Top 10 Restaurant Scenes In The Movies

Top 10 Films checks out the greatest restaurant scenes in the movies as Dan Grant takes a look at culinary drama on the big screen. Prepare for everything from dinner-time pranks and cafe orgasms to death by Shish Kebab!

10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Spielberg, 1984)

Top 10 Restaurant Scenes In The MoviesIndiana Jones films are famous for their opening scenes. Everyone remembers the opening scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade. But Temple of Doom might have had the most over the top opening in all the Indiana Jones films. Indy is there to hand over some ancient relic from Lau’s ancestry and in return Indy gets some outrageous diamond. This being an Indiana Jones movie, nothing goes right for intrepid finder-of-antiquity and we witness death by Shish Kebab, diving across floors, jumping out of windows and using a giant copper plate as a shield from gun fire. This scene is just window-dressing for the rest of the film but it sure starts it off with a bang.

9. Waiting (McKittrick, 2005)

Top 10 Restaurant Scenes In The MoviesIt’s hard to pick one from this hilarious film but if I must, I’ll go with the bitchy customer who gets her food messed with by the staff. The cardinal rule, as told by Ryan Reynolds to the young trainee, is don’t mess with people who serve you your food. This horrible customer, that every one of us who has worked in the service industry can identify with, sneers at the waitress, berates and belittles her and then expects her to come back with the food done to perfection. But when the food is brought back to the kitchen, and Dane Cook and Luiz Guzman get a hold of it, safe to say that the alfalfa being placed on her burger might not actually be a flowering plant but a hair from a part of the body….well you get the point.

8. Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)

Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino, Film, 1990s,There are several terrific restaurant/diner scenes in Pulp Fiction but the best one in my opinion has to be the Five Dollar Shake. This is where the nervous hitman is taking out his boss’s wife, who is very confident, very sultry and very off limits. He calms himself by shooting heroine before the meal and this allows the conversation to flow freely. He goes on to ask her about the consequences of massaging her feet, she tells him jokes about Fox Force Five, Buddy Holly serves them food, Marilyn Monroe has her skirt blown up and it culminates with John Travolta and Uma Thurman entering into a dance contest.

7. Goodfellas (Scorsese, 1990)

Top 10 Restaurant Scenes In The MoviesWe first meet the adult Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas in a restaurant where he and all of his mob cronies hang out. They all eat for free, or so it seems and as Tommy is telling a story, everyone is laughing hysterically. These people are on top of the world, untouchable and they are kings among their subjects. When Tommy finishes telling his story, Henry, one of his best friends, tells him he’s a funny guy. Henry means it in a complimentary way but Tommy, being the loose cannon he is, takes it as an insult which gives us the iconic line about funny, being a clown and so on. This one piece establishes Tommy’s character for the rest of the film. He’s a man with a quick temper, a short fuse and this will end up being his demise. It’s filmed masterfully by Martin Scorsese and performed with sadistic menace by Joe Pesci as he preys upon a bemused Ray Liotta.

6. Dumb and Dumber (Farrelly Bros., 1994)

Top 10 Restaurant Scenes In The MoviesJim Carrey and Jeff Daniels play two of the stupidest guys on the planet. When Lloyd (Daniels) throws a salt shaker over his shoulder, he hits a patron named Seabass with it. Seabass is played by professional hockey legend Cam Neely and he nails this small but funny part as the country bumpkin bully. He spits in Lloyd’s burger and does whatever he can to intimidate these two guys. But Harry has an idea and what results is one of the funnier moments in the film when he has Seabass unknowingly pay for their meals.

5. Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993)

Bill Murray, Groundhog Day - Top 10 FilmsGroundhog Day is filled with funny and sweet moments. One of the transitional periods in the movie is when Phil finally tells Rita what kind of plight he is going through. He tells her that he is some sort of God and then proceeds to tell her private information about everyone in the diner. He knows about wedding plans, what waiter is gay, who immigrated from Ireland as a baby and he knows exactly when the waiter is going to drop a tray of food. It’s a scene that blends comedy and emotion perfectly. Up until now the film was a straight laced comedy, here it takes a turn into the mystical and fantastical side as well. Director Harold Ramis and editor Pembroke Herring did a masterful job putting this all together.

4. The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)

godfather-duvall-pacino_top10filmsThis is one of the most perfectly filmed scenes perhaps in cinematic history. Why, you might be wondering, is it not higher on the list? Well, the next three are just that much better in my opinion. This is the scene where Michael, as played by Al Pacino, is meeting the man, Sollozzo, responsible for the attempt on his father’s life. We know that Michael is there to kill Sollozzo and we know that there is a gun planted in the bathroom. Michael looks nervous all throughout the meeting and when he comes back from the restroom, gun hidden in his jacket, we can feel the tension build until he finally shoots and kills the two mobsters. Al Pacino was terrific in this scene and it’s also directed tightly by Francis Coppola who won his first best director Oscar for this film.

