I’ve always held food movies in a special place in my heart; with the ones that I like becoming instant favorites and the ones that I don’t like so much still earning a place ‘up there’ with my personal list of greats.
I don’t know what it is about seeing passion for food on screen. Whether it be through eating, cooking, pursuing, or even romanticizing: there’s just something about watching copious amounts of delicious looking food being consumed with such fixation, absorption, and zeal that affects me so.
Sometimes these films inspire me to recreate their most memorable dishes in my kitchen. But most of the time I just end up getting really really hungry: a state I rather enjoy being in, to be perfectly honest.
So here’s a list, in no particular order, of Food Films I’ve enjoyed watching (and re-watching over and over) through the years.
I’ve arranged to find the recipes for each of the most memorable dishes in these films for all of you, as well. try your hand at cooking some of them! trust me, THEY’RE DELICIOUS!
1. The 100-Foot Journey – giving classical French Cuisine a new spin that frankly nobody saw coming, this film makes you crave for spices you’ve never tasted before, long for flavors you’ve never ever had, and yearn for dishes you didn’t even know how to pronounce. Until now!
2. Toast – the story of Nigel Slater’s beginnings: from his mother’s less than able kitchen, to his stepmother’s rather competitive kitchen; and later on, to his own kitchen, where his star finally gets to rise and reaches the stellar level he is enjoying today.
3. Chocolat – a gypsy woman and her daughter, with directions coming solely from ‘the clever north wind,’ travel from one sleepy French town to the next, bringing with them exotic gifts of cacao. ‘Tranquilite’ in these sleepy towns gets disturbed in no time, ruffling feathers of the powers that be. But through the lusty and passionate charms of chocolate, our heroine wins hearts and her permanent place in society.
4. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman – a story that has been adapted many different times, over many different cultures. basically, the story of a father trying desperately to hold on to his three daughters through the ritualistic preparation and consumption of their Sunday lunches. the first 10 minutes of this movie is enough to get you running to the closest Chinese takeout place.
5. Chef – John Favreau’s masterpiece, if I do say so myself. the story revolves around a once promising chef who through years of dedicated and rather mechanical service to a restaurant owned by someone else, loses his lustre and kind of fades into the woodwork. things pickup when the chef gets a horrible review and through his own twitter fauxpas, gets himself out of the job and on the road. the story gets real heart when the chef starts to bond with his son as they travel through america on a food truck that serves authentic cubanos, or cuban sandwhiches, and many other menu items they sort of make up and add along the way.
6. No Reservations – I’ve never been a real fan of Mrs. Zeta-Jones Douglas, but I just adore her in this movie. Miss Zeta-Jones D (ZJD) is an accomplished chef who struggles with perfectionism and borderline OCD. she is the executive chef of her own kitchen, to a restaurant which she does not own, but acts as if she is queen of a tiny kingdom. her unchallenged crown gets unexpectedly knocked off her head when news of her sister’s death reaches her through the arrival of her now newly orphaned niece. together, they learn how to live with each other, and eventually, learn how to welcome a new man into their lives. the story, is of course, peppered generously with delicious, cuisine-level food. but my favorite comes in the form of the most unassuming bowl of simple spaghetti.
7. Under the Tuscan Sun – this story isn’t exactly centered around food, but food does play a crucial part in resurrecting the lead character back to life. and I’m not talking about just any food, I’m talking about real Tuscan food. Our lead character goes through a very messy divorce, and while dealing with the rather unsavory business of uncoupling, suddenly finds herself in the middle of a gay and away tour group making its way through Italy. while there, she goes through a series of breakthroughs: one of which makes her the owner of a old family villa with numerous dilapidated rooms filled with knickknacks, bric-a-brac, and other memorabilla that takes her on a journey of self discovery and love. she hires men to do housework, and while the men work on her house, she takes up cooking with the old lady next door. a short, but lovely scene has the lead character presenting her evolving cooking skills to her more than happy audience.
