It’s kind of funny how food movies aren’t really about food. Well, maybe that’s not exactly right. Maybe the best food movies (or at least the ones I watch over and over again) are about the power of food to bring together friends and family,strangers and rivals; to heal old wounds; to teach us about ourselves -- and to inspire love.
With that in mind, here’s a list of some of my favorites. Enjoy.
- Melissa Carr, owner of Aurora Provisions
After fleeing the revolution in France, Babette takes a job as a cook and house cleaner for a pair of sisters who are members of an austere religious sect in Denmark. Babette serves as their cook for the next 14 years, producing an improved version of the bland meals typical of the congregation. Her only link to her former life is a lottery and one day she wins. Instead of returning to Paris and her lost lifestyle, Babette spends her winnings preparing a delicious dinner for the sisters and their small congregation on the occasion of the founding pastor's hundredth birthday. The meal is an outpouring of Babette's appreciation. Although the other celebrants refuse to comment on the earthly pleasures of their meal, Babette's gifts break down their distrust and superstitions, elevating them physically and spiritually. Old wrongs are forgotten, ancient loves are rekindled, and a mystical redemption of the human spirit settles over the table.
Chef Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and businessman Secondo (Stanley Tucci) are immigrant brothers from Italy who open their dream restaurant, Paradise, in New Jersey. However, Primo's authentic food is too unfamiliar for the local tastes, and the restaurant is struggling. When famous Italian-American bandleader Louis Prima is scheduled to appear at Paradise, the two brothers put all of their efforts into the important meal, which will likely decide the fate of their restaurant.
Based on the best-selling novel by Laura Esquival, this fable from Mexico centers on a young woman who discovers that her cooking has magical effects. The tale's heroine, Tita, is the youngest of three daughters in a traditional Mexican family. Bound by tradition to remain unmarried while caring for her aging mother, Tita nevertheless falls in love with a handsome young man named Pedro. Pedro returns her affection, but he cannot overcome her family's disapproval, and he instead marries Tita's elder sister. The lovestruck young woman is brutally disappointed, and her sadness has such force that it infects her cooking: all who eat it her feel her heartbreak with the same intensity. This newly discovered power continues to manifest itself after the wedding, as Tita and Pedro, overcome by their denied love, embark on a secret affair.
In 2002, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is a young writer with an unpleasant job at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation's call center, where she answers telephone calls from victims of the September 11 attacks and members of the general public complaining about the controversial plans for rebuilding the World Trade Center. To do something she enjoys, she decides to cook every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) by Julia Child (Meryl Streep) in one year; Powell decides to write a blog to motivate herself and document her progress. Woven into the story of Powell's time in Queens in the early 2000s is the story of Child's time in Paris throughout the 1950s, where she attends Le Cordon Bleu to learn French cooking and begins collaborating on a book about French cooking for American housewives. Eventually, Powell's blog is featured in a story published in The New York Times, after which her project begins to receive the attention of journalists, literary agents, publishers, and a dismissive response from Child herself.
Julie & Julia was Nora Ephron's last film before her death in 2012.