With this week's release of The Internship starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, the vast, underappreciated, and often unpaid workforce finally gets its time in the spotlight, courtesy of Night at the Museum and Real Steel director Shawn Levy. The film casts The Wedding Crashers duo as a pair of unemployed salesmen competing with a crowd of young, tech-savvy students to land a job at Google.
While the two past-their-prime interns are the focus of the film, Vaughn and Wilson are far from the first actors to offer a memorable twist on the working world's most under-the-radar position.
Here are 10 more examples of memorable interns – or internships – that Hollywood has given us:
Team Zissou Interns (The Life Aquatic)
Despite having to share a gun, the unpaid interns from the (fictional) University of North Alaska that joined Steve Zissou on his oceanic expedition managed to hold their own in some tense situations, but still received “incomplete” grades for abandoning ship after an attack by sea pirates. The only student to remain with Zissou (and assist him in a siege on the pirate's headquarters) earned an “A” for his efforts – and made the ship's captain glad he told the pirates not to shoot his unpaid interns.
Chris Gardner (The Pursuit of Happyness)
Will Smith played the on-screen version of real-life success story Chris Gardner, who went from sleeping in a New York City subway bathroom with his five-year-old son to a job as a Wall Street stockbroker. He managed this impressive leap in employment via a coveted internship that had him hiding his financial status from his coworkers while juggling the responsibilities of a high-pressure competition for the full-time position.
Ronald (The Cabin in the Woods)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer actor Tom Lenk didn't have a lot of screen time as the awkward intern working at the mysterious Facility in The Cabin in the Woods, but Joss Whedon has hinted that rumors of his demise in the terrifying, bloody purge of the complex may have been exaggerated. He was last seen in a security camera's monitor, pleading for help while holding a sign, but he was clever enough to bet on the right outcome for one of the doomed teenagers' decisions – so Whedon's assertion in the afterword to Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion that Ronald not only survived the end of the world, but ended up ruling the ancient gods, might have some merit after all.
The Facebook Interns (The Social Network)
Sure, they got slapped with some serious drug-possession charges in David Fincher's 2010 film about the birth of Facebook, but the social media start-up's first team of interns are shown winning the gig by pounding shots of whiskey while hacking computer systems – so they had to have some idea of what they were getting into, right? It's uncertain whether this particular element of the film had any basis in fact, but we sort of hope it happened exactly the way it appeared on the screen.
Lance (Undercover Brother)
You're totally forgiven for skipping this 2002 comedy that starred Eddie Griffin as a secret agent fighting “The Man,” but Neil Patrick Harris' role as intern Lance, the only nonblack member of the good guys' team, B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., is the sort of cameo that transcends even the worst movie. Pushed to the brink when an unsuspecting thug calls him a sissy, the otherwise unassuming intern turns into a killing machine that, well... you have to see the results for yourself.
Aaron Green (Get Him to the Greek)
The job responsibilities of most internships are usually a bit vague, but nothing could have prepared the bottom-rung record-company talent scout Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) for the experience of escorting an out-of-control rock star from London to Los Angeles in this 2010 comedy. Russell Brand reprises his Forgetting Sarah Marshall role as Aldous Snow for the film, and takes Hill's anxious intern on a far-reaching bender filled with all the fear and loathing (and pills and booze) he can muster. Tune in, turn on, indeed...
Gwen Stacy (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Emma Stone played Peter Parker's fellow student, love interest, and chief intern at Oscorp in this recent reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, and the role allowed her character to play a major role in the origin of Spider-Man's iconic powers. Sure, any comic book fan knows what's in store for Gwen Stacy down the road, but there's still more than enough time for this intern to bring NYC's favorite wall crawler up close and personal with the company owned by the man who will become his greatest enemy.
Elle Woods (Legally Blonde)
Underestimated due to her good looks and ditzy demeanor, USC sorority girl Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) not only managed to get into Harvard Law School, but also managed to land a coveted internship with one of the university's most esteemed law professors. As if that weren't enough, she also managed to play a major role in a murder trial and turns her internship into something far, far greater before the credits roll. While she's not exactly your classic “rags to riches” success story, she did make quite an intern – so much so that the film spawned a pair of sequels and a musical.
Darius Britt (Safety Not Guaranteed)
Without giving too much of this 2012 comedy away, the film features Parks & Recreation actress Aubrey Plaza as a disillusioned intern at Seattle Magazine who joins a writer on a quest to discover the roots of a strange classified ad that popped up in a recent issue. The ad, which requests a partner for a time-traveling mission, leads the group of journalists on an adventure that many critics consider one of the year's most entertaining, under-the-radar films. Once again, though, it's the intern that really makes the story happen.
Honorable Mention: Luke Skywalker (Star Wars: Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back)
Overbearing boss? Check. No pay? Check. Responsibilities include a long list of demeaning tasks that seemingly have nothing to do with your career goals? Check! Sure, some would say Jedi-in-training Luke Skywalker was a student of Yoda in this film, but let's face facts: all of that ferrying his boss around and cleaning up his yard are classic signs of an unpaid internship.