8. Ratatouille – not one of my favorites (mainly because I still get a bit jittery at the sight of pink rat tails. ee!), ratatouille is a lovesong to classical French cuisine: from its simplest form all the way up to the haute-r than haute. various dishes are prepared on screen, and even though this is purely CG, pixar manages to make the dishes come alive and make viewers salivate. ratatouille was never one of my favorite dishes, but this movie taught me how to appreciate simple, honest flavors.
find the recipe for Remy’s Soup here
9. Julie and Julia – an adaptation of a novel that was once a blog that was once just someone’s idea of passing the time (not unlike this here blog, I might say!). Julie and Julia is a cinematic triumph when it comes to seamlessly weaving two very distant timelines and settings (Julia Child is in Paris, 1949 while Julie Powell is in Queens, NYC sometime after the events of 9/11) and telling one full, cohesive, and well-rounded story. Julia Child is in Paris for the very first time and we are shown how she discovers butter, sole meuniere, French wine, champagne, and so many other food items. Julie has just moved to Queens, to an apartment situated on top of a pizzeria with her husband. She battles the sadness she feels for her dislike of her new surroundings by deciding to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French cooking. The movie takes the appetite for a spin. Be ready to hit the French bistro when you are done, this film is one of those that just won’t let you sleep until you’ve had an acceptable amount of butter coursing through your system.
10. Marie Antoinette – again, not one of my favorites, but one particular scene does manage to sear itself into my memory from this film. Marie Antoinette, infamous for telling her ministers to ‘let them eat cake!’, has a glorious scene in the Sophia Coppola adaptation wherein we are treated to shoes and cake, in all the shades of blush (I would like us all to forget that one pair of pumps in mustard. disgusting! next!) The scene is GLORIOUS and has champagne towers, macarons, bonbons, eclairs, and all other forms of French confections and pastries you can imagine. Tres charmant!!!
11. Raise the Red Lantern – again, not really a food movie but does contain one key scene involving the characters and food. the mistresses of the house are in some sort of power struggle with one another. they’re all fighting for top spot and the chance to have the master of the house sleep in their quarters every night. as to why this is, I do not know. Master is no fox, and by the looks of the mistresses after their sessions, is no tiger in the bedroom either. anyway, the one scene has our lead character getting usurped by one of the other concubines through dinner time. lead is a vegetarian, and concubine, having the ball in her court at this particular time, ordered an all meat spread. lead character asks for her spinach and beancurd, concubine points out that there have been far too many vegetable dishes already. and to appease lead character, concubine orders one of the maids to get her some pork, steamed in lotus leaves. a true master in the art of bitchery, concubine succeeds in getting lead character to leave the table in anger. and leaving me, the viewer, CRAVING spinach and beancurd as well as pork, steamed in lotus leaves. damn bitches!
12. The Joy Luck Club – food plays a minor role in this movie, but one that stays in the background all through out. There are many scenes involving food, but one particular standout has the mother of June, Suyuan, hosting a dinner for her rival Lindo, and her daughter’s rival, Waverly. The 4 women are odd friends, sometimes enemies, sometimes the best of friends. Tensions are broken during one particular argument over dinner when Suyan breaks out her signature dish: BEST QUALITY CRAB. And it has to be said: BEST QUA-RI-TY. No offense meant by that, sincerely, but saying it like that makes me feel like its Suyuan herself presenting the dish, and its her recipe, and her magic. Another very memorable dish, and my personal favorite since I don’t eat crab, is the soup that scalds Auntie An Mei. As her mother, aunts, and uncle angrily argue over trivial matters of who slept with whom, little An Mei is patiently waiting for all the arguing to stop so that dinner can finally start. She is seen table side, right next to the hot soup. The arguing continues, unfortunately, and poor An Mei is not only left hungry, but is also left scarred for life as the soup she was so eager to taste spills all over her tiny body, no thanks to her visibly and audibly miffed uncle who couldn’t help but slap the table repeatedly just to show how much he thought An Mei’s mum was a dirty slag ho.
13. Eat. Pray. Love. – lots of different feelings about this movie. I for one, liked it for what it was: a chick flick. the lead character’s life is spun on its head when she herself decides its time to divorce her unconditionally loving husband. she is convinced that this is the right decision and what is best for everyone, so she goes through with it, messy divorce and all. she then goes on a world tour, traveling from one country to the next, with each destination chosen specifically for its potential to re-awaken skills the lead character has somehow forgotten. LIKE ANYONE CAN FORGET HOW TO ENJOY EATING?? okay okay, its possible. I’ve seen it happen. but yeah, her first leg takes her to Italy, where she sets out to recover her long lost appetite. She takes us on a visual tour of some of Italy’s well known culinary regions like Napoli, Rome, and others. She enjoys plates of pasta, sugary pieces of napoleones, huge balls of gelato (in cones!), gargantuan slices of pizza, and my favorite, a plate of pappardelle con ragu de coniglio, or pappardelle with ragu of rabbit. it sounds so gamey but also sounds so balanced with the ragu sauce, the pappardelle almost seems excessive!
