From Typewriters to Trailblazers: The Evolution of Secretaries in Cinema

The silver screen has been graced by a myriad of memorable characters, each with their own unique tale to tell. However, a particular group of characters often goes unnoticed, overshadowed by the flamboyant superheroes, charismatic villains, and romantic leads. These overlooked characters are none other than the secretaries.

This article aims to spotlight movies about secretaries, the unsung heroes of both film narratives and real offices. These characters provide the backbone of many organizations, and their portrayal in cinema often reflects the challenges, triumphs, and versatility of their real-world counterparts.

The Secretary’s Role in Cinema

In the world of cinema, secretaries often play a significant role in shaping the plot and character dynamics. They are the gatekeepers, the confidants, the problem solvers. Whether they are answering phones, scheduling appointments, or managing office politics, secretaries are often central to the storyline, even if they are not the main characters.

The Gatekeepers

In many movies about secretaries, these characters serve as gatekeepers. They control access to the boss, the office, or even the secret lair. Their role as gatekeepers can be seen in films like “Iron Man,” where Pepper Potts, Tony Stark’s trusted assistant, controls who gets to see the billionaire genius.

The Confidants

Secretaries often serve as confidants in films. They are often privy to confidential information, office gossip, and personal secrets. In “Mad Men,” Peggy Olson starts as a secretary and becomes a trusted confidant of Don Draper, one of the show’s main characters.

The Problem Solvers

In times of crisis, the secretary often steps in to save the day. In “The Devil Wears Prada,” both Emily Charlton and Andrea Sachs constantly solve problems to meet the demanding expectations of their boss, Miranda Priestly.

The Secretary’s Journey: From Desk to Screen

The portrayal of secretaries in cinema has evolved significantly over the years. Earlier films often portrayed secretaries as subservient, one-dimensional characters. However, modern movies about secretaries present these characters as multi-dimensional, capable individuals who play crucial roles in their respective organizations.

The Early Portrayals

In earlier cinema, secretaries were often portrayed as subservient characters, relegated to answering phones and taking dictation. They were often seen as secondary characters, supporting the main protagonists but rarely taking the spotlight themselves.

The Modern Depictions

In recent years, the portrayal of secretaries in films has changed significantly. Modern movies about secretaries often showcase these characters as intelligent, competent individuals who are integral to their organizations’ success. They are shown to be capable of handling high-pressure situations, managing complex tasks, and even leading their organizations in some cases.

Top Ten Movies About Secretaries

Here is a list of the top ten movies about secretaries that have impacted the film industry and audiences worldwide.

“Iron Man” (2008)

In “Iron Man,” Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is the competent and dedicated personal assistant of Tony Stark. Potts handles her boss’s personal and professional affairs with aplomb, often stepping in to save the day when Stark’s superhero duties get in the way of his business responsibilities.

“Supergirl” (2015)

In the TV series “Supergirl,” Kara Danvers works as a personal assistant to media mogul Cat Grant. Despite her secret identity as Supergirl, Kara manages to juggle her superhero duties with her demanding job, often using her position to gather information about threats to the city.

“The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

“The Devil Wears Prada” is one of the most famous movies about secretaries. The film showcases the demanding and high-pressure life of a secretary in the fashion industry, with Anne Hathaway’s character Andrea Sachs navigating the challenges of working for a demanding boss, Miranda Priestly.

“Mad Men” (2007)

In “Mad Men,” Peggy Olson, played by Elisabeth Moss, starts as a secretary and, over seven seasons, climbs the corporate ladder to become a chief copywriter. Peggy’s journey reflects the changing role of women in the workplace during the 1960s.

“Designated Survivor” (2016)

In “Designated Survivor,” Thomas Kirkman, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is suddenly promoted from a cabinet secretary to the President of the United States after a devastating attack. The series showcases Kirkman’s struggles and successes as he adapts to his new role.

“Suits” (2011)

In “Suits,” Donna Paulsen, played by Sarah Rafferty, is the witty and competent secretary of lawyer Harvey Specter. Donna often uses her intelligence and quick thinking to help Specter navigate the complex world of corporate law.

“Batman Returns” (1992)

In “Batman Returns,” Selina Kyle, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, starts as the timid secretary of corrupt businessman Max Shreck. After a life-altering incident, she transforms into the notorious Catwoman, proving that even a secretary can become a formidable adversary.

“Skyfall” (2012)

“Skyfall,” one of the films in the James Bond series, features Eve Moneypenny, portrayed by Naomie Harris. Moneypenny starts as a field agent but later becomes the secretary of M, the head of MI6. Despite her desk job, Moneypenny remains a crucial ally for Bond.

“Secretary” (2002)

“Secretary” is a movie that explores the unconventional relationship between a lawyer and his secretary. The film delves into themes of dominance and submission, making it a unique addition to movies about secretaries.

“Wonder Woman” (2017)

In “Wonder Woman,” Etta Candy, played by Lucy Davis, is the secretary of Steve Trevor. Despite not being a warrior like Diana Prince, Etta proves herself to be brave and resourceful, aiding in the mission to end the war.

The Impact of Secretaries in Cinema

The portrayal of secretaries in film has a significant impact on the public’s perception of the profession. By showcasing the diverse skills and capabilities of secretaries, movies about secretaries have helped reframe the profession as a vital role within an organization.

Breaking Stereotypes

Movies about secretaries have played a crucial role in breaking down stereotypes about the profession. By portraying secretaries as intelligent, capable individuals, these films have helped to challenge the notion that secretarial work is menial or unimportant.

Inspiring Aspirations

Secretaries in films often serve as role models for those considering a career in the profession. The dedication, competence, and resilience displayed by these characters can inspire aspiring secretaries to pursue their career goals with determination and passion.

Reflecting Societal Changes

The evolution of secretaries in movies often mirrors societal changes, particularly regarding gender roles and workplace dynamics. The shift from portraying secretaries as subservient characters to showcasing them as essential members of an organization reflects the increasing recognition of women’s contributions in the workplace.


While secretaries may not always be the main characters in films, their roles are often integral to the storyline. Whether they are keeping a business running smoothly, providing essential support to the lead characters, or even saving the day, secretaries have made their mark in the world of cinema. So, the next time you watch a movie, take a moment to appreciate the secretary characters and the essential roles they play.

Written by Alexander

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