Horrible Bosses
Horrible Bosses
Theatrical release poster
Film information

Directed by

Seth Gordon

Produced by

Brett Ratner
Jay Stern

Music by

Christopher Lennertz


David Hennings

Editing by

Peter Teschner


New Line Cinema
Rat Entertainment

Distributed by

Warner Bros. Pictures

Release Date(s)

July 8, 2011

Running time

98 minutes




$35-$37 million

Gross Revenue

$209.6 million

Horrible Bosses is a 2011 black comedy film directed by Seth Gordon, written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, based on a story by Markowitz. It stars Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, and Jamie Foxx. The plot follows three friends, played by Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis, who decide to murder their respective overbearing, abusive bosses, portrayed by Spacey, Aniston and Farrell.


Nick Hendricks and Dale Arbus are friends who despise their bosses. Nick works at a financial firm for the sadistic David Harken, who dangles the possibility of a promotion in front of Nick, only to award it to himself. Dale is a dental assistant being sexually harassed by his boss, Dr. Julia Harris; she threatens to tell his fiancee (Lindsay Sloane) that he had sex with her unless he actually has sex with her. Nick and Dale's accountant friend Kurt Buckman enjoys working for Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland) but after Jack dies, the company is taken over by Jack's cocaine-addicted, amoral son Bobby.

At night, over drinks, Kurt jokingly suggests that their lives would be happier if their bosses were no longer around. Initially hesitant, they eventually agree to do away with their employers. In search of a hitman, the trio meet Dean "Motherfucker" Jones (Foxx), an ex-con who agrees to be their "murder consultant". Jones suggests that Dale, Kurt and Nick kill each other's bosses to hide their motive while making the deaths look like accidents.

The three reconnoiter Bobby's house, and Kurt steals Bobby's phone. They next go to Harken's house. Kurt and Nick go inside while Dale waits in the car. Harken returns home and confronts Dale for littering, but then has an allergy attack from the peanut butter on the litter. Dale saves Harken by stabbing him with an EpiPen. Nick and Kurt think Dale is stabbing Harken to death and flee, Kurt accidentally dropping Bobby's phone in Harken's bedroom. Harken's wife Rhonda (Julie Bowen) thanks Dale for saving her husband, causing Harken to jealously accuse her of having an affair with Dale. The next night, Kurt watches Julia's home, but she seduces and has sex with him. Nick and Dale wait outside Bobby's and Harken's houses to commit the murders. Harken discovers Bobby's cellphone in his bedroom and uses it to find his address, suspecting Rhonda is having another affair. He drives over and kills Bobby, with Nick as a secret witness.

Nick flees at high speed, setting off a traffic camera. The three friends meet to discuss their reservations about continuing with their plan. They are arrested by the police, who feel the camera footage makes them suspects in Bobby's murder. Lacking evidence, the police are forced to let the trio go free.

They consult with Jones again, but learn that he has never actually killed anyone, having been imprisoned for bootlegging the film Snow Falling on Cedars. They decide their only option is to get Harken to confess and secretly tape it. The three accidentally crash Harken's surprise birthday party. Nick and Dale get Harken to confess to the murder before realizing that Kurt, who has the audio recorder, is elsewhere having sex with Rhonda. Harken threatens to kill all three for attempting to blackmail him. They flee by car. Harken gives chase, ramming their vehicle. Kurt asks his car's navigation-system operator to help get them out of trouble. Believing they have committed a crime, the operator remotely disables Kurt's car, allowing Harken to catch and hold them at gunpoint. Harken shoots himself in the leg as he boasts about his plan to frame them for murdering Bobby and attempting to kill him to get rid of the witness.

The police arrest Nick, Dale and Kurt, but the navigation-system operator reveals that the entire conversation was recorded. Harken is sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, while the friends get their charges waived. Nick is promoted to president of the company under an abusive CEO (Bob Newhart), Kurt retains his job under a new boss, and Dale blackmails Julia into ending her harassment by convincing her to sexually harass a supposedly unconscious patient while Jones secretly records the act.


An advertising executive who is manipulated into jumping through hoops in order to get a promotion that his boss never intended to give him. Markowitz wrote the role specifically for Bateman.
A dental assistant who is sexually harassed by his boss. Described as a "hopeless romantic" in love with his fiancée. Ashton Kutcher was in talks for the role at two different points in the lengthy production. Day was considered for the role following his co-starring performance with Sudeikis in the 2010 film Going the DistanceReuters reported that industry insiders believed his performance overshadowed the main stars.
An account manager at a chemical company dealing with a new, drug-addicted boss after his former boss dies. Sudeikis was cast in May 2010.
Markowitz based the character on a former boss, claiming she was "very sexually aggressive with everybody". When writing the script, Markowitz intended for the role to go to Aniston. He stated, "but [the aforementioned boss] looked more like Cruella de Vil. It was like flirting with a cobweb. So I decided for the sake of the movie, let’s go with Jennifer Aniston.” The actress insisted on dyeing her hair brunette for the role, wanting to look different from other characters she had played.
Described as a "weaselly scion" and a "corrupt and incompetent jerk who's in charge of things but clearly has no idea what he's doing." Farrell explained the motivation he gave to the character, stating "This guy thinks he's God's gift to women, God's gift to intellect, to humor, to the club scene, to everything. It's all part of his grandiose sense of self-esteem, which is probably masking a deeper sense of being a disappointment to his father and being riddled with envy over the relationship his father had with Kurt, and all kinds of other things. With Pellit, Seth gave me complete license to act as pathologically screwed up as possible." Farrell contributed significantly to the appearance of his character, suggesting the comb over hairstyle, pot-belly and an affinity for Chinese dragons.
President of Comnidyne Industries. Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeff Bridges had been approached by New Line Cinema to take the role, described as a master manipulator with an attractive wife. Spacey signed up for the role in June 2010. The part was considered "integral" to the film. Gordon commented that the character was an amalgamation of several real bosses (rather than one single person) to avoid being sued.
The character had the more "colorful" name "Cocksucker Jones", but it was changed at Foxx's request, with producer Jay Stern commenting that Foxx felt it "was over the line". The current name was said to be subject to further change, prior to the release of the film. Foxx contributed to his character's appearance, suggesting full-scalp tattoos and a retro clothing style. Foxx described the appearance as "a guy who maybe went to jail for a minute and now he's living in his own time capsule. When he got out he went right back to the clothes he thought were hot when he went in."

During the six-year development of the film, several actors were in negotiations to star, including Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Reynolds, Dax Shepard, and Johnny Knoxville.

On July 27, 2010, Isaiah Mustafa was confirmed as joining the cast. Mustafa was quoted as saying "It's a smaller role". Julie Bowen appears in the film as Rhonda, Harken's wife. Bowen stated that her character "may or may not be a hussy", the character described as intentionally making her husband jealous. Ioan Gruffudd has a cameo as a male prostitute erroneously hired as a hitman. Lindsay Sloane appears as Dale's fiancee Stacy. P.J. Byrne plays Kenny Sommerfeld, a former investment manager, now scrounging for drinks, while Wendell Pierce and Ron White play a pair of cops. Bob Newhart makes a cameo as sadistic Comnidyne CEO Louis Sherman. Donald Sutherland cameos as Jack Pellitt, Bobby's father. John Francis Daley, a screenwriter on the film, cameos as Nick's co-worker Carter.


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