14. Simply Irresistible – this one is a surprise fairy tale. and I mean that in the sense that I was surprised to find out that this was, in fact, a fantasy movie. the lead character played by Sarah Michelle Gellar (SMG), is the owner of a charming little restaurant in NYC. the restaurant was left in the novice hands of SMG when the owner, SMG’s mother in the movie, passes away. the restaurant has a small following of loyal customers, but as rents go up and sales go down, the restaurant soon faces closure. all is seemingly lost until SMG chances upon a magical crab that breathes new life into SMG’s cooking, her dishes, her restaurant, and her relationships. the crab is so good at what he does that the food SMG makes become vehicles of emotions: emotions SMG was feeling at the time of cooking. the movie has hilarious twists and has more than its fair share of ODD turns, but one scene in particular makes this movie a memorable one for me. it involves Patricia Clarkson consuming an eclair made by SMG at a time when she was feeling very romantic and lusty. Patricia Clarkson has waves of orgasms at each and every bite, which is both funny to watch and also quite enticing. makes me want to have a piece of that cake every single time! (okay so its not a cake, boo hoo!)
find a delicious recipe for Caramel Eclairs here
15. Woman on Top – Penelope Cruz plays a Brazilian sea enchantress in this charming story of food, passion, sex, sweat, and love. Penelope Cruz cooks her way into every american home (at least in San Francisco) when she hosts a cooking show called PASSION FOOD. On that show, she prepares amazing Brazilian dishes, using exotic ingredients, sexy spices, and lots and lots of chili peppers. Her love interest, Toninho, is a hottie in his own right, adds just the right kick to make this movie a truly memorable one that leaves a delicately spicy aftertaste in your mouth.
16. It’s Complicated – I almost forgot to include this one! Meryl Streep stars in this charming movie about a woman having her own version of a mid-life crisis. She’s been divorced from her husband, Alec Baldwin, for what seems like forver, but they reconnect and have lots and lots of sex together. At this time also, she starts dating the cute Steve Martin, who is an honest and well meaning guy going through his own fresh divorce. Meryl is a famous chef / caterer / restaurateur in her town, and she owns her own patisserie. She spends her sleepless nights making ice cream, whips up perfect croque monsieurs in a snap, and after one particular date she has with Steve Martin, also demonstrates how ‘easy’ it is to make chocolate croissants. Always always always makes me crave chocolat chaud and a good, buttery, pain au chocolat!
find a good recipe for pain au chocolat here
17. Tampopo – the Japanese cult classic about a legendary ramen shop. the story is completely oddball, let me just say, but the heart of the film stays true to its subject: the preparation of the perfect bowl of RAMEN. all the slurping will leave you wanting to get yourself a hot bowl at the nearest ramen bar. and don’t you even think about making instant ramen to satisfy your craving. trust me on this: IT JUST WON’T DO!
18. Jiro Dreams of Sushi – this was once the most talked about documentary among hipsters the world over. a loving homage to one unassuming subway sushi bar in Japan, Jiro Dreams of Sushi artfully tells the story of Jiro, his two sons, and their michelin-starred sushi restaurant. The onscreen food visuals are dazzling, and the accompanying selection of classical music is exquisite: a documentary truly worth keeping for the ages.
19. In the Mood for Love – Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung are star crossed lovers in this contemporary tale of love, restricted. Maggie and Tony flirt over bowls of ChowMein and plates of dumplings, all while impeccably dressed in sharp suits and the most elegant array of cheongsams I’ve ever seen on film. And they all fit Maggie like a dream: long, slender back, high chinese collars that ‘hide the goods,’ and the slits that reveal and conceal skin, in all the right amounts all at the right times.
20. The Help – Minnie’s crisco fried chicken. Minnie’s many recipes. and of course, Minnie Jackson’s Chocolate Pie. ’nuff said!!!
21. Something’s Gotta Give – the last movie for now is this super funny movie by Nancy Myers starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Diane Keaton has a gorgeous house in the Hamptons: the location in which all the other characters in the movie find themselves ending up staying in. Farmer’s Markets, Delis, and upscale grocers can all be seen in the movie, but the one scene that has made this movie one of my all time faves is the scene where Diane and Jack, both finding themselves in the throes of midnight hunger pangs, agree to make pancakes in the middle of the night. FROM SCRATCH. Said pancakes never get made, but the idea of pancakes from scratch has stayed with me, and has inspired many kitchen experiments since.
there you have it: 21 food films I’ve enjoyed watching and re-watching through the years.
thanks for reading!
featured image and header image taken from google images, which took it from a fabulous little destination on the web called http://merci-mama.com
all other images taken from the very same pages they link to
additional recipes and food images lifted from Martha Stewart and marthastewart.com