Combining food and film always leads to fun. But in this sense we aren’t talking about preparing a good meal to pair with a famous film, though there are plenty with subtle food themes that can be teased out to make some creative cooking ventures.
No, here we are referring to films that have introduced cuisine and the act of cooking into the plot itself. Of course, there are countless films that could fall into this mix, from Bugs Bunny escaping being dinner to deeper films about the art of cooking, the power and scope of food. Below, we share with you seven worthwhile films, all set within various, sometimes dark, worlds to explore.
Babbette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel – Denmark, 1987)
This film tells the story of a French woman who arrives in a small puritan village in Denmark where she is taken in by two elderly ladies from very strict upbringings. Winning a lottery ticket, she decides to thank them for the hospitality with a big banquet for the whole village. The villagers accept, but make it a point not to show any signs of pleasure during the feast, which they ultimately fail to do in the beautiful and moving finale.
Chocolate (Lasse Hallström – United Kingdom, 2000)
A mother and daughter move to a small village in France. The mother has a gift for reading people and knowing what kind of chocolate they prefer both on their palate and in their soul, since, according to an ancient Mayan legend, it has the power to unmask people’s desires. Both struggle in the face of a conservative society that sees them as a threat to the established culture.
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (Peter Greenaway – France/UK, 1989)
A drama/black comedy replete with symbolism both in its depictions of cannibalism and full-frontal nudity. A raw and shocking story, typical of Greenaway’s films. The wife of a gangster called Spica, owner of a restaurant, is constantly humiliated by him, which leads her to begin an affair with a regular customer, but Spica discovers them and takes his revenge. At the same time, the wife plots her own revenge, which she will execute with the help of the chef in a final scene that is simultaneously horrifying and brilliant.
Ratatouille (Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava – USA/France, 2007)
If there is anyone out there who has somehow still not seen this delightful Pixar animated film, now is the time to do so. Remy, a rat with a highly developed sense of taste and smell, aspires to become a chef just like his idol, Gusteau. The film chronicles Remy’s various obstacles on the path towards a Parisian restaurant, rewarding us with the beautiful contemplation that “Not just anyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
Like Water for Chocolate (Alfonso Arau – Mexico, 1992)
This endearing film proposes that the most important aspect of cooking is not the ingredients with which something is made, but rather the love that goes into it. As all of the protagonist’s emotions are imparted into the food she prepares, so too are they imparted on the viewer, building a story that has already become a classic.
Fast Food Nation (Richard Linklater – USA/Mexico, 2006)
A powerful critique of the influence of the U.S. fast food industry worldwide leaves viewers with no choice but to question the processes behind its production. The film is inspired by the book of the same name by Eric Schlosser.
Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro – France, 1991)
This sci-fi /black comedy film is set in a post-apocalyptic world where food is scarce, so local butcher Clapet decides to lure victims to his building in order to murder them and sell them as meat to his neighbors. Things get complicated when Clapet’s daughter falls in love with one of the victims. Desperate, she goes down to the sewers where she asks for help from a resistance group of French vegetarians.