Ganging up, the social phenomenon that lies at the heart of workplace mobbing, has been depicted in a variety of films. The following is but a small sample of the many different film portrayals. This list is an abbreviated version of the more extensive one compiled by Kenneth Westhues. To view the list in its original format click here.
Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1984). F. Murray Abraham won best actor for his portrayal of Salieri, a dutiful but mediocre composer upstaged by the obnoxious but more talented Mozart (Tom Hulce), and determined to get rid of him. Salieri is depicted as a one-man mob, compelled by envy to destroy the one he most admires.
Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford, 1979). A case of administrative mobbing in the British army during its war against the Boers. Lord Kitchener and his brass scapegoat three officers from Australia. Morant's requested epitaph (from Matthew 10: 30) captures the special horror of being mobbed in one's workplace: "A man's foes will be they of his own household." Arguably the best Australian film ever made.
Bully (Larry Clark, 2001). Based (whether loosely or closely is a matter of debate) on true events in Florida, this film is useful for illustrating the difference between bullying and mobbing, as these terms are used in research on abusive human relations. The character of Bobby (Nick Stahl) is a genuine bully, swaggering with pleasure in his domination of other members of a clique of teenagers. The others then form themselves into a mob for eliminating Bobby once and for all. A very harsh film.
Crucible, The (Twentieth Century Fox, Nicholas Hytner, 1996). Paul Scofield, best known for playing the heroically good Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons, is cast in this film as John Danforth, the evil-doing judge of the witches at Salem. Explaining (in his preface to the Penguin filmscript) why he cast Scofield in the role, director Hytner wrote: "It would have been easy enough to find one of those actors who specialize in the sinister, but Danforth's particular danger is that his convictions are genuine and his commitment to rooting out the Devil is deeply felt." Arthur Miller's play focuses on John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his accuser, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder). Hytner thought the story as timely in the 1990s, amidst "rigid intellectual orthodoxies of college campuses," as when it was staged in 1952, in the era of McCarthyism and anticommunist witch hunts.
Children's Hour, The (William Wyler's 1962 adaptation of Lillian Hellman's 1934 stageplay). Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, friends since high school, run a girl's boarding school. One of their charges starts a rumor that they are lesbians. It is one community against two women. "What is happening here?" laments MacLaine. "Has everybody gone insane?" A heartbreaking tale that shows the force of collective opprobrium: how stigma gets inside the heads of the stigmatized.
From Here to Eternity(Columbia, Fred Zinnemann, 1953). In Pearl Harbor just before Japan's attack, a U.S. army private (Montgomery Clift) is mobbed by fellow soldiers for declining to join his regiment's boxing team. The captain approves. "if a man don't go his own way," Clift's character insists, "he's nothin." The brass eventually bust the captain, but not before loves and lives are lost. Oscars for best picture and best supporting actor (Frank Sinatra), with nominations also for Clift, Burt Lancaster, and Deborah Kerr. Zinneman said his goal was just to tell the truth.
Human Stain, The (Robert Benton, 2003). Powerful screen adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel, about an aging professor in a New England College (Anthony Hopkins) who is ganged up on by colleagues, charged with racism, and run out of his job. The story appears too bizarre to be believed, except by people with personal experience of life on North American college campuses in the closing decade of the twentieth century.
Joan of Arc (Victor Fleming, 1948). Probably still the best film on the Maid of Orleans. Ingrid Bergman's portrayal of the fifteenth-century peasant girl won her an Oscar nomination. It ably dramatizes the transition from hero to villain, the functioning of tribunals, and the social importance of humiliation. Joan confesses, then recants, much as John Proctor does three centuries later in The Crucible. Rome canonized her in 1920.
Mean Creek (Jacob Estes, 2004). You've seen all the kids in this film in your local corner store. Their performances are amazingly believable. None is an angel. All evoke sympathy, including the bully whom the others decide to teach a lesson. Realistic depiction of the misgivings and reconsiderings that are often part of mob formation. Nobody intends for things to go so far. A beautifully sad film.
Odd Girl Out(Tom McLoughlin, 2004). Made-for-TV film adaptation of Rachel Simmons's perceptive book of the same title, about mobbing among adolescent girls. Alexa Vega stars as a girl so pretty, smart, talented and popular that she arouses in her peers a collective urge to destroy. Painful to watch. Similar to Carrie and Mean Girls (see above) but more truthful and therefore more horrifying, and with the best ending of the three, this film and/or the book belongs in the core curriculum of every high school.