June 28, 2007

Top 10 Most Memorable Dinner Table Scenes



Ah, the dinner table. It is a place for a family to sit down together, enjoy a nice meal, and...display superpowers? Eat their own brain? Call their guests Hitler? Learn about homosexuality? No? Okay, then that's probably what makes these dinner-table-centric movies so memorable. For this list, I created very specific criteria. First, the dinner had to be in someone's home - I realized that memorable restaurant scenes are a whole other bag. Second, the meal had to specifically be dinner. And finally, people had to actually sit down and consume food. Okay, in no particular order:



1. American Beauty. This movie served as an end-of-the-century reminder that the suburbs are still really fucked up. In this scene, the all-American motif of the family dinner table becomes a frantic - and hilarious -war zone. Mom Carolyn wants to know what her husband Lester was thinking when he quit his job, daughter Janie just wants to leave, and Lester wants respect - and someone to pass the asparagus.





2. Borat. Which is less appropriate to bring to the dinner table: a prostitute or a bag of feces? Lovably inept and vulgar Borat Sagdiyev brings both during his fancy dinner with Southern socialites. It's a riot to watch Sacha Baron Cohen pretending to be this outrageous figure in order to elicit genuine responses from people stranger than fiction. This clip is only part of it, but you get the idea.




3. The Incredibles. Kinda like the American Beauty scene, this is just your average depiction of a suburban family - oh, except they're superheroes. Bob's super strength causes him to cut the table when trying to cut his son's steak, and then the kids get in a fight using all their powers which ends with their elastic mom holding them under the table. The only clip I could find is dubbed with subtitles, for some reason.




4. I Heart Huckabees. I saw this movie a while back and under regrettable hookup circumstances, so I don't remember much of it. Some Googling brought me back to the great dinner scene though, where Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzmann's characters have dinner with the family of the mysterious man they have been seeing everywhere. The family's hyper-religious views clash badly with the liberal, esoteric ideas that their guests bring to the table, and eventually they get kicked out. I think I just adore Marky Mark and his incredible scene-stealing abilities (see also: The Departed).


5. Annie Hall. I know that this movie is on every Top 5 or 10 list I make, but whatever, it's a fuckin good movie. Alvy spends Easter with Annie's family, and the dinner is tremendously awkward, including one shot from Grammy Hall's point of view where Alvy is decked out like an Orthodox Jew. Then it cuts to a split screen comparing what Alvy and Annie's families do for the holidays (Alvy's: fast and bicker). I couldn't find the clip, but if you haven't seen this movie, get thee to a video store!

6. Little Miss Sunshine. From the second the harried mother plops the takeout fried chicken on the table, we know this is not going to be a peaceful meal. Grandpa doesn't want chicken again, uncle Frank just tried to commit suicide after being jilted by another man, Dad's business is still a failure, and Dwayne is just sullen and silent as usual. Seven-year-old Olive inquires about Frank's problem, leading her to learn about suicide and homosexuality in one sitting. There is a bright side though - Olive learns she's made it to the next round of the titular Little Miss Sunshine pageant. The only clip I could find is Grandpa bitching about the chicken, but Alan Arkin won an Oscar. Respect.


7. Hannibal. Yeah, the movie was kinda lame, and I watched it before my official banning of all horror movies from my cinematic diet. But the final scene had me in a state of horror and mindfuck for quite a while. It's dinnertime with Dr. Lecter, which is never a good thing for nearby humans, and tonight's entree is the brain of one of the guests, played by Ray Liotta. I guess Hannibal removes the part of the part responsible for freaking out if someone removes part of your brain, because Ray is just sitting there, smiling absently. And then, Hannibal feeds him his own brain. I will repeat that. HANNIBAL FEEDS HIM HIS OWN BRAIN OMG. And he likes it. Ew. Fun fact: some of the shots in this scene used an animatronic Ray Liotta puppet, and in the final cut even Liotta has confessed to not knowing the difference. I want that on my resume: Animatronic Ray Liotta Puppet Maker. Be warned: the clip is really gross.




8. Wedding Crashers. Dinner and a handjob? Yeah, it's kind of an unorthodox combo, but Vince Vaughn's character really has no say in the matter as fem-unit Gloria suddenly starts to vigorously massage his crotch during a family dinner. This movie scene is not going to cure cancer, but it's slapstick and awkward comedy in its purest form. Oh, and Grandma calls Eleanor Roosevelt "a real rug muncher."




