Best Films About Food

05 Feb 2024 | 5 MINS READ
Best Films About Food
Siobhan Lawless

Nothing is more evocative than food. Sharing food is a sacred ritual that brings us together. One where every ingredient tells a story and preserves a memory. If cooking is an act of service, food is the language of love. Trần Anh Hùng’s new film knows this only too well. The Taste of Things has been causing a buzz since winning the Vietnamese filmmaker the Best Director award at 2023’s Cannes Film Festival. And later, being chosen as the French entry for Best International Feature at the 2024 Oscars. It's already being tipped as one of the best films about food. 

Set in France in 1889, The Taste of Things follows the story of renowned chef Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel) and his talented cook Eugénie (Juliette Binoche). Working together over the years their romance blossoms, but freedom-loving Eugénie is reluctant to get married. The epicurean Dodin vows to do something he’s never done before: cook for Eugénie. Ahead of The Taste of Thingshighly anticipated UK release, we’re revisiting some of the best culinary movies and foodie films of all time. Films featuring decadent feasts in Versailles, the best home cooking in Mumbai and the most iconic pasta bake in film history – let’s dig in…


Bouncy rice balls, sumptuous roast meats and pillowy sponge cakes you’ll want to devour: welcome to the inimitable world of Studio Ghibli. One that elevates food in anime to new levels. Of all the Studio Ghibli films, food features most heavily in Spirited Away. Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away follows 10-year-old Chihiro who moves to a new neighbourhood with her parents. When Chihiro’s family gets lost taking a wrong turn, they stumble upon an abandoned theme park. They’re enticed by a deserted stall boasting a sumptuous buffet of steaming buns, sizzling meats and juicy seafood. Chihiro’s parents begin to consume this tempting offering – with dire consequences. Chihiro soon finds herself trapped in a spirit world, ruled by an evil witch. She embarks on a quest to save her parents from danger. From comforting onigiri (rice balls) to extravagant sushi platters, and a ravenous spirit devouring every morsel in sight, the enchanting food in Spirited Away tingles every taste bud.

CHEF (2014)

Do you cook food you believe in, or food that you’re told to cook? This is the central dilemma unpacked in this movie. Jon Favreau is the writer, director and star of Chef,  a feel-good comedy about Carl, a head chef in LA, who is stuck in a creative rut. When Carl ends up in a viral bust-up with a food critic, after being critiqued for a meal his boss forced him to cook, Carl reaches breaking point. He decides to leave the restaurant to start the food truck he’s always wanted to own. Chef is peppered with incredible food scenes: the mouthwatering roast mojo pork, succulent Cubanos and an Aglio e Olio where you can practically taste the zest humming off the screen. Chef is a celebration of the street-food movement, and features a star-studded cast with brilliant performances from Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara and more. This is pure soul food with a heartwarming soundtrack to match.


Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast revolves around the theme of gratitude, and food helping you find a new place to call home. When French servant Babette (Stéphane Audran) flees Paris to escape the French Revolution, she heads to a remote village in Denmark where two pious sisters live. The sisters, Martine (Birgitte Federspiel) and Philippa (Bodil Kjer), take in Babette as the family cook. Food plays a significant role in bringing the villagers together and allowing Babette, an outsider, to find a community where she belongs. The film culminates in an impressive seven-course French meal cooked by Babette as an act of gratitude for the sisters. Think turtle soup, quail in puff pastry, fine sherry, foie gras, caviar and a supper club like no other. The meal’s cosy setting and clinking cutlery will have you longing to join in.

BIG NIGHT (1996)

Now for one of the ultimate foodie films that Stanley Tucci co-directed, co-wrote and starred in. Set in the 1950s, Big Night follows two Italian brothers who are trying to keep their failing restaurant in New Jersey afloat. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) is a chef and his brother Secondo (Tucci) is a businessman. Primo’s talents and authentic Italian menu are wasted on their restaurant’s clueless diners, and Secondo knows it. Together, they plan on throwing a blowout dinner party to impress a famous American-Italian singer and save their restaurant. Big Night is a melting pot of delicious Italian food, lively music, dance and vitality. The romantic soundtrack makes you want to eat spaghetti pomodoro and travel down Venice in a gondola. The film’s iconic Il Timpano steals the show: a giant pasta bake with infinite layers of pasta, meatballs, egg and salami. Sink your teeth into that.

TAMPOPO (1985)

You may have heard of a spaghetti western, but how about a ramen western? Jûzô Itami’s Tampopo fits the bill. This slapstick Japanese comedy is about a pair of truck drivers, Gun (Ken Watanabe) and Gorô (Tsutomu Yamazaki), ramen aficionados who visit a roadside noodle shop. It’s run by a young widow named Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto) who has a burning desire to make the perfect ramen. When they reveal that Tampopo is missing the mark, she begs them to help her improve her craft. The ramen lovers agree to help Tampopo climb her way to the top. From how to slurp noodles to gazing at your shoyu broth in appreciation – Tampopo is a hilarious masterclass in ramen. Watch it to find out if Tompopo’s ramen passes the test. 

THE MENU (2022)

A remote island, an unnerving chef and a fine-dining tasting menu with high stakes – what could possibly go wrong? The Menu is what happens when Michelin dining takes a menacing turn. Succession director Mark Mylod’s satirical eat-the-rich film doesn’t take itself too seriously. Who doesn’t want to eat breadless bread, or charred lace with milk snow? A young couple, Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), travel to Hawthorn Island to have a lavish meal prepared for them by an unconventional chef (Ralph Fiennes). But as the night unfolds, courses become more sinister and hit closer to home. The cast of The Menu delivers a moreish performance where you want to relish every last crumb. Just remember, whatever you do, ‘do not eat… the menu is too precious for that..’.


