It’s that time of the year again where we’re preparing to feast on some turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie, and whatever else is being shoved in front of our faces.
But like with anything in life, the good is never as good as it seems — there’s always some bad waiting in the darkest corner of the room that’s ready to jump out and remind you that nothing can be this perfect.
Thanksgiving is no different. The yin to all that great food’s yang is that the holiday is spent sitting around the living room, and then around the dinner table, where you’re forced to talk to family members who you rarely see beyond this time of the year.
Even so, it’s a season to be thankful and no matter how miserable our respective family dinning situations might be next Thursday, none of them can top the best of what Hollywood has to offer on the subject.
Sometimes there’s laughs; sometimes there’s blood; and, well, a lot of the time there’s arguing with those who you care for the most.
Here are the eight most memorable scenes involving food, a dinner table and a family — or maybe just random people who don’t even no each others real names — sitting around it:
1. Meet the Parents
Gaylor ‘Greg’ Focker’s grace in Meet the Parents is one of the most cringe-worthy scenes ever filmed. And if that weren’t enough, the dinner only gets weirder when Jack Byrnes reads a poem about his deceased mother, Angela — “an angel from Heaven.”
Of course, the sequence is tied together with the remarkably awkward, yet hysterical, climax when Greg uncorks a bottle of cheap champagne and breaks an urn containing Angela’s ashes, leaving the remains on the carpet to be soiled by the Byrnes’ cat Jinx.
Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about this scene so I will just bullet point my four favorite lines and move on:
- “You gave me life, you gave me milk, you gave me courage…”
- “That’s amazing, so much love, and also so much information…”
- “And we thank you o sweet Lord of hosts for the smorgasbord you have so aptly lain at our table…”
- “Selfishly I tried to keep you here while the cancer ate away at your organs like an unstoppable rebel force…”
Yes, I realize these might not be as funny to everybody else but in the film — performed perfectly by Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro — they really are unmatched comedy.
2. American Beauty
In a film full of quality dramatic sequences and classic one liners (“1970 Pontiac Firebird the car of my dreams…I rule!”), the Burnham’s family dinner stands out for a variety of reasons. Particularly, it’s Best Actress-winner Annette Bening’s best scene in the movie, which directly leads into Kevin Spacey’s frustration — can somebody please pass the fucking asparagus!
Also worth noting: this is the go-to scene for anybody, in any situation, to support the statement that having only one child is cruel and unusual punishment.
Honestly, if you’re thinking about being a parent, commit to it. Don’t half commit and produce only one little fucker because if you half ass it and quit on your partner, like the Burnhams do, then that little fucker is going to grow up isolated without the faintest clue of what happiness is — or, worse, what it feels like.
3. Reservoir Dogs
I tried to bury this scene as deep as could here because technically it’s not around a dinner table, but fuck it — there’s no possible way we’re rejecting the best opening scene in film history from this list.
It includes food, a table, and a family — sort of.
OK, not really, but it is the closest thing to a family in any of Quentin Tarantino’s movies if you think about it in that context.
Anyways, these color-named thugs sit around a breakfast table discussing Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and we don’t really know what’s going on other than the fact that we’re already completely immersed in this world right from the opening syllable.
All the credit goes to QT’s impeccable screenplay. Always a wordsmith, the flashy director shines the brightest when Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) begins ranting about why he doesn’t believe in tipping.
We’ve all seen it a dozen times by now — I hope. And if you haven’t, watch it as soon as humanly possible.
4. The Godfather
Fair warning: No. 4 and No. 5 are both going to be from The Godfather trilogy.
The first scene, if you weren’t already infuriated by its absence on this list, is Michael’s killing of Sollozzo and McCluskey in the Italian restaurant.
Perhaps the most iconic assassination in the history of cinema, the scene is the ultimate turning point for Michael — who makes the full transformation from the family’s reserved and quiet son in the first movie to its leader and the most important mafia leader in the country in the second part.
5. The Godfather: Part 2
I’d be full on lying if I said this scene doesn’t raise the hairs on my arms and create a lump in the back of my throat. In a film ripe with the most iconic flashback sequences in movie history, this final scene of the Corleone family eating together stays with us long after the screen fades to black.
Sure, there isn’t a classic one liner or an awkward moment or any perverse talk of virgins or blood spilled over a plate of spaghetti, but this scene triumphs over all the rest because it perfectly ties together The Godfather saga and shows what Vito’s hard work and determination helped create.
I can’t say enough good things; let’s continue before I get more sentimental.
In keeping with the mafia theme of these last couple of clips, Goodfellas has one of the all-time greatest sequences involving food and “family” sitting down together to enjoy it. However, it differs from the traditional dinner scenes because it takes place in a prison — wait, is that really a prison?
Nonetheless, the dinner in prison remains a top five or six clip from a movie that is chock full of memorable moments.
It’s without question one of the best movie scenes involving food — right up there with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Yep, you caught me, I was trying to reference the movie with the least in common with Goodfellas.
I’m so glad we’re back to comedy because that was getting too dark for my taste.
Anyhow, Rushmore is a timeless, coming-of-age story that fails to play by any rules and, sure enough, that anti-establishment/rebellious attitude bleeds right into a dinner sequence featuring Bill Murray and Luke Wilson, who only add to the fun.
I’ll let the film’s protagonist Max (Jason Schwartzman) explain why this is an all-time great scene:
“I wrote a hit play, and I’m in love with you.”
See, beating around the bush is so overrated. Tell the woman you love how you feel and let the chips fall where they may. And if they don’t fall in your favor, then keep attacking. There’s no point in giving up — keep trying.
8. Wedding Crashers
Vince Vaughn gets jacked off under a table — what’s there not to like about this scene? I feel like there’s nothing else to add so I won’t say anything else, it’s flawless.
9. Pineapple Express
Sorry, I had to. My roommates and I in college always used to bark this at each other whenever we rambled using gibberish like Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) does in this scene, where he shows up late to meet his high-school girlfriend’s parents.
Between the gun-totting, enraged father, a pissed off Amber Heard and Rogen’s cluelessness to everything that’s going on this has all the makings for an absolute classic scene. And sure enough, the ingredients don’t disappoint — it makes for a delicious dish.
10. American History X
Similar to The Godfather, this is the moment when neo-Nazi Derek (played terrifically by Edward Norton) really begins to become unhinged. I stress the word “really” because if you haven’t seen it, the movie famously opens with him curb stomping an African American male who’s trying to steal from his house.
But I digress.
Derek’s mom is having her boyfriend over for dinner and the family begins discussing why people behave the way they do during race riots. In a movie that doesn’t step off the gas pedal, this is a slightly calmer moment that explodes as Derek unleashes his venom on his mother’s guest — someone he never wants to call dad.
Honorable mention: A flashback reveals when Derek’s racist attitudes started.