9. Rope. This film toys with the definition of "dinner table," because in this case, dinner is served on a wooden chest containing the dead body of the man that all the guests have in common. The first scene of the film is Brandon and Philip strangling David to death, because they can. Then, just to be sneaky and pat themselves on the back for being so badass, they host a dinner party inviting all of David's nearest and dearest. Philip starts to crack with anxiety, and Brandon's overconfidence starts to look suspicious. It's hard to isolate just one clip here, because dinner takes up at least a third of this short-ish movie. But yeah, you should watch it, because it's Hitchcock and it's good and it has Jimmy Stewart in it.

10. The Gold Rush. I saved the happiest for last. This scene is unabashedly delightful, and I don't just throw around the word "delightful." It's Chaplin in top form, when he has some lady friends over for dinner and entertains them with dinner rolls. It sounds weird, but it's hilarious and brilliant. This scene was so popular in theaters that some projectionists would rewind it and play it again. There's another notable dinner scene in this film as well, when the Tramp eats his own boot out of hunger (for shooting, the boot was made of licorice).

85 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey, what about "Talladega Nights: The Ballad OF Ricky Bobby" dinner at the table scene? I Think also "Batman" and "Coming To America", thy are shorter, and have less dialogue, but still they're great. Other then that - Respect!

Anonymous said...

What about the scene at the beginning of Donnie Darko? That scene screams greatness at me.

Anonymous said...

The dinner table in Back to the Future 1,2 and 3, especially 2 how they pulled that off with 1 actor playing 3 roles for 1989, deserves a spot on here!

Anonymous said...

'American History X' has two dinner table scenes that easily floor most of this competition.

Anonymous said...

thats a super cool compilation of clips..... youre hot

Anonymous said...

Meet the Parents. Talking about how he milked a cat and then knocking the ashes on the floor.

Anonymous said...

"Black Dahlia"
The dinner scene with the "How are ye, Ma - can ye contribute to this discussion?" (or something like this) shouted from the other end of the table, you would believe for a second that's David Lynch that actually directs the movie.

Glennie said...

Go wins this hands down, the Confederated Products spiel is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

'The Rules Of Attraction' has one of the best dinner table scenes.....

Inexpediant Saint said...

for me best diner scene would be in Pulp Fiction.....Travolta & jackson....
i'm wondering why no one has mentioned it???????/

Anonymous said...

The freakiest dinner table scene has to be Sixth Sense.

The one where Bruce's wife said "Happy Anniversary"

Jack said...

This is a poor compilation of dinner scenes. They forgot the Back to the Future trilogy, Meet the Parents, A Clockwork Orange, Donnie Darko, Pulp Fiction... the list goes on.

Anonymous said...

Has everyone forgotten the dinner scenes in The Godfathers I and II? The tension of impending events and the interplay between the characters is marvelous.

Anonymous said...

What about the dinner scene in My Dinner With Andre? Surely it must merit the list on sheer importance to the plot. Without it, the movie is only 5 minutes long.

Crabman said...

You seem to have forgotten the best ever dinner table sequence. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Muppet!

Anonymous said...

The In-Laws and Nutty Professor

Mary said...

For Kevin Spacey dinner scenes, you really can't beat "The Ref." One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies (yes, I am kind of a sick person). Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis, Glynis Johns, Denis Leary, Danny Houston and Christine Baranski all tearing into each other while trying to maintain the facade of a nice Christmas Eve dinner. An extremely quotable scene - "Honey, why don't you eat a gerkin?" "Lloyd, why don't you eat ME?" - and it's really the ultimate dysfunctional family dinner from hell.

Anonymous said...

If you want to see a suprise around the dinner table. See "Festen". It is not gory, but you could loose your appetite.

Anonymous said...

There are two seperate dinner scenes from War or the Roses that have to be included in this list. You can't get anymore dysfunctional then them.

Anonymous said...

David Byrne's 1986 film 'True Stories' features a quirky dinner table scene, in which the patriachal town mayor utilises a bizarre feast on hand to make a point about the machniations of buisness in Texas. Cool.

Anonymous said...

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover -- now there's a dinner scene!

Anonymous said...

i acnt believe the nutty professor wasnt on here

verbal k said...

Yeah, nice list, and good suggestions such as Pulp Fiction and American history X.

