15 Films About Food To See

By Shameelah Khan

Number one discovery about films that deal with the main theme of food – the word “chocolate” appears very often, regardless of genre. Some of these films are absolutely delicious in their delivery of food as told through the cinematic whilst others are poetic, gruesome, horrific, romantic or just absurd. Each of these films have something special to offer the audience, aside from making you super hungry that is. When I first found out the theme was food, I had anticipated the usual Eat, Pray, Love or Soul Food (definitely a Classic). Though an excellent performance by Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, this list is not so much about Praying or Loving (Okay, I’ll add it into the bottom list – for the sake of the Eat). It appears that I could actually make out about 30 or more films but here are the cinematically tasteful 15 you may not have heard of.

  1. Jiru Dreams of Sushi (2011) directed by David Gelb

An exquisite documentary about the 85-year-old Sushi Master Jiru Ono with moving tales in his Tokyo restaurant and his relationship with his son, Yoshikazu. The documentary had stuck with me from the first moment I had had the privilege of watching it. It will never leave you, I can guarantee that. On the surface, the documentary is about Jiru and his love for the craft of perfecting sushi and creating only the best. On another, and deeper, level, this documentary is about a family and their connection to food, love, war, memory and fatherhood – along with the pressures and expectations placed on his son. Lastly, this documentary will have your mouth watering and wishing that you had a ticket to Tokyo and the honour of waiting a year to taste this sushi (we can have dreams of Jiru’s sushi too, I suppose).

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. Ratatouille (2007) directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinvaka

Possibly one of the best animations that I have ever seen. This is an exceptionally moving story about a rat who cooks and forms an unlikely friendship with a kitchen worker at a famous restaurant. The two become the stars behind the famous Ratatouille dish, sparking the interest of a larger community and attendance – also landing them into a lot of trouble. This film is a favourite because it is a genuinely heartbreaking story that will have you crying and wanting more. Also, albeit an animation, the food in this film is decadent.

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. Fast Food Nation (2006) Directed by Richard Linklater

A mockumentary by one of my favourite directors, Linklater puts together a piece which examines, through humour and parody, the health risks in the food industry.  With a stellar cast, Fast Food Nation shows the lasting effects the industry has on the body and the environment. And, after all, “there is shit in the meat.”

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. Street Food (a Netflix original documentary series 2018)

I was first introduced to this series by my previous boss who was completely obsessed with Japan and its culture. I wasn’t one for watching many documentaries about food really but this one had me hooked. It has a vibrant new take on street food, weaving through the street foods in Asia (its first segment). There is also a Latin American segment and so on… the documentary episodes are snappy, vibrant, colourful, explorative of culture and art and music, and the people who bring these dishes to life. They become interesting and playful characters and have you wishing you were eating their food.

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. Julie and Julia (2009) Directed by Nora Ephron

Nominated for an Oscar-winning multiple awards and 46 nominations, this film is a truly a Meryl Streep and Amy Adams powerhouse. It follows the journey of blogger Julie Powell’s 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s Recipe book, whilst Julia Child explores her life at Chef school. These two women find their stories and connections to food interconnected and fabulously so. It’s also a refreshing take on the “chef” film.

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. Mum’s Guest (Mehmane Maman) (2004) Directed by Dariush Mehrjui

An Iranian film that tells the heartfelt story of a poverty-stricken family from a humble home who have important guests coming over. The family hustle and explore all options in order to throw an amazing dinner party. The film is not just about food but about a family governed through matriarchy and the strength of family. Also, a refreshing and welcomed break from the classic Hollywood blockbuster.

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. Babettes Feast (1987), directed by Gabriel Axel

Bagging an Oscar for best foreign film, Babette’s Feast follows a strictly religious community in a Danish village in the 19th century that takes in a French refugee, from the Franco-Prussian war, who works as a servant to the late pastor’s daughters.  A good film in contrast to Netflix’s Unorthodox. The film is so quirky in terms of its deliverance. Even though both daughters have had opportunities to leave, they are stuck and confined to the memory of their deceased father and the Church. Upon a great strike of luck, Babette wins the lottery and offers to prepare a French meal for them and their friends in honour of their father’s 100th anniversary. The dinner party is like any other cinematic dinner feast – an utter delight.

