There are some very strange jobs out there in the world, if you take the time to notice. Once, while hiking up Mount Fuji in Japan, I saw parachutes falling from a platform near the volcano’s precipice. Upon questioning, it was revealed that these parachutes contained trash and waste material from the outposts stationed at the top of the mountain. Now there is a truly strange position.
Someone actually has that job — the job of literally just parachuting human feces and garbage off the side of Mount Fuji. Well, movies are no exception; in fact, movies are arguably even more bizarre and ridiculous in some of the positions their characters hold. So, in order form most vanilla to most bizarre, to the not-even-real, here are some examples of film’s more unique characters holding down some of the strangest collections of careers.
1. Tom and Larry in 500 Days of Summer/The Lonely Guy
Both 500 Days of Summer and The Lonely Guy featured a protagonist who worked as a greeting card writer. Amusingly, both are also about men who have been unlucky and love and are going through a rough patch. In 500 Days of Summer Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character finds himself unexpectedly in love, and then unexpectedly broken up with by his girlfriend to his deep and extended despair. The Lonely Guy, starring Steve Martin, follows a man who works at a greeting card company as he discovers that his wife has been cheating on him.
2. Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air
What better job security is there than a job where your role is to fire other people? George Clooney stars in a film where that’s his very position, but his steady life flying around the country letting employees go starts to change for him after meeting a woman and when his company takes on a new employee.
3. Nick Naylor in Thank You for Smoking
Thank You for Smoking introduces one of those jobs that no one wants to do for moral reasons, but someone somewhere has the stomach for — at least for a while. The film introduces the struggle of a father who works as a spin doctor for cigarettes, acting as spokesman for a major tobacco company, while raising a child. It offers a look at the inside of an industry that quite literally kills people, and the bizarre of working to encourage allowing people to do just that.
4. Remy in Repo Men
Repo Men is set in a dystopian world in the future where one can buy replacements for failing bodily organs, but only at a steep cost — and if you can’t pay off your debt, the repo men will take back what the company has so generously lent, even if it kills you. Which it will. Jude Law stars as a man who collects organs back from those who fall behind on payment, until one day he damages his own heart in an accident and begins to see the other side of the issue, eventually choosing to fight back.
5. Beetlejuice in Beetlejuice
Beetlejuice is a twist on the classic ghost story, except from the ghosts perspective. Rather than hiring an exorcist to get rid of the ghosts, the ghosts have hired a bioexorcist to get rid of the annoying human family that has taken residence in their much beloved home, implementing unspeakably hideous redesigns on their lifetime home. That’s where the terrifyingly disgusting and offensive Beetlejuice comes in, cannibalizing insects and pinstriped as ever.
6. Cobb in Inception
Inception has become a title synonymous with dream invasion and film featuring a confusing and twisting storyline. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a mental thief rooting through the dreams of his targets for ideas and information that needs extracting for his customers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also stars as a fellow extractor.
7. Joe in Looper
Looper once again stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who appears to be a regular of the science fiction inspired odd-jobs club, this time as a time traveling killer hired to kill his future self in th year of 2074. Self immolation combined with hired killer — now there’s a LinkedIn profile you don’t run into every day. He’s what is referred to as a looper, meaning he has to kill himself in order to be hired on as a time traveling hired gun for the mob of the future.
8. Dr. Mierzwiak in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Dr. Howard Mierzwiak is a man who has made it his life’s work to remove the painful memories of an individuals life from their mind. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, it’s probably because he was hardly the main character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but needless to say without his profession it would have been a very different film. Jim Carrey plays Joel Barish in one of his relatively few famous serious roles. Barish relationship with a new woman develops into a serious love affair, but like so many, eventually begins to fall apart. The two both begin to have their memories of each other wiped from their minds via a service provided by Mierzwiak, only for Barish to realize he doesn’t want to forget their past relationship and begin to fight the process.
9. Jerome Morrow in Gattaca
In the movie Gattaca the world has developed into a place where your life choices and your career opportunities are determined by your genetic make up. For this reason, most babies are pre-chosen based on positive characteristics using fertility treatment, but some are still born the natural way leaving them at risk for health defects. Vincent Freeman is one such man, born with a genetic heart defect that prevents him from getting employment almost anywhere but as a custodian. However, his dream of going to space leads him to pay a gene donor to supply him with fake hair, urine, and other specimens to fool recruiters and help propel him towards his dream. Jude Law plays his genetic donor, taking money from Freeman in exchange for his genetic material, eventually becoming closely embroiled in helping Freeman get away with his farce.
10. Gigolo Joe in A.I.
Finally, we have Jude Law once again, this time as a singing robot prostitute. True, an artificial intelligence designed for sex isn’t exactly a career choice, but it’s a position that needs filled like any other. A.I. is a 2001 film featuring a slew of different artificial intelligences, but this is perhaps one of the most bizarre portrayals of robot intelligence out there, especially in combination with the other protagonist, and eventual friend of the robot gigolo, a robot child and his robot bear.