In light of the recent Oscars (and celebrating Leo Dicaprio‘s and Spotlight‘s win), it’s very timely to discuss movies. Yay, Hollywood! I’m no film buff but I do have my favorites. Most of my favorites are not critically acclaimed but nonetheless entertaining, for me at least.
The genres I watch varies, from Japanese animation to horror films. But one of the genres I’m sure to watch are films about food. When I was younger I already loved watching cooking shows, which is one of the reasons why I love food and preparing it. These days, I love watching TV series, reality shows, and documentaries about food like “Top Chef,” Netflix‘s “Chef’s Table,” PBS‘s “The Mind of a Chef,” among others.
In terms of full-length films, there’s a basket full of food movies that the entertainment industry has produced. While most of these films tackle different stories in their plots and not solely about food, they still deliver the kind of artistry a food lover would enjoy. Who would forget the crunching sound while biting off of the grilled cheese sandwich from Chef? The fish fillet swimming in butter on a copper pan from Julie & Julia? These films will surely make you feel hungry.
Here are my favorite films about food (in no particular order). If you haven’t seen any or some of the films, be warned, spoilers ahead.
Julie & Julia (2009)
This one is both entertaining and critically praised. Nominated for and won several awards, this 2009 biographical film is about the early culinary career of American TV personality Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) which is told alongside the life of writer and food blogger Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams). This Nora Ephron film playfully contrasts the lives of the two cooks—Child on her journey in studying French cuisine (and writing her cookbook) and Powell one her life as a struggling writer who finds comfort in cooking. Powell, a fan of Child, follows the recipes of the American TV cook through her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. While the film tells the stories, it perfectly visualizes (quite comically, too) the beauty of food and cooking, from the simple task of chopping onions to poaching eggs to the traumatic experience of killing lobsters.
This Disney-Pixar hit, directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava, made me question my hate for rats. Yep, I still hate rats. While I questioned the anti-hygienic nature of the film (I mean, rats cooking food for humans), which quite honestly made some people uncomfortable, the movie still delivered with the art and heart. The premise is a rat named Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) has the taste for gourmet food and the skill to cook it. It teams up with garbage boy Linguini (voiced by Lou Romano) and turns up a storm in (and eventually taking over it) the kitchen of famous French restaurant Gusteau’s. Magically controlling Linguini via his hair, Remy was able to fulfill his dream of running his own kitchen and becoming a chef, thanks to his mentor, the spirit of chef Auguste Gusteau (voiced by Brad Garrett). The Pixar stamp already assures viewers great visuals and the animation did deliver. The beautiful ratatouille dish has actually been created by various cooks and chefs in real life.
That moment when chef Carl Casper (played by Jon Favreau, who also directed the film) cooked that amazing grilled cheese sandwich, I wanted a bite so badly. The color, the cheese, the sound—perfect. In this film, Casper tries to change things up in a restaurant he has worked for for years to which his new menu was painfully rejected by the owner. The old menu proved to be tiring and unimpressive for one of the city’s infamous food critics played by Oliver Platt. The scathing review made Casper violently snap at the all-knowing critic, which ended up on YouTube making the chef super famous for all the wrong reasons. As he finds himself and tries to redeem his career, he went on a journey (literally) with his son Percy (played by Emjay Anthony) and sous chef Martin (played by John Leguizamo) on a food truck, selling Cubanos. This journey ultimately fixes his relationship with his family, especially his son. He found his way through the help of making Cuban beef sandwiches and selling them across America.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
This film makes me want to buy a plane ticket and fly to Japan. This documentary, directed by David Gelb, follows then 85-year-old sushi master, Jiro Ono owner and chef of three-Michelin star restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro. The movie showcases how Japanese people take their work seriously. There’s a whole lot of art behind making sushi. While some restaurants have commercialized the world-famous dish, Jiro go to great lengths just to make sushi—from choosing the perfect fish to mastering its beautiful construction. This art takes practice, even Ono’s sons Takashi and Yoshikazu took years to master it. The film visualizes the process and beauty of making sushi.
Kailangan Kita (2002)
This is the only Filipino film I included on the list. This film, directed by Rory B. Quintos, made cooking and food sexy. Like Western films such as Chocolat and Woman on Top, the movie mixes romance with food. Kailangan Kita (I Need You) tells a story of a New York-based celebrity chef Carl Diesta (played by Aga Muhlach) who finally comes home to the Philippines after being away for many years. He travels to the province of Bicol, a very picturesque place, to say the least. The chef is marrying his fiancee in her home town where he meets Lena (played by Claudine Barretto), his fiancee’s sister. This simple rural girl with amazing cooking skills and the star chef fall in love with each other. This film is beautifully shot (especially the kitchen scenes) with amazing cinematography that stunningly showcases the beauty of the province, which is famous for its creamy and spicy food.
The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
This film shows the journey of a culinary novice to becoming a world-renowned chef. Directed by Lasse Hallström, the story centers on the Kadam family. Forced to leave their home country, the family moves to a small village in France. A family who loves food, they decide to put up a restaurant in the town that has no clue what Indian food is. The problem, the property they acquired was straight across Michelin-starred restaurant, owned by Madame Mallory (played by Helen Mirren). As the “restaurant wars” ensues, Mallory discovers the talented hands and palate of Hassan Kadam (played by Manish Dayal) whom she eventually trains and push to become a Michelin star chef.
This is the most recent film on the list. Helmed by John Wells, this movie follows the life of Michelin-starred but troubled chef, Adam Jones (played by Bradley Cooper) who attempts to redeem his name by building a new restaurant and getting his second prestigious Michelin star. Burnt digs in deeper with its protagonist having multiple problems other than a critic not liking his food. Jones, although already sober, his alcohol and drug abuse still haunts him in the form of debt collectors running after him. Jones’ struggles explain the complexities of being a chef because giving in to the pressure of being on top can also be the cause of someone’s downfall.
This is my initial list because I have yet to watch all food films. If you have suggestions, comment it below.