Food films can tick a lot of boxes: they can trigger powerful nostalgic memories, taking us on a one-way trip down memory lane; peel back the curtain on the good, the bad and the ugly of the kitchen (whether accurately depicted or not is a different story); provide pure entertainment value; and at the most primal level, make us salivate with some truly epic cooking scenes.
Whether the subject matter of the movie or a recurring motif, food and the larger sphere it occupies is becoming more prevalent than ever as a cultural and cinematic touchpoint. With many of us spending more time at home these days, we thought we would share our list of the best films for food lovers below, from old cult classics to box office hits and award-winning masterpieces. Binge-watch the below on your next day off—but make sure you have plenty of snacks on hand.
Juzo Itami’s 1985 film “Tampopo” is another cult classic that continues to be the subject of themed film nights more than 30 years after its release. Food is the common thread that ties together a handful of seemingly random vignettes, while the main storyline follows a struggling ramen shop owner saved by the kindness of two strangers, who embark on a quest to make her the world’s greatest ramen chef.
Another classic from the food film genre, Big Night shifts the spotlight from the food to the restaurant itself and the various relationships that make or break it. Family, passion and perseverance are themes that tie this big-hearted film together, about two Italian immigrant restaurateurs who may be at odds, but are hell-bent on keeping their restaurant alive.
Eat Drink Man Woman
This generational comedy comes from celebrated director Ang Lee, a poignantly funny film which uses food as the prism by which we understand life itself, be it fatherhood, young love, or the family ties that bind us together. Sihung Lung stars as widower Tao Chu, a celebrated chef whose culinary ingenuity is appreciated everywhere but his own home, where he must concoct the most difficult recipe of all: finding a way to reconnect with his three headstrong and rebellious daughters who are caught up in their own affairs of the heart.
Julie & Julia
This biographical dramedy links two women from different eras who share a passion for butter, and a pursuit to find meaningful work in a life at loose ends. Based on two true stories, Amy Adams plays Julie Powell—a high-strung New Yorker and amateur cook who sets off to recreate all of Julia Child’s 524 recipes in 365 days—while Meryl Streep stars as the culinary legend herself, dishing up another delightfully uncanny and award-winning performance seasoned with plentiful charisma.
One of the most famous food movies of all time, Babette’s Feast tells the tale of a Parisian refugee who represses her own prodigious culinary talents to cook years of bland meals in a Danish puritanical community. When her fate changes through a stroke of luck, she is able to finally unleash her culinary prowess in one exquisite feast that touches on the sensual, the sacred, and the divinely delicious.
God of Cookery
Fans of Hong Kong cinema and Stephen Chow will find comfort in the familiar recipe of this absurdist comedy—another over-the-top Chow gem full of slapstick, outlandish jokes and hilarious parody. Full of his trademark mo lei tau humour, Chow plays a megalomaniacal chef who falls into the depths of shame and disgrace when he is ousted for his fraudulent tactics and must fight to reclaim his title as the God of Cookery.
The Hundred-Foot Journey
The Hundred-Foot Journey is as aesthetically pleasing as it gets for a food film: set in the picturesque French countryside, starring two genetically blessed leads, and full of glossy food scenes to make your glands salivate. The movie is the perfect cinematic culinary concoction, combining elements of the rising young star chef, fierce head-to-head competition on the line, the rigorous pursuit of Michelin perfection, and ultimately, the family ties that triumph over all.
A rat who ditches his pack to pursue his dream of becoming a professional restaurant chef is the improbable premise of this animated film that has become not just a beloved family movie, but a cornerstone of the food film genre. The climactic scene—known as ‘that ratatouille moment’—in which a hardened critic tastes his childhood through one bite endures as one of the most poignant on-screen tributes to the transforming power of food.