It’s awards season, and of course there’s best picture and best director and best everything else—but what about best food scene? That one always seems to be left out of the Oscar race. We did a little research and pulled together our all-time favorites.
1. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It’s hard to pick the best food scene from this flick (the 1971 version, with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, still wins over the 2005 one); it’s about a chocolate factory, for God’s sake. We decided on the scene that portrays the downfall of Augustus Gloop, that gluttonous little boy who is the first to find the Golden Ticket and the first to fail spectacularly, by getting sucked down a pipe into the chocolate river. Cue the Oompa Loompas: “What do you get when you guzzle down sweets?/ Eating as much as an elephant eats?/ What are you at getting terribly fat?/ What do you think will come of that?/ I don’t like the look of it!”
2. GoodFellas. Combine some hungry wise guys with prison contraband and what do you have? One of the tastiest meals ever played out on film. From Paulie slicing the garlic paper-thin with a razor to Vinnie overseasoning the two cans of tomatoes with three large onions, the crew whips up a meal that makes you ponder doing time in the joint just to get in on some smuggled bread, salami, and prosciutto.
3. Delicatessen. In a postapocalyptic age on the outskirts of Paris, the tenants of one building, ruled by a butcher, cope with the scarcity of food by chopping up handymen lured there by the promise of a job. A meal-to-be worker and the butcher’s daughter take tea, indulging in a rare treat—biscuits.
4. Pieces of April. When disaffected daughter April invites her estranged family to her tiny apartment for Thanksgiving dinner, they reluctantly accept. The day of, she’s dealt a series of blows, beginning with the panicked realization that her oven doesn’t work. To remedy the situation, she solicits the help of her neighbors, but the turkey returns from one unstable neighbor’s place half-cooked and missing a drumstick, which he’s stolen for his dog. There’s an endearing resolution, but dysfunctional family plus tradition-laden holiday plus malfunctioning equipment gets us every time.
5. Like Water for Chocolate. Tita’s the last unmarried daughter in her family, and therefore must take care of her mother instead of marrying the man she loves, Pedro, who is matched up with Tita’s sister. The fabulous meals that Tita whips up reflect her repressed emotion: When Tita’s tears fall into the batter intended for her sister’s wedding cake, the movie goes mystical as the wedding guests find themselves overtaken with melancholy.
6. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. A dippy bird cracks an egg into a frying pan as a suspended model of a pterodactyl skeleton descends a zip line to drop two slices of bread into a toaster. A tyrannosaurus rex uses its mouth to juice oranges into a pitcher as a life-sized Abraham Lincoln figure stands by, flipping pancakes onto the ceiling. Yes, it’s Pee-wee Herman’s breakfast machine, found in the hilarious and brilliant Paul Reubens/Tim Burton/Phil Hartman collaboration.
7. Eat Drink Man Woman. Knife-lovers and food fanatics alike can appreciate the opening scene of this Ang Lee film. Though the banquets and many family meals depicted through the movie make it a treat overall, the overbearing father wielding his cleaver with an orchestrated ease and elegance is what captures our attention.
8. Oldboy. Imprisoned for 15 years, subsisting solely on dumplings, the protagonist, Dae-su Oh, escapes, saunters into a sushi bar, and requests to eat something living (he’s served octopus). One of the best appetite suppressants ever caught on film.
9. Fried Green Tomatoes. From the food-fight scene between Idgy and Ruth to the first time Idgy makes fried green tomatoes, this movie is peppered with good food moments. But nothing tops the scene in which the body of Ruth’s abusive husband, Frank, is disposed of at a barbecue and a relentless policeman on the trail of the murder ends up unwittingly eating Frank’s remains.
10. My Dinner with Andre. It’s the longest dinner scene in film history: Andre Gregory, as Andre, orders the terrine de poisson and the cailles aux raisins. Wally, played by Wallace Shawn, has a hard time with the menu. He orders the potato soup and the quail as well. They finish their meals with espresso, and an amaretto for Wally. In between, they debate moral and social philosophy for nearly two hours.