1. The Relationship Between Movies & Food
Food and film have always been intertwined. Whether it’s the spaghetti and meatballs from Lady and the Tramp, Butterbeer from the Harry Potter franchise, or the scrumptious strudel (with extra cream, of course) from Inglorious Basterds, chances are you can think of a lot of memorable meals from famous films. And what is drama if not an avenue for artists to explore their obsessions?
Whether you're watching films and tv on Amazon prime or sitting in your favorite movie theatre with fifty strangers, art brings us together. It helps us share in the collective experience of life.
Food can do the same; not only that, it can be used as a storytelling tool to denote class, tradition, culture, and to shed light on the inner lives of characters. As a narrative device, it is extremely useful. That’s why it’s so effective and memorable when a film devotes some of its runtime to depicting a meal; it’s the confluence of two of man’s greatest crafts.
2. The 15 Best Movies About Food
Here’s our list of picks for the best food movies. Some of them feature food prominently as part of the overall plot, others just have a memorable food scene, featuring a healthy mix of comedy and drama. It's worth noting that you will not find a documentary film on this list but stay tuned... that's coming.
The next time you’re pondering your selections for a stay-at-home dinner-and--movie, you can’t go wrong with any of the following cinema classics.
With that said, we couldn't include all the movies we wanted to. Here are some honorable mentions ; Chocolat, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, Water For Chocolate, Sausage Party, babettes feast, and last but not least, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
With out further ado, here's our pick of best food films.
15. Good Burger (1997)
IMDB Score : 5.7 (A travesty)
I can see you rolling your eyes. And, in a sense, you’d be right to -- this 1997 comedy starring Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson, the iconic duo from Nickelodeon’s All That (and later their own show Kenan & Kel) isn’t exactly what we’d call a classic of high-brow cinema for food films. I'll be the first to admit it lacks the power of lets say, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, and if you’re outside of a certain age range (hello, fellow 90s kids) the appeal of this movie might elude you entirely.
The plot is pretty straightforward: high school student Dexter Reed (Kenan Thompson) finds himself in desperate need of a job after wrecking his teacher’s car. He starts working at local fast-food eatery Good Burger (“home of the Good Burger”), where he meets the dimwitted but well-meaning employee Ed (Kel Mitchell). After some initial friction, the pair eventually become friends.
The restaurant is struggling, and their problems get even worse when a new restaurant opens just across the street: Mondo Burger, who win over customers with their grotesquely oversized meat patties. However, Good Burger is saved by Ed’s creation of a secret sauce, which becomes wildly popular and puts the pair right in the crosshairs of their ruthlessly ambitious rivals.
Here’s what I will say: Millennial nostalgia aside, Good Burger is a deliberately silly comedy with joyously puerile and outlandish sense of humor, never afraid to take the easy punchline or throw in a complete non-sequitur. Some of its gags are straight-up slapstick, others are surprisingly clever. And the chemistry between the two leads is undeniable. The next time you’re in the mood for an absurdly silly, family-friendly 90s comedy, give it a shot.
Dish we’d love to try: Of course, we’d have to go with a Good Burger (with Ed’s secret sauce).
14. When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
IMDB Score : 7.6
Is this technically a food movie? Well, not in the classic sense. The plot doesn’t exactly revolve around food in the way that some of these other films’ plots do. Instead, this classic 1989 romantic comedy by director Rob Reiner revolves around the age-old question of whether men and women can truly be platonic friends (and the answer appears to be… no?).
Outdated gender politics aside, this winsome film is a classic in the genre, and even established many enduring tropes. It also serves as a love letter to New York City, which features prominently in the film as the site of Harry and Sally’s many encounters over their decade-plus courtship.
If you’ve somehow never seen the movie before, let’s break down the plot: Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) are friends who first meet while Harry is dating one of Sally’s friends. Over the course of the next several years, the pair fall in and out of each others’ lives, becoming close friends along the way and commiserating about their love lives.
