It is about three working women living out the fantasy of getting even with, and their successful overthrow of, the company's autocratic, "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" boss.
Nine to Five was an across-the-board hit, grossing USD$103,290,500 in the U.S. alone. As a star vehicle for singer Dolly Parton, it launched her permanently into mainstream popular culture. Although a television series based on the film was less successful, a musical version of the film, with new songs written by Parton, will begin a Broadway run in 2009.
This film is number 47 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".
Three women turn the tables on their "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" boss when their dissatisfaction causes them to reach the boiling point. A bizarre series of misunderstandings causes them to seize control of their department forcibly, kidnapping their boss and imprisoning him while they change their workplace to suit their vision of a more equitable, friendly environment.
The film is centered on the friendship among three women who work in the business offices of a large corporation known as Consolidated. Judy Bernly is a naïve new employee, a recent divorcee whose husband left her for his secretary. On her first day, Judy meets Violet Newstead, the supervisor of her department, and a longtime employee of Consolidated. Violet trains Judy and introduces her to the department executive, Franklin Hart, Jr., who immediately reveals himself to be arrogant and sexist. Judy soon learns that Violet has been passed over consistently by those who could promote her, and in fact she has seniority over Hart. The third woman in the trio is the buxom Doralee Rhodes, Hart’s personal secretary. Despite the fact that Doralee is a happily married woman, and Hart is also married, Hart continually makes inappropriate advances toward her, pushing her patience and tolerance to the limit. Hart has also been lying to his colleagues that he’s been sleeping with her, causing office gossip to go wild. The women in the office treat her rudely as a result, and initially Judy shuns Doralee’s attempts to be friendly.
Some time passes, and Violet is once again passed over for an important promotion, even though her ideas are good enough that Hart passes one off as his own and takes all the praise for it. Hart bluntly tells Violet that the company would rather have a man in the position, and Violet becomes enraged, storming off on her own, but not before she reveals to Doralee that her “affair” with Hart is common knowledge. Doralee snaps and also rages at Hart, threatening to use her gun on him the next time he makes an indecent proposal, stating (in what is perhaps the film's most well-known line) that she will turn him "from a rooster to a hen with one shot". Judy witnesses a fellow secretary lose her job over a minor infraction and she, too, becomes enraged. The three women converge at a local bar to drown their sorrows, where Violet finds a joint in her purse her son gave her. They go to Doralee’s house to "light up", prompting each of them to have a detailed fantasy about how they would kill Hart if they had the chance. Judy imagines a scenario where Hart is being hunted down by an angry mob of his disgruntled employees through the Consolidated offices, and she (as a big game hunter) hunts down Hart in the office with a shotgun, eventually shooting him and mounting his head on her office wall as a trophy. Doralee turns the tables on Hart and sexually harasses him before hog-tying him and roasting him alive on a spit. Violet envisions a fairy tale where she is a Snow White-type character who poisons Hart’s coffee and sends him falling to his death outside his office window, via a spring-loaded version of his office chair.
Things take a sudden bizarre turn the next day when each of the women’s fantasies comes true in some way. Violet accidentally puts rat poison in Hart’s coffee, mistaking it for an artificial sweetener. Before Hart can drink it, his defective chair throws him backward and knocks him unconscious in his office. When the women get to the hospital, Hart has already left. Policemen are there concerning a witness who was poisoned and killed, and when the women overhear their conversation with the doctor, they assume they are talking about Hart. Out of desperation, Violet steals the body she believes is Hart, which is draped with a sheet, and stuffs it in her trunk. It is only after she crashes her car do the women realize the body in the truck is not Hart at all. After narrowly escaping a curious traffic cop, the women manage to sneak the body back into the hospital by propping it up in a wheelchair then ditching it in a bathroom. The next day at work, they discover that Hart wasn’t harmed at all, but their discussion about the incident the night before is overheard by Hart’s nosy personal assistant, Roz Keith, and Hart tries to use the information to blackmail Doralee into having an affair with him after all. Doralee loses her temper and ropes Hart with telephone wires, and Judy fires on Hart with Doralee's gun when he escapes his bonds.
With Hart’s wife away on a lengthy cruise, the women decide to kidnap Hart and imprison him in his own house until they can somehow get him to cooperate and forget the whole incident. Violet discovers that Hart has been embezzling money from Consolidated, and the women plan on using the information to blackmail him. The race is on to see if Hart can escape or if Violet’s documented proof of the scam will arrive in time. The three women work together to make Hart’s absence in the office as inconspicuous as possible, and along the way they take a number of liberties in improving the workplace in ways that they see fit. Hart is accidentally freed when his wife returns early from her cruise, and just when it appears as if he is going to send the women to jail, a sudden visit from the Chairman of the Board, Russell Tinsworthy, interrupts him. Violet, Judy, and Doralee have made some radical changes while keeping Hart imprisoned, and it seems as if the sudden surge in productivity has caught the attention of Tinsworthy. Since the women did all of it under the false approval of Hart, they can take no credit for it, but fate seems to be on their side: Tinsworthy “rewards” Hart for his good work by immediately removing him from his position and sending him to work on a special project in Brazil, much to the amusement and delight of Violet, Doralee, and Judy.
In the epilogue, it is revealed the Violet took Hart's place as vice president, Judy married the Xerox representative and quit the company, Doralee became a country music singer (just like the actress that played her), and Hart was kidnapped by natives in the Amazon and never heard from again.
In early March 2008, Center Theatre Group artistic director Michael Ritchie announced that 9 to 5 will have its pre-Broadway run at the Center's Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles beginning September 21, 2008. Allison Janney will star as Violet, joined by Stephanie J. Block as Judy and Megan Hilty as Doralee, and Marc Kudisch as Franklin Hart Jr. The book for 9 to 5: The Musical is by Patricia Resnick, who co-authored the film. Choreography is by Andy Blankenbuehler and Joe Mantello will direct.