This is by no means a complete list, in either section. Except as noted I’ve seen all these movies. I will add to the list as I think of movies or make new discoveries.
For the food:
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Trouble is cooking for widower and master chef Chu (Sihung Lung) who’s about to discover that no matter how dazzling and delicious his culinary creations might be, they’re no match for the libidinous whims of his three beautiful but rebellious daughters. 1994, Subtitled
American version of Eat, Drink, Man, Woman released in 2001. Starring Hector Elizondo and Raquel Welch. Many think this is the better film in terms of chemistry between the actors.
Like Water for Chocolate
The passionate Tita is in love with Pedro, but her controlling mother forbids her from marrying him. When Pedro instead marries her sister, Tita throws herself into her cooking — and discovers she can transfer her emotions through the food she prepares. 1992, Subtitled
Danny Aiello plays a recently retired bookie who also owns a traditional Italian restaurant in NYC. His hip, neo-chef son is itching to take over the restaurant and bring it in to the new world of fusion cooking. A couple of mobsters are also looking to take over the restaurant, for entirely different reasons. Most of the action takes place over one night. The fate of the goodfellas, the chef-snob and his gambling addicted sous chef, a cop, restaurant reviewer and Louis, the man in the middle all intersect around plates of delicious Italian favorites. 2001, I love this movie!!
Despite having a talented chef and outstanding cuisine, an Italian restaurant run by two brothers teeters on the verge of bankruptcy. It’s then they learn a huge star will visit their bistro for a multicourse meal. With everything to lose, the brothers pull out all the stops hoping the “big night” will save their trattoria. 1996, Stars Tony Shaloub and Stanley Tucci in support roles- of course they play second fiddle to the food, glorious food!
More about wine than food and really about two guys trying to figure out what the hell they are doing with themselves. Funny but bitter.
First off, this movie stars Johnny Depp in his classic sexy pirate-little bit bad boy role. But without the heavy eye makeup from Pirate’s of the Caribbean. Now, add some sweet chocolate, a little mystery about a new shopowner in this small French town and you’ve got a great movie that is best enjoyed at home where you can eat your own gourmet chocolates instead of suffering through Raisinettes.
The Wedding Banquet
Not a lot of food, until the end. A gay Taiwanese-American man is hiding his sexuality from his parents, still living in Taiwan. When they come to visit, he arranges a complete faux relationship with a woman who happens to need a green card. This little arrangement soon turns in to a giant wedding. Good movie in general with amazing traditional Chinese wedding at the end.
This German film was redone in the US as No Reservations starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart. I have not seen the American version but the original is a very good film about a dedicated professional chef with a low tolerance for criticism. Her career-centric life takes a hit when her young neice comes to live with her. In another blow, the restaurant where she rules brings in a new cook to “help out.”
Julie & Julia
Meryl Streep is Julia Child. Amy Adams is Julie, a present day food blogger who cooks from Julia’s cookbook but really the best part of her half of the movie is the montage scenes like making a lot of poached eggs. I’m mostly in this for the Julia half. 2009
An animated film about a French rat who aspires to be a chef in a top-shelf restaurant. You can say you are watching this movie “with your kids” but we all know the truth. 2007
Another wine movie, versus food. This movie, frankly, is only okay. The plot is based on the real story of the 1976 wine competition at which multiple California wines shockingly beat French wines in a blind taste test. I found Chris Pine’s character to be a little over the top and the “romance” subplot completely unnecessary. Also stars the inimitable Alan Rickman so watch it for him. 2008
For the Politics and Education
Super Size Me
For 30 days, Morgan Spurlock ate at McDonalds and only at McDonalds three times a day. He had a full lab workup and doctor visits before and after his experiment. In between scarfing down the fries and Big Macs, he examines the American food culture. 2004
Fast Food Nation
A fictionalized version of the book, Fast Food Nation, Greg Kinnear plays a marketing director for a McDonalds-like fast food chain. After evidence of contaminated burgers is discovered, Kinnear goes on an transformative trip to the slaughterhouse to root out the problem. His journey allows him to cross paths with many of the players in the world of fast food from young employees in the stores to the ranchers that grow the beef. 2006
To Market to Market to Buy A Fat Pig
A PBS special celebrating the Farmer’s Market. Its just 1 hour long but they visit markets in Hawaii, Virginia and more.
The origin story of McDonald’s with Michael Keaton starring as Ray Kroc. Kroc revolutionized the fast-food industry and changed the American foodscape with his franchise model but he was also kind of a dick to the original McDonald brothers who came up with the actual restaurant concept that carries their name. 2017
I haven’t seen this film yet but its on my NetFlix list and was recently added as a “Watch it Now”. A British documentary about 2 ordinary people who were sued by for libel by McDonalds. It took 7 years and the defendants, a gardener and postman by trade, defended themselves against the multi-million dollar legal team from MickyDs. An important film about fast food but even more important because of the implications for free speech in England and worldwide.