How could we discuss the best films about food without mentioning Disney and Pixar’s Ratatouille? This foodie masterpiece is about an ingenious rodent chef, Remy. This is a rat with a highly developed sense of smell and a taste for the finer things, who dreams of becoming a chef. When fate leads Remy to his idol Chef Auguste Gusteau’s restaurant, he pairs up with the restaurant’s nervous worker Linguini. Disguising himself under Linguini’s hat, Remy helps Linguini cook impeccable dishes that grab everyone’s attention. They soon become an iconic duo moving up in the culinary world. But will food critic The Grim Eater sniff out trouble? You’ll have to see for yourself.


‘Eat, drink, women and sex. Is that all there is?’ These are the poignant words spoken by Mr Chu (Sihung Lung), a widower questioning the meaning of life. Ang Lee’s entertaining drama features Mr Chu, a senior chef, living with his three headstrong daughters. Chu’s job satisfaction is fizzling out. The rise of fast food and the decline of authentic Chinese cuisine is leaving Mr Chu uninspired. Eat Drink Man Woman explores the tension between tradition and modernity within a Taiwanese family. Despite living together, Mr Chu and his daughters are emotionally detached. Sunday is the only day they come together when Chu cooks up an impressive family feast. Eat Drink Man Woman light-heartedly explores fatherhood and family over mesmerising food moments: mutton hotpots cooked using a charcoal stove, beautiful handmade dumplings and serious food ASMR.

JULIE & JULIA (2009)

Moving between the 1950s and 2002, Julie & Julia is a tale of two parallel narratives, joined by beef bourguignon and coq au vin. This cooking movie is a story of how food shapes us. Meryl Streep brings the renowned French chef and Fifties icon Julia Childs to life. Amy Adams plays the modern American food writer Julie Powell, who tasks herself with cooking all of Julia Child’s 524 recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking… in 365 days. Two characters who seem worlds apart, but are they more similar than we think? Julie and Julia considers how cooking gives us meaning and purpose, comfort and warmth. This is an ode to French cooking bursting with rich red wine, sweated onions and lashings of melted butter.


Set in Mumbai, Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox is a film about food bringing two strangers together. Irrfan Khan portrays Saajan, a stern city office worker nearing retirement. One day when the delivery man starts sending him the wrong lunchbox, Saajan is surprised to find his lunch drastically improved. Saajan begins receiving the lunchbox that housewife Ila (Nimrat Kaur) prepared for her husband instead. Despite trying to spice up her marriage and show loving acts of service, Ila is undervalued. As time progresses, Saajan and Ila strike up a pen-pal friendship over lunchbox letters and begin connecting on a deeper level. With its delicious paneer kofta, soft rotis, fried okra and tempting pasandas, The Lunchbox is a film where you can almost taste the aromas. It also serves as a poignant reminder to slow down from our busy lives and to appreciate what’s in front of us.


Candied cherries, bubblegum-pink cakes, and enough whipped cream to satisfy any food fiend. From the opening credits of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, we know we’re in for a visual feast. This is a delicious tale of decadence and debauchery, with a twist. Coppola’s Antoinette isn’t reduced to the youthful queen often misquoted for saying ‘let them eat cake’. But one who was never taught to consider life beyond the gates of Versailles. Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) struggles to adjust to life at court and her arranged marriage to the soon-to-be King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman). As the tedium of life weighs on her, she seeks enjoyment elsewhere. Food is central to Marie Antoinette. Every dish is a work of art. Every lavish banquet is a theatrical performance. Even the pastel costumes resemble strawberry gâteaux and peach macarons and, as Kirsten Dunst revealed, every scene featured fresh pastries rather than props. The cast, after all, had their cake and ate it – genius.


This is more than a documentary about sushi. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is about a mouthwatering quest for perfection. An insight into the Shokunin way (i.e. an artisan who dedicates their life to mastering a skill). Jiro became the oldest chef ever to be awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide. We are taken behind the scenes at Sukiyabashi Jiro, his sushi restaurant in Gizo, Tokyo. There may only be 10 seats, but they’re seats people travel across the world to fill. The freshest tuna, shrimp and octopus sushi glisten with an irresistible glaze; the purest of ingredients exuding intense flavours. Preparation is key for Jiro’s sushi: from sourcing the finest fish to sharpening sushi knives, and tenderly marinating the meat. It’s about falling in love with the process. Jiro Dreams of Sushi charts Jiro’s legacy and the dynasty he’s building which his eldest son Yoshikazu will take over. We see Jiro’s sons and apprentices in relentless training, learning from the best. This inspiring sushi film shows how Jiro’s dedication, discipline and craftsmanship make him a sushi legend.   


A gallon of laughs, ounces of warmth and a sprinkling of tears. Adrienne Shelly’s heartwarming comedy Waitress revolves around a Star Baker who makes bittersweet pies. Jenna (Kerri Russel) is a small-town Southern waitress at Joe’s Pie Shop. Jenna is a genius who can create swoon-worthy ‘falling in love’ pies to audacious ‘I hate my husband’ pies. Baking is an artistic outlet from Jenna’s unhappy marriage to her controlling and abusive husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto). When Jenna falls pregnant and meets town newcomer Dr Pomatter (Nathan Filler), her life takes an unexpected turn. Waitress is a tasty film with rib-tickling performances from Jenna’s sidekicks Dawn (Adrienne Shelly) and Becky (Cherly Hines).



Siobhan Lawless