Of course, feelings start getting in the way, and that complicates things for everyone. You can imagine how the rest of it plays out. But the charm of the movie lies in the evident chemistry between both leads, and their banter about life and romance as they gradually develop feelings for each other leads to some genuinely affecting drama.
So where does the “food” part come in? Well, there’s a pretty pivotal (and extremely famous) scene that takes place in the storied NYC restaurant Katz’s Delicatessen, widely regarded as one of the most iconic comedy scenes of all time. We’re not going to spoil it for you if you somehow haven’t watched it.
Dish we’d love to try: A classic pastrami sandwich from Katz’s. In other words, we’ll have what she’s having.
13. Burnt (2015)
IMDB Score : 6.6
For as much as some of these movies make us want to cook, some others make us glad we’ve never had to work in the kitchen of a top restaurant, just because it seems like such an incredibly stressful environment to be in.
Burnt, though, makes the harrowing ordeal into a thoroughly watchable drama film with absolutely incredible-looking food. Bradley Cooper leads an ensemble cast that includes Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl, and Alicia Vikander, among others. It follows a chef who attempts to redeem his career as he strives to get the coveted three Michelin Stars.
If you’re interested in getting a peek into the world of high-end dining and professional kitchens, with great performances from a stellar cast (and many, many delicious-looking meals to ogle at), Burnt is a great selection for you.
Dish we’d love to try: Herdwick Lamb Beetroot Girolle.
12. Soul Food (1997)
IMDB Score : 7.0
What do you think of when you think of “soul food”? Probably something warm, wholesome, comforting in the best ways. Something that is not only deeply satisfying but also makes you feel good inside. It might even conjure up images of family get-togethers from your childhood, of spending time with loved ones.
Well, that’s more or less what Soul Food, the movie, is. The drama explores the sentiment of cooking and serving soul food as a way to bring family together, uniting around a table to enjoy a meal in each other’s company, even while they’re privately dealing with all kinds of grief and turmoil.
The film, which stars a large ensemble cast including Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Mekhi Phifer and many others, follows a large family as they go through various trials and tribulations but are held together by their long standing family traditions of a Sunday feast, though these begin to fade with time. As sad as it can be, it is never weighted down by the drama.
The film is a cry for unity and compassion in a world that seems increasingly hectic and callous, and reminds us of the role that food can have in our lives. And for that, it’s a great foodie movie.
Dish we’d love to try: I have to admit I am incredibly intrigued by that Sprite pound cake.
11. The Big Restaurant (1966)
IMDB Score : 6.8
Who doesn’t love a French comedy thriller? This delightful little film -- which mixes elements of the crime genre with outrageously silly farcical leanings -- is one of the funniest and most endearing films in this entire list.
The film stars Louis de Funès as Monsieur Septime, the manager at a very respected Parisian restaurant. His restaurant receives a visit from a Latin American political figure. He is served the house specialty, a flambéed dessert. Everything goes smoothly until the desert is lit up, and it explodes.
The politician vanishes after the explosion, which makes Septime a prime suspect for the police. This leads to the mystery, where Septime starts working with the police as a decoy, leading to all sorts of chases and silly hijinks. It’s a classic 60s-style comedy, devoid of much drama.
It’s not the deepest film in the list, nor is it the most thought-provoking, but it is absolutely hilarious and a great depiction of a stereotypical French restaurant from the mid-60s. More than worth a watch.
Dish we’d love to try: Exploding flambéed dessert. It looks like a blast. (get it?)
10. Mostly Martha (2001)
IMDB Score : 7.2
"Every good love story starts somewhere. This one started in the kitchen."
Mostly Martha is a charming romantic comedy, with some drama elements, revolving around food. The German film tells the story of a workaholic chef who is forced to reckon with various changes in her professional and personal lives, including having to deal with a brash and decidedly less-serious new sous-chef. A rivalry arises, which leads to a burgeoning relationship.
If this story is starting to sound familiar, it’s because Mostly Martha was later remade in 2007 as the American film No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart. However, as tends to be the case, the original is vastly superior to the remake. The film mixes food and romance, and shows us the human side of the professional kitchen by delving into the personal lives of its staff.
