Caucasian-coated, white male chefs with a bit of a temper tend to spring to mind when the term “food flicks” is used. Sadly, these films tend to be abysmal (Burnt, featuring Bradley Cooper? Or the repulsive Aaron Eckhart-led version of Anthony Bourdain’s memoir about his time in the kitchen?). After you’ve seen those, you’ll find a plethora of other videos about food from all around the world. When you’re in the mood for something decent to see, these are the movies you turn to.
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1. Big Night (1996)
Aside from being an excellent cuisine film, Big Night also has one of the most stunning food items in cinema: the Timpano, a pasta cake. It’s not just that the Timpano is revered in Stanley Tucci’s film about two brothers who manage an Italian restaurant on the Jersey Shore in the 1950s. Another theme explored is the relationship between assimilation and authenticity in the context of a family. Actors Tucci and Shalhoub portray Secondo and Primo, the owners of the restaurant, respectively. The latter is a chef who doesn’t care if the boorish American customers don’t understand the subtlety of his seafood risotto. Attendees of the “big night” in question include many partners and a man who owns a nearby hotspot. Farcical and silly, but with the sadness that comes from the passing of time. Timpano is now ready for you to practice on. On Amazon Prime, you may now watch it.
2. A Bug’s Life (1998)
“A Bug’s Life?” That’s what you might be thinking. This is on the list? Sure, Flik and his ant colony are obliged to gather beige pebbles every day, which aren’t as enticing as the boiling ramen bowls of Ghibli films or the gleaming ratatouille at the finale of sibling Pixar classic, Ratatouille. Even Nevertheless, the film A Bug’s Life is undoubtedly a film about food, or at least about oppressive and exploitative food systems. An order is established in A Bug’s Life; the grasshoppers use the fear of ants to their advantage, while relying on them for sustenance. Migrant laborers, especially those who are undocumented, are forced to work in unrelenting and unappreciated conditions in order to feed a country that harasses and degrades them. There are no fundamental protections or healthcare for migrant farm workers in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. When Hopper’s band of grasshoppers assure Flik and his fellow ants that they will defend them, they fail to realize that they are part of an oppressive system designed to exploit their labor. It’s true: A Bug’s Life is, in fact, a riff on Seven Samurai. It’s also a movie about the necessity of food and the heavy load it places on those who must gather it. On Disney+, you may now watch it.
3. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
Ang Lee’s Eat, Drink, Man, Woman was the final installment of a loose trilogy of films before he became a household name in the United States with Sense and Sensibility in 1995. Eating and drinking are at the heart of Eat Drink Man Woman’s interpersonal issues, with the family patriarch, a top chef in Taipei, at the center of the action. Meal prepping photos may be beautiful to look at, but they are always taken in a single take in the back of a frantic restaurant kitchen. When you’re preparing a meal at home, you have to pay attention to the ingredients, just like the schoolchildren who gather around a freshly prepared lunch box. Amazon Prime members can watch it immediately.
4. Julie & Julia (2009)
Food from France is wonderful! Even more so, a lot of it is notoriously challenging to produce. In order to learn how to make classic dishes like boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin (and how to pronounce them), you’d need an expert like Julia Child. Of course, Julia Child wasn’t always Julia Child, just as Julie Powell, the internet sensation who chronicled her experiences cooking from Julia Child’s cookbook, wasn’t always Julie Powell. Julie & Julia tells the stories of two women separated in time by decades, but linked by their love of cooking and their desire to achieve fame and fortune through it: Julie (Amy Adams), who lives in present-day Queens and dreams of becoming famous, and Julia (Meryl Streep), who was in Paris in the 1950s with her diplomat husband Paul (Stanley Tucci). You want to reach through the screen and pull Chris Messina’s bruschetta slice straight out of his lips in this film. Hulu has it available to watch right this second. Watch it now.
5. Like Water for Chocolate (1992)
Neither the wedding cake nor the rose sauce in Alfonso Arau’s Mexican film, which is based on Laura Esquivel’s novel from 1989, are just things to be poured over a quartered chicken. As in the magical realism novel “Like Water For Chocolate,” food plays an important role in the characters’ emotional and physical well-being. After eating cake batter that was made with tears, and after eating the rose sauce that was made by cooking it with great care and love, guests are sick to their stomachs and have to be taken to the bathroom where they are literally set on fire by their sexual desire. As a strict mother and her three daughters follow traditional customs and get caught up in a passionate love triangle that progressively pulls the family apart, the story is often presented via narrative voice-over by the niece of a newer generation who discovered her family’s old cookbook. During its initial run in theaters, this film received the largest attendance for a foreign film in the United States. Hulu has it available to watch right this second. Watch it now.
