There are plenty of food-themed films that have been made, but not all of them have garnered rave reviews from the critics. Although the movies included on this list were selected purely on the basis of personal taste (pun intended) all of them have been labeled “Certified Fresh” by the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Here are five films that mix good food with great performances and stories, listed in order of their critical reviews, from worst to best.
5. Chef (2014)
While Jon Favreau is best known for directing big-budget action films like Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Cowboys & Aliens, he took a break from his usual directing fare to helm this labor of love about a chef rediscovering his passion for cooking after being fired from a prestigious Los Angeles restaurant. Foodies will appreciate the tasty Cubanos that chef Carl Casper creates at his new job in a food truck.
Besides directing and producing the film, Favreau also plays the main character, Carl Casper. The film costars Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr., Amy Sedaris, and Emjay Anthony. Chef was well received by most critics and currently has an 88 percent “Certified Fresh” rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. The film was also a commercial hit, with a total worldwide gross of more than $39 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
4. Waitress (2007)
This film about a waitress who channels her life’s frustrations into creating delicious pies should please anyone who is a fan of desserts. Keri Russell plays the title character, a waitress living in the American South who finds out she is pregnant while trapped in a loveless marriage. The film also stars Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, and Andy Griffith. Director Adrienne Shelly, who was killed shortly before the film’s release, also has a minor supporting role in the film.
Waitress was warmly received by the critics when it made its debut at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, and the film currently has an 89 percent “Certified Fresh” approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. This low-budget film was also a commercial success, with a total worldwide gross of over $22 million, per Box Office Mojo.
3. Mostly Martha aka Bella Martha (2001)
Like so many other food-themed films, Mostly Martha uses cuisine as a backdrop for a romantic story. In this German film, a workaholic chef played by Martina Gedeck lives in a carefully regimented world that revolves almost entirely around cooking. However, her life is soon turned upside down when she becomes the caretaker for her 8-year-old niece after her sister’s unexpected death. Meanwhile, the restaurant hires an unconventional chef played by Sergio Castellitto, who begins to disrupt Martha’s work routine. Gourmands should appreciate the many Italian and German dishes that play a central role in this film.
Mostly Martha received mostly positive reviews and the film currently has a 92 percent “Certified Fresh” approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Mostly Martha was later adapted into a 2007 American film starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart called No Reservations.
2. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
Renowned director Ang Lee helmed this film about a widowed Taiwanese chef who prepares sumptuous weekly banquets for his three unmarried adult daughters. Sihung Lung stars as master chef Chu; his three daughters are played by Yu-wen Wang, Chien-lien Wu, and Kuei-mei Yang. While the story focuses on the romantic entanglements of the various characters, foodies will undoubtedly enjoy the many lovingly framed shots of traditional Taiwanese dishes.
Eat Drink Man Woman was well received by the critics and garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1995. The film also impressed the critics at Rotten Tomatoes, who awarded Eat Drink Man Woman a 93 percent “Certified Fresh” approval rating. Eat Drink Man Woman was later remade as Tortilla Soup in 2001.
1. Big Night (1996)
This heartwarming tale about two Italian immigrant brothers who run a restaurant in 1950s New Jersey was directed by Stanley Tucci, who also wrote and starred in the film. Besides Tucci, Big Night also stars Minnie Driver, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, and Tony Shalhoub. In the film, the restaurateur brothers clash over whether or not to serve “Americanized” Italian cuisine in order to garner more customers for their struggling establishment. In a last-ditch effort to save their authentic Italian restaurant, the brothers prepare a lavish banquet for Louis Prima, the famous singer and bandleader, in the hopes that his visit will attract publicity. Not surprisingly, mouthwatering authentic Italian dishes like timpano are prominently featured throughout the film.
Big Night was hailed by the critics and the film won multiple awards from various festivals and critics organizations. The critics at Rotten Tomatoes were no exception: Big Night currently has an impressive 96 percent “Certified Fresh” approval rating.
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