As far as romantic comedies that are centered around cooking food, this is one of the best we’ve seen.
Dish we’d love to try: Pasta Carbonara.
9. Big Night (1996)
IMDB Score : 7.3
Big Night is one of the best dramedies of the 1990s; funny, wry, and very vulnerably human, it also puts its delectable dishes on center stage both in terms of the framing and plot. It’s also a highly acclaimed film in the food world, regarded as a cultural milestone that kicked off a food revolution.
The film is a period piece, taking place in the 1950s. It stars Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub as a pair of Italian immigrants who open their own restaurant, Paradise, on the Jersey shore. They take great care and pride in their food, though their relationship is often rocky. Their specialty is called a timpano, an enormous cake of pasta, meatballs, sauce, eggs, and more. You’ve never seen anything like it.
But the restaurant is struggling, and the brothers lock horns about how to keep things afloat. Their customer base is looking for something different than what the brothers are trying to do, so they engage in a desperate effort to drum up press for their failing business, hosting a large feast for musician Louis Prima. Of course, this being a comedy, things don’t go exactly as planned.
Also starring Minnie Driver, Alison Janey, and the great Isabella Rosselini, the cast is as top-notch as the food. Big Night is a charming and wildly entertaining comedy that helped kick off a revolution in American food culture.
Dish we’d love to try: The seafood ricotto looks heavenly, but we’re most intrigued by the timpano di pasta.
8. The Founder (2016)
IMDB Score : 7.2
Have you ever wondered how McDonald’s, the ever-ubiquitous fast-food franchise, turned out to be the dominant fast food chain on planet Earth? I sure have. Thankfully, director John Lee Hancock and writer Robert Siegel found it a story worth telling, and they made the widely-acclaimed 2016 film The Founder.
Michael Keaton stars as Ray Croc, the man who made McDonald’s what it is today. The title is a clever misdirection, as Ray Croc wasn’t quite the “founder” of McDonald’s, as much as he was an absolutely driven visionary who was also, from what we see in the film, as clever as he was ruthless. This, of course, leads to some drama.
More than a movie about food per se, The Founder is an exploration of capitalism and the creation of an industry, of the compromise between principles and profit, and of the rise of one of the most powerful and influential businessmen in American history. It’s a fun film, though a bit distressing at parts, and will 100% have you craving a trashy fast-food hamburger.
Dish we’d love to try: One of the original assembly-line McD’s sandwiches, of course.
7. Tampopo (1985)
Juzo Itami’s Tampopo is one of the greatest comedies in Japanese cinema history, and also one of the greatest depictions of the intertwining of the culinary arts and romance. Notably, it billed itself as “the first Ramen Western,” which isn’t just a clever marketing tactic, and subversion of the “Spaghetti Western” -- it actually holds true to the content of the film itself.
The comedy film stars Tsutomu Yamazaki and Ken Watanabe as a pair of Japanese milk-truck drivers who stop at a broken-down roadside Ramen shop. They end up rescuing a young boy who was being beaten up by a group of bullies. The boy turns out to be the son of Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), the owner of the failing restaurant.
The pair befriend Tampopo and decide to help her turn her restaurant around, and all three embark on a quest to develop the perfect bowl of ramen. It’s a film about camaraderie, storytelling, and the power of food to create narrative. It’s a strikingly peculiar film, and one of the best films of the 80s.
Dish we’d love to try: The Omurice has us more than intrigued.
6. The Hundred Foot Journey (2014)
IMDB Score : 7.3
The Hundred-Foot Journey is another example of a feel-good drama / comedy, which also happens to feature a wide array of succulent-looking dishes. It’s an adaptation of the novel by Richard Morais, and it was directed by Lasse Hallström. Curiously enough, it was produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey.
The film depicts the battle of two restaurants in a French village: an upscale, Michelin-starred restaurant, and a newer restaurant run by an Indian immigrant family which opens right across the street. As tensions rise between the two restaurants, they turn to increasingly absurd ploys to sabotage each other, and the film uses the plot as a springboard to explore themes of xenophobia and nationalism.
