Last year, Nicolas Cage’s critical treasure, Pig, showed the audience how food has always been the great equalizer that keeps humanity alive and brings its people together in difficult times. It is also one of the most demanding art forms and most intimate forms of expression; and if captured properly through a camera lens and projected on a screen, it becomes a truly magical thing.
Occasionally there is a food-based film that has the power to evoke the impact that food actually has on others, causing the appetite to rise and the mouth to run in water. But who succeeds most in making viewers hungry?
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1974)
Available on HBO Max
Based on the book by Roald Dahl about a young boy’s trip to a surrealistic chocolate factory and starring the late Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is nothing short of a classic. Its bright images, charming performances and catchy music tracks are some of the film’s best elements, but no viewer can ever forget the way they bring out their inner childhood cravings for chocolate and sweets.
From the opening text’s montage of chocolate production to the unveiling of the factory’s glorious edible interior, the film is full of images that would make viewers want to reach into the screen to taste – just like one of the kids does at the factory itself!
Rent on AppleTV +
One of the best films by Alexander Payne, Sideways gets more honorable mention when you see how it’s more about alcohol than food, but it’s one that is definitely deserved. This classic comedy about two middle-aged friends’ road trip through wine country explores some rather shocking themes with its characters, but it does so while managing to maintain a relaxed atmosphere that suits the surroundings.
Just the descriptions from Paul Giamatti’s character, Miles, of the aromas and flavors behind the reds and whites he enjoys so much are enough to suddenly ignite the urge of any wine lover. All viewers who indulge in a good glass of wine while watching are warned to enjoy responsibly.
Available on Paramount +
Chocolate is a charming drama series about Vianne, a chocolate maker who moves into a small French village with her little daughter, and the whimsical impact her chocolate factories are beginning to have on the city’s citizens. It’s a movie just as lovely as the protagonist’s creations, and a movie that no human should ever see with a full box full of chocolates by their side unless they plan to finish it all at once.
The influence that Vianne’s chocolate has on the film’s supporting characters, from romantic intimacy to inner enlightenment, is a pleasure to watch. However, it is the scenes that show her preparation for it that provide some of its most satisfying moments.
Available on IMDb TV
This Bradley Cooper drama about a former drug-addicted chef who sets out to redeem and restart his career captures the intensity of what goes on in restaurant kitchens: all the hard work and adrenaline-fueled preparations. It’s also one of the movies that fans of Peaky Blinders will love, as it was written by the show’s creator, Steven Knight.
While Burnt‘s protagonist can sometimes be hard to love, watching him work makes the movie worth watching at least once. Despite all its shortcomings, the film’s beautiful images of the most beautiful and expensive dishes are certainly not one of them. In the midst of Cooper’s outbursts of rage, viewers will be pressured hard not to lose their appetite for his food.
Big Night (1996)
Available on Hulu
Throughout his career, Stanley Tucci has made no secret of the pride he has in his Italian roots and his love of Italian food, and his directorial debut, Great evening, is a love letter to both. It’s the story of two brothers, Secondo and Primo, and their struggle to keep their restaurant alive, they prepare a special set of meals in hopes of impressing their special guest, 1950s jazz singer Louis Prima.
The dinner scene alone makes it all worth sitting through, as the food’s stunning looks and euphoric reactions from the guests will no doubt leave viewers with a jealous rage. As the timpani rolls out of the kitchen and is shared among the dinner guests, their jaws will fall in awe of the majesty of the brothers’ creation.
Available on Hulu
Compared to most of the work he has done over the last decade, Pig is no ordinary Nicolas Cage movie. A powerful drama about a retired and retired chef in search of his stolen truffle pig, it is not only one of the best recent films of Cage’s career, but it is also one that shows the power of food its significance to the human experience.
The film dives into the abdomen of culinary art, offers some pretty immaculate footage during the cooking sequences, and has perhaps one of the most emotionally charged dinner scenes ever made. It will definitely leave its viewers overwhelmed with emotion and with a strong rumble in its stomach.
Flavors Of Youth (2018)
Available on Netflix
There is something almost inexplicable about the aesthetics of anime, and how it manages to make hand-drawn food look so alluring and mouth-watering; and no other anime film captures as well as the anthology drama, Taste of youth. The film’s first story, “The Rice Noodles”, is seen from a man named Ming, who looks back on his formative years through his enjoyment of San-Xian noodle soup.
The preparation of the soup itself is incredibly well animated and visually satisfying. Seeing Ming take his first bite of the soft noodles and sip the hot golden broth is enough to entitle the viewer to tap pause and even go out to order it. The other two stories are equally touching and exciting, but it’s the first to start the film with a strong tone and make viewers starve for hot noodle soup.
Available at Disney +
One of the best independent Pixar movies, Ratatouille is a moving story of the outcasts and dreamers, and the one element that binds its themes together is its depiction of the culinary arts. Against all odds, author and director of The incredible, Brad Bird, somehow managed to make a film about a rat in Paris who strives to be a chef, not only pulling at the heartstrings of his audience, but also triggering their appetite.
The film’s unique visuals still hold even fourteen years later, and it makes the food look as real and as heavenly as it could ever be in the hands of professional animators. Not even the image of a kitchen filled with rats is enough to dispel the hunger for fine cooking that the film sets in motion.
Julie and Julia (2008)
Available on Starz or rent on Apple TV +
Based on true events, Julie and Julia tells the story of Julia Child’s rise to fame as a world-renowned chef and aspiring author Julie Powell’s attempts to cook and blog about every single recipe in Child’s book.
Looking at Childs development in her cooking career, along with Powell’s attempts to tackle her increasingly complex recipes, viewers will have a hard time not wanting to stop and even look up the recipes. From rich and spicy meats to sweet and buttery deserts, the film’s way of capturing both Julia and Julie’s culinary pursuits provides an absolute delight.
Rent on AppleTV +
Written, directed by Jon Favreau in the lead role with an all-star cast, Chef is a healthy film that is as much about family as it is about food. Favreau plays a chef who, after being fired from a popular restaurant in LA, begins operating a food truck with his young son, strengthening their relationship and reviving his passion for his work.
With the way Favreau’s instruction captures all the best details of his character’s food, with perfect camera work and loving close-ups, it’s almost hypnotic, and the aromas and flavors almost jump out of the screen. It’s not only one of Favreau’s best directorial endeavors, it’s food porn at its absolute finest and one of the most hunger-striking experiences filmmakers could have ever had in the 2010s.
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