Does any workplace have more comedy, drama, and action than a restaurant?
Films have long-featured stories of chefs, restaurants, and delicious dishes. If you’re hungry for a cinematic feast, you’re in luck because we’re serving up a giant helping of the all-time best restaurant movies.
Grab your favorite snacks and get comfortable! Here’s the ultimate collection, featuring classic favorites as well as a few hidden treats.
Eat Drink Man Woman
Released in 1994, Eat Drink Man Woman is a comedy-drama by Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee. Set in 1990s Taiwan, the plot focuses on Mr. Chu, a widower who lives with his three adult daughters, each of whom struggles with conflicts related to love, cultural traditions, and more.
The film combines laughs, heart, and a whole lot of food. Every Sunday, Mr. Chu prepares an elaborate dinner for his daughters, which provides a narrative framework for the entire film.
The movie was both a critical and commercial smash. It won the Asia Pacific Film Festival Award and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Plus, it helped launch Lee into international superstardom, where he went on to make hits such as Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Crude, rude, and packed with laughs, Waiting… is based on director Rob McKittrick’s real-life experiences working as a waiter. It stars Justin Long as Dean, a waiter/community college dropout, and his adventures with his wild co-workers at the Applebee’s-inspired Shenanigan’s.
Waiting… is an early role for Ryan Reynolds and also stars Anna Faris, Luiz Guzman, and Chi McBride. While it’s undoubtedly raunchy, the laughs are served fast, and the hijinks will be familiar to anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant.
The Founder isn’t just about a restaurant; it’s about the biggest restaurant on the planet. It chronicles the true story of Ray Croc and his decades-long business relationship with brother Mac and Dick McDonald. If you’re looking for one of the best restaurant movies based on a true story, this is it.
Featuring a tour-de-force performance from Michael Keaton as Croc, the film details his innovations in the field of fast food as well as his incredibly unscrupulous business practices. While it’s not a particularly feel-good movie, it’s a fascinating look at the rather ruthless story behind the creation of the Golden Arches.
Released in 2014, Chef is a charming comedy-drama directed and starring Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, and other big-name stars. Despite their presence, Chef has a delightfully low-budget indie feel.
Favreau stars as Carl Casper, the head chef of a fancy LA-based restaurant who quits in a fit of anger after abrasive treatment from his boss and a clash with a local food critic. Unsure of his next move, he accepts his ex-wife’s invitation to move to Miami and see his son.
In Miami, he purchases a food truck and attempts a whole new career. Along the way, he learns the value of not just good food but also friendship and family. Not only is the film sure to delight and inspire, but it’ll make you hungry, too. All dishes in the movie were created and supervised by famous food truck chef Roy Choi.
This energetic and delightful animated classic features the story of Remy, a rat who dreams of becoming a chef, and his human friend Lou. Together, they take the Paris culinary world by storm, learning the value of food and friendship.
While animated, the delicious dishes displayed are among the best ever committed to film. The animators created over 270 pieces of digitally constructed food, each based on detailed photographs of real culinary masterpieces.
Julie & Julia
Julia Child is one of the most famous chefs in the history of the world, and this movie presents a fascinating look at her early life when she attended Le Cordon Blue to learn traditional French cooking. These scenes are then contrasted with the story of Julie Powell, a New York writer who documented her experiences cooking every dish in Child’s famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Julia & Julia is known for its knock-your-socks-off acting and inspiring themes. Food connects these two women, who had never met and were separated by decades. It’s a cinematic treat for anyone interested in the early life of Julia Child or Julie Powell’s real-life blog.
Have you heard of this restaurant classic? Big Night is an American comedy-drama starring Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci. They play Italian immigrant brothers who attempt to save their restaurant.
It’s a funny, well-acted film with touching themes of food, family, and forgiveness. Released in 1996, it won a New York Critics Award, Independent Spirit Award, and Boston Society of Film Critics Award.
Fans of authentic Italian cooking will love this one. The highlight of the film involves the preparation of timpano, a drum of pasta, rice, meatballs, and more.
Dinner Rush is another family-focused film set in an Italian restaurant, although with a different tone. The film focuses on a single night at Gigino in TriBeCa, home to a series of overlapping stories involving the owner, his son, and their various employees – along with an assortment of mobsters, loan sharks, food critics, and other off-beat characters.
Directed by Bob Giraldi, perhaps best known for directing Michael Jackson’s Beat It, Dinner Rush premiered in 2001, and it’s retained cult classic status ever since. It serves up equal portions of comedy and suspense, with a surprising ending sure to leave viewers satisfied (and hungry).
All of the best restaurant movies listed above provide a feast for the ears and eyes, making them perfect for anyone who has worked in a restaurant or simply loves a great meal. Whether you’re looking for comedy, drama, true stories, or fantastical situations, you’re sure to find the perfect pick.
Even better, all of the dishes featured in these films – even ratatouille – are possible to make in real life.
Happy viewing and Bon Appetit!
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