After I walk out of a movie, I probably can’t tell you the lead character’s name. But I can tell you what he ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack. Food is my favorite part of a film. It draws me in. It keeps me interested. There is something so visceral about what a character cooks, eats, orders—food reaches us on a level that cinematography and dialogue just can’t touch. We can be comforted by a father sharing a slice of cake with his daughter. Amused by a grandmother pouring a huge glass of chardonnay before noon. Tempted by pie, repulsed by a “secret ingredient,” enveloped by the steam rising from a cup of coffee.
This list isn’t composed of food movies per se—it’s more like a list of movies where food plays a necessary role. They range from award-winning to total flops. Some of my favorite movies aren’t even all that good, they just keep me coming back for those small moments of shared cake. Of course I enjoy films like Eat Drink Man Woman and Like Water for Chocolate and, but they’re not the most meaningful food films for me. Here are my top 10, with varied cinematic value:
10. Pulp Fiction
Tarantino inextricably links food with blood and guts. It’s not for the faint of stomach, but if you can handle it there are hilarious scenes describing McDonald’s in France (“Royale with cheese”), $5 milkshakes, and Samuel L. Jackson slurping his victim’s Sprite. Tasty.
9. 50 First Dates
Adam Sandler meets amnesiac Drew Barrymore while she’s building houses out of waffles. I can’t help falling in love with this movie every time, along with its pineapples, Spam and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
A rat with a passion for cooking becomes the new head “chef” at a famous Parisian restaurant (with the help of a human busboy, of course). I never thought an animated film could make me drool. I hope that this movie has inspired kids to start cooking.
7. Because I Said So
Mother and daughter reveal the intricacies of their relationship through cooking and baking. They learn that they’re not as different as they would like to think, and there are lots of pretty cakes, wine drinking and catered affairs along the way. I adore the scene where they are both at home, preparing their pasta for one in exactly the same manner.
Adam Sandler is a successful chef who only wants a few moments to himself. But his wife is a controlling type-A, his daughter is struggling with self-esteem, his new housekeeper is hard not to ogle, and his mother-in-law wanders around the house drunk most of the time. Watch for the sandwich scene and the hilarious Chardonnay clip.
5. It’s Complicated
A girlfriend told me yesterday that she woke up in the middle of the night craving a chocolate croissant after watching this movie. I’m not surprised. Meryl Streep (who can do no wrong, ever, period) owns a gorgeous bakery and is adjusting to being divorced from her jerky ex (Alec Baldwin). She’s finally coming into her own when she falls for her architect (Steve Martin), and there are many delicious, naughty encounters along the way. I never seem to watch this movie without making chocolate cake or roast chicken afterwards. And could the set designer come re-decorate my house, please?
4. Julie and Julia
Alright. This one is obvious. But see my note about Meryl Streep in #5. Not only is it about food blogging (yay!), but it features a dazzling array of tempting food (and a few dishes that I wouldn’t touch, namely aspic). If I were ever to move to France and gain 10 pounds in pure butter, it would be because of this film.
3. Something’s Gotta Give
Diane Keaton bonds with her daughter’s (much, much older) boyfriend, Jack Nicholson, over midnight pancakes. The plot plays out over glasses of wine, picnics on the beach, ice cream and French bistros.
2. Fried Green Tomatoes
A film that is simultaneously heartbreaking and empowering. Dual plots take place in the deep South: one of Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy bonding over candy bars and cellophane, the other of Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary Louise Parker as young depression-era diner owners trying to cover their tracks. If you’ve never seen it, have a box of tissues handy. And keep your eyes peeled for my favorite characters (Smokey Lonesome and Big George), and a gorgeous scene in which the girls throw food from a train to the hungry homeless.
Jenna Hunterson (played by Kerri Russel) is stuck in a dead-end job with a deadbeat husband and an unwanted baby on the way. Her life gets a ray of sunshine when she falls for her doctor (played by Nathan Fillion). It’s sweet, sometimes hard to watch, but filled with hilarious moments of Jenna’s inner dialogue as she waits tables (“I Don’t Want no Baby Earl Pie”). Food brings Jenna closer with her doctor, farther from her husband, and helps her to accept the daughter that is soon to come.
What are your favorite food movies?
Disclaimer: The photos in this post aren’t mine. Duh. I snagged them from various places on the interwebs. Just thought I’d say that in case anyone wanted to sue me.