Food is one of the most versatile things on the planet. It’s one of the rare examples of something that people literally need to consume in order to continue living, but whose opinions and feelings towards can vary wildly. Depending on who you are asking, food can be a treat or reward. A chore or a punishment. A vice or a crutch. A hobby or passion. An addiction or a phobia. And no matter what your feelings on it are, it’s something you are going to have to face every day.
Given the wide ranging nature of something as broad as “food” is, it’s not surprising that it has been depicted throughout film history in many different ways. You can view the banquet scene in The Great Gatsby as a lively and lush party that makes you want to get a drink at the bar right next to DiCaprio and relish in its grandeur. Or you can bite your lip with tension and dread when Ofelia steals a grape from the Pale Man’s feast in Pan’s Labyrinth. Maybe you’ve shared the same aggravation over how tough it can be to order at a diner like Jack Nicholson does in Five Easy Pieces. Or maybe you’ve felt just as full and decimated as Paul Newman was after he downed fifty hardboiled eggs in Cool Hand Luke. Well, I hope not. But maybe you have.
The relationship between food and film is in a word: complicated. And sometimes a film can push your boundaries to the point of making you lose your appetite completely by stripping off the showy veneer of subtle decadence and showing you just how nauseating excess or raunch can really be. Not many, because theaters are still predicated on a business of selling you weird chicken fingers and popcorn to enjoy while watching them, after all, but a rare few certainly did dare to buck the trend.
10. Jackass 3 (2010)
If you’re familiar with the crew behind MTV’s early 2000’s TV series of the same name in any way, you know they’ve made a career on being shamelessly, self-aware morons. Walking face first into terrible idea after terrible idea, all in the name of fun and amusement. For film number three in the series, cast member Steve-O came up with the charming sketch concept of The Sweatsuit Cocktail. Where we find fellow Jackass alum Preston Lacy working out on an elliptical while wearing a suit made of saran wrap. The idea being for Preston to work up enough of a sweat to wring out into a cup for Steve-O to enjoy.
Cheers to sobriety, eh Steve? In concept, it worked great. In execution: Steve-O immediately lost his lunch all over the floor and even caused one of the film’s cameramen to quite literally fall over in disgust. Shocking, yes. Funny. I’d say so. But it doesn’t exactly make you want to go get your free refill of Sprite at the fountain anytime soon.
9. Nothing But Trouble (1991)
Despite looking like your typical fish out of water, screwball comedy film and boasting an all-star cast featuring Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, Dan Aykroyd and John Candy, Nothing But Trouble is much more of a secret madcap horror/mystery film. Featuring bizarre mutant characters and Aykroyd himself immersed in grotesque, old-man makeup cackling and snarling through his scenes like a man possessed.
One of the more memorable scenes is a dinner of hog dogs served up by Aykroyd’s Judge Valkenheiser, which have more in common with the xenomorph that burst out of Kane’s chest in Alien than they do with any sausage you’ve ever seen. The slimy, gray, misshapen wieners get doused in sloppy condiments and shoved into the Judge’s gnarled, bloated, disfigured mouth, all in a nice tight closeup shot. When you rationalize it, it’s just a hot dog being eaten. But at the moment it’s pure nightmare fuel.
8. Super Size Me (2004)
Super Size Me takes a more serious and genuinely inquisitive view on fast food culture by interspersing a documentary about the marketing and production of what drives the industry nestled in-between director Morgan Spurlock’s unadvised personal experiment of eating nothing but McDonald’s food morning, noon and night for 30 days straight. While the behind the scenes details are as disenchanting and troubling as you might expect them to be, watching the previously healthy Spurlock struggle to breathe going up a small flight of stairs, sweat and ache seemingly at will, and even suddenly need to vomit uncontrollably after only a few weeks of his planned diet just makes your heart sink into your chest.
It’s easy to say “Yeah, of course you shouldn’t eat that food EVERY DAY” but the reality is that lots of people do in fact eat it, every day without noticing or caring what it is doing to them physically because of the low cost and high convenience it offers. While not outright telling you to “not ” eat there, Spurlock was happy to act a living, (heavy) breathing billboard for choosing to eat at home instead.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5 (1989)
The fifth chapter in a horror series about a razor clawed killer stalking you in your dreams isn’t exactly the kind of film you’d look towards for moral guidance, but for reasons unknown screenwriter Leslie Bohem and director Stephen Hopkins crafted their NOES installment around death scenes with social messages attached to them. Touching on abortion, adoption, bulimia, anorexia, rape and drinking and driving. Perhaps a noble concept to try and show punk kids who snuck into it the HORRORS of real life? Maybe not the best approach when the guy murdering them is a cruel clown himself.
So while the cultural impact may have missed its mark, the infamous “second helping” death scene in the film is certainly memorable. As modeling student Greta is pinned to her chair by Freddy himself and force fed random chunks of meat and a….baby…doll?…until her face swells wide full of disgusting mush to the point of her choking to death on it. It’s an oddly humorous take on a sad, personal topic that I guess is supposed to scare you into not having an eating disorder? Is that how people really thought things worked back then? Regardless, the scene is indeed disgusting. Originally earning an X rating and having the “Greta is force fed her own intestines” bit taken out. It was probably for the best.
6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Indiana Jones is a larger than life character in all the best ways. Smart, cunning, fearless (snakes don’t count) and dependable. Making the fantastical events and situations he finds himself tangled in still feel plausible and tense. While on a mission to retrieve the sacred stone of Mayapore, Indy and the gang attend the Guardian of Tradition dinner in Pankot Palace to a delicious feast of eyeball soup and desert of chilled monkey brains, much to the dismay of Indy’s main squeeze Willie, who fainted watching the merchants crack the seal.
While the idea of eating chilled brains may not be the most terrifying thing you can think of, seeing another man pop open a monkey’s severed head like a can of tuna and scooping out slimy, pink fluff into his baited lips is quite another thing altogether. I guess you can take some solace that the brains are at least chilled. It probably doesn’t make you want to grab frozen yogurt on the way home, though.