With the Sundance Film Festival rolling into Utah this week, I thought I’d turn my attention to some of my favorite movies about food – there’s a smorgasbord of them to delight in for the hungry filmgoer.
My very favorite food-themed film was one that I originally saw at the Sundance Film Festival. Big Night won the Grand Jury Dramatic Prize at Sundance in 1996 and stars Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub as two Italian immigrant brothers trying to make a go of their authentic Italian restaurant set in New Jersey in the 1950s. Big Night was filmed before the food porn craze hit screens large and small and is notable for its beautifully filmed kitchen scenes such as the grand finale when brothers Primo and Secondo prepare an immense pasta timpano the size of a tom tom drum.
An even earlier ode to orgiastic eating was Babette’s Feast, a 1987 Danish film that climaxes with a grand feast compiled of exotic and luxurious ingredients from Paris to create dishes such as truffle- and foie gras-stuffed quail, turtle soup, baba au rhum, and seemingly limitless quantities of Champagne.
When a ruthless restaurant critic pans chef Carl Casper’s (Jon Favreau) cooking skills in the 2014 film Chef, he quits his restaurant job and opens El Jefe, a food truck specializing in making authentic Cubano sandwiches. It’s an honest and affectionate depiction of America’s food culture as chef Casper, his son, and a friend travel the byways of our country dispensing those killer Cubanos and yuca fries.
Along with Ratatouille, one of my favorite animated movies is Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle, which features a short, but indelible scene of cooking a breakfast of cracked eggs and slabs of bacon on a living stove. Yes, you have to see it to make sense of it, but the sizzling of the bacon and sounds of eggs hitting a hot pan are incredibly vivid.
Food and sensuality are delectably intertwined in films like Tampopo (1986), Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), and Like Water for Chocolate (1992). One of the most sensuous scenes ever recorded on film is that of the two lovers in Tampopo passing a raw egg yolk from each other’s mouths during a quest to create the perfect bowl of ramen noodles.
One of the most gloriously gluttonous characters to appear on film is Albert Spica (played by Michael Gambon) in 1986’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover as he and his retinue of thugs rampage through a temple of haute cuisine called Le Hollandais. The theme of cannibalism runs through movies like this one, Eating Raoul, and Delicatessen, so they aren’t for everybody, but if you like foodie movies that are edgy, load these ones onto your plate.
For something more modern and lusciously filmed, give the 2022 black comedy horror film The Menu a look. I don’t want to give any of the plot points away, but let’s just say there is a smorgasbord of shocking surprises in The Menu, which was made with the help of consultants from the world of fine dining such as chef and restaurateur Dominique Crenn.
Other honorable movie mentions for food lovers include 9 ½ Weeks, Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe, Chocolat, La Grande Bouffe, Tortilla Soup, Julie & Julia, The Lunchbox, Burnt, Mostly Martha, Soul Kitchen, The Trip to Italy, and the flawless documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Do you have a favorite food film? We’d love to hear about it.
Culinary quote of the week: “To eat good food is to be close to God.” – Primo (Tony Shalhoub) in “Big Night”
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THIS CONTENT IS FROM UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.