6. The Platform (2019)
The Platform, a cannibalistic jail freak-out from Spain, was an unexpected smash for Netflix when it arrived on the streaming service in late 2019. It’s hard to see the picture without thinking, “What if Snowpiercer was vertical?” There is no train involved in this show; instead, it’s set in the “Vertical Self-Management Center,” where offenders are housed two to a floor instead. A large platform of food drops from the ceiling every day, and those on top get first dibs. Those on the bottom get scraps or nothing at all. For one thing, a higher floor means easier access to a vast buffet of food that lowers the likelihood of murdering (and eating) your floormate. It’s horrifying and heartbreaking at the same time as a meditation on food scarcity. On Netflix, you may now see it.
7. Ratatouille (2007)
How would you rate “Ratatouille” as the greatest food film ever? At Thrillist, we believe so. One film in the Pixar canon, however, dares — and that’s the perfect term, as it continues to receive flak for it — to tackle the existential conflict that is loving oneself and the gentle ideal that everyone can cook. This is Toy Story, of course. In order to exist on this planet, Remy the Rat must transform into a furry mammal. To feed his family, he must prepare food. Defiance is made into a three-ring circus by director Brad Bird. Pixar collaborators Michael Giacchino and Patton Oswalt are responsible for a large portion of the film’s soundtrack with their interpretations of Parisian jazz. In Ratatouille, the top artists in the film industry recount an artist’s tale in the form of a fine meal. On Disney+, you may now watch it.
8. Sideways (2004)
On a road journey through the Santa Ynez Valley with his best friend, Paul Giamatti plays a depressed, divorced, failing writer who only wants to taste excellent wine and has no intention of committing to a lifetime of monogamy. A Best Picture nomination and an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay go to Giamatti’s rant against merlot, which sank the wine’s sales and became some of the most memorable lines in modern cinema. This is where you can see Sandra Oh, before she was Grey’s Anatomy, steal the show. Hulu has it available to watch right this second. Watch it now.
9. Tampopo (1985)
Despite the fact that the plot of Juzo Itami’s “ramen western,” which was restored to 4K by Criterion in 2016, may sound easy, the experience of seeing Tampopo is practically nothing like what you may expect. During Tampopo and her crew’s hunt for recipes and practice timed trials we see the lives and personalities of seemingly disconnected individuals: white-suited gastronomic yakuza and his mistress, group of ravenous, etiquette-obsessed lunching ladies, salarymen who order the same meal except for the disruptive youngest member. Eggs and Tampopo are two of the film’s most well-known vignettes; yet, they’re just two of the many poignant stories that make up the film’s overall message about our relationship to food. When it comes to the Bourdain-ism that “food is sex,” Tampopo was well ahead of the late chef and travel show on the subject. The Criterion Channel has it streaming right now.
10. The Trip (2010)
Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip series will be just up your alley if you appreciate clumsy British humor and nonstop Michael Caine impersonations. The Observer assigns Steve Coogan, playing himself, to tour the top restaurants in the UK in an attempt to impress his food-obsessed fiancée. He has comic Rob Brydon, his best buddy whom he despises, as his sidekick (also playing himself). Laughter and sarcasm ensue. As a result, there is a deeper exploration of what it means to be happy as an adult, and how friends don’t necessarily have to agree with each other in order for them to stay close. Hulu has it available to watch right this second. Watch it now.
11. Uncorked (2020)
In Prentice Penny’s directorial debut, Uncorked, wine and BBQ are perfectly suited as the embodiment of generational conflict. A Memphis barbecue chain’s heir apparent (Mamoudou Athie), a young Black man who has no desire to run the business, is the focus of Uncorked. Rather, he plans to pursue his lifelong interest in wine, which will serve as a passport for him to travel the world from his hometown of Memphis, much to his parents’ dismay (Courtney B. Vance and Niecy Nash). It’s a wine movie about family, but it’s also a wine movie about family. The majority of the cast is made up of folks we don’t usually see in wine movies: black people. On Netflix, you may now see it.
12. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
You’ve seen it all before: a few kids pick a golden ticket from chocolate Wonka Bars to get a tour of Willy Wonka’s candy-making plant. Most of the unruly children have a horrible experience! Veruca Salt is drained of all of her energy by the nasty egg chute and Augustus Gloop is swallowed by the chocolate river, leaving Charlie Bucket and his grandfather Joe as the only winners of this charade….. The original film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, remains a classic for all the reasons you fondly remember, even though it was redone with Johnny Depp. As for Gene Wilder’s all-ages performance as Roald Dahl’s wacky candyman, the actor deserves Gobstoppers of applause for his many flashes of eccentricity. Amazon Prime members can watch it immediately.