Throughout the year, there are so many great occasions to enjoy food: holiday festivities, birthday bashes, anniversary celebrations, workplace parties, etc. The list could go on forever.
No other time-honored tradition is more effective at bringing people together than the sharing of delicious food—and if that food is homemade and infused with love, it's that much better.
Here are my picks for the greatest foodie movies that are must-watches for wannabe chefs, closet food critics, or viewers who crave opulence. Dive into the worlds of angry chefs, luxury restaurants, and a range of unique palates from around the world.
15. Burnt (2015)
Directed by John Wells
Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl
Comedy, Drama (1h 41m)
I won't sit here and pretend that critics didn't hate Burnt. But for viewers like me, it was a worthwhile watch—so if you're a foodie in the presence of average joes, this one's a good crowd-pleaser.
Burnt is formulaic, predictable, and Hollywoodized, but you know exactly what you're getting and sometimes that's all you really need from a film. It's perfect for casual late-night viewing, with Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller being safe bets as headline actors.
John Wells directs this fiery comedy-drama in which an arrogant chef falls from his pedestal at a fancy Parisian restaurant. After sobering up, Adam (played by Bradley Cooper) heads to London to chase his next Michelin star, all while avoiding burnout.
Just like the cooking industry, Burnt is a harsh, sharp-edged, fast-paced drama with little room to breathe. The original title Chef was changed to avoid confusion with Jon Favreau's 2014 film (see below).
14. Love Sarah (2020)
Directed by Eliza Schroeder
Starring Celia Imrie, Shannon Tarbet, Shelley Conn
Comedy, Drama, Romance (1h 37m)
If you have a sweet tooth, Love Sarah is for you. It's a sweet film about sweet treats—like comfort food in movie form.
In Love Sarah, the titular Sarah (played by Candice Brown) dreams of opening her own bakery in Notting Hill. When tragedy hits, her family and best friend decide to open it in her memory.
Sarah's daughter, Clarissa (played by Shannon Tarbet), loses direction in her life in the wake of her mother's passing, but she manages to reground herself with this wholesome business project.
Director Eliza Schroeder immediately sets Love Sarah off on a feminist trajectory, where only one male seems to bring anything to the table: a Michelin star chef (played by Rupert Penry-Jones) who helps boost their café.
Celia Imrie and Shelley Conn also star, managing to make another run-of-the-mill London bakery in a sea of artisanal cafés feel special.
13. The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Starring Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal
Comedy, Drama (2h 2m)
Cuisine plays an important role in many cultures, but France and India are two notorious places that take their foods very seriously. For French and Indian alike, there's no such thing as a McDonald's breakfast.
However, despite sharing a similar passion for food, French cuisine and Indian cuisine couldn't be more different. Quaint macarons and boozy bourguignonnes are no vindaloo with fragrant rice.
In The Hundred-Foot Journey, the Kadam family opens the Maison Mumbai a hundred feet opposite an upscale French restaurant—and as soon as they do, tensions immediately bubble.
However, when Madame Mallory (played by Helen Mirren) and Abbu (played by Om Puri) learn to put their differences aside, they learn that the harmony of all cultures works better than staying divided.
12. The Trip (2010)
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Starring Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Rebecca Johnson
Comedy, Drama (1h 52m)
The Trip is the first of four movies directed by Michael Winterbottom and they're all sort of odd hybrids between TV series and feature films, starting with The Trip and continuing with The Trip to Italy, The Trip to Spain, and The Trip to Greece.
In this one, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star as fictionalized versions of themselves as they dine at some of the UK's finest restaurants on behalf of The Observer.
Their improvised, exaggerated performances as frenemies is a continuation from Winterbottom's previous comedy A Cock and Bull Story where they play themselves adapting a novel for the screen.
Coogan established himself as a British mockumentary comedian with the character Alan Partridge. If you liked Partridge's BBC sitcom, you'll love this foodie road trip with Gavin and Stacey star Brydon!
11. Toast (2010)
Directed by S. J. Clarkson
Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Freddie Highmore, Ken Stott
Biography, Comedy, Drama (1h 36m)
For some, there's nothing blander than the standard British breakfast: toast and a cup of tea. That's certainly true for Nigel Slater, who would rather bake a cake than play footy with the other kids.
As lonely as it can be as a child, being giftedly "different" from everyone else can pay off as you get older, especially when talent provides passion and meaning to your life. For Nigel, that means cooking and baking his way into a professional kitchen.
