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)
Indiana 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)
It’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)
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)
We 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)
Jim 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)
Groundhog 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)
This 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)
This 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)
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)
The 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?