Some of the most scrumptious food porn can be found on the big screen—in everything from mob flicks to rom coms to animated movies. But food scenes aren't just there to get the audience's mouth watering. Rather, the meals depicted on screen can represent bigger concepts and themes that drive the plot and reveal characters' true colors. Here are some of Street's all–time favorites:
Ratatouille (2007), Anton Ego tries ratatouille
When notoriously harsh restaurant critic Anton Ego sits down to review Gusteau’s, the kitchen is sent into a frenzy—but Remy the rat grabs the reins, preparing the quintessential French dish of ratatouille. He uses a mandoline to slice eggplant and zucchini, making sure they’re ultra–thin and pliable before stewing them in a rich tomato sauce. He plates the elegant stack of vegetables, alternating in color, with a sprinkling of herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. With one bite, Anton Ego is transported back to his childhood home: His mother places a bowl of ratatouille in front of him, patting him on the shoulder and assuring that all will be OK. Back at Gusteau's, he smiles to himself and proceeds to scarf down the dish with a beam of nostalgia painted clearly on his face. This scene is testament to the connection between food and memory, and how the right combination of textures and flavors can bring us back to moments of pure joy.
Goodfellas (1990), Prison meal
There’s nothing more resourceful—or visually satisfying—than using a razor blade to thinly slice a garlic clove. So thin, in fact, that it could “liquefy in the pan with just a little oil.” Paulie’s system is a great one, according to Irish–Italian American narrator and Mafioso Henry Hill. “In prison,” he says, “dinner was always a big thing.” These mobsters were eating better in jail than most young adults do at college—what excuse do we have? This scene exemplifies food as a sacred ritual, no matter where you are, and acts as a communal and unifying factor for the prisoners.
Inglourious Basterds (2009), Hans Landa and Shosanna eat strudel
In this scene, Nazi Hans Landa’s evil grin is almost as tantalizing as the apple strudel with copious dollops of cream. He orders the dessert for himself and Shosanna, who is Jewish but living as a gentile cinema owner in France. He initially forgets to ask for the cream and makes her wait to take a bite until it arrives. Landa, the infamous Jew–hunter, is the man who murdered Shosanna’s family on a dairy farm when she was a child, sparing her life because he didn’t believe she’d make it through the night. The tension is palpable, and the question remains: Does Landa recognize Shosanna? When he orders her a glass of milk to drink, the answer becomes clear.
The Godfather (1972), Red sauce
“Leave the gun, take the cannoli”: The same man who utters this unforgettable line also spills his secrets to perfecting the classic Italian red sauce, and you can recreate it yourself. Capo Peter Clemenza explains it to Michael Corleone as follows: “You start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; you make sure it doesn't stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs. And a little bit of wine, and a little bit of sugar—that's my trick.” Amid the violence and chaos of being involved in the Mafia, Clemenza distracts the young Corleone by teaching him something more wholesome and crucial to family life.
Marie Antoinette (2006), Shopping scene
Marie Antoinette starts off sobbing in the corner of her room, but what’s better to cheer you up than a shopping spree complete with lavish pastries, flowing champagne, adorable puppies, and bedazzled shoes? Girlie was having her cake and eating it, too. Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” plays in the background as the queen and her crew devour the most delectable sweets, complete with colorful sanding sugar, plump raspberries, decadent whipped cream, and even gold leaf. Marie Antoinette wasn’t known as Madame Déficit for nothing—but I’d step into her shoes in a heartbeat.
When Harry Met Sally (1989), Katz’s Delicatessen
Sally’s little performance in Katz’s Delicatessen tops the list for most iconic rom com scenes. She’s trying to prove a point to Harry: How can he know for sure that the women he’s been with haven’t faked their orgasms? Her public display of “I told you so” is convincing enough to make Harry question all of his past sexual encounters, and loud enough to attract the eyes of every patron in the restaurant. But hey—Katz’s pastrami on rye really is that damn good. The older lady sitting nearby says to the waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having!”