7 Appetizing Uses Of Food In Movies

Lady and the Tramp 7 Appetizing Uses Of Food In Movies

Much gets made about the role violence plays in movies and culture, and to what extent violence in movies is related to the perceived increase in violence in society. Most of the time I agree with Quentin Tarantino, that people are able to distinguish fantasy from reality and while movies may inform people’s perceptions of violence, very rarely do they beget violence itself, if it can be said that they do at all. Django Unchained did not make me want to go on a killing spree. It did, however, make me want to eat handfuls of candy. So perhaps the question should be: to what extent does food in movies contribute to our society’s culinary addictions and dependency??

No, movies and video games do not make me want to be violent. I have not one time seen a fight in a movie and thought hey, this really makes me want to punch my landlord in the face. But I can’t count the number of times where I’ve seen a parched character drink the final drops of water from his canteen and proceeded to pause the movie so I could get my own glass. Then again, just writing this is making me thirsty, so I suppose the power of suggestion can be found in many different sources. Nevertheless, there have been a number of movies that have shown food in a particular way to make a viewer’s mouth water. This is just as effective as a movie that makes you sweat or cry, and when it’s done well, the craving can be a powerful thing.

Here are 7 examples of uses of food in movies that have proven particularly prickly for the tastebuds.

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1) The strudel in Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds1 7 Appetizing Uses Of Food In Movies

We might as well begin with the aforementioned Quentin Tarantino, as he tends to shoot food in a manner for more visceral than the deliberate and delightful cartoonishness that his violence exhibits. His use of food in movies has been so noticeable that other writers have picked up on the motif. Elvis Mitchell has spoken about how Tarantino likes to use food to signify power, from the rice in Kill Bill, the beer in Django, the diner food in Pulp Fiction, or screwdrivers in Jackie Brown.

My personal favorite, though, is the strudel scene with Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. There are many things about this scene that are delicious—the tension, the dramatic irony, the line delivery and general disposition of Hans Landa—but god, that strudel looks amazing. Tarantino shoots it in pretty extreme close up, with shallow focus, and the pastry and cream combine to make a dessert that looks transcendent, even as one of the most despicable villains eats it, offering it to the Melanie Laurent character who is being made sick, perhaps because she is reminded of the milk Landa drinks in the movie’s opening scenes. Either way, I want some. And Landa seems to savor it as much as Daniel Plainview savors his imaginary milkshake in There Will Be Blood.

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2) Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory 7 Appetizing Uses Of Food In Movies

I remember less about the chocolate factory in the Tim Burton version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and more about Johnny Depp’s channeling of Michael Jackson. The version that gave me, and I suspect most everyone else, a reaction of “I want to go to there!!” was the 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Gene Wilder adaptation.

The whole of the movie is filled with edible delights, but the big moment comes during Gene Wilder’s famous song and dance routine where the children and adults are first exposed to the paradise that is the inside of the chocolate factory. Maybe it’s the adults running around trying to eat everything at the same pace as the kids, but any world where everything is edible seems pretty awesome on its own. The chocolate waterfall is pretty tasty-looking, but if it was me running around in this weird room, I’d go straight for the weird icing-covered giant mushrooms and/or Wonka’s umbrella.

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3) The imaginary feast in Hook

Hook 7 Appetizing Uses Of Food In Movies

So maybe the entire movie isn’t that good, but the scene where Rufio and Peter are squaring off at the dinner table where everyone’s eating imaginary food has a pretty scrumptious twist. It’s actually a decent scene, visualizing for the audience the moment Peter starts to use his old Pannish imagination, when he develops some of his old swagger, and fires the imaginary spoon of something or other at Rufio’s stupid face. The big reveal of the food everyone’s been imagining up to that point is pretty nice. You see everything they were miming before: the cream pies, the fruit, the burgers, the cheese, the roast birds. And then of course they all start throwing it at each other, which seems so wasteful.

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4) Lembas bread in Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings 7 Appetizing Uses Of Food In Movies

The hard bread stuff that Sam and Frodo eat along their journey to Mordor isn’t the most visually appetizing stuff you’ve ever seen, but its description is more than a little intriguing. One bite is supposed to fill the stomach of your average man, though not your average hobbit obviously because they’re little but are apparently insatiable when it comes to meat and mead. So even if it tastes like bad matzo, how could you say no to magic food? It’s like butterbeer from Harry Potter except I actually tried that in Orlando and it’s ok. But something where one bite was enough to make you feel full? How has our society not come up with something like this yet? We currently have the opposite product known as rice. Every time Sam and Frodo chow down on this stuff I want to call sharesies.

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5) The McDonald’s in Supersize Me

Supersize Me 7 Appetizing Uses Of Food In Movies

Theorists say that even war movies that are highly critical of military confrontations glorify and romanticize war to a certain extent, just by the nature of depicting acts of heroism or thrilling scenes on screen. I wasn’t sold on this until I saw Supersize Me and felt like eating McDonald’s. It’s a weird impulse to see something being essentially condemned by someone and agree with everything they’re saying while at the same time desperately wanting McNuggets. I get that in moderation McDonald’s is fine. But I don’t want it in moderation. I want it every day in fact. A movie like Supersize Me does not curb this desire, but only increases the guilt I feel if and when I give in to said desire. Maybe that’s the point? Damn you, Morgan Spurlock. I hope your One Direction documentary doesn’t have the same effect on me.

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6) The ratatouille in Ratatouille

Ratatouille 7 Appetizing Uses Of Food In Movies

Even though it’s animated, the food, and the discussion around the making of the food, and the description of the ingredients that go into the food, and the passion in Patton Oswalt’s rat voice when he professes his adoration of food, it all still feels real. It’s as real to the stomach as the emotional “Married Life” sequence in Up is to the heart or whatever part of your body you use to feel feelings. The bread and butter of this movie though, so to speak, comes in its climactic scene where crotchety food critic Anton Ego tastes a piece of Remy’s carefully made ratatouille and it transports him back to his childhood, where his mother would make the dish for him after mishaps like bike accidents or no doubt when other children would make fun of him for his name or Nightmare Before Christmas-esque physical features. It doesn’t fill his stomach in one bite like lembas bread but it seems to fill his heart and mind with memories and affection. And it fills my eyeballs with mist. I want to find food that does this for me.

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7) The breakfast in Thor

Thor4 7 Appetizing Uses Of Food In Movies

Sure, Thor is charming in a brutish way, but that becomes tiresome after a while. It’s like sure, we get that you can swing a hammer but are you a good listener? Are there more dimensions to you than “hammer smash now”? And then it happened: Thor served breakfast. Now look, I’m a straight male, like a Kinsey zero even. But I would like Thor to cook me breakfast. I don’t know if it’s the Hemsworth eyes and beard that your eyes could rest on as he’s scooping them onto your plate, or the fact that this powerful dude would probably cook some killer eggs. And I know it’s the Natalie Portman character that actually does the eggs but if Thor can find the gentleness and grace with which to not break the plates he brings them over on, surely he can master the cooking part. And I’m pretty sure he made that toast himself. It’s a work in progress. I don’t know.

The point is that it can trigger visceral, strange things when we see food in movies. It’s one of those elements of film that taps into something deeply instinctual, like the impulse to protect the damsel in distress or stick up for the bullied. Filmmakers know this, and when they can channel the image and sound of food into a making a scene more compelling, it can be tremendously affecting. A film that makes us salivate is every bit as special as one that makes us cry, I say.

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