Seeing plate after plate of good food and imagining how it’ll taste like is a piece of heaven to foodies, and people who have food cravings or just want some #foodporn. Granted, it’s nothing compared to having a delicious meal. But when you can’t have it when you want it or you just don’t want to indulge because you’re watching your figure, the sight of hot molten cheese being stretched thin or a silky piece of chocolate being unwrapped is excruciatingly pleasing. That and a movie about love and togetherness are bound to make your heart full. Arranged by cuisine, here are the critically acclaimed food films you have to see. (Bonus: Movies about chocolates!)
Most of us link American food to burgers and hotdogs only—pretty much fast food or unhealthy fare. We forget that America has a southern continent that has distinct cultures (Cuban, Mexican, Brazilian, and so on), and that the northern continent, particularly Louisiana, is a melting pot of African, French, and American cultures because of colonization and migration.
Soul Food (1997)
A big and tumultuous African-American family is held together by the matriarch lovingly called “Big Mama.” Sibling rivalries and other family drama are tempered for her during Sunday dinners, but sometimes it becomes tricky when trouble hits the roof. If you’re in the mood for a sentimental film, this one’s for you.
Food to die for: fried chicken, buffalo wings, baby back ribs, turkey, roasted ham, fresh salad, mac ‘n’ cheese, and sweet corn bread.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Ambitious Tiana is sidetracked from her dream of opening a restaurant in New Orleans when she turns to a frog after kissing a frog prince to make him human again. Disney’s take on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale makes for a feel-good movie, as the passion and kindness of its heroine shines through.
Food to die for: beignets and gumbo.
Chef Carl Casper quits working for a prestigious restaurant as his overly controlling boss doesn’t let him take control of the menu. He isn’t at a loss for a long time thanks to his ex-wife, their son, and his best friend, who all offer their help and support. While it’s a movie showcasing food, Chef is also about being there for one’s family as a way to have a full life.
Food to die for: lechon, pasta, steak, beignet, grilled cheese sandwich, and Cubano sandwich.
Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
Mr. Chu, a retiring master chef and father, prepares a grand dinner for his three daughters every Sunday—in spite of him having lost his sense of taste. The unmarried ladies (who don’t always get along) would much rather be elsewhere yet they spend Sunday dinner with one another for family’s sake. This film prepares a feast for the eyes and gives a full view of the complexity of familial love.
Food to die for: braised pork belly, winter melon soup, crab dumpling, roast goose, spare ribs, and crab with vegetables.
Babette’s Feast (1987)
Babette, a Parisian refugee, serves two very pious and puritanical sisters. When she wins the lottery, Babette decides to treat the entire town to a feast, to everyone’s horror. But as the sisters and their friends eat Babette’s course dishes, they eventually realize that food—delicious food made lovingly and generously—nourishes the body and the soul as it fosters togetherness and companionship. How the film depicts the power of food—you’ll have to see it for yourself to know it—is why critics recognize Babette’s Feast as the food movie of all food movies.
Food to die for: duck-fat puff pastry, and quails stuffed with truffle and foie gras.
Julie & Julia (2009)
Julie Powell dislikes her job and decides to do a project to make herself grow. She does all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie struggles and sometimes wishes to give up, but she learns that the legendary Julia also experienced her own set of drawbacks but had the right ingredients to overcome them all.
Food to die for: beef Bourguignon, tomato bruschetta, onion soup, and chocolate cream pie.
The rat Remy has an acute sense of taste and dreams of becoming a chef. He finds himself in one of Paris’ finest restaurants and makes a deal with the restaurant’s garbage boy, Linguini, so that he can cook. This film will make you wish you’re eating what you’re seeing, as it manages to weave certain tastes with animation and music.
Food to die for: cheese and wine, salmon, and ratatouille (confit byaldi).
The Lunchbox (2013)
Ila spices up her husband’s lunch hoping that his satisfied stomach will rekindle his affection for her. But the city’s lunch delivery service gives the meal she prepared to another man, who savors it completely. Caught off guard by her husband’s continued neglect of her, she writes a note to see if someone else got her lunchbox. A friendship then begins between the lonely housewife and an uptight, also lonely, office worker. The Lunchbox will make you feel happy and sad as the characters are inspired to seek their own happiness and struggle to fill the emptiness in them.
Food to die for: dal and paneer kofta, and stuffed eggplant.
Today’s Special (2009)
Samir is a chef at a high-end restaurant in New York who quits his job after being frustrated at his boss. He considers studying French cooking in France, but ends up taking over his family’s Indian restaurant when his father falls ill. The restaurant isn’t doing well, and Samir feels helpless because he doesn’t really cook Indian food. He attempts to master Indian cooking with the help of a cab driver. This movie gives an important reminder on how we should just face and live life.
Food to die for: roti, shahjahani biryani, roasted lamb leg, and chicken hara bhara.
Mama’s Guest (2003)
A proud mother in a poor family wants to impress her nephew and his wife with a big dinner. The mother’s neighbors (who are just as poor) discover her predicament and make ends meet to help her hide her poverty from her guests. Mama’s Guest evokes celebratory and standoffish feelings toward food as it shows a somewhat political side of it, like how other people put food on the table.
