At the typical corporate holiday affair, co-workers might let their hair down a little, quaff some good cheer, perhaps exchange Secret Santa gifts. Most of the time things go smoothly, and Monday morning it’s back to the grind.
The shindig in “Office Christmas Party” is not that kind of get-together. Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, this new comedy (due Dec. 9) revolves around a raunchy all-nighter organized by the employees of a family-owned computer company in danger of being downsized by a Scrooge of an heir (Jennifer Aniston). To save the day, her brother, Clay (T. J. Miller of “Silicon Valley”), hopes to land the account of a tech magnate (Courtney B. Vance) who has reservations about the firm’s chilly culture. So Clay and his surrogate family of workers (including Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Randall Park and Kate McKinnon) must unfasten ties and collars and host a bash.
“It’s an educational film more than anything else,” Mr. Miller said by phone. “We’re trying to loosen up America.”
But since this is a holiday movie, it comes with sweetness and even a message (“people over profit”). “It has to have heart,” Mr. Miller said. “Around Christmas, human beings think in terms of love and family. I found it hilarious that we did a movie where there’s that, but there’s also cocaine in the snow blower.”
Work celebrations are a holiday tradition in Hollywood. Here are some films and shows that have depicted the winter rite in their own ways.
‘The Apartment’ (1960)
In this Billy Wilder classic, Jack Lemmon’s ambitious C. C. Baxter is climbing the Manhattan corporate ladder by lending his fully stocked bachelor’s apartment to managers at Consolidated Life, an insurance company. Then he meets the elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) and falls in love. But Fran is in the midst of a soul-crushing affair with her married boss, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray).
TYPE OF OFFICE PARTY Crowded. Consolidated Life has more than 31,000 employees. They’re dancing on tabletops and swilling booze from water coolers.
WHAT GOES WRONG Sheldrake’s former secretary and lover tells the delicate Fran that she is far from the first to be seduced. Fran takes a stocking-load of pills.
HOLIDAY BLUES When C. C. comments on Fran’s broken compact, she replies: “I like it. It makes me look the way I feel.”
BEST LINE “Give me a shot of bourbon, and step on it! My sleigh is double-parked!” (Uttered by a Santa in a crowded bar.)
‘Trading Places’ (1983)
In John Landis’s beloved comedy, the Duke brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche), who lead a corrupt brokerage firm, decide to conduct an arrogant nature-nurture “science experiment” at the expense of their star employee, Winthorpe (a snooty Dan Aykroyd), whom they exile in favor of the street con artist Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy). Billy Ray becomes a mover and shaker, and Winthorpe becomes a psycho Santa.
TYPE OF OFFICE PARTY Staid. Poinsettias. Punch bowl.
WHAT GOES WRONG A drunken, vengeful Winthorpe, dressed in a filthy Santa suit and packing heat, crashes the party, pilfers the spread (shoving shrimp and roast beef under his stained false beard). He tries to frame Valentine the way he was framed.
HOLIDAY BLUES Alone in the rain, Winthorpe puts the gun to his head and pulls the trigger, only to find the chamber empty.
BEST LINE Winthorpe: “I had the most absurd nightmare. I was poor, and no one liked me.”
‘Die Hard’ (1988)
A New York cop, John McClane (Bruce Willis), arrives in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to reunite with his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). She is at the Nakatomi Corporation’s holiday affair.
TYPE OF OFFICE PARTY Classy. A limo is sent to pick up McClane at the airport. There are a string quartet and canapés. There’s also Holly’s smarmy co-worker discreetly dispensing cocaine.
HOLIDAY BLUES John and Holly are estranged. She’s an up-and-comer with a new Rolex and has grown tired of the New York grind.
WHAT GOES WRONG Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), a goateed Grinch, is intent on pulling off a Christmas heist for the ages. Hans has a posse of machine-gun-toting Germans, but he’s not counting on scruffy McClane, the self-described “monkey in the wrench.”
BEST MOMENT McClane, hiding on another floor, sends down a henchman’s corpse scrawled with a message: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.”
‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (2001)
Renée Zellweger’s titular singleton is reflecting on another lonely year of drinking, smoking and pining for a soul mate: “Unless something changed soon, I was going to live a life where my major relationship was with a bottle of wine.”
TYPE OF OFFICE PARTY Anemic. At her publishing firm’s festivities, Bridget appears to be the only one indulging in karaoke. Wearing rabbit ears, she belts out an off-key version of the achingly sad “Without You.”
WHAT GOES WRONG Her dashing boss (Hugh Grant) takes no notice of her.
HOLIDAY BLUES At a New Year’s party the next week, there are gherkins, her Uncle Geoffrey (“How’s your love life?”) and the dreaded Mark Darcy (Colin Firth).
BEST MOMENT Mr. Darcy’s reaction when anyone notices his holiday-themed clothing. Reindeer. Snowmen. Shame.
‘Christmas Comes but Once a Year’ (From ‘Mad Men,’ 2010)
A longtime pain and tobacco heir, Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie), wants to be feted by his ad firm, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, which has tightened belts and scaled back the event to “a glass of gin and a box of Velveeta,” as Roger Sterling (John Slattery) puts it.
TYPE OF OFFICE PARTY Upgraded from “convalescent home to Roman orgy,” per Roger’s orders. Now there’s an orange-passing game, a conga line and more.
WHAT GOES WRONG Lee humiliates Roger by forcing him to wear a Santa suit (“Put it on!”) and hand out Lucky Strike cigarettes.
HOLIDAY BLUES A spiraling, newly divorced Don lures his latest secretary back to his sad bachelor apartment, sleeps with her, then forgets all about it.
BEST LINE Roger: “I want a bartender and a tree!”
An earlier version of this article misstated the message scrawled on a corpse in the film “Die Hard.” It is “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho,” not “Now have machine gun.”