3. A Christmas Story (Clark, 1983)

A Christmas StoryThis film takes place in small town America in the 50s. It’s famous for the Red Ryder BB gun and “shoot your eye out kid” theme all throughout the movie. On Christmas Day, Ralphie and his family suffer from the misfortune of having their Christmas turkey stolen and ravaged by the neighbour’s dogs, who seem to have a fixation on Ralphie’s dad. So they have no choice but to go out for Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day. The only place that is open is a Chinese Food restaurant where the employees sing Deck The Halls to the family. But with their broken english, fa-la-la-la-la-la comes out as far-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra. The family looks on with helpless desperation as the singers try their best but the words just don’t don’t come out right. Ralphie and his brother have perpetual smiles on their faces but the mother and father freak out when a duck is served to them, still with it’s head attached. It’s a dysfunctional end to a dysfunctional movie.

2. When Harry Met Sally (Reiner, 1989)

When Harry Met Sally, Orgasm Scene, Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal,Perhaps the most iconic film moment on the list comes from Sally faking an orgasm at a diner in New York City as Harry watches in what can only be described as a mix of mild amusement, a hint of embarrassment and a touch of muted admiration as his companion gives it her all. It of course culminates with Rob Reiner’s mother’s famour line, “I’ll have what she ‘s having.” It’s a terrific film with an iconic moment. Meg Ryan must have just let loose when filming this as she really holds nothing back.

1. Heat (Mann, 1995)

Heat, Al Pacino - Top 10 FilmsThe brilliance of this scene is the simplicity of it. It of course helps that it had two of film’s all time greats, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, meeting for the first time on screen together. The sequence is aided by Michael Mann directing most of the scene using a simple over the shoulder two-shot. It’s one of the techniques you learn in the first day of film school. And yet it works for a litany of reasons. It’s written with a beginning a middle and an end and it crescendos in the right spot. The acting by the smooth and suave De Niro is deliciously juxtaposed against Pacino’s slightly high strung, but very much perfectionist character. But ultimately it’s just two “regular guys” having a conversation over some coffee in a diner. And yet it’s riveting, tense, pulse-pounding and ultimately perfect.

Written & Compiled by Dan Grant

What are the best restaurant scenes for you?

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About the Author
Dan Grant is an author and horror film fan from Canada. His first novel Terrified and Defenseless is now available for e-download from Amazon. Follow Dan on Twitter @baumer72.

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  1. Avatar
    Michael Scoates Reply

    You know it’s a good list when you get goosebumps. I got goosebumps 🙂

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      Haha! We aim to please! 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Callum Reply

    Love Waiting. Great to see you mention it.

    Heat and When Harry Met Sally are definitely worthy of the top spots – such memorable, terrific scenes in their own way.

    Fun list!

  3. Avatar
    Callum Reply

    Just worth adding – I’m fond of the melee at the beginning of Temple of Doom but thinking of memorable restaurant scenes I’m reminded of the monkey-brain banquet at the royal castle. Not a restaurant but still food-related.

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      Great scene. The bit I love/hate is the snakes-within-the-snake plate. Eww!

  4. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Michael: glad u enjoyed the last. I guess some of these scenes are chill inducing.

    Dan: terrific job on the article and the snake surprise is a real gross out moment in the Indy series.

    Calling…I agree with everything u said.

  5. Avatar
    m.fraser Reply

    An intriguing list as it both picks the winners and opens up a few other possibilities that are vaguely related.

    With Heat, for example, the other memorable restaurant (well, diner really) moment is when Robert De Niro recruits ex-con Dennis Haysbert on the spot for the imminent bank heist, allowing the latter to stick it to his boss and then get killed in some crossfire with the police.

    Another funny “restaurant” scene in Goodfellas is when Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta endlessly bicker as they prepare to torch the joint.

    And on the subject of gangsters (and Pacino) there’s the “Say goodnight to the bad guy” moment in Scarface; De Niro also resurfaces in Once Upon a Time in America when Noodles (RDN) books a whole restaurant, and hires a small orchestra, as he tries to woo Deborah (Elizabeth McGovern). There’s even a short, but quirky restaurant moment in the gangster section of Friedkin’s Sorcerer when a mobster issues the contract on Roy Scheider.

    Another location of note is the gangster’s opulent hangout in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, where the last supper involves cannibalism.