But how about this one:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=WHI9yJiA4_w

Yes it's from Alien.

And feel free to take a wild guess on this (animated) one:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=SPB6AP8Gdaw&mode=related&search=

Oh yeah, almost forgot this modern classic:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=0D_TAdHLlY0

Tipping will never be the same, eh!?!

That's all folks.

Anonymous said...

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or A Christmas Story

Anonymous said...

No Notting Hill?!

Anonymous said...

The late night dinner scene in "Goodfellas" blows them all away.

Anonymous said...

my favorite dinner scene is in the serpent and the rainbow when the hostess after drinking a toast to the guest of honor she jumps across the table and tries tokill him with a knife and then has an epilectic seizure

Anonymous said...

I agree with "crabman" I guess you stated you bias against horror films...but leaving off the original "Texas Chainsaw" in favor of "Hannibal" is a crime.

Also, American Beauty's dinner table scene was done better in many other films, especially "Donnie Darko" which (at least for that scene) is a far better representation of suburban life.

all in all good analysis, but too many movies from the 90's

Anonymous said...

Guess who's Coming to Dinner


I mean really, how can that not be included lol, the movie's an Oscar winning classic all about a dinner

;-)

Anonymous said...

"say anything" with lloyds speech on what he wants to do with his life.

Anonymous said...

How about "Monty Pythons The Meaning of Life"? The Mr. Creosote resturaunt dinner scene sure was memorable. Gross. but memorable....

saiyanlova said...

See Diner du Cons...The Dinner Game in English. It is a French movie but one of the funniest in the world, and it centers around a dinner.

And while we're on the subject of french movies or their english counterparts; try the hilarious dinner scene in The Birdcage. Nathan Lane in a wig talking about abortions- I mean cmon. Genius.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's unthinkable to forget Nathan Lane and Robin Williams in The Birdcage--hilarious! And I was incredibly surprised Lloyd Dobbler's speech from Say Anything didn't make it onto this list.

Another foreign film that's approximately 90% dinner scenes is The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Surreal and awesome.

Anonymous said...

What about The Ice Storm? Hilarious Christina Ricci lines...

Wendy Hood: "Dear Lord, thank you for this Thanksgiving holiday. And for all the material possessions we have and enjoy. And for letting us white people kill all the Indians and steal their tribal lands. And stuff ourselves like pigs, even though children in Asia are being napalmed."

Ben Hood: "Jesus! Enough, alright? Paul... roll?"

Anonymous said...

WHERE'S WHEN HARRY MET SALLY?!?! XD

Anonymous said...

"Buffalo '66" anyone. One of the best and overlooked movies let alone dinner scenes.

Anonymous said...

My personal favorite is the dinner scene from While You Were Sleeping. Six or seven conversations floating around, the mom from Mary Poppins (I forget her name), and quotes like "I didn't say Cesar Romero was Cuban."

Heehee.

johnnysam said...

does anyone remember the dinner scene in "The Upside of Anger" when Joan Allens blows the head off her daughters boyfriend? Of course she snaps back into reality with a smile on her face at the dinner table

Anonymous said...

What the hell! No Beetlejuice?? The "Day-o" scene was one of the funniest scenes in any movie, let alone a dinner scene.

Marisa's Husband said...

Three words...Better Off Dead! It's got raisins in it for goodness sakes!

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the dinner table scene in Heat, the only scene in history where Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are onscreen at the same time. That one's pretty legendary.

Jesse said...

American History X!!!!
That scene where Elliott Gould joins their dinner table and Norton and him get into a huge arguement that forces him to leave... it's a really good scene.

Also, someone mentioned it before, Pulp Fiction. It's not really a dinner table so much as it's a restaurant table, but still, it's an amazing scene nonetheless.

Chillian said...

It's not a classic film but how about the dinner scene from My Best Friends Wedding. Rupert Everett singing Say a Little Prayer. Genius.

Julie said...

