7 Food Films You Must Watch
When I’m not eating food, I’m thinking about food. When I’m not thinking about food, I’m talking about food. When I’m not talking about food, I’m inevitably consuming some form of food-related media. Do I have a problem? Probably. But I’m not going to stop obsessing about food anytime soon, and neither should you.
While streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ have yet to make the technological strides needed to physically affect your taste buds, cinema is an art form ripe with vivid depictions of food and drink that are more than capable of waking them up. Here are a few of the best food films out there that you should absolutely not watch on an empty stomach.
Released around 13 years ago (Christ, I feel old), Ratatouille has become a permanent part of the food film canon thanks to its earnest depictions of gourmandism and the pure passion which the film’s furry protagonist, Remy, has for food. The film’s mantra is “anyone can cook” – a message that rings true whether you’re a university student attempting their very first bolognese or an overstretched parent preparing their thousandth. Yes, having an actual rat behind the pass would likely flag up all sorts of health code violations but it’s important to remember that this is just a movie, mate. And a thoroughly charming one, at that.
Eat Drink Man Woman
All of the important events in Ang Lee’s film centre around the family dynamic of master chef Chu and his daughters Jia-Jen, Jia-Chien, and Jia-Ning. The dinner table is the place for conflict, the place for resolution, and the place for telling your dad intimate details about your love life in this languidly shot movie. Much like real life, it’s only when hunched over hefty portions of food that the characters open up about their desires and Eat Drink Man Woman does a wonderful job at showing how important meals are to both traditional and modern Chinese culture. The opening scene of the film – which follows Chu’s meticulous preparation of a sumptuous feast – delivers a more nuanced insight into food preparation than you’ll get from most food documentaries. The Mexican-inspired remake Tortilla Soup is also worth exploring.
Jon Favreau produces, directs, and stars in this moreish movie about a restaurateur who loses his job following a public tiff with a food critic and decides to open up a food truck with his son. It’s the ultimate road trip-meets-food-porn film and, yes, Favreau does cast himself as a man who somehow attracts both Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara but it’s the tender relationship with his son that remains at Chef’s sautéed heart. This isn’t one to watch when you’re hungry, mind – all it take is one viewing to get you jonesing for a Cubano sandwich and itching to perfect your Aglio e Olio technique for a potential love interest.
Julie & Julia
Based on writer Julie Powell’s ‘Julie/Julia project’ – in which the New Yorker attempted to cook all 524 of the recipes in Julia Child's ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ over a 365-day period – this 2009 comedy-drama was the final film that Nora Ephron made before her death. The narrative flits between two different time periods (the 1950s and the early 2000s) and while Amy Adams brings an endearing and naïve vulnerability to the role of Julie, it’s Meryl Streep’s larger-than-life performance as Julia Child that unsurprisingly steals the show.
This pizza-themed rom-com, which revolves around the interpersonal skirmishes of a Portuguese-American family who own a pizzeria in Mystic, Connecticut, is a frothy watch-when-you’re-hungover-and-eating-leftover-pizza-in-your-pants kind of flick. Featuring a young Julia Roberts and an even younger Matt Damon in his very first role, it’s an hour and forty-five of light entertainment that touches on all the most important themes of life. Themes such as: pizza, family, falling in love, and… more pizza. Mystic Pizza is literally the reason that Julia Roberts went on to become an international superstar and if that’s not enough to get your cinematic stomach rumbling, then I don’t what is.
Big Night is more than just a story of two down-on-their-luck Calabrian restaurateurs in New Jersey; it is a paean to traditional Italian cooking and an honest portrayal of the struggles of a diaspora that have consistently felt their talents unappreciated by their adopted country. Stanley Tucci, Tony Shaloub, Minnie Driver, and Marc Anthony all play their parts to perfection. The blowout meal that Primo and Secondo whip up in a desperate attempt to save their fledgling restaurant is a wondrous assault on the senses that crescendos with the unveiling of a gargantuan dish of timpano. Yet, rather than leaving you to deal with the emotional meat sweats of this climax, Big Night ends on a quieter note. The final scene of the film sees Tucci’s character make an omelette for his brother: an act of familial love and kinship that showcases the actor’s culinary skills while also acting as a fitting digestif to the previous 106 minutes.
Tampopo is one of the most widely celebrated food films of all time for a very good reason. Every shot of Juzo Itami’s comedy is drenched in a hunger and lust for cooking – be it the eponymous Tampopo’s quest for the ideal bowl of ramen or the erotic, gustatory escapades of the character known solely as “Man in White Suit”. Tampopo is all about sensation and the intense emotions often conjured up by food that any enthusiastic eater will be able to recognise. It, much like the ramen which Tampopo prepares at the film’s climax, is perfect. Please watch it.