Our 10 Best: Food Movies


The human appetite, in all its voracious, messy, and metaphorical forms, is one of the cinema’s more enduring themes. When food makes its way onto the screen, it’s often less as a prop than as a narrative tool. How it’s presented — literally or symbolically, lovingly or with a measure of revulsion — is itself commentary on the director’s view of the general state of existence. And while we may canonize particular movies for making us drool at the sight of, say, Dover sole sizzling in butter or Albert Finney gnawing lasciviously on a drumstick, some of the best food movies dissect food rather than fetishize it. Food, Inc., for example, is unlikely to give you a hankering for genetically modified corn, but it will provide you with a measure of intellectual nourishment.

While there’s pleasure to be found in honeyed shots of pretty people eating pretty things, movies that approach the subject from a more neurotic and uncomfortable place provide their own forms of satisfaction. It’s entirely possible to be enthralled by the sight of Penelope Cruz in Woman on Top and yet still crave the darker delights of Eating Raoul. And there are plenty of films that, while not expressly about food, offer some of celluloid’s most memorable commentaries on the subject: try thinking of 9 1/2 Weeks without thinking of Kim Basinger’s refrigerator, or of Tom Jones without thinking of Albert Finney and his aforementioned drumstick. And then, of course, there’s the matter of that wafer-thin mint.

Here then, in no particular order, are Our 10 Best movies in which food plays a starring role, or at least gives a substantial supporting turn. Undoubtedly, we’ve forgotten a few, so feel free to let us know what we’ve missed.

Kim Basinger opens wide in 9 1/2 Weeks.

Runners-up to our 10 Best Food Movies

Vatel (2000)
The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
Mostly Martha (2001)
Diner (1982)
Mystic Pizza (1988)
Dinner Rush (2000)
Delicatessen (1991)
Chocolat (2000)
Crossing Delancey (1998)
Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (2004)
Soul Food (1997)
Tortilla Soup (2001)
Waitress (2007)
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
What’s Cooking (2000)
The Ramen Girl (2008))
Woman on Top (2000)
Jamon Jamon (1992)
Food, Inc. (2008)
Eating (1990)
The End of the Line (2008)
Eating Raoul (1982)

Next: Numbers 6 through 10

10. Supersize Me (2004)

9. Julie & Julia (2009)

8. Ratatouille (2007)

7. La Grande Bouffe (1973)

6. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Our 10 Best Food Movies: Top 5

5. Like Water for Chocolate (1992)

4. Big Night (1996)

3. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)

2. Babette’s Feast (1987)

1. Tampopo (1985)

Honorable mention: Movies that aren’t about food but contain seminal food scenes:

1. Tom Jones (1963)
2. 9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
3. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)