Thanks for all your comments! This could easily be a Top 50 list, I know. When I make lists, I'm not trying to impose my views on the world, but rather open up a discussion, which I did! For some of your suggestions, they're films that I admittedly haven't seen, so I would feel wrong including them. The way I measured "memorable-ness" is pretty much just what stood out in my memory. (Which gives a disadvantage to movies I saw when I was little, i.e. Back to the Future.) I definitely considered a lot of your suggestions in making my list too, but I guess quality and content of the scene was a factor to some degree. I considered "The Nutty Professor," for instance, but that's more famous for what went into it (Eddie Murphy playing several people). Also, in cases of movies that revolve almost entirely around a dinner ("The Birdcage," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner") that becomes really tough because the dinner is woven throughout the whole movie, and isn't just one scene. Maybe I can do a separate list of "dinner movies!" Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Sadly I had to get way down the list of posts (13) before someone mentioned "The Godfather Trilogy." Nice catch; you beat me to it.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone remember the dinner table scene from "Rocky Horror" where they discover that they're actually eating Eddie? Fantastically disgusting!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the movie wasn't seen by enough people, but if anyone saw "Waiting", the scene where Ryan Reynolds takes his friend (the MAC kid) over to his mom's (Wendie Malik?) house for dinner and mom and son are discussing basically how much they hate each other through sex-related comments. Hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Three table scenes from older films that stand out for me: 1) In "Citizen Kane" the scene(s) between Kane and his first wife where they sit at opposite ends of the table reading newspapers at breakfast and in each successive version the table grows longer and longer, graphically suggesting the increasing emotional distance between the two; 2) In "Stagecoach" the dinner scene with all the passengers, illustrating their common bond in the midst of isolation and danger; and 3) in "Tom Jones" the (in)famous scene between Tom and the sluttish older woman (who later is revealed to be his mother) in which they lasciviously slurp oysters in a pub, the mood growing more and more sexual until they end up upstairs in bed.

Anonymous said...

I nominate "Jungle Fever".

Donnie said...

Ummm HELLOOO- Home For The Holiday's with Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr.- the best dinner scene ever!! You just don't get dead bird spilled all over you like that and have Anne Bancroft watching!

Anonymous said...

I think some people are confusing dinner scenes with diner scenes.

Anonymous said...

Really....REALLY???? what about Resorvoir Dogs? Remember????The opening scene? BRILLIANT!!!!

Thatgirl122 said...

Clearly I am much older than you, Julie. :)

The dinner scenes that this topic brought to mind are:

St. Elmo's Fire: where Mare Winningham's mother whispers anything too horrible to say out loud like "cancer" I have seen people do this in real life and it always makes me laugh (usually inappropriately)

Babette's Feast: Babette does some awesome French cooking for a puritanical sect. They eat the delicious food and try to pretend it isn't beyond fabulous.

Chocolat: Judi Dench convinces Juliette Binoche to have a birthday party for her. The few sympathetic characters from the town are all brought together for a birthday dinner followed by some dancing and dessert on Johnny Depp's boat.

Like Water For Chocoate: Tita makes a sauce from the roses Pedro gave her. Magically the chemistry between Tita and Pedro is cooked into the food and Tita's sister, Gertrudis gets rather hot and bothered. She ends up setting the outhouse on fire, running around naked and being carried off on a horse by a local rebel. Now that is some dinner!

Anonymous said...

what about "the family stone" when they all get mad and yell at Sarah jessica parker cause she can't shut up. Even I as a viewer felt akward for her on that scene.

Anonymous said...

Dude...

How about the last dinner sequence in "The Cook The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover"?

That dinner sequence was totally shocking, and totally memorable.

Anonymous said...

What about the Thin Man.. "Let us eat and be merry for tomorrow we shall die". I think it's misquoted

Anonymous said...

Buffalo 66 just for the camera work and performance of ben gazzara deserves a place

Anonymous said...

ALIEN. ALIEN. ALIEN ALIEN ALIEN. CHESTBURSTER. ALIEN ALIEN ALIEN ALIEN ALIEN. CHESTBURSTER. ALIEN.

Anonymous said...

I know its a Christmas movie but National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation had the best dinner scene. It was hilarous.

Anonymous said...

You were right on with the scene in Annie Hall. Woody Allen's work on that scene really shows his creativity and skill. The other dinner scene I love is a simple one but one of the most naturally acted eating scenes in all of film. When George Bailey sits down for a quick meal with his father in It's a Wonderful Life, we get to see all of George's internal struggle in one conversation, culminating with a very simple and powerful line. "Pop, you want a shock? I think you're a great guy." And then the movie rolls along, hoping - but not begging - that we caught a whole theme wrapped up in a few seemingly insignificant lines.

Anonymous said...

