Our Kind of Oscars: Top 10 Movie Food Moments


Another year, another Oscars ceremony coming up, and still no category for Best Use of Food In a Motion Picture. Where is the justice? Ever since the great Charlie Chaplin made a couple of dinner rolls dance in The Gold Rush, food has elevated the cinema to its greatest moments. From James Cagney taking out his aggression on a grapefruit to Willy Wonka’s fantasy land of sweets, food has helped film portray the full range of human emotions. So instead of watching 4 hours of Hollywood self-congratulation this weekend, spend a few minutes checking out the Top 10 Movie Food Moments.

10. “Elwood and I will come here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” – The Blues Brothers

Chez Paul was apparently a real restaurant in Chicago.  The version of it they used in The Blues Brothers (they built a replica of the interior for filming) was also the perfect example of the too-fussy French restaurant just asking to be taken down a few pegs.  And so, when Jake and Elwood go looking for maitre d’ Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin to fill out their brass section, we know something good is going to happen, and we get the visceral thrill of getting to see them overturn the applecart.  One shrimp cocktail, a few glasses of champagne, a failed attempt to purchase a woman and child and a very young Pee-Wee Herman later, and they’re off on the next leg of their Mission from God.

9. Jack Just Wants his Toast – Five Easy Pieces

There’s ordering toast, and then there’s ordering toast the Jack Nicholson way. This 1970 drama was nominated for 4 Oscars, but who can remember anything about it, other than Jacko telling the poor waitress to “hold it between your knees?” The moral of the story: If Jack ever walks into your restaurant, just give him his goddamn plain white toast.

8. Late Night Dinner at Mrs. Scorsese’s – Goodfellas

Mob movies and Italian food go together like meatballs and red gravy.  So when it comes time to pick the greatest food scene from a Mafia flick, we’re going to leave the cannoli and take a scene from Marty’s masterpiece, GoodFellas.  Although the description of one of the incarcerated gangsters preparing a full Italian feast (complete with razor-sliced garlic in the sauce) is tempting, we have to go with a late night stop at Tommy DeVito’s mother’s place in order to pick out some tools to finish a…business transaction.  But what Italian mother would let her son and his friends leave without making sure the boys are well-fed?  Oh, and that late-night home cook?  Played by Martin Scorsese’s mom.

7. A Chef’s Breakfast – Big Night

A lyrical food movie, with Louis Prima playing the Godot role.  Of all of the Italian cuisine featured throughout the film, it’s a simple scene toward the end that captures all you need to know about a chef’s love and respect for food.  The next morning, after the climactic feast, a simple egg is cooked on screen, in one take.  And you get the feeling that, while the chefs cook the fancy dishes for the punters in the dining room, the true connoisseur can appreciate something so basic.  The clip above is from an Italian copy of the movie, but the scene has so few words, it really doesn’t matter.  The movie is made all the more satisfying if you know that star Stanley Tucci is a major foodie and F.O.M. (Friend of Mario)

6. In Space No One Can Hear Your Chest Explode – Alien

Bilbo over there has been acting really suspicious lately.  And Kane had a run-in with that thing, but he’s been feeling better lately.  Maybe things are looking up…you and your buddies get to kick back and enjoy a meal and a few laughs.  What could possibly go wrong?  Oh, shit!

Next: Top 5 Movie Food Moments

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  • Maids February 18, 2009  

    Are you kidding me! You missed When Harry Met Sally public orgasm simulation where granma says, “I’ll have what she’s having!!!”!

  • BS February 18, 2009  

    As much as I hate when girls try to make me watch When Harry Met Sally, I have to say, each of these great scenes would probably be better if they ended with granma saying “I’ll have what s/he’s having”

  • Sheila February 18, 2009  

    How about the wonderful movie dedicated entirely to food, Babette’s Feast?

  • TVFF February 18, 2009  

    Great points in the comments…keep the reactions and additions coming!

    Tried to go with a balance between “food movies” like Big Night and Ratatouille and just movies that featured food in a meaningful scene. I think you could spend all of your free time compiling a list like this one.

  • TBGordon February 18, 2009  

    My first thought was Animal House, but I’d also have to agree with 5 Easy Pieces. And Harry Met Sally’s scene is right up there at the top. Just don’t forget the cannolis, ok?

  • Leahsucks February 18, 2009  

    “Hook” The pretend food with the lost boys. I used to do that when I was little and I had to eat something nasty, like brussel sprouts (which of course I now love).

  • Moira February 18, 2009  

    Great list. Here are 3 of my personal favorites:
    1. Pope of Greenwich Village – when the cousin is eating an amazing looking hero in that little park at bleeker and 6th. Sorta obscure but worth a look for the sandwich and old school Greenwich Village scenery at least.
    2. Godfather – when clemeza is trying to teach Micheal how to make the gravy. Because the godfather has to be part of every movie list and I really want to taste that sauce. Of course clemeza saying “leave the gun take the canolis” is also classic.
    3. Moonstruck – The kitchen and cooking scenes from this movie are top notch. Damn I want to see the movie again right now!
    Weird – I have a preference for Italian food, new york and movies from the 70’s.

  • joeshico February 18, 2009  

    Maybe I’m dating myself, but my first thought was a scene from the movie “The Public Enemy” where James Cagney smashes a grapefruit in Mae Clarke’s face. I also agree that the orgasm scene from “When Harry Met Sally” should be at or near the top.

