17 of the worst fictional bosses in movie and TV history

“The Devil Wears Prada.” 20th Century Fox “The Devil Wears Prada” was released 15 years

devil wears prada

“The Devil Wears Prada.” 20th Century Fox

  • “The Devil Wears Prada” was released 15 years ago this month.

  • Miranda Priestly isn’t the only terrible boss we’ve seen in movies or on TV.

  • Yes, all three from “Horrible Bosses” made the cut.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada” struck fear into the hearts of all her employees.

meryl streep miranda the devil wears prada

“The Devil Wears Prada.” 20th Century Fox

Priestly, reportedly based on real-life Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, never yelled or threw a fit. Instead, she ruled Andy and Emily (Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt) through quiet intimidation, cutting insults, and general displeasure at anything less than perfect.

Her one redeeming quality — her friendship with Stanley Tucci’s Nigel — was even destroyed when she decided to pass him over for a long-deserved promotion to save her own job and status.

There’s a reason that Meryl Streep called shooting the movie a “horrible” experience — inhabiting such an ice queen was painful.

Mr. Krabs of “SpongeBob SquarePants” has put his employees through countless money-making schemes, regardless of safety, over the last 22 years.

mr krabs spongebob

“Spongebob Squarepants.” Nickelodeon

Over the years, the miserly Eugene Krabs has put SpongeBob and Squidward through so much, including forcing them to work all night, become delivery-fish (which led them to get lost for an entire night), almost murdering a health inspector, and never, ever promoting them. They even went on strike once, after Mr. Krabs tried to charge them for breathing and speaking, to no avail.

All three bosses from 2011 film “Horrible Bosses” were terrible in their own ways.

horrible bosses

“Horrible Bosses.” Warner Bros. Pictures

First up, Bobby Pellit, played by Colin Farrell. He’s only promoted to boss after his beloved father, an actual good boss, dies. Bobby is addicted to cocaine and uninterested in managing. However, he’s not the movie’s worst boss.

Then you have Julia, played by Jennifer Aniston. She’s a dentist and frequently sexually harasses her employees, specifically Charlie Day’s Dale. But still, not the worst.

That title goes to Dave Harken, played by Kevin Spacey, a sociopathic company president who frequently dangles a promotion in front of Nick (Jason Bateman), only to take it for himself … and then he commits murder. Easily the most horrible boss.

Bill Lumbergh from “Office Space” is more of a run-of-the-mill terrible boss – he’s frequently condescending and exploitative of employees.

office space bill lumbergh

“Office Space.” “Office Space” / 20th Century Fox

The antagonist of 1999’s “Office Space,” a film about corporate malaise, can best be described as “smarmy.” He tells his employees they need to come in on the weekends with an extremely punch-able smirk on his face, as only actor Gary Cole can. He even lets an employee continue working for free, instead of firing him.

Neither Ian nor Poppy in “Mythic Quest” are good managers, though the product remains good.

ian grimm poppy li mythic quest

“Mythic Quest.” Apple

“Mythic Quest” is an Apple TV+ series about a video game studio that created and maintains the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) Mythic Quest.

Ian, played by Rob McElhenney, started the show as the lone creative director and creator of the game. He’s a narcissist, generally takes credit for other people’s ideas, doesn’t listen to anyone, and takes everyone else’s time for granted. At the end of the season, he promotes his protege, Poppy, to co-creative director.

Unfortunately, Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao) isn’t much better. She treats her employees like her personal assistants, forcing them to drive her around, pick up McDonald’s, and cater to her every whim.

We still love them, though.

Working on the Death Star for Grand Moff Tarkin in “Star Wars” seems like a terrible time.

Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader Star Wars

“Star Wars.” Lucasfilm

Even if you look past the fact that you’re working for a fascist regime on a floating weapon of mass destruction that can obliterate entire planets, working for the Grand Moff (played by Peter Cushing in the 1977 film) seems like a nightmare. At any moment, he could sic Darth Vader, a murderer and evil Sith Lord, on you if you disobey.

