Five All-Time Best Food Films

Rebecca Varidel
28th Feb 2015

Forget the Hollywood blockbusters. Foreign films reign supreme when it comes to food. The best of these stories are about cooks and chefs, the process and the produce, and are evocative in the extreme. Best watched in the original language (with English subtitles but not dubbed). A few of our friends' favourites rate highly but are not included - Japanese noodle western Tampopo and the sensual eastern Eat Drink Man Woman. We can just about eat La Grande Bouffe - all of it. And then there is chocolate: Chocolat - romantically set in a French village - with the best original music score for food, with the positively radiant chocolate maker Juliette Binoche and the sensational old grump Judi Dench, and Johnny Depp strumming on guitar; and who can forget the seductive quails in rose petals from Like Water For Chocolate. Yet, here are our five best all time food films.

1. Babette's Feast (1987)

This gentle film is the ultimate love story about cooking. Slowly it takes us on a journey of an even temperature, long and slow like a simmering pot on the stove of a long slow cooked winter dish. A monochromatic Danish movie, it's gentle in its contrasts, soft in its speech, embracing in its daily bread, and peaks at its feast. Even when another 100 years pass, it is likely that Babette's Feast will still be at the top of this all-time best food films list.

2. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

First time New York film maker David Gelb followed his passion to document the world's smallest three star Michelin restaurant in Tokyo, the Sushi Master Ono and his sons. With beautiful cinematography and a repetitive classical music score that paces the repetition of the mastering of perfection, we come away with a little more understanding of fish and rice and sushi and all things Japanese, and also with a yearning to take an immediate flight to Tokyo!

3. Haute Cuisine (2012)

When a regional French cook comes to Paris to become the personal caterer to the French President we are taken into her kitchen, and we take her into our heart as she takes on the men in their commercial chefs domain. Based on a true story, perhaps this title is a misnomer. Because Hortense Laborie cooks anything but the grande (high end) cuisine of France. Her food is simple country cooking and this is a story about the beginning of what we now call regional food. That said, Haute Cuisine shows one of the most decadent food on film moments - a midnight kitchen snack of lashings of freshly shaved, first of the season Périgord black truffles, salted and served on hot buttered toast. The film is worth watching for that scene alone.

4. The Lunchbox (2013)

So much more than a film about how to spice up your life and meet your man through cooking. A tiffin is a layered Indian lunchbox that is delivered from home to the office. When a housewife in Mumbai tries to spice up her marriage in her husband's tiffin, the lunch box deliveries get mixed up. And a beautiful story unfolds. Cooking advice from an older upstairs neighbour adds to The Lunch Box ingredients.

5. The Ramen Girl (2008)

OK. This is a little bit kitsch, a little bit of a food schlock film, though never clumsy, and makes this five food film list as - totally adorable and endearing - the best feel good food film, easy viewing. It's so wrong yet it's so right. Filmed in English and Japanese without subtitles (so a bit like - The Ramen Girl - Abby we never quite know what's going on). Brittany Murphy beams as she reminds us that all is never lost when we follow our heart.

There are also some other movies with weird yet wonderful food scenes. Take Annie Hall and her lobsters for example, Jack Lemmon making spaghetti and meatballs with his tennis racket in The Apartment, the blue birthday soup from Bridget Jones’s Diary or Kevin Kline eating Michael Palin's fish in a Fish Called Wanda.

And for the serious foodie, there is also the food documentary, about the recent dramatic changes in the way that we eat, that we should take seriously - Food Inc.