What about Scent of A Woman when Paccino's character goes to his brother's for Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

Terms of Endearment. "Why should I be happy abOUT BEING A GRANDMOTHER!"

Michael said...

I will second whoever said Beetlejuice, Pulp Fiction, and Rocky Horror.

But, what about (please forgive my inner geek) the restaurant scene in Star Trek IV when Shatner's character is trying to have a nice lunch and then casually tells a member of his crew "Set phasers on stun, good luck, Kirk out."

And then there's Eraserhead, when the guy's chicken comes to life. Top THAT!

Anonymous said...

uum pulp fiction bunny and ringo????????? reservoir dogs madonna like a virgin??? cmon guys you can do better

Anonymous said...

One of the funniest dinner scenes is in "My Favorite Year" with Peter O'Toole as an alcoholic actor having dinner with a production assistant's family. "Didja shtoop her?"

Anonymous said...

Pulp Fiction - wasn't at someone's house

Reservoir Dogs - wasn't at someone's house/was breakfast

Alien - was on a fucking spaceship

When Harry Met Sally - not at someone's house

Heat - was only coffee/not at a house


At least read her requirements before making an ass of yourself.

Anonymous said...

The scene where Bradley Whitford badmouths Al Pacino is 'Scent of a Woman' at Thanksgiving dinner is classic. It's so brutal and uncomfortable. You can just watch Pacino boil the whole time until he explodes and busts out his Ranger chokehold.

Anonymous said...

The Thin Man has the best dinner table scene, to my knowledge. But it contains spoilers, so I see why it wasn't posted.

Anonymous said...

Saturday Night Fever

Anonymous said...

Godfather part 2? The final scene. Duh. I thought that was going to be number 1 and couldnt believe it wasnt on the list.

Anonymous said...

dude, what about the argument at the dinner table in 'American History X'?

Anonymous said...

um hello? what about the greatest dinner scene of all time? as depicted in "rocky horror picture show":

.....a toast...to absent friends

Anonymous said...

What about "The Last Supper"?

Anonymous said...

Room With A View was super memorable for a dinner scene.

Ashley said...

A Woman Under The Influence. A dinner scene that takes place during breakfast time as they are coming off the night shift. Cassavetes is a genius.

Candice said...

The breakfast table scene in Trainspotting the the soiled sheet...always a gross classic!!

Anonymous said...

Alice Adams, anyone? The dinner table scene would have won Hattie McDaniel an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress had the category existed in 1935. (Some say it was this very scene that led the Academy to create the category!)

kellie said...

when harry met sally should be number one and you didn;t even put it on the list

Ahsan said...

The opening scene of Reservoir Dogs. How could you miss that ?

Or the epic scene between Samuel L Jackson and the restaurant robbers in Pulp Fiction !!

Anonymous said...

What about Terms of Endearment? There are two great dinner table scenes. The first occurs when Aurora discovers her daughter Emma is pregnant, and let's just say Aurora is less than thrilled by the idea of being a grandma.

Best line: "Does this mean you won't be knitting the baby any booties?"

The second occurs during a lunch date between Aurora and Garrett. MacLaine and Nicholson are in top form here. Every line in the scene seems a classic one; however, the best occurs when Aurora scolds Garrett for noticing a woman dining at the next table. She finds it extremely rude, she says; he says he thinks they're gonna have to get drunk; she asks, to break the ice? he says:

Best line: "To kill the bug that you have up your ass!"

Definitely worth mention among the greatest dinner table scenes in the history of cinema.

Anonymous said...

Dead Alive? Blood in the soup, ear in the custard... I guess they were eating lunch though. Or supper. Whatever they call it in NZ.

Brook said...

The fact that The Cook, The Theif, His Wife and Her Lover and Texas Chainsaw Massacre aren't mentioned is soooo criminal. I am going to make you watch both of these in the store.

Kelly said...

I love your lists
i agree with all the movies i've seen on this one
damn some of these people need to quit bitching about your picks
and give you some major props
imo

Anonymous said...

"Big Night" with Stanley Tucci (1996) is a gem of a movie & has a great dinner scene. Try it, i miei amici, you'll love it!

Glennman said...

As a horror fan, it hurts to see someone with a great love of film and appreciation for the art itself toss a whole genre aside. I won't try to convince you to give the whole shebang another shot, because a great deal of it is garbage, but have you seen Session 9? If not, I think you'd appreciate it.