Our Five Favorite Dinner Scenes of Film

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Some of the best conversations occur during a meal. Sitting at a table and breaking bread together is almost mystical in its power to produce vibrant and enjoyable discussion. It’s no different in the world of entertainment. Movies are full of examples of great scenes set around a meal or a table. Some are funny, some are sad. Some are tense while others are full of joy. Some are heartwarming yet others can be heartbreaking. We have chosen to spotlight five scenes that capture so much about what makes a great dinner scene work.


Back To The Future 2

Back to the Future 2

The scene where Jennifer gets taken to her future 2015 home and the McFly family sits down over pizza is not as elaborate or as funny as other dinner scenes but it has stood out in my family since this movie was released in 1989.

And in a trilogy rife with mind-bending time travel, exhilarating plots, and inimitable character performances, it boggles my mind why this short scene is so entertaining.

Is it because Michael J. Fox plays all of the McFlies? That does make me smile so surely that’s part of it. Is it how fun it is to see the domestic aspects of an imaginative futuristic world with double ties and pizza hydrators? Without a doubt. Is it because it’s so utterly quotable? Seeing as how often my brother Jeremy says, “Fruit! Fruit please!” and I can’t help but reply with “Why don’t I just shove it all in my mouth ?!? HA HA!” when I have food in my hand the size of that tiny, yet-to-be hydrated pizza, I’d say definitely.

BttF sets the standard for fun, summer action-adventure, summer popcorn cinema and in the midst of all the movie’s twists and turns this simple meal that lasts 90 seconds and barely impacts the plot stands out. I love it. (Gowdy Cannon)


The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer

I have always loved a good “dinner” scene almost entirely because they are so conducive to great dialogue. The nightclub scene in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is a prime example of that. Maybe one of the best. I have watched BatBS every few months for the past few years and appreciate it more every time. It is an easy to underrate lighthearted comedy that is chock full of great writing, wonderful scenes, and extremely witty quotes. At the center of it all is Richard Nugent (Cary Grant), and the sisters judge Margaret (Myrna Loy) and Susan (a teenage Shirley Temple) Turner. Susan has developed a huge crush on Nugent. In exchange for the dismissal of a wrongdoing, judge Margaret orders Nugent to “date” her younger sister until her crush wears off. During the course of this “courting,” Nugent and Margaret fall in love. On the flimsy pretext of wanting to discuss their legal arrangement, Nugent and Margaret attend a nightclub for dinner, drinks, and dancing. And then everything comes crashing down as most of the personal dynamics encountered throughout the film converge in this single scene and collide in a beautiful explosion of dialogue. (Ben Plunkett)


Heat

Heat, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino

Two of the most famous, decorated, and iconic actors of all time, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, had never been in a scene together on film. They had been in the same film, The Godfather Part 2, but they played characters during different time periods. These two actors had spent decades wowing audiences with their craft, but had yet to speak to each other on camera. That all ended with Michael Mann’s tour de force crime drama, Heat.

Pacino plays a detective. De Niro plays a master thief. After a lot of cat and mouse moves, the film finally places them together in a diner somewhere in Los Angeles. They are two masters of their craft, both in the film and in real life. They feel each other out. They give information and they hold some things back. When Pacino leans in to deliver a line, De Niro counters it with a slight shift here or a slight move there. They present their philosophies of life with dialogue that is crisp, tense, playful, and precise. They end their conversation with very specific promises that they are willing to kill the other if it comes down to that. Now that they have met, they won’t want to do that, but they will, because that’s the job. That’s the way it is.

In a movie filled with memorable performances, genius set pieces, and impressive directing, this scene stands above them all. And to make matters even more astounding, the final scene in the film is almost entirely one take filmed with two cameras over their shoulders. They barely rehearsed because they wanted to preserve the spontaneity and energy of the scene. The diner scene in Heat is a masterpiece. (Phill Lytle)


Meet the Parents

Meet the Parents

Ben Stiller honestly has had more misses than hits in his career to me. And Robert De Niro, he of a legendary filmography with too many hits to try to list, had never had a role that I’d seen that was fall on the floor funny. And even though the two sequels were forgettable, everything came together perfectly for an excellent 95 minutes of comedy in Meet the Parents.

And for all the scenes that make this move totally rewatchable–Greg losing it on the airplane, the volleyball game in the pool (“It was a big shot!”)–the first time Greg has dinner with Pam’s parents is one that causes tears of laughter every time.

Jack’s poem about his mother is simultaneously disturbing and hilarious. Jack’s continued subtle and psychological intimidation of the nervous and awkward Greg causes Greg to pop a cork in an urn of Jack’s mother’s ashes. Then Greg tries to work his way around a lie about growing up on a farm by talking about milking a cat, which prompts one of the greatest follow up questions of all time by Jack. And to round it off, Jewish Greg tries to impress Jack by saying grace at the meal and recites “Day by Day” from Godspell.

