The movies that stay with us are the ones that connect with us on a personal level. But that feat is easier said than done.
Relating to a movie character is easy if you're a worn-out office worker or a secret agent. But for those of us who work (or have worked) in a restaurant, the movies that focus on the food industry seem to be few and far between. This is why great restaurant movies are so memorable for those of us who have ever been donned with the title of restaurant owner, restaurant manager, chef, server, or maître d'.
Despite the fact that there are over 14 million individuals working in America's restaurant industry, it can be difficult to find a true cinematic depiction of working in a restaurant. With that said, there are a few movies that stick out as so authentic to the business that anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant will appreciate them.
So fire up your television and '86 your plans for the weekend. Here are 14 savory movies to enjoy if you've ever worked in or managed a restaurant.
Two brothers running an Italian restaurant put the future of their business in the success of their big night. If you've ever had that *one night* in your restaurant that has earned a permanent place in your personal storybook, this is the movie you can be sure to relate to. The film was acclaimed for its comedic undertones and was given a perfect 4-star review from film critic Roger Ebert.
To be fair, Boyhood isn't really a movie about a restaurant per se (or at all, actually). However, I include it on this list for one crucial scene. In the film, we follow young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) throughout his adolescence. Like many, his time in high school includes a part-time job at a restaurant, where one day he was on the receiving end of a half stern talking to/half pep talk from his boss. Anyone who has been a busser, server, or cook has heard this talk many times. Those who have rose to the ranks of manager have even given it.
Why should restaurateurs watch the screwball comedy from SNL alum Kristen Wiig? Because her character, Annie, is a once-admired baker and business owner whose establishment went under. Throughout the movie, she struggles to accept this failure and lets it control other aspects of her life. The reality is that many restaurants fail, but watching this movie reminds us that your life isn't over even if your restaurant's doors close for good.
4. Burnt (2015)
The most recent movie on this list features Bradley Cooper as a down-on-his-luck chef in London looking for his comeback. Cooper reunites with American Sniper co-star Sienna Miller as his right-hand woman in the kitchen, and is driven by his passion for being a chef in this inspiring and riveting film.
5. Chef (2014)
Chef is a perfect little film in its own right, but for restaurateurs it's even more special. Food truck entrepreneur Chef Carl (Jon Favreau) is a character who starts his own business, stands up for himself, surprises and satisfies customers with his cooking, does what he's good at, and ignores the words of spiteful critics. He has every quality of a great restaurateur, mainly because he's in the business for all the right reasons.
Anything that can go wrong will go wrong - especially during the dinner shift of a popular New York City restaurant. Now, maybe the crime subplot that goes on during this film is a bit beyond personal connection, but the insanity that ensues and the feelings they evoke are not. It's a thrilling film with a backdrop we can all understand.
This is another movie not so much about restaurants that still captures the restaurant work experience. In my humble opinion, restaurant cashiers don't get their due credit. While waiters arguably have it worse most of the time, cashiers like Brad (Judge Reinhold) in Fast Times at Ridgemont High remind us how valuable these workers are in our daily operations, especially in fast food and fast casual restaurants where they act as the face of the business.
Helen Mirren scored a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as Madame Mallory, a restaurant owner in France challenged by the threat of new entry. When an Indian family opens up "Maison Mumbai" across the street from Mallory's establishment, a feud between the two restaurants begins. The movie tackles the stress felt by both new and seasoned restaurant owners in a world where healthy competition isn't always healthy.
Heat doesn't just exist in the kitchen. In Love's Kitchen, a hotshot young chef opens up a new restaurant in London, which catches the attention of food critic Kate. Sure, it's your typical love story - but its characters are in the restaurant industry. You finally have the relatable romcom you've been longing for.
It's always a struggle to balance personal and professional lives. When they collide, turn to No Reservations. Central character Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) faces a whirlwind of change, which disrupts her collected confidence in the kitchen. Dealing with family, love, and customers all at once is a challenge, but it's a rewarding story that's uplifting - especially to restaurant workers.
P.S.: If you've got a flair for foreign films, watch the original Mostly Martha from 2001.
Of course I'm including Ratatouille on this list. There's no better movie to remind you of the simple authenticity of working in a restaurant, and it perfectly captures the stress of making your work in the kitchen stand out. It's also a hysterical accomplishment from Pixar, and encourages all restaurateurs - actual and aspiring - to create something beautiful.
Not one for fiction? This documentary follows three restaurateurs and their diverse establishments. It will give you real insight and inspiration that no other movie could give you. Most importantly, it will remind you that as a restaurant worker you are never alone in your successes or your failures.
Sometimes you don't choose your profession, and instead it chooses you. Clichés aside, it's not uncommon for someone to go into this industry and quickly discover their passion. This is what happens to Samir, who takes up a position in his family's restaurant. Initially full of resentment for a job he does not feel a passion for, he is soon overcome with genuine intrigue for what he is doing. If you feel a true calling for what you do, this movie is for you.
Looking for authenticity? Writer-Director Rob McKittrick penned the script while working as a waiter. Waiting... captures both the tedious and rewarding moments of working in a restaurant that occur even years after working in the same place, along with some R-rated hijinks at anyone's expense. Also, when you start the movie and ask "Wait, is that Ryan Reynolds?", the answer is yes.
What's your favorite restaurant movie?
And there you have it: 14 unique movies that cover what it's really like to be a modern restaurant worker. Chefs, managers, servers, bussers, and everyone else who plays a part in getting a customer their food will relish in the little moments of these movies.
Share your favorite restaurant movie in the comments below!