These are the grossest meals ever seen in the medium of film.
As we have previously pointed out, cinema is an amazing medium to depict the flavor, intensity, comfort, and nostalgia that comes with well-prepared, visually stunning meals. Conversely, the silver screen is also perfect for showing off some of the most bizarre, absurdly disgusting food imaginable, whether it is in a dark comedy, future dystopia, or beloved coming-of-age story. With that in mind, we have taken the liberty of compiling some of the most ridiculous (but non-cannibalistic) scenes of meals ever seen in film. Enjoy!
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
You knew this one had to come up, so we are going to get it out of the way immediately. In Harrison Ford’s second outing as the two-fisted archaeologist, Dr. Jones, Short Round (Academy Award winner Ke Huy Quan), and Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) attend a banquet at the mysterious, sinister Pankot Palace, and things… do not go very well, in terms of meals.
The Temple of Doom has been rightly criticized for its heavy-handed use of stereotypical ethnic imagery (which, to be fair, could be said of the entire franchise), particularly for the depiction of a banquet of eyeball soup, giant cockroaches, live baby snakes, and most memorably, chilled monkey brains. Needless to say, these are not elements of Indian cuisine and only accentuate the tones of xenophobia in the darkest of the Indiana Jones movies.
However, it can be argued that the prominence of bizarre, taboo-breaking foods at the palace is a hint that all is not well at Pankot, as is soon demonstrated. Plus, chilled brains are just gross.
Brazil is widely thought of as filmmaker/Python Terry Gilliam’s finest work, an acidic bureaucratic satire that somehow also manages to be a romantic comedy, a beautifully visualized fantasy, and a brutal horror film. But however terrifying the sight of Michael Palin as a chipper state torturer in a weird baby mask might be, it is nothing compared to the piles of green glop that serve as high cuisine in this world.
Midway through the movie, the protagonist/government functionary Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) has lunch with his social-climbing mother at a swanky restaurant, but all that is served is disturbingly textured, medically green lumps that purportedly have all the flavors of real meals, but none of the aesthetic value. Forget winged knights: if the weird future society of this movie is represented by any one image, it’s these lumps.
Defending Your Life (1991)
We’ve already pointed out that Albert Brooks’ post-death romantic comedy film Defending Your Life has a real focus on the sheer deliciousness (and volume) of food served to the souls of people waiting to see whether they will move forward with their journeys of spiritual evolution in Judgement City. Brooks’ nebbishy Daniel Miller and his love interest Julia (Meryl Streep) chow down on pounds of fettuccine, 30 jumbo shrimp, huge Denver omelets, and sushi, but that’s not what the smart people eat, according to Rip Torn.
You see, Torn plays Bob Diamond, a former human so intellectually and spiritually advanced that he consumes meals that look like burnt, crumbling brown patties with a viscous brown sauce on the side (no garnish, even). According to Daniel, it tastes absolutely awful. If that’s what spiritual growth means, no thanks.
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
The NeverEnding Story, a classic tale of a boy, a book, a different boy, a luckdragon, a magical land, and a scary stormcloud has one of the more disturbing breakfasts ever seen in film, but if you blink, you’ll miss it. Early in the movie, lonely nerd Bastian Bux (Barret Oliver) is having breakfast, only to be chided by his distant, distracted father (Gerald McRaney of Netflix’s House of Cards) to not be late for school.
Then Bastian’s father drinks a hideous breakfast smoothie that consists solely of orange juice and raw egg, blended together. Mr. Bux (Barney, to his friends) is already coded as being a dismissive 1980s adult by dint of his three-piece suit and his giving his 10-year-old son some pretty callous advice by basically being like “your mom is dead, get over it.” But we can’t get over his incredibly strange breakfast, which has all the satisfying elements of viscous, cold protein and strong acidity to start your daily meals. We’re pretty sure he’s the type to get heavy-pulp orange juice, too.
The Bong Joon-ho film Snowpiercer features an oddly high percentage of Marvel actors, including Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, and the late John Hurt. It also features a massive train that endlessly travels around a snowbound world destroyed by the effects of climate change, carrying the remnants of humanity in a tidy metaphor for class divisions. Aboard Snowpiercer, it seems most people have one primary dish for their meals: dark, gelatinous protein bars.
On the surface, these bars are not the most unappetizing things one could think of and, to be fair, do not look hugely different from a CLIF Bar. However, it eventually becomes apparent that these protein bars are made from the most logical animal food source: vast vats of teeming, revolting cockroaches. Considering that the former Captain America had already resorted to cannibalism, what are some bugs? Some hideous, nauseating bugs?
Will Ferrell instantly became a new Christmas icon by starring in the family comedy Elf, the Jon Favreau film that answered the eternal question: if a human was raised by the elves of Santa’s workshop, came to New York City to find his human father, and fell in love with Zooey Deschanel, what would his version of spaghetti be?
The version of spaghetti that Buddy the Elf made for his human family was abominable enough, being a classic marina sauce and pasta drenched in maple syrup. But then there’s the kind of food that Buddy himself eats, a monstrous combination of the aforementioned maple syrup and spaghetti noodles, combined with yet more syrup (chocolate variety), M&Ms, marshmallows, and a chocolate fudge Pop Tart. If watching Will Ferrell mash those all up with his hands and consume them doesn’t raise yet more questions about the North Pole, you should evaluate things.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Much as wearing a three-piece suit all but ensured a person in a 1980s movie was a cold-hearted, ruthless businessman who was probably about to bulldoze a community center, athletes, brains, princesses, criminals, and basket cases could all be picked out of a line-up from pretty basic signifiers. In the case of the classic John Hughes coming-of-age-during-detention movie The Breakfast Club, eating a really weird sandwich is one of those signifiers.
Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), the Basket Case of the group, memorably eats a sandwich composed of one slice of white bread, one slice of whole wheat bread, a whole bunch of butter, Cap’n Crunch cereal, and a liberal coating of sweet and tangy Pixy Stix. Compared to some of the other entries on this list, it’s not entirely repellent, just really, really… weird.
The Matrix (1999)
In the future Earth of the Matrix series, Earth has been utterly devastated by some unknown weapon launched by desperate humans in an attempt to destroy artificially intelligent solar-powered machines. Naturally, that makes it impossible to grow crops and (while never explicitly stated) probably killed off the vast majority of animal life, so what do humans who have escaped from the artificial reality of the Matrix have to eat?
Snot. Basically, they eat a snot-like slurry of unknown origin that contains, quote, a “single-celled protein, vitamin, mineral, and amino acid colloid.” It is unclear how the lack of specified fiber in the future human diet affects people, but even aside from that, it looks putrid. What does it have to have that texture? Why? At least it’s better than being intravenously fed a slurry of the dead.
Well, it probably is.