And it all works. I have fallen on the floor laughing during this scene more than once. It is truly one of the funniest dinner scenes in movie lore. (Gowdy Cannon)


Babette’s Feast

Babette's Feast

As mentioned, I love “dinner” scenes in movies because they are so conducive to great dialogue. The long dinner scene in Babette’s Feast is certainly no different. However, there is a lot more than just the dialogue going for it. A whole lot more. In short, two sisters are leading an extremely humble life leading a small, elderly flock of pious Lutherans in a tiny Danish village. Yes, they are very pious, very devoted to their faith, but they know nothing of grace or joy. Into this scene steps Babette, a world-class French chef fleeing much hardship amid the French Revolution. She enters the employ of the two sisters. After several years she wins a lottery of 10,000 francs from her homeland. Instead of spending it on herself, she opts to spend the entire thing to make a top French gourmet meal for the sisters and their congregation. In the end Babette’s presents the true face of grace and joy to the graceless, joyless villagers. But the scene is a masterpiece for more than one reason. In my opinion, it is the king of this specific genre. And the dinner scene is only the centerpiece of a masterfully adorned cinematic table. The whole movie is dense with layers of theological and philosophical meaning. It is perfect and an absolute joy to watch every single time. (Ben Plunkett)

Ben Plunkett

Greetings from the booming metropolis that is Pleasant View, Tennessee. I am a man of constant spiritual highs and spiritual lows. I pray that I serve God at my highest even when I am lowest.

22 thoughts on “Our Five Favorite Dinner Scenes of Film

  • July 28, 2017 at 3:04 pm
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    The dinner scene in Lars and the Real Girl comes to mind

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    • July 28, 2017 at 3:06 pm
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      There are so many good ones. We will probably do another of these down the line.

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  • July 28, 2017 at 3:39 pm
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    Good insights, as always, guys. I’d suggest you do another in the future.

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  • July 28, 2017 at 3:50 pm
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    That is it! I no longer trust any of your lists. I can go along with some things, but to leave out the dinner scene in While You Were Sleeping is scandalous. Quotable, fast moving, and funny! I would rescind my subscription to this site if it were possible, and being that a lot of you are my friends, I will just sit over here with my creamy mashed potatoes and stew…and wait for the next article.

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    • July 28, 2017 at 3:56 pm
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      This isn’t a Top 5. These are just some of our favorites. We didn’t vote or anything like that. We each just looked deep into our own souls and picked one or two that we really enjoy – and then wrote about them.

      We will do another one. I’ll promise that now. That is still no guarantee that your favorite will make it.

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      • July 28, 2017 at 4:25 pm
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        I have never seen “While You Were Sleeping”. Don’t hate me.

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        • July 28, 2017 at 7:10 pm
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          Watch only the dinner scene. You will come around…

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          • July 28, 2017 at 8:13 pm
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            Will do! I’ve never avoided it on purpose. It just came around during the Gowdy “Dumb and Dumber” era. I was into one type of movie. LOL

  • July 28, 2017 at 4:01 pm
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    YES! That scene in *Heat* is one of my favorite scenes of all time across all movies.

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    • July 28, 2017 at 4:19 pm
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      Michael, that will probably be one that I write about for the next edition. It’s a classic.

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    • July 28, 2017 at 4:21 pm
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      That is a good one. There is so much in the last 3rd of that movie but the dinner scene is definitely a good one. People at EC Middle School back when I was there used to say, “Grace passed away 30 years ago!” a lot. Not even around Christmas.

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  • July 28, 2017 at 4:36 pm
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    [Pic of Morpheus]

    “What if I told you…that we purposely leave off obvious favorites so as to draw discussion to the website?”

    (We don’t, at least not overtly.)

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  • July 28, 2017 at 4:42 pm
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    (Any episode of Blue Bloods.) :)

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  • July 28, 2017 at 6:07 pm
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    Shouldn’t “My Dinner with Andre” be on here since the whole movie is a dinner scene?

    One of my favorite dinner scenes is the datea Travolta and Thurman go on in Pulp Fiction, which concludes with the iconic dance sequence. It’s a perfectly written scene.

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    • July 28, 2017 at 6:23 pm
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      Someone on Twitter mentioned “My Dinner With Andre”.

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  • July 28, 2017 at 7:08 pm
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    The Hobbit right at the beginning of the movie.
    The Nutty Professor (Murphy) / lowbrow, but a classic.

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    • July 28, 2017 at 8:13 pm
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      Several have mentioned the “Hercules!” scene. It is a classic to me. If this list were 10 I feel sure I would have written about it.

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  • July 28, 2017 at 8:15 pm
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    I’ll be forthright: both here and on Facebook I have been replying with “I should have done that one” but that is because I default to not trying to be defensive (unless it’s about preaching and then I am overly defensive). But the truth is I love the list. I love the two I picked. There will always be some that get cut that are excellent. But these are 5 we really love. And that’s what REO is about. And it really does make for fun discussion.

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  • July 28, 2017 at 10:48 pm
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    Home run, Ben. Babette’s Feast is a lovely film. The dinner scene is the pinnacle of the film, and it is the very picture of love and generosity. Thank you for reminding me to go back and see the film again.

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  • July 29, 2017 at 2:51 am
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    I don’t know if its a dinner scene, but the scene in Pan’s Labyrinth when the girl eats from the table is amazing.

    Reply
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