  • gansie February 18, 2009  

    i love the armadillo cake in steel magnolias

  • KitKat February 18, 2009  

    A Christmas Story….my favorite is when the kid eats his mashed potatoes like a piggy. Also the Chinese Restaurant scene when they cut off the duck’s head….fra, ra, ra, ra, fra, fra, ra, ra

  • Jessie February 18, 2009  

    what a great list of movies, However I am not a fan of When Harry Met Sally soo it’s good that it’s not on that list lol

  • kasia February 18, 2009  

    Interesting list. I guess it sort of depends what your criteria is. I can totally see Monty Python’s bucket scene as a key food moment in film, but on the other hand, I can’t imagine a list about food in movies that doesn’t acknowledge Tampopo, Eat Drink Man Woman, Like Water for Chocolate, etc. Though I guess that’s food porn, rather than great scenes involving food. So mostly, I just protest that omission of “Little Sizzling Belly” in Hot Shots! which is surely a classic.

  • BunnygotBlog February 18, 2009  

    I agree with BS- the scene from When Harry Meets Sally in the restaurant is hilarious.

  • Adam February 18, 2009  

    Goodfellas – Explaining how dinner in prison is a big deal

    Pulp Fiction – Ordering dinner at Jackrabbit Slim’s/$5 Milkshake

    Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Getting in the door at Chez Quis

    Diner – When Earl orders and attempts to eat the whole left side of the menu

  • TVFF February 18, 2009  

    Looks like we have a pro/anti Harry Met Sally thing shaping up! Regardless, I think we can all agree that the sandwiches at Katz’s look AWESOME http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Katz%27s_Deli_-_Lunch.jpg

    Adam — couldn’t find any firm info, but a bunch of online sources suggest that Chez Quis was modeled after Chez Paul from The Blues Brothers. I’m sure, as a Chicago-based comedy, the homage was intentional.

  • JB February 18, 2009  

    I’ll have a steak sandwhich, and a steak sandwich

  • broadandpattison February 18, 2009  

    id like to add the diner scene at the beginning and of pulp fiction. listening to samuel l. jackson explain why he wont eat bacon because a pig is a “filthy” animal is too good.

  • broadandpattison February 18, 2009  

    sorry – beginning and end of pulp fiction.

  • BS February 18, 2009  

    @JB – not ringing a bell – what’s the steak sandwich from?

  • Hugging the Coast February 18, 2009  

    Don’t forget Tampopo and Vatel…2 wonderful movies entirely about the pleasures of food.

  • Sara February 19, 2009  

    Last Tango in Paris. Yum.

  • Marilyn February 19, 2009  

    I love food in the movies, and this was a terrific post. I’d also look to include films like Eat Drink Man Woman and Babette’s Feast.

  • Noah February 19, 2009  

    How could you leave off the alien scene from the end of Spaceballs. Lonestar and Barf are just trying to get some food after saving the princess and all of a sudden some dude at the restaurtant has a dancing alien come out of his stomach. People try to help the guy out leading to one of the best exchanges of the movie. “Get this guy some water” says one person trying to help. “Water my ass, get this guy some pepto bismol” is the response he gets. Lonestar and Barf realize that they ordered the same “daily special” as the guy with the alien and ask for the check. Classic scene. Right?

  • TVFF February 19, 2009  

    @ noah

    MAN, I was TOTALLY going to put a reference in to the diner scene as part of the commentary on the Alien clip, but I was afraid people wouldn’t get it. I also considered including Pizza the Hutt, who was undoubtedly the greatest food-based character in film history.

  • BS February 19, 2009  

    LOL – I actually didn’t get the alien reference until I saw alien like 10 years after I first saw spaceballs

  • Maids February 19, 2009  

    @TVFF in re Katz deli sandwich:
    I think it looks too gooey. I don’t like goo on my food. is that weird?

  • TVFF February 19, 2009  


    I’m guessing that’s a Reuben, which means the “goo” in question would be Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing. I checked the rule book and, under these circumstances, goo IS allowed. So I’m going to have to over-rule you and declare this a proper use of goo.

  • Cara February 19, 2009  

    Wow, I have to agree with whoever wrote about Hook. That scene with the Lost Boys is great!
    Can’t really think of any others at the moment!

  • Rosh February 20, 2009  

    how about “Chocolat”? yummy!

  • Jrod February 21, 2009  

    The munchies scene in Half Baked when Kenny orders 2 large pizzas with everything on em, a whole lotta water and some funyuns man. And I’ve always wanted to try an MLT… mutton, lettuce, and tomato.. when the tomato is nice and ripe, they’re so perky… I love that.

  • johnnyc February 22, 2009  

    did we miss 9 1/2 Weeks? The fridge/cunninglingus scene? Lotta good food there!

  • Passs February 25, 2009  

    Like it!!

    Meaning of life… yeah! 😉
    Agree for 9 1/2 weeks…

  • Boson Higgs June 3, 2009  

    I have just one word to add : “Tom Jones”

  • JorgXMcKie June 7, 2009  

    I was beaten in pointing out “Tom Jones” (which is a pretty old movie),l but how has no one mentioned “The Cook the Thief His Wife and her Lover”? You got to watch the kitchen staff eat an entire baked (I think) person. Wow!!

  • kent January 26, 2011  

    What, no Harold and Kumar?

  • Hope March 11, 2011  

    How about the chocolate and Beans scene from “Tommy”?

  • Clairo November 8, 2013  

    What about American Psycho? The theme of food is spotted throughout the whole film (more so in the novel), it’s an homage to 80s fine dining in New York. Some of the descriptions of food is hilarious.

    ” Our pasta this evening is squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth with goat cheese profiteroles, and I also have an arugula Caesar salad. For entrees this evening, I have swordfish meatloaf with onion marmalade, rare roasted partridge breast in raspberry coulis with a sorrel timbale. “

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