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The Best Feature Films About Food

January 4, 2010  |  7:00am
The Best Feature Films About Food

Many excellent movies have been made in honor of the preparation, celebration and eating of food. As a follow-up to our 10 Best Food Documentaries list, here are the 15 best feature films about food:

15. Moonstruck (1987) [MGM]
This film, in which Cher and Nicolas Cage pursue an unlikely love affair, sets its pivotal conversations in Italian restaurants, or over breakfasts of red peppers, eggs and toast. Cher discovers the passionate, reckless Cage working the ovens in a bakery and eventually feeds him steak.

14. Soul Food (1997) [Twentieth-Century Fox]
A story of an African-American family in Chicago who is held together, against all odds, by the tradition of eating weekly Sunday dinners together, Soul Food’s family togetherness is aided by the food cooked by matriarch Mother Joe.

13. Mostly Martha (2001) [Paramount]
This delightful German film depicts a rigid chef whose life—and cooking—is affected by an unconventional newcomer in her kitchen. Charmingly, if unsurprisingly, the tale equates the characters’ attitudes about food with their philosophies about life.

12. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) [Universal]
Four talented actresses tell a multi-generational story about friendship among women, centered around delicious Southern-cuisine concoctions and the unappetizing and satisfyingly vengeful fate for one Very Bad Husband.

11. Fast Food Nation (2006) [Fox Searchlight]
Richard Linklater’s fictionalization of Eric Schlosser’s non-fiction book will never let you look at your value meal the same way again. After all, “There is shit in the meat.”

10. Delicatessen (1991) [Miramax]
A bizarre, darkly funny dystopic film about a post-World War II French apartment building under severe food rations from the government. To accommodate for the shortages, the butcher/landlord kills off his tenants one by one, selling the meat to the rest of the building via the currency of bags of dried corn.

9. Julie & Julia (2009) [Columbia]
Lost and directionless Julie embarks on a year-long project to cook every dish in Julia Child’s iconic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Killing lobsters and creating bizarre French concoctions, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep journey through the world of French gastronomy.

8. Waitress (2007) [Fox Searchlight]
This fantastical film features a plucky diner waitress who’s a wiz at pie-making, dreaming up pies to match her every mood. As she deals with a bleak pregnancy, an unhappy marriage and the possibility of a new life with her handsome obstetrician, she channels her feelings into the creation of some of the most mouth-watering desserts seen on film.

7. Like Water for Chocolate (1992) [Miramax]
An adaptation of Laura Esquievel’s novel about Mexican cooking and magical realism, Like Water for Chocolate depicts the passionate but forbidden love between two young people, Tita and Pedro. As Tita cooks, her moods and emotions directly enter her food, evoking violently powerful reactions—sometimes positive, sometimes disastrous—in all who eat her cooking.

6. Soylent Green (1973) [MGM]
“Soylent Green is people!” Charlton Heston headlined this apocalyptic film that centered around a bleak future of food shortages and corporate domination of nutritional rations. Provocative, if not exactly appetizing.

5. Chocolat (2000) [Miramax]
This light-hearted fairytale offers a parable about the power of chocolate to open the mind and convert the hard-hearted to love and compassion. Food porn at its best, it offers sequences set to a bouncy soundtrack of a rich array of chocolate desserts being prepared, inspiring an unnaturally strong craving for the best foodstuff on earth.

4. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) [Paramount]
Certainly the most exuberant ode to candy ever put to celluloid, Gene Wilder is alternately creepy and strangely charming in one of the trippiest children’s films around.

3. Sideways (2004) [Fox Searchlight]
Alexander Payne’s quirky film takes its oenophilia seriously. Watch this breathtaking scene in which Maya (Virginia Madsen) eloquently explains to Miles (Paul Giamatti) why she thinks wine is so wonderful.

2. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) [Samuel Goldwyn]
Ang Lee’s sumptuous Taiwanese film details the life and work of a talented but intensely difficult chef, a widower named Mr. Chu who has lost the use of his taste buds. The lonely Chu cooks elaborate feasts for his three lovelorn adult daughters, forcing his children to sit through brutally tense Sunday dinners at all costs.

1. Babette’s Feast (1987) [Orion]
There’s not much excitement in the this tale of a strict Danish religious sect, whose internal divisions are melted by an extravagant feast (one they fear for all its exotic French origins)—but this winner of the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar is a exquisite celebration of the joys of food and community and a marvelous parable of grace. Tim Regan-Porter

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