Food to die for: kabab koobideh.
Big Night (1996)
Italian brothers Primo and Secondo try to run an authentic Italian restaurant in 1950s America without much success. Because their community would much rather eat Americanized Italian food, they barely have customers, and the few customers they have don’t understand or appreciate their dishes. Business worsens, so Secondo goes to their rival (but successful) restaurant to ask for help. This cult classic elevates food to the realm of the divine.
Food to die for: timpano, seafood risotto, omelette.
Dinner Rush (2000)
Louis experiences a crazy night in his Italian restaurant. He has to please a tough food critic. He has to stand his ground as a bunch of mobsters want to take his restaurant because his sous-chef owes them money. To top all that off, his restaurant seems to be confused since he wants to serve traditional Italian cuisine while his son, the head chef, wants to keep preparing more modern fare, to which the restaurant owes its success. Dinner Rush has similarities with Big Night, but with added mafia flare.
Food to die for: lobster with fried spaghetti, cream, salmon roe, caviar, and vanilla.
Mostly Martha (2001)
Martha, a workaholic chef with poor interpersonal skills, has to take care of her 8-year-old niece Lina because Lina’s mom (Martha’s sister) died in a car accident. As she struggles to successfully cheer up the depressed Lina, Martha becomes more agitated as a new chef, the fun-loving Mario, tempers the seriousness of her kitchen. This rom-com, which inspired No Reservations, is nothing short of charming.
Food to die for: Italian gnocchi, lamb chops, carbonara, and spaghetti.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
The first sushi chef with three Michelin stars, 85-year-old Jiro Ono still strives to improve his craft of sushi making. This documentary of him features the perfect sushi not only because the fish is fresh, but also because the sushi is made with passion and years of hard work, attention to detail, and training. It also provides insight to what it’s like to be in love with one’s work, and what it takes to be the best.
Food to die for: tamagoyaki (grilled egg), akami (lean tuna), chu-toro (medium tuna), o-toro (fatty tuna), tako (octopus), sumi-ika (squid), hirame (halibut), uni (sea urchin), kuruma ebi (wheel shrimp), ikura (salmon roe), aji (horse mackerel), anago (saltwater eel), and so much more.
In search for the best ramen restaurant, truck driver Goro winds up helping a woman named Tampopo to improve her ramen joint. Tampopo includes scenes about other characters who are obsessed with noodles; they may be random, but they’re hilarious in their own right.
Food to die for: ramen, rice omelette, fried rice, and Peking duck.
Final Recipe (2013)
Mark, a young chef, decides to join a televised cooking competition in hopes of bagging the prize money to help his grandfather’s restaurant business. The restaurant is trying to keep itself afloat from bankruptcy, since people now prefer more modern tastes than the traditional food it serves. Final Recipe puts food at center stage and makes family the source of inspiration.
Food to die for: omelette, stir-fry noodles, and bibimbap.
Antique Bakery (2008)
Jin-hyuk seems set for life since he will inherit his family’s fortune, but he knows that something is missing in his life: a love interest. He then establishes a pastry shop, being certain that women will drop by. He hires a patissier, a former boxing champion to be an apprentice, and a bodyguard. While the men are fond of goofing around, they carry with them a dark past that keeps up with them.
Food to die for: chocolate chiffon, strawberry millefeuille, strawberry tart, and cheesecake.
Romantics Anonymous (2010)
Angelique is a chocolate maker who suffers from social anxiety disorder. She gets a job at a chocolate company that’s doing badly and becomes attracted to her boss Jean-Rene, who also suffers from social anxiety disorder. Extremely shy but knowing she can make the most delicious chocolates, Angelique anonymously creates a new line of chocolates to save the company. Angelique and Jean-Rene are self-destructive when they are apart, so they have to overcome some of their anxiety (or be anxious together) for a happy ending.
Food to die for: white ganache with paprika, porcini tuiles, and green tea white chocolate.
Like Water for Chocolate (1992)
Being the youngest of three daughters and fated by tradition to remain unmarried to care for her mother, Tita is torn from her beloved Pedro. Pedro decides to marry Tita’s sister while still loving Tita, but the setup saddens her. Tita’s emotions magically find their way into her cooking such that anyone who eats her food will feel her sadness and heartache. Like Water for Chocolate shows the pleasurable (read: erotic) side of food as Tita’s repressed passions find their release.
Food to die for: chilis stuffed with walnut and pomegranate, and quail in rose petal sauce.
Jenna waits tables at a diner and makes mean pies, which are inspired by her experiences and feelings. She wants to leave her husband who makes her unhappy, but when she finds herself pregnant, she reevaluates her plans of escape, as well as her dreams and fears. Waitress seeks to encourage its audience to choose happiness and make the decisions one can live with.
Food to die for: quiche with smoked ham, egg, and brie cheese; cinnamon spice custard; chocolate mousse pie; and strawberry chocolate oasis pie.