When you think of “food flicks,” you probably picture white-coated, white male cooks with a bit of a temper learning a valuable lesson. Unfortunately, those cooking movies are usually terrible (remember Bradley Cooper’s Burnt?). Or how about the dreadful Aaron Eckhart-led rendition of Anthony Bourdain’s cooking story?
When you get past those films, you’ll find a whole new universe of food-related features from all around the world. Some are deeply nostalgic (Ratatouille, Willy Wonka), while others take a fresh look at our relationship with food and cuisine (Tampopo, Like Water for Chocolate), but no matter where they land on the spectrum, these are the best movies about food to watch when you’re looking for something to watch.
Best movies about food on Netflix
1. The Platform
The Platform, a cannibalistic prison freak-out, was a surprise hit for Netflix when it arrived in late 2019, and it’s tough to imagine a producer sitting in a conference room thinking, “What if Snowpiercer is vertical?” This movie about food, on the other hand, is set in a prison-like structure known as the “Vertical Self-Management Center,” where offenders are housed two to a floor.
Those at the top have first dibs on a massive platform of food that falls from the ceiling every day, while those at the bottom get scraps—or nothing at all. Moving up the building provides you with better access to the large buffet of food, making you less eager to murder (and eat) your floor-mate, and your level varies every month based on your conduct. It’s both frightening and heartbreaking as a meditation on food scarcity.
Wine and barbeque may not seem like a natural marriage, but they couldn’t be more of a fit as the manifestation of generational friction in Prentice Penny’s directorial debut, Uncorked. This food movie is about the relationship between young Black Elijah Bruener (Mamoudou Athie), the heir apparent to a Memphis barbecue restaurant he doesn’t want to lead, and his family.
To his parents’ dismay, he prefers to pursue his passion for wine and use it as a passport to travel the world from his home in Memphis (Courtney B. Vance and Niecy Nash). It’s primarily a wine film about family, but it’s also a family film about wine. Unlike other wine films, the cast is mostly made up of folks we don’t often see: black people.
3. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
You know the drill: a group of kids must extract a golden ticket from chocolate Wonka Bars in order to receive a tour of Willy Wonka’s candy-making plant, which is notoriously quirky and secretive. Most of the mischievous kids had a miserable time! Augustus Gloop drowns in a chocolate river, Violet Beauregarde transforms into a large blueberry, Mike Teavee shrinks to the size of a candy bar, and Veruca Salt is dragged down the evil egg chute, leaving Charlie Buckets and his old grandfather Joe as the victors.
Despite the fact that it was remade with Johnny Depp as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the original film remains a classic for all the reasons you remember, and can be considered one of the best movies about food. And Gene Wilder, who plays Roald Dahl’s quirky candyman in an uncharacteristically all-ages role, deserves Gobstoppers for all the quirks that come up throughout his performance.
Jon Favreau, it turns out, is just as good with a Cubano sandwich as he is with Grogu and Iron Man. He plays talented Los Angeles chef Carl Casper in this 2014 smash, who believes his restaurant-owner employer is suffocating his culinary innovation. He eventually loses his job after being embroiled in a humiliating public brawl with a well-known food reviewer. Soon after, a trip to Miami with his ex-wife and son reignites his passion for food, and he buys a derelict food truck, patches it up, and begins churning out great cuisine as he drives back to Los Angeles from Miami.
This is one of those feel-good movies about food that will make you smile. Favreau (who also directed the film) steals the show from the great cast, which includes Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey Jr. You root for Carl the entire time, and when he rekindles his love for food, you get a nice, contented feeling within. There aren’t any significant heartbreaks or disasters, either.
It’s simply a family-friendly narrative about a skilled chef figuring out how to reclaim his place in the culinary spotlight after a setback. “Culinary” ticks all the boxes when it comes to a foodie film: it’s lighthearted, hilarious, and has lots of wonderful cuisine (famous gourmet food truck chef pioneer Roy Choi served as an on-set adviser). If you’re looking for more Favreau, check out his Netflix series “The Chef Show,” which is one of the best food/cooking shows available.
Best movies about food on Hulu, Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms
5. Big Night
Big Night is not just a fantastic movie about food, but it also has what is possibly the most amazing food item in cinema: the Timpano, an extraordinary spaghetti cake. The Timpano is treated with sacred respect in Stanley Tucci’s film about two brothers who manage an Italian restaurant on the Jersey beach in the 1950s, but it’s not just about feeding feats. It’s also a film about assimilation and authenticity, and how these affect family relationships.
While Tony Shalhoub plays his brother Primo, the chef who doesn’t seem to mind if the nasty Americans who frequent his restaurant don’t grasp that his seafood risotto is more nuanced than they expected. The “big night” in question is a desperate attempt to preserve their faltering institution, with many lovers and the owner of a nearby hotspot in attendance. It’s wild and comical, but it’s tinged with the melancholy of disappearing customs. Now watch and try your hand at Timpano.
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6. Like Water For Chocolate
A wedding cake isn’t simply a cake in this Mexican film directed by Alfonso Arau and based on a 1989 novel by Laura Esquivel, and a rose sauce isn’t just something to pour over a quartered chicken. In the magical realism novel Like Water For Chocolate, food plays an important role in the protagonists’ emotional experiences, which are all literally visceral. The cake dough, which was sobbed into, makes wedding guests sick to their stomachs, and the rose sauce, which was created with tremendous affection, makes dinner guests so writhingly aroused that it sends a sister to the outhouse, where her sensual burning catches fire.
The story, which is often told in narrative voiceover by a niece from a younger generation who discovered her family’s old cookbook, oscillates between tragedy, absurdity, and joy as a strict mother and her three daughters follow old traditions and become entangled in a passionate love triangle that slowly tears the family apart. There’s a reason this movie about bakers gathered the largest foreign film box office audience in the United States during its theatrical run.