The film’s greatest strength is its cast, led by the great Helen Mirren (who is surprisingly good at comedy). And, of course, the food that is depicted, which looks spectacular.
Dish we’d love to try: BBQ Chicken on Steamed Bok Choy.
5. Eat Drink, Man Woman (1994)
IMDB Score : 7.8
As the top comment on YouTube suggests, the trailer does NOT do this movie any justice!
The opening scene of director Ang Lee’s incredible Eat Drink, Man Woman shows us Lao Zhu, brilliantly portrayed by Sihung Lung, poring over an enormous feast of delicious food for his family, very meticulously cooking dish after dish, cycling through his vast collection of kitchen knives and displaying all the skill it takes to be as masterful a chef as he is.
Eat Drink, Man Woman is probably my personal favorite film in this entire list. (Sadly, that doesn't mean it is the BEST movie about food) . However, it is an absolute masterpiece of Taiwanese cinema, and easily Ang Lee’s best film. It follows Lao Zhu, a widower who is also a semi-retired Chinese chef, and his three daughters. They gather every Sunday for a feast that is tremendously important for Lao Zhu, as their daughters attempt to challenge their father’s traditional ways of thinking.
Like much of Ang Lee’s work, the film explores themes of fatherhood (it is part of Lee’s "Father Knows Best" trilogy), shifting family dynamics after the arrival (and departure) of love, and the passage from Confucious ideology into modernity. Just an absolutely gorgeous masterpiece of drama that features some of the most succulent-looking meals ever captured on celluloid.
Dish we’d love to try: To be honest, pretty much everything depicted in that opening scene, but those shrimp & water chestnut croquettes look to die for.
4. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
IMDB Score : 7.8
Ah yes, the film that had us all dreaming about chocolate lakes and all manner of fantastical candy-covered sweetness. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (remade into the woeful Charlie and The Chocolate Factory in 2005 with Johnny Depp) is an absolutely iconic piece of musical fantasy that has become one of the most beloved cinema classics of all time.
What’s it about? Well, if you’ve somehow never watched it (or have instead watched Tim Burton’s truly disturbing 2005 remake), Charlie Bucket is a paperboy who lives in abject poverty with his bedridden parents. When eccentric chocolate-maker Willy Wonka announces a contest to earn a lifetime supply of chocolate (and a tour of his chocolate factory), Charlie is overjoyed to find himself as one of the five lucky winners.
This leads to a visit to the titular chocolate factory -- part theme park, part acid flashback, the sprawling building is more than a simple chocolate factory and would instead more accurately be described as a portal to another dimension, one where chocolate rivers flow and strange creatures work in the creation of all manner of experimental treats.
Gene Wilder delivers an absolutely brilliant performance as Willy Wonka, and this film beautifully treads the line between childlike wonder and psychedelia. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to be whisked away to a “world of pure imagination.”
Dish we’d love to try: We gotta go with a classic Wonka bar (though the 3-course dinner gum has us intrigued, if we could somehow avoid the whole blueberry metamorphosis...)
3. Julie & Julia (2009)
IMDB Score : 7.0
Regarded by some as the Godfather 2 of food movies (okay, I’m probably the first person to ever call it that), Julie & Julia is an interesting film that explores the joy of cooking from two different angles, by telling the story of the titular characters (famous chef and TV host Julia Child, played with aplomb by Meryl Streep, and food blogger Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams) who are driven by their love for French cuisine.
Okay, the only real parallel between this film and The Godfather Part 2 is its narrative structure, which flashes back and forth between the story of Julia Child’s ascent in the 1950s, writing her seminal cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Julie Powell’s 2002 quest to cook every single one of the 524 recipes in the book, culminating in a feast for her friends.
Not quite a comedy and not quite a drama, Julie & Julia is a lighthearted, breezy film anchored by great performances from both leads. Some folks might have wished the entire movie was about Julia Child’s journey, but the “Julie” portion of it serves as a welcome recontextualization of the impact of good food. Adams and Streep do a fantastic job at portraying two different ends of the same journey.
