5. Cedar Rapids (2011)
Directed by Miguel Arteta
What’s it about: Think what would happen in The Hangover if it took place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa instead of Las Vegas and if all the characters were small-town insurance agents.
Why watch it: It’s raunchy, sure, but if you’ve ever been to an insurance industry event, Cedar Rapids is a how-to manual of what not to do.
Interesting factoid: The hotel wedding that Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) and his friend’s crash is for two women. Same-sex marriage has been legal in the state of Iowa since April 3, 2009.
Business takeaway: There’s a right way and a wrong way to conduct your business at an industry event and our everyman, Tim Lippe, manages to do a little of both.
Memorable scene: The skinny dipping scene at the hotel pool where Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) wears a metal trashcan on his head.
Tim Lippe: Do you realize I used to just stare and stare at you when you were teaching us about the rainforests or whatever? And I would think, “I wonder what Mrs. V. looks like with her clothes off.” And then, boom, we run into each other in line at True Value and, boom, here we are making love. Like, once a week. It’s like it was fate or something. Did you ever used to look at me and think dirty things?
Macy Vanderhei: You were twelve.
Tim Lippe: Right.
Next up: The Wrong Man
4. The Wrong Man (1956)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
What’s it about: When a struggling jazz musician (Henry Fonda) enters an insurance office to see if he can borrow off his wife’s life insurance policy to pay for her dental bills, he is mistaken for a serial thief and has to prove his innocence.
Why watch it: Hitchcock would return to his “wronged-man” theme in numerous films, but this is the only one based on a true story, which adds an extra level of tension to the master of suspense’s white-knuckled approach to filmmaking.
Interesting factoid: Although based on a true story, Alfred Hitchcock deliberately left out some of the information that pointed to Manny’s innocence to heighten the tension.
Business takeaway: Sometimes, insurance doesn’t pay?
Memorable scene: The chilling moment when the police first stop Fonda on the street and tell him they need to ask a few questions. Though shot in beautiful black-and-white, those blue eyes of Fonda tell more than any words of dialogue could.
[first lines] Prologue narrator: This is Alfred Hitchcock speaking. In the past, I have given you many kinds of suspense pictures. But this time, I would like you to see a different one. The difference lies in the fact that this is a true story, every word of it. And yet it contains elements that are stranger than all the fiction that has gone into many of the thrillers that I’ve made before.
Next up: The Apartment
3. The Apartment (1960)
Directed by Billy Wilder
What’s it about: C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a lower-middle manager in one of the five largest companies in the country. He also has an apartment that’s convenient to the corporate headquarters and the perfect lover’s nest for Baxter’s bosses to bring their mistresses.
Why watch it: For the education on office politics and the perfect comic timing of Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, who plays his love interest.
Interesting factoid: Although C.C. Baxter works at desk number 861, one of the thousands of employees for a giant insurance company, inside his apartment are two authentic Tiffany lamps. Worth hardly anything when the film was made, they’re estimated to now be worth between $30,000 and $40,000 each.
Business takeaway: The climb to the top might be rife with pitfalls and other moral judgements. How much do you want that promotion and can you live with yourself if you compromise your morality?
Memorable Scene: The scene where Baxter makes Fran a spaghetti dinner, and, in typical bachelor fashion, strains the noodles with his tennis racket.
C.C. Baxter: [narrating] On November 1st, 1959, the population of New York City was 8,042,783. If you laid all these people end to end, figuring an average height of five feet six and a half inches, they would reach from Times Square to the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan. I know facts like this because I work for an insurance company – Consolidated Life of New York. We’re one of the top five companies in the country. Our home office has 31,259 employees, which is more than the entire population of uhh… Natchez, Mississippi. I work on the 19th floor. Ordinary Policy Department, Premium Accounting Division, Section W, desk number 861.
C.C. Baxter: Miss Kubelik, one doesn’t get to be a second administrative assistant around here unless he’s a pretty good judge of character, and as far as I’m concerned you’re tops. I mean, decency-wise and otherwise-wise.
Next up: The Incredibles
Directed by Brad Bird
What’s it about: A former crime-fighter, Bob, is now just another bored suburbanite, pacing in his boring cubicle at Insuricare where the closest he gets to acts of derring-do is finding loopholes in insurance policies. That all changes when Bob and his superhero family are called back into action to save the world.
Why watch it: It never takes itself “too” seriously, as so many of the live-action superhero movies do, and, because of it, The Incredibles is better than 99.9% of them. Besides that, it’s a movie the whole family can watch and it’s funny, exciting and visually brilliant.
Interesting factoid: In the Singapore version of the film, the company “Insuricare” is translated into “Black-hearted insurance company” if read literally in the Chinese character subtitles.
Business takeaway: At one point in the movie, Mr. Incredible is called into his boss’s office and handed a memo stating that he will now be responsible for all of his own office supplies. At the bottom of the letter, he reads that Insuricare has “recorded its highest profits in years.” If you ever get that memo, run, fast, to the nearest exit.
Memorable scene: So many, but one that’s subtle, yet endearing, is after Bob/Mr. Incredible has saved people from a burning building with his sidekick, Frozone, he is heard humming the Incredibles theme song. It let’s us all know: He’s not just an insurance adjustor any longer; he’s back to being… incredible!
[Bob is explaining an insurance policy loophole to a Mrs. Hogenson]
Bob: [whispering] Listen closely. I’d like to help you but I can’t. I’d like to tell you to take a copy of your policy to Norma Wilcox on… Norma Wilcox, W-I-L-C-O-X… on the third floor, but I can’t.
[Mrs. Hogenson scribbles details of Bob's loophole on a small notepad]
Bob: I also do not advise you to fill out and file a WS2475 form with our legal department on the second floor. I would not expect someone to get back to you quickly to resolve the matter. I’d like to help, but there’s nothing I can do.
Directed by Billy Wilder
What it’s about: Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) doesn’t like her husband. I mean, she really doesn’t like him, and enlists the services of Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), the top salesman at the Pacific All Risk Insurance Co., to help carry out the perfect crime.
Why watch it: Well, a few years back, the American Film Institute ranked Double Indemnity as the No. 29 greatest movie of all time. In addition, Stanwyck gives one of the silver screen’s great villainous performances. Stanwyck’s baddie is not the over-the-top type we’re used to these days. Hers is a slow, slow burn that is both subtle and cruel in its execution.
Interesting factoid: The blonde wig that Barbara Stanwyck is wearing throughout the movie was the idea of Billy Wilder. A month into shooting Wilder suddenly realized how bad it looked, but by then it was too late to re-shoot the earlier scenes.
Business takeaway: Check the fine print on your insurance policies or any legal document before you sign them. You never know what you might find in there.
Memorable scene: When Phyllis and Walter meet for the first time, the double entendres erupt like machine gun fire. It’s both seductive and dangerous and sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
Barton Keyes: Well, I get darn sick of trying to pick up after a gang of fast-talking salesmen dumb enough to sell life insurance to a guy who sleeps in the same bed with four rattlesnakes.
Walter Neff: I was thinking about that dame upstairs, and the way she had looked at me, and I wanted to see her again, close, without that silly staircase between us.
Walter Neff: Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money — and a woman — and I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty, isn’t it?
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