Paul Giamatti plays a depressed, divorced, failing writer who merely wants to taste excellent wine with his best friend on a road trip through the Santa Ynez Valley, while his closest buddy, on the other hand, is looking for one more passionate fling before committing to a lifetime of monogamy. The dramedy won an Academy Award for Most Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, but it’s probably best known for Giamatti’s passionate rant against merlot, which ruined the wine’s sales and became one of cinema’s most iconic lines. Come for the wine snobbery, stay for Sandra Oh stealing scenes from Grey’s Anatomy.
8. A Bug’s Life
We get what you’re thinking: A Bug’s Life? Is this a list? Sure, the food in A Bug’s Life—beige pebbles that Flik and the rest of his ant colony are compelled to gather day after day—isn’t as appetizing as Ghibli films’ steaming ramen bowls and fat-streaked strips of bacon, or the glittering ratatouille at the end of sibling Pixar classic Ratatouille. A Bug’s Life, on the other hand, is unmistakably a film about food—or, at the very least, oppressive and exploitative food systems. In A Bug’s Life, there is a hierarchy; the grasshoppers keep the ants afraid while relying on them for nourishment.
It’s evocative of America’s own flawed food system, in which migrant laborers, particularly those who are undocumented, are forced into brutal and thankless labor to feed a country that harasses and marginalizes them. In a similar vein, Flik and his fellow ants are promised protection from Hopper’s troop of grasshoppers, despite the fact that they are caught up in an unfair system that solely seeks to exploit their labor until late in the film. Yes, believe it or not, A Bug’s Life is a loose remake of Seven Samurai. But, at its heart, it’s a film about the importance of food and the tremendous burden that those who must gather it bear.
9. Eat Drink Man Woman
Ang Lee completed a loose trilogy of films with the quietly funny family drama Eat Drink Man Woman, just before breaking big in the US with the Jane Austen adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in 1995. Eat Drink Man Woman, one of the best movies about food, puts food front-and-center amidst its interpersonal tensions, with one of the most delightfully simple opening scenes of the family’s patriarch, the best chef in Taipei, deftly cooking. While the vision of meal preparation is beautiful, it is always unceremoniously grounded, like a single-take shot of a frantic and crowded restaurant kitchen. It all starts with the ingredients, and like all the schoolchildren huddled over a home-cooked lunch box, you simply have to look closer.
10. Julie & Julia
French cuisine is wonderful! And many of them are famously tough to create. You’d need an expert, like Julia Child, to show you the ropes on traditional recipes like boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin—but Julia Child wasn’t always Julia Child, and Julie Powell wasn’t always a popular food blogger who captivated the Internet with her postings about cooking through Julia Child’s cookbook.
Julie & Julia dramatizes two parallel narratives—(Amy Julie’s Adams), who lives in modern-day Queens dreaming of fame, and Julia’s (Meryl Streep), who lives in 1950s Paris with her diplomat husband Paul (Stanley Tucci)—to tell two surprisingly similar stories of a pair of women, separated by decades but united in their desire to use cooking to feed their souls. You want to reach through the screen and steal that bruschetta slice straight out of Chris Messina’s mouth because the food in this movie looks so amazing.
Is Ratatouille the best movie about cooking ever made? There’s a lot of love in the Pixar universe, but only one film dares—and that’s the perfect word, because it’s still getting flak for it—to tackle the existential battle of loving oneself and the sweet ideal that everyone can cook. Remy the Rat must transform into the furry creature he’s been told he can’t be if he wants to survive in this world. He has to prepare food.
In Brad Bird’s hands, a defiant performance becomes a three-ring circus. With his take on Parisian jazz, composer Michael Giacchino, a longstanding Pixar collaborator, dominates half the film, while Patton Oswalt’s voice adds dimension to Remy’s tiredness and thrill. Ratatouille is great food, the culmination of the best filmmakers in the world delivering a narrative about an artist.
On paper, Juzo Itami’s “ramen western,” restored to vibrant 4K by Criterion in 2016, may seem simple—a woman, Tampopo (“Dandelion” in Japanese, played by Itami’s wife, Nobuko Miyamoto), strives to make the perfect bowl of ramen with the help of two truck drivers as her mentors and tasters—but the experience of watching Tampopo is almost nothing like you’d expect.
We peer into the lives of seemingly disconnected individuals as Tampopo and her crew (starring a young Ken Watanabe) hunt down recipes and practice timed trials: a white-suited gastronomic yakuza and his mistress, a group of ravenous, etiquette-obsessed lunching ladies, salarymen ubiquitously ordering the same exact meal aside from the disruptive youngest member. It’s known for its sensual and somewhat disgusting egg sequence, but each of the vignettes, as well as Tampopo’s journey as a rare woman in the ramen world, has something significant to say about our connection with food. Most importantly, years before Anthony Bourdain picked up a pen, this movie about food recognized the Bourdain-ism that “food is sex.”
13. The Trip
You’ll love Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip franchise if you like awkward British humor and endless Michael Caine impressions. In a failed attempt to impress his food-snob fiancée, Steve Coogan, playing himself, takes on an assignment for The Observer, traveling to the UK’s top eateries. He enlists the help of his best buddy, comedian Rob Brydon, whom he despises (also playing himself). There’s a lot of hilarity and caustic shenanigans. But beneath the quirky comedy and beautiful foodscapes is a contemplation on what it means to be happy as an adult, and how friends don’t always have to agree to be close.
While there are many possibilities, not every culinary film is worth your time or money. Fortunately for you, this list of the 15 best movies about food eliminates the need for you to conduct any type of time-consuming research on your own. If you stick to these titles, you’ll be in for a genuinely lavish experience with Thecookingmovie!