    Meanwhile, a couple of restaurant comedy backdrops include The Blues Brothers and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

  6. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Thanks for chiming in m.fraser. There’s a lot of films that could be on this list for sure and as you pointed out there’s a few scenes from these very movies that also could have been added.

    One of my favourite films has many terrific restaurant scenes and that is Tequila Sunrise, but it just couldn’t crack the top ten.

  7. Avatar
    CineGirl Reply

    THAT scene in Heat is sooooo GOOD! Maybe one of my favourite scenes ever. Great top 10 Dan because it shows how dramatic a restaurant scene can be!

  8. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    I think if I were to add anything – and Mark mentions it above – is the gluttonous eater in the Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. The visuals alone make it so memorable but the performances from the regulars are great.

    Another of note is the scene in Chasing Amy when Silent Bob finally opens up and shows he has both a voice and a subtle appreciation of human relationships.

  9. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Dan: yea both scenes u mention are terrific and the Chasing Amy scene is classic no doubt. Really, u could probably list 50 fantastic restaurant scenes.

  10. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Should add: great idea for a top 10!

    Like others have said, the top 2 are sensational. If I think of diners/cafes in the movies, I think of Scorsese and Pacino “having a chat” and Meg Ryan having an orgasm!

    I love how the Temple of Doom scene turns into chaos (but, to this day, still hate Spielberg’s “musical opening”), the dance scene that follows the dinner date in Pulp Fiction and Al Pacino’s rise from son-to-Godfather with one bullet in The Godfather.

    Although I have many favourite scenes from Dumb and Dumber, the Seabass revenge scene is perhaps the best of the lot! Oh, and the bit when Lloyd pretends to run really, really, really fast… and the scene when the cop pulls them over and drinks the “beverage”… and the scene in the diner when they put rat poison in the burger… and the make-over scene… Harry’s toilet antics on his date… oh, I could go on!

  11. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    LMAO Dan, yea Dumb and Dumber is classic. My fave scene is when Lloyd has the snowball “fight” with Mary and he drills her with the snowball, not able to understand that its all in good fun.

    Two others that could have made the list are the first time Marty meets his dad in Back to the Future, I just love Michael J. Fox in that entire scene.

    And even though it’s a cantina, it’s still a restaurant, the scene where they first go to Mos Eisley in Star Wars is classic.

  12. Avatar
    ArchE Reply

    Glorious, Dan. As accomplished as a Michelin-starred taster menu served in a classic American eatery. Plaudits for the inclusion of The Godfather – mesmeric, visceral drama that tells so much yet says so little. I’d also agree that there is no other restaurant/diner scene as good as the interaction between Pacino/De Niro in Heat.

  13. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Thanks for the kind words Arche. It seems everyone agrees that Heat is just that good and yet its such a simple yet complex scene.

  14. Avatar
    ArchE Reply

    Two consummate pros at the top of their game but at the end of a very discernible spectrum.

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    Paul Derry Reply

    Good top 10. Lots of great memories but I still need to see Waiting.

    Some others I love:

    Pulp Fiction’s best restaurant scene is actually the opening/closing segment for me with that Tim Roth beginning and Samuel L. Jackson end. Incredible.

    Also love the scene in the diner with Rosanna Arquette and Griffin Dunne in Scorsese’s After Hours.

  16. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Paul: yes you named another great scene. There’s so many of them. I love that scene in After Hours.

    Another one I’ve always thought was pretty cool was the Matrix Reloaded orgasm cake cause and effect scene.

  17. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    Excellent list , Dan

    Great to see Waiting and Pulp Fiction’s milkshake scene here. Waiting is just an hilarious film all around!

    And of course the iconic Goodfellas Pesci playfully shaking down Liotta at the restaurant scene is iconic. Good stuff.

  18. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    One scene I would include is Mickey Rourke and Burt Young in The Pope Of Greenwich Village – the end scene where Mickey Rourke is sitting with Burt Young at the restaurant and Mickey grabs his arm and tells him “I’m the Pope of Greewich Village” just such an emotional and intense scene.

  19. Avatar
    dee Reply

    Wonderful top 10 list Dan. I had such joy reading through this. It brought so many wonderful memories back. My favourite is, of course, that sweet, funny scene between Billy Crsytal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

  20. Avatar
    Fulmer Reply

    A well considered list to be sure. Also worthy of consideration:

    The chef cooking for the food critic (Sandra Bernhard) in Dinner Rush (2000)
    The diner scene in 5 Easy Pieces (1970)
    DeNiro (Louis Cyphre) peeling the egg in Angel Heart (1987)
    Tipping debate in the diner in Reservoir Dogs (1992)
    Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn in Bringing up Baby (1938)
    The ending diner scene in Swingers (1996)
    “How to eat Ramen” scene from Tampopo (1985)

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