Dish we’d love to try: Julia Child’s famous Beef Bourguignon.
2. Ratatouille (2007)
IMDB Score : 8.0
It may be a little strange to think of an animated Pixar comedy about a rat as one of the most significant and influential food movies in recent memory, but you’d be surprised to hear the amount of young chefs who cite Ratatouille as one of the early inspirations behind their choice of career.
This charming 2007 movie follows Remy, a rat who lives in Paris (voiced by Patton Oswalt in a career-best performance) who displays a passion for cooking unlike any animated character we’ve ever seen on the big screen. He dreams of becoming a master chef like his idol, Auguste Gusteau… but, of course, he’s a rat.
Undeterred, Remy teams up with a shy and bumbling restaurant employee who agrees to let him control him like a marionette by pulling on his hair underneath his chef’s hat (there’s a fair amount of suspension of disbelief required here, but hey, it’s a movie about a rat chef; not exactly high-minded drama).
Ratatouille is a lovely movie that sends the message that anyone can cook, that really digs into the art of cooking as a creative craft instead of just a mere utilitarian act, and embracing one’s passions in order to be one’s most authentic self. Also, the title is extremely clever: Ratatouille is a French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, as well as a play on the word “rat.”
This is definitely my favorite animated film about food. (Sorry, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs)
Dish we’d love to try: The titular Ratatouille, though hopefully not made by an actual rat.
1. Chef (2014)
IMDB Score : 7.3
One of the most recent entries on this entire list, and also somehow one of the most obvious and iconic. It didn’t take long for this 2014 film by writer/director/lead actor Jon Favreau to establish itself as one of the defining foodie films of the 21st century. And when you actually watch it, it’s pretty obvious why.
The great thing about Chef is that, as well as being a movie about the love of cooking, it’s also a fantastic exploration of creativity, freedom, and finding one’s path. Favreau stars as a chef who, after many years of working in commercial kitchens, finds himself disillusioned by the creatively stifling restaurant business. He sets out on a road trip with his son in a food truck, selling various regional dishes.
With its lighthearted tone, pleasingly unencumbered pace and genuine love for food (particularly Cuban cuisine), it feels akin to hanging out with a group of friends who are really into cooking, and will happily and enthusiastically tell you all about it. In many ways, this film presents the antithesis of the high-pressure stakes depicted in Burnt, revelling in the joy of making food. It perfectly captures the vibe of Austin, too.
Chef’s dishes look amazing, and I’m certainly glad this brilliant little oddity of a film -- clearly a passion project by its helmer -- was willed into existence.
Dish we’d love to try: The Cuban sandwich looks amazing, and the spicy braised chicken looks terrific, but we have to go with that brisket which looks absolutely incredible (it even inspired us to make our own).
Bonus: the work of Hayao Miyazaki
We’re adding in this extra entry because the films of Hayao Miyazaki are more than worth mentioning, and it would be impossible to pick just one. If there’s something the veteran Japanese animation pioneer knows how to do (in addition to creating enchanting and fantastical worlds with adorable characters) it’s to depict food in the most mouthwatering way possible.
Everything from the restaurant buffet in Spirited Away, to Calcifer’s breakfast in Howl’s Moving Castle, the Bento boxes in My Neighbor Totoro and pretty much every dish shown in Kiki’s Delivery Service, the Studio Ghibli films are sure to inspire awe and wonder… as well as leave you with a mean hankering for Japanese food.
The dishes in these films aren’t just meant to look appetizing; they’re often shown as expressions of love between characters, and in many cases are used to further advance the themes of each film.
Dish we’d love to try: This is a tough choice, but we have to go with the ham-topped ramen from Ponyo.
3. Dalstrong Films
The Fishmonger & The Sea
Written by Jorge FarahBorn on the coast of Colombia and based in Buenos Aires, Jorge is a cooking enthusiast and kitchenware obsessive with a tremendous amount of opinions.