10 Food Movies We Like
They were great in the cinema, and they're great when chowing down dinner in front of the flatscreen. Nine of them make us hungry, while one always makes us wonder what might happen if the food system doesn't get fixed – we'll let you figure out which is which – and all ten easily invite repeat viewings.
Julie and Julia (USA, 2009)
The first movie ever made based on a blog, and the last movie directed by Nora Ephron prior to her death, Julie and Julia is a feel good movie that tells two tales: that of the American celebrity chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep) mastering the art of French cooking in the 1950s prior to her co-writing the classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and that of a young writer (Amy Adams) in a depressing, dead-end job in the 2000s who decides to cook every recipe (524 in total) in that cookbook within a year (365 days).
Tampopo (Japan, 1985)
The world's first "Ramen Western," this offbeat food-centric comedy features diverse characters and subplots revolving around the archetypal Western plot of a stranger who rides into town and comes to the aid of the local widow and her son, only here the stranger (Tsutomu Yamazaki) rides into town in his truck, and the widow has a ramen noodle stand instead of a ranch. Funny, sexy, extremely idiosyncratic, and chocked with more film references than you can shake a chopstick at, this unique movie spawned the name of a million ramen shops.
Ratatouille (USA, 2007)
A computer-animated movie from Pixar/Disney which, like the best of their films, is as enjoyable for an adult as it is for a child. The title, Ratatouille, is a reference both to the movie's main character, a rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt) that dreams of becoming a chef, and the traditional French dish that plays an important role in the plot's resolution. An engaging and enjoyable movie, it is as much of an ode to good food as it is an ode to family, love, friendship, belonging, following your dreams, and overcoming obstacles.
Chef (USA, 2014)
A "small" film from the big-time Hollywood player Jon Favreau, who shines thrice as the writer, director and lead actor in this comedy drama of a professional chef (Favreau) whose public meltdown loses him his job and standing in Los Angeles. Returning to Miami, he rediscovers his passion for Cuban food and creativity as a cook even as he reconnects with his young son Percy (Emjay Anthony) and ex-wife Inez (Sofía Vergara). After buying and refurbishing an old food truck, he and his son and his friend Martin (John Leguizamo) drive across country selling both Cuban food and dishes incorporating local dishes and ingredients. A perfect date movie, with a great (and danceable) soundtrack.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (USA, 2011)
Four years prior to directing the rather predictable horror movie The Lazarus Effect (2015 / trailer), David Gelb directed this engrossing documentary about Jiro Ono, the then-85-year-old Japanese chef and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a three-Michelin-star, 10-seat sushi restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station, and his two sons and team. The measured perfectionism of Jiro continual search to take sushi even further is contrasted to the pulse of the city, and complemented by the cadence of a Philip Glass score. Oddly touching, the movie captures well a man's almost obsessive drive for excellence, as well as a true love for food that literally becomes palpable. As this film reveals, there's more to good sushi than just raw fish. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is not just for sushi lovers – don't watch it hungry.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (USA, 2009)
Loosely based on a kiddy book from 1978, this fast-paced animated 3D family movie overflows with likeable, quirky characters and a plethora of visual, verbal and situational gags that keeps the viewer laughing, even if the frenetic action of the last half does skate close to overload. In an attempt to revive the economy of the island of Swallow Falls, a geeky young genius, Flint (Bill Hader), whose wacky inventions always seem to go wrong, invents a machine that converts rain clouds into food. When the gastronomic greed of the townspeople causes the machine to "over mutate" and run wild, it is up to Flint, plucky weatherwoman Sam (Anne Faris), and Steve the monkey to save the world. A movie that'll keep you laughing from start to the finish.
Soylent Green (USA, 1973)
A dystopian science fiction classic that won't have you laughing at all. Soylent Green takes place in an overpopulated world ravaged by the greenhouse effect, where the masses are kept alive by rations of Soylent Green (= soy bean + lentils). The investigation of what initially seems to be a burglary turned murder of a Soylent Corporation CEO leads police detective Frank Thorn (Charlton Heston) to uncover the truth behind Soylent Green and, as he is being carried off, injured, to an uncertain fate, utter line #77 of the American Film Institute's list of 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time. The effectiveness of the movie is greatly enhanced by keeping the grime of the future so grounded in the familiar of the present (even if the "present" does look pretty 70s by now). Could this be where we end up if we continue to ignore global warming and our defective food system?
Burnt (USA, 2015)
While Burnt does have its many moments of humor, it is hardly the comedy the trailer makes it out to be. Far more, it is a character study and drama about redemption peppered with a some romance and laughs: Master chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper),who burnt all his bridges three year previously in a drug- and alcohol-fueled meltdown, returns to London, clean and sober, with the goal of regaining his past glory and Michelin stars. Cooper may chew the scenery a bit, but the impressive ensemble of actors shine in their roles of varying length, helping to make Burnt an entertaining look at the personal interrelations and politics behind great food.
The Trip (UK, 2010)
This feature film is edited together from 10 episodes of a British series. The Trip stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing fictionalized versions of themselves. Coogen, dumped by his American girlfriend, asks Brydon to accompany him on a tour of top-class restaurants in northern England for a series of articles he is writing for a newspaper. Food, while omnipresent, takes the back seat to the hilarious bickering and interaction between the two comics. The scenery isn't too bad, either.
Big Night (USA, 1996)
Food is everywhere in this movie. It's difficult to understand how a film as good as this one, and which received so much acclaim when it came out, could fall into such obscurity. Subtly touching and humorous, well acted by a tremendous ensemble of fine actors, and engagingly languid, Big Night tells the tale of two immigrant Italian with an Italian restaurant in 1950s New Jersey. The problem is, their food is too good and too Italian to meet the American concept of what "Italian" food is, and so they're struggling to stay afloat. A "big night" with a guest appearance from Louis Prima should generate the publicity needed to save the restaurant…