Nigel Slater's 2003 autobiography was made into a television film called Toast by S. J. Clarkson and Lee Hall (who also wrote the screenplay for 2000's Billy Elliot). Toast shares a similar starchy British tone about a black-sheep boy (played by Freddie Highmore) pursuing what he loves.
Helena Bonham Carter also stars as a chain-smoking, working-class, evil stepmother who's jealous of this teen boy's skills.
10. Pig (2021)
Directed by Michael Sarnoski
Starring Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin
Drama, Mystery (1h 32m)
Nicolas Cage seems to show up in at least one film every year, ebbing and flowing with his career. The former action hero and occasional comedian recently took to the indie sphere with films like Joe and The Trust, plus avant-garde dramas like Mandy and Pig.
This offbeat Neon film burns slowly, quietly, with a smattering of violent explosions as Cage gives one of his greatest performances as Rob, a former chef who now lives alone in the wild.
Rob's only company is his truffle-hunting pig, so when that very pig ends up being stolen, Rob must trudge up his own past and return to the Portland population to recover it.
Rob still remembers every meal and every customer he's ever served, and he ends up replacing his revenge with a homecooked meal. Pig is a more dramatic take on cooking than our other picks, reminding us how to delegate meaning and value in our own lives.
9. Julie & Julia (2009)
Directed by Nora Ephron
Starring Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci
Biography, Drama, Romance (2h 3m)
Julie & Julia brings us not one but two true stories! Nora Ephron wrote and directed the dual biopic by intertwining two stories of women breaking into the culinary world.
First, there's Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) who famously introduced America to French cuisine with her 1960s cooking show. Prior to that success, Julia's cookbook was rejected and her teachers claimed she had no talent.
Fast-forward to modern-day America with Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) who hates her cubicle job and only finds joy in the kitchen. Julie decides to challenge herself and make all 524 of Julia Child's recipes in one year.
She writes about her endeavors via blog, which eventually garners the attention of critics and literary agents—even if Julia herself (now in her 80s) isn't so impressed.
Nora Ephron based the film off both women's memoirs: My Life in France and Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously.
8. The Founder (2016)
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch
Biography, Drama (1h 55m)
Although it centers around McDonald's, The Founder is more about a businessman than a cook, about hospitality than flavors.
Ray Kroc (played by Michael Keaton) had no particular interest in food when he brought McDonald's to the world. Ironic, given that McDonald's is now the most famous fast food chain to ever exist.
Kroc was a traveling milkshake salesman with little education when he stumbled upon McDonald's in 1954, which was a local walk-in restaurant in San Bernardino at the time.
Having spent his life looking for a get-rich-quick golden ticket, Kroc managed to convince the original owners to franchise, then eventually took over their whole business.
Like most businessmen, Kroc is depicted with good instincts, stubborn determination, and elastic morals. The original McDonald's brothers were driven out and left empty-handed while the soul of the original, high-quality restaurant was lost.
7. Chocolat (2000)
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench
Drama, Romance (2h 1m)
Johnny Depp has given us lots of notable performances, including ones far removed from his stint as a swashbuckling pirate. In Chocolat, Depp has no dreadlocks or white face paint; instead, we're treated with a tanned, guitar-playing Depp with caramel hair.
In fact, there's a lot of caramel in Lasse Hallström's whirlwind romance. Based on the 1999 novel by Joanne Harris, Chocolat tells the story of a drifter and her daughter, who both shock their new town's people with passion and laughter—chiefly through cocoa beans.
Who knew chocolate truffles could cause such an uproar? Vianne's (played by Juliette Binoche) chocolate shop brings life to the French village, which is otherwise strict on its peace.
The movie's trailer might seem a little cheesy, but Chocolat was actually nominated for multiple Academy Awards and critics even described it as full of finesse, whimsy, and wisdom. Everything about this movie is scrumptious and it's perfect for chocolate lovers.
6. Big Night (1996)
Directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci
Starring Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci, Marc Anthony
Drama, Romance (1h 49m)
"To eat good food is to be close to God." That's what the Italians think, anyway, and they might be right! Stanley Tucci uses his roots in South Italy to co-direct and star in Big Night, playing one of the Italian brothers in 1950s Jersey Shore.
The dwellers of this coastal US state expect Primo (played by Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (played by Stanley Tucci) to Americanize their Italian meals, which they serve up in a failing restaurant despite their perfect flavors and impressive skills.
