrics by Carly Simon
American Comedy Awards Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Melanie Griffith Nominated [28]
Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Joan Cusack Won
Artios Awards Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film Casting – Comedy Juliet Taylor Won [29]
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Melanie Griffith Won [30]
Best Supporting Actress Joan Cusack (also for Married to the Mob and Stars and Bars) Won
British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Melanie Griffith Nominated [6]
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Sigourney Weaver Nominated
Best Original Film Score Carly Simon Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Sigourney Weaver Nominated [31]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Mike Nichols Nominated [32]
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Won [2]
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Melanie Griffith Won
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Sigourney Weaver Won
Best Director – Motion Picture Mike Nichols Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Kevin Wade Nominated
Best Original Song – Motion Picture "Let the River Run"
Music and Lyrics by Carly Simon
Grammy Awards Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television Won [3]
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Melanie Griffith 3rd Place [33]
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress Runner-up [34]
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Kevin Wade Nominated [35]


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

In other media


Main article: Working Girl (TV series)

Working Girl was also made into a short-lived NBC television series in 1990, starring Sandra Bullock as Tess McGill.[39] 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.[40]


A reboot of Working Girl has reported to be in development at Hulu, with Ilana Peña adapting the script. Selena Gomez is in talks to produce.[41]


  1. ^ a b c "The 61st Academy Awards (1989)". Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Working Girl – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "1989 Grammy Award Winners". Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  4. ^ "Carly Simon – ASCAP Founders Award". American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Archived from the original on September 1, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "Working Girl". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  6. ^ a b "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1990". BAFTA. 1990. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Working Girl". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  8. ^ Molly Ringwald Felt Limited by ‘Brat Pack’ Label, But ‘The Bear’ and ‘Feud’ Roles Excite Her for What’s Next
  9. ^ Carter & Kashner 2019, pp. 206–210.
  10. ^ Carter & Kashner 2019, p. 211.
  11. ^ a b Carter & Kashner 2019, p. 212.
  12. ^ Bertram, Colin (February 4, 2020). "'Working Girl' Was Melanie Griffith's Big Break — and Helped Her Get Sober". Biography.
  13. ^ Tashjian, Rachel (February 9, 2021). "Mike Nichols: The Last Director Who Knew Everyone and Did Everything". GQ.
  14. ^ "Carly Simon Official Website – Awards". Archived from the original on October 19, 2007. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  15. ^ "Carly Simon - ASCAP Founders Award". Archived from the original on September 1, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  16. ^ "Carly Simon Chart History". Billboard.
  17. ^ "Awards". Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  18. ^ a b "Working Girl". Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  19. ^ " Working Girl [Blu-ray]: Movies & TV". Amazon. United States. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  20. ^ Nutt, Shannon. "Working Girl Blu-ray Review". High Def Digest. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  21. ^ "Working Girl". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved August 8, 2022.
  22. ^ "Working Girl". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  23. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  24. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 21, 1988). "Working Girl". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  25. ^ Kempley, Rita (December 21, 1988). "Working Girl". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  26. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 21, 1988). "The Dress-for-Success Story Of a Secretary From Staten Island". The New York Times. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  27. ^ Corliss, Richard (December 19, 1988). "Two Out of Five Ain't Bad". Time.
  28. ^ "American Comedy Awards, USA 1989". IMDb. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  29. ^ "Nominees/Winners". Casting Society of America. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  30. ^ "BSFC Winners: 1980s". Boston Society of Film Critics. July 27, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  31. ^ "Chicago Film Critics Awards – 1988–97". Chicago Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  32. ^ "41st DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  33. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. December 19, 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  34. ^ "1988 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". Mubi. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  35. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  36. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions". American Film Institute. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  37. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs". American Film Institute. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  38. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers". American Film Institute. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  39. ^ "Working Girl (TV Series 1990–)". IMDb. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  40. ^ Caitlin, Huston (July 2, 2019). "Fox Stage Productions to merge into Disney Theatrical". Broadway News. Broadway Brands LLC. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  41. ^ Kroll, Justin (August 2, 2022). "Selena Gomez And 20th Century Developing 'Working Girl' Reboot". Deadline. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  1. ^ Tied with Phil Collins and Lamont Dozier for "Two Hearts".