These are the most delicious-looking meals in food history.
Cinema has no shortage of gorgeously shot food scenes, from Willy Wonka’s candy bacchanals of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the haute cuisine of Nicolas Cage’s porcine-rescue movie Pig. However, not every dish is equal in the real world or in movies, so we have put together a list of the most mouthwatering meals ever seen on the silver screen. These movies range from animated comedies to intense drama to high-concept science fiction, which really shows how much we all just like to see food on screen.
The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix is likely not the first movie people think of when the slightly-icky term “food porn” comes up, and with good reason. For the most part, the Wachowskis’ benchmark science fiction films are not concerned with small niceties of human experience like delicious meals, which actually thematically leads into the one scene that is all about food: Cypher’s steak.
Midway through the first film, Morpheus’ (Laurence Fishburne) lieutenant Cypher (Joe Pantaliano) is revealed to be colluding with the machines in order to be reimplanted in the Matrix and able to enjoy the unreal, but still delicious fruits of his treachery. Fittingly, Cypher’s final decision to go back into the virtual world is accompanied by a delicious, medium-rare tenderloin steak, which looks better than any piece of streaming green computer code should.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Mouthwatering meals actually feature a lot in Quentin Taranatino’s Pulp Fiction, from the breakfast that Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer have in an L.A.. dinner before attempting to rob it to the Big Kahuna burger that Samuel L. Jackson commandeers from some luckless criminals. However, the tastiest and most delicious food in Pulp Fiction absolutely has to be the five-dollar milkshakes drunk by Mia (Uma Thurman) and Vincent (John Travolta) at the 1950s theme restaurant Jack Rabbit Slim’s.
While one can debate whether a milkshake is actually a food rather than a cold frosty beverage, that exorbitantly expensive (by 1994 standards) ice cream treat looks rich and tasty enough to serve as a meal on its own. As Vincent says, he doesn’t know whether it’s worth five dollars, but it’s pretty f-ing good.
Big Night (1996)
Some of the meals on this list got there by the sheer decadence of their ingredients or how incredibly delicious they look even when you can’t smell or taste them. Then there’s the simple omelet breakfast shared by struggling restauranteur brothers Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) in the final scene of the beloved indie classic Big Night, which evokes the simple, priceless comfort of a home-cooked meal.
After a film filled with financial and personal struggles, massive blowups over the Italian immigrants’ future in America, romantic disappointment, and one really big drunken meal, it seems like the brothers are hopelessly estranged. Then, in a staggeringly emotional, one-take scene, Secondo silently prepares an egg dish for the brothers (and their assistant, played by Marc Anthony), who eat it side by side and eventually reach out to each other without a word. If there was ever a scene that shows the power of food to communication, it’s this.
Defending Your Life (1991)
Defending Your Life, the 1991 comedy from writer-director-star Albert Brooks, begins with its lead character Daniel being abruptly killed in a car accident. Things only get more stressful for Daniel after that, as he wakes in a kind of post-life holding center as awaits judgment about whether or he will move onwards to a new stage of existence he cannot even comprehend or be sent back to Earth to try again. As one does, he goes on an Italian dinner date with Meryl Streep in the meantime.
In Judgment City, all of the food is free, incredibly delicious, and won’t cause you to gain a pound. However, Daniel cannot get over his embarrassment at being seen eating a full three pounds of pasta Alfredo (with 30 jumbo shrimp!), especially when he’s being observed by the woman in charge of kicking him back to Earth. Still, that’s some delicious shrimp.
Lady & the Tramp (1955)
Lady & the Tramp is one of the most iconic early Disney films, which is saying a lot considering the competition. While everyone loves a romance that shatters class divisions and blames problematic cats for everything, the movie is undeniably best remembered for the iconic spaghetti scene, in which Lady and the Tramp end up smooching after both munching on the same strand of pasta.
It cannot be denied that even though it’s served in an alleyway by a pair of curiously dedicated Italian restaurant workers (who seem really invested in a stray dog’s romantic life), that is one fine-looking plate of spaghetti and meatballs. It goes to show, good food can turn anything into a special occasion.
The Menu (2022)
The darkly comedic thriller The Menu was a sleeper hit in both theaters and HBO Max and for good reason. The movie saw Ralph Fiennes’ autocratic, but oddly sympathetic chef and his band of culinary zealots serving highly conceptual courses to a group of entitled diners at his private island restaurant, but nothing one could really call a “meal.” Then Anya Taylor-Joy’s lone dining malcontent asks for a” real cheeseburger, not some deconstructed Avant bulls–t” and we get a true dish of beauty.
Earlier in the movie, it was hinted that Fiennes’ chef had humble beginnings as a line cook in a humble fast food restaurant, and the quiet joy he takes in preparing the cheeseburger is the most touching part of the movie (which to be fair, has far more moments of “stabbing” than “touching”). But take a look at those double patties oozing with hot American cheese, the seeded bun, the hint of a thick-cut pickle, the crisp crinkle-cut fries. That’s a real meal.
Let’s get this part over right up front: most of the meals in the critically acclaimed film Ratatouille were prepared by a rat (or a guy being piloted by one, which, same difference), and literally anything a rodent makes that is actually edible can be considered pretty good. However, the meals rendered in the Pixar film are some of the most insanely delicious, nearly spiritually-fulfilling food ever seen in film. Of all of them, the final, eponymous dish served to snooty food critic Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole) is unquestionably the most gorgeous.
There’s a reason for that: legendary chef Thomas Keller personally designed an elevated take on the traditional French dish of layered vegetables, and his combined seven Michelin stars are certainly not for show. The dish served to Anton Ego is not only immaculately beautiful, it transports the cynical critic back to the warm, comforting flavors of his childhood in a Proust-like reverie. Now, that’s some good rat.