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. The 100 Foot Journey (2004) Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

This feel-good family film was nominated for a Golden Globe. At first, this film left me a bit unsettled, as notions of appropriation, orientalism and fetishism raced through my mind, but once I got to the end, I felt overwhelmed and shed a few tears. For some odd reason, or maybe odd but obvious reasons – this film stuck with me and is really good. With a superb performance by Helen Mirren, Om Puri and Manish Dayal, a top French restaurant is disrupted when a quaint Indian family move in across the street. The family uses their new home to open an Indian restaurant and becomes the new competition. The film takes an interesting turn away from the “competition” narrative and instead becomes the journey of the young and extremely talented Hassan Kadam who, under the guidance of Madame Mallory, works his way into the French Chef industry becoming one of the world’s most wanted chefs. A wonderful and whimsical journey to say the least.

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. The Lunchbox (2013) Directed by Ritesh Batra

In memory of the late Irrfan Khan, The Lunchbox is a beautiful story set in the bustling city of Mumbai. A woman, Illa, struggling to come to terms with her husband’s affair accidentally has his lunchbox sent to a stranger, Sajaan, who starts writing her letters. An unlikely love story filled with joy, laughter, the understanding of age, loss, grief, marriage and new beginnings. Illa’s process of cooking food for Sajaan is at the heart of the film as she explores herself through various dishes.

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. Labor Day (2013) Directed by Jason Reitman

Not particularly about food as the main theme, but rather as the motif that brings together three characters in an unimaginably healing way. Possibly one of the most underrated films in which Kate Winslet delivers a gripping performance. A depressed single mother is held “hostage” by an escaped Convict in her home over Labor Day weekend. It is in the home space that she prepares meals for him and learns about him beyond the story that the media has presented. I kid you not, one of the most beautiful ‘peach pie’ making scenes I have ever seen and I have added it below.

You can watch the trailer here:

The Peach pie-making scene:

  1. The Cook, the Thief, his wife and her lover (1989) Directed by Peter Greenaway

An erotic exploration of food, love, passion, guilt, gore, pleasure and murder. This film tells the story of Georgina, the wife of a crime boss, who has a dangerous love-affair with the gentle and kind bookseller between meals at her husband’s restaurant. This is an extremely grotesque, absurd and overall bizarre film where the scenes take you between elements of surprise and sadism all at once. Bon Appetit, crazy cinephiles.

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. The Platform (2019), Directed by Galder Gaztelu- Urrutia

Whilst we’re on crazy, gruesome and exhilarating cinematic works about food, here is another.  In a mysterious, unimaginable and gruesome prison with a grunting hole in the middle of it (running through the levels), prisoners must live from the platform as it presents food to the inmates. This is a film about food, greed and survival. A political statement on Capitalism if you will. Where the film is a fight for survival, it is also about community and solidarity. It is quite unsettling, to say the least, and will leave you on the edge of your seats. Who gets to eat? Or shall we all have cake? Peasants!

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. The Bakers wife (1938) directed by Marcel Pagnol

A slightly older film but still a classic. A small village has a change of heart when they celebrate the arrival of a new baker and his delicious breads. Things take a sad and depressing turn when his young wife runs off with another man, keeping him from baking. Some of the villagers are so disheartened that they cannot have their delicious bread, they set off on a journey to find Auralie and bring her back to the baker so they may have their precious baker back.

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. Burnt (2015) Directed by John Wells

Not as good as his riveting performance in Silver Linings Playbook, but still a great performance by Bradley Cooper in his plight for healing and peace. A top Michelin Chef, Adam Jones, had everything and then nothing as he battles with addiction and anger. The anger I speak of is more like RAGGEEE and one can easily understand why this film is on the list because Cooper delivers a believable and gut-wrenching performance of a struggling human, beyond his ability to create magnificent Parisian dishes.

You can watch the trailer here:

  1. The Scent of Green Papaya (1993) Directed by Anh Hung Tran

In not too many words, this is a story about family, geography, displacement and a search for love and identity. A sombre and nostalgic undertone, the film follows the journey of a little girl, Mui, who moves into a home as a new servant. The woman of the home treats her as her own after losing her own daughter. Her journey then continues as a young woman who moves in with a new family, a pianist and his fiancée. It is here that the musician and her fall in love, teaching her how to read, and eventually leading to their marriage.

You can watch the trailer here:

Here are some other films that I couldn’t write about:

Soul Food
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
The Princess and the Frog
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Eat drink man woman
Marie Antoinette
Sweeney Todd
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Sausage Party
Like Water for chocolate
Master of None (Season 2)
Eat Pray Love (because… we got this far, didn’t we?)