Then once you add in the destruction of not one, but two planets full of people, you may want to consider switching sides.

You never see the boss in 2019 film “The Assistant,” but you know he’s a predator.

julia garner in the assistant

“The Assistant.” Bleecker Street

“The Assistant,” which is based on the alleged culture at Miramax and Harvey Weinstein, plays like a horror film. Assistant Jane (Julia Garner) figures out her boss at a film production company is regularly having sex with young women, as well as promoting a culture of sexual harassment. He verbally abuses Jane whenever she makes a mistake, and he keeps her in a state of stress the entire film.

Mr. Burns has been terrorizing Homer Simpson for three decades on “The Simpsons.”

mr burns the simpsons

“The Simpsons.” Fox

Mr. Burns is a caricature of an evil boss: He’s constantly rubbing his hands together and plotting his next scheme. He’s done almost anything you can think of to his employees and the residents of Springfield, and he somehow never remembers Homer’s name even though he’s been at the power plant for almost all of his adult life.

In order to work for Selina Meyer on “Veep,” you’d need a thick skin.


“Veep.” HBO

Just watch this (extremely profane) clip of some of the best insults in “Veep” history — while Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) doesn’t say all of them, the attitude clearly comes from the top. While we love watching Madam Vice President rip apart everyone in her vicinity, it’s not so nice to imagine actually being her employee. And that’s not even mentioning how she treats her most loyal lackey, Gary, in the series finale.

Professor Callahan in “Legally Blonde” (2001) is both a horrible teacher and boss.

legally blonde professor callahan

“Legally Blonde.” Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

Callahan (Victor Garber) is one of Elle’s law professors at Harvard who gives out a highly coveted internship at his firm. He calls out Elle (Reese Witherspoon) for being unprepared for class, giving the audience its first clue that he may not be the best guy.

However, he decides to pick Elle for the internship — only to reveal she had been hired for her looks, not her talent, when he sexually harassed her.

“Unreal’s” Quinn took manipulative to a whole new level.

constance zimmer unreal quinn

“Unreal.” Lifetime

Quinn, played by Constance Zimmer for all four seasons of “Unreal” between 2015 and 2018, was the executive producer of “Everlasting,” a fictionalized version of “The Bachelor.” Over the course of the show, she encouraged her producers to manipulate and emotionally terrorize contestants, was indirectly responsible for a suicide, helped cover up multiple murders, and continually forced Rachel (Shiri Appleby) to return to a job that made her feel like garbage, all in service of good TV.

Bob Kelso, the chief of medicine on “Scrubs,” first seemed like a charming old man but that facade quickly shattered.

bob kelso from scrubs

“Scrubs.” NBC

During the first episode of “Scrubs” in 2001, JD (Zach Braff) spends most of his first day thinking that Kelso is a sweet guy and a great mentor — that is, until Kelso says, “Do you not realize that you’re nothing but a large pair of scrubs to me?”

After that, it becomes clear that Dr. Kelso is callous, cold, and uncaring about his employees, though it was suggested that this attitude was a defense mechanism. That doesn’t excuse how much of a bad boss he was, though.

Katharine Parker in “Working Girl” takes credit for her employees’ ideas.

sigourney weaver working girl

“Working Girl.” 20th Century Fox

Katharine, played to perfection by Sigourney Weaver in the 1988 film, at first seems like a supportive boss. She encourages Tess (Melanie Griffith) to share her ideas, under the guise of helping her, but then shoots her down and says her ideas aren’t feasible.

However, it comes to light that, actually, Katharine liked Tess’ idea so much that she was planning on stealing it and passing it off as her own — and she would’ve gotten away with it too, if Tess wasn’t as savvy as she was.

Louie DePalma is the skeezy head dispatcher on “Taxi.”

louie depalma taxi danny devito

“Taxi.” Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Danny DeVito’s big break was playing DePalma, the antagonistic head dispatcher in the ’70s/’80s sitcom “Taxi.” Some of his exploits include taking advantage of drunk friends, spying on his employees, stealing from his place of employment, gambling, and bullying the drivers. Definitely not a good boss.

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