A Definitive Ranking of Food Scenes in This Year's Best Picture Nominees

Spoiler alert: Laura Dern salad.

February  4, 2020
Photo by Netflix

Well. There’s a lot more war than food in this year’s Best Picture nominees. Three wars and a gang war, two very different slices of class war, and then this tiny, localized war also known as a divorce. Themes of feast and famine thread across the films, so when food does make an appearance, it’s worth paying close attention.

Food media likes to rank food scenes. But listen, this is the definitive definitive ranking of the best food scenes from this year’s nominees for the Academy Award for Best Picture. (Warning: There are some spoilers. But none that won’t make you want to watch the rest of the film.)

The Ranking

10. Tussle (Ford v Ferrari)

The ice cream is melting while our two racing fanatics wrestle, groceries flying. But what earns this scene a spot on the list is Mrs. Miles setting up shop in a folding chair, cooly watching from across the street. Boyish and charming, it’s a waste of good ice cream.

9. Assassination in Little Italy (The Irishman)

Is it really a dinner party in The Irishman without at least an attempt at mass murder? There’s something endearing about the monologue leading up to the crime. Why use the bathroom before shooting up the place? All sorts of reasons! Unless it’s night and you’re in a hurry and you don’t really believe anything you’re saying because you’re a cheeky mobster just trying to make small talk.

8. Dog Food (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

The gelatinous, can-shaped dog food reminiscent of cranberry sauce is gross, grosser even than you’re thinking, hitting the bowl with a repulsive plop. But gosh darn this dog can act.

7. Peach Fuzz (Parasite)

Peaches are BACK in a big way this Oscar season (missing on you, Italy). In this emblematic, scheming, sensual, and hilariously evil scene, Ki-woo shaves the fuzz from a peach and vials it for later. The Parks’ resident housekeeper is a tough tick to pull, but where there's cunning (and a peach allergy), there’s a way.

6. It’s Cold in Here (Joker)

Menacingly sad, there’s no food in Gotham except for a clumpy bag of bread we see only because the Joker, feeling distraught, rips out the refrigerator shelves, climbs inside, and closes the door.

5. Chewy Wine (Jojo Rabbit)

Eminently loveable Nazi-youth Jojo is on his way to coming around when he realizes his mother isn’t eating her portion of their meager soup-and-bread dinner. She’s “not hungry.” Something’s up, he thinks. Duh, Jojo, she’s a good person. And so are you! The winning line here: “I’m just going to chew on these grapes,” Scarlett Johansson says, taking a huge gulp of red wine. How her smile stays so perfectly white after such a “chewy” sip is a question for God and/or the Script Supervisor.

4. Christmas Breakfast (Little Women)

The opposite of a mean tweet, the little women give away their much-anticipated Christmas breakfast. The score is as enchanting as the snowy landscape the girls are trotting through, baskets in hand, heading over