Their solution? A "big night" of celebration, lavish food, and celebrity diners. A handful of famous faces also star in Campbell Scott's feel-good flick, including Minnie Driver, Ian Holm, and Allison Janney.
5. Tampopo (1985)
Directed by Jūzō Itami
Starring Ken Watanabe, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto
Comedy (1h 54m)
Ramen is to Japan and China what pasta is to Italians. The shelf lives of these noodles and their ability to fill you up for cheap are what made them staple foods during hard times.
The traditionally working-class meal of ramen became beloved for its flavor and versatility, eaten by generations for thousands of years. In Jūzō Itami's Japanese comedy, ramen is so important that it's described as a "ramen Western" (a play on American "spaghetti Westerns").
The titular Tampopo (played by Nobuko Miyamoto) is, ironically, quite bad at making ramen even though she runs a roadside noodle cafe... Luckily, a pair of truck drivers stop by and teach her the "art of noodle soup making," for it certainly is an art in many Asian cultures.
4. Chef (2014)
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Jon Favreau, Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo
Adventure, Comedy, Drama (1h 54m)
A lot of the movies on this list expose the nervy atmosphere behind the kitchen doors of fine dining establishments. But then there's Chef, which doesn't just expose it but chucks it out altogether.
Carl Casper (played by Jon Favreau) is an accomplished head chef in a neat LA spot, but the manager doesn't let him get creative—so Casper ditches it all to open his own food truck that goes cross country.
Street food is up around the world. All kinds of food stalls and cuisines cramp the sidewalks of major cities, where people would rather stand in the cold to chow down on greasy, exotic foods than sit in fancy booths for meager portions and extravagant checks.
Jon Favreau pays homage to this by directing, writing, producing, and starring in Chef. In doing so, he adds spice to the feel-good genre and makes us ravenous for tacos and fritters!
3. Soul Food (1997)
Directed by George Tillman Jr.
Starring Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long
Comedy, Drama (1h 55m)
"Soul" is synonymous with African-American culture: the music, the religion, and the food. Known widely as crispy fried chicken, collard greens, yams, cornbread, and chitterlings, "soul food" is exactly how it sounds: hearty food for the soul.
Writer and director George Tillman Jr. brings together an all-star cast to celebrate this traditional cuisine that's more than just a meal. Sunday dinners are a big thing in many countries, but in Soul Food, it's not your typical British roast dinner in front of the TV.
Brandon Hammond, Vivica A. Fox, Vanessa L. Williams, and Nia Long work hard to keep their family together on Sunday every week, especially when the family breaks down following their mother's coma.
Soul Food is a feast for the eyes and heart, showing us the power that a bowl of macaroni and cheese can have in bringing people together.
2. Ratatouille (2007)
Directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava
Starring Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano
Animation, Adventure, Comedy (1h 51m)
Animation gives filmmakers room to visually explore things live action can't. For example, it can make us see what flavors feel like.
For Remy in Ratatouille, it's colors dancing and singing in various melodies across the sky. When certain flavors join together, it's an explosive marriage of taste that the others don't understand. Remy yearns to be a chef, but he can't... because he's a rat.
Remy finds a way around this small obstacle, though. After realizing he can control a person's limbs by tugging on their hair, he turns a restaurant garbage boy into his esteemed chef puppet.
Pixar's dreamy comedy-drama has us pining for delicious food. Voiced by Patton Oswalt, Remy scurries through the skewers to land in a twinkly Parisian restaurant that we'd do anything to visit.
1. Boiling Point (2021)
Directed by Philip Barantini
Starring Stephen Graham, Vinette Robinson, Alice Feetham
Drama, Thriller (1h 32m)
In Boiling Point, Andy Jones (played by Stephen Graham) uses drugs to cope with the stress of being an expensive head chef and with life in general. Sadly, it's also what brings his life crashing down.
Stephen Graham gives a brilliantly tense performance as a man on the brink, serving both a celebrity chef and a food critic in one evening. It's all made even more stressful due to arguing staff members, allergic reactions, and annoying customers.
Aside from the stunning performances and taut storyline, Boiling Point is also a technical feat. Filmed entirely in one take, the movie unfolds over a single cataclysmic evening in London.
Continuous one-takes are already notoriously difficult, let alone one that's 92 minutes long! (And while the BBC didn't use a one-take for the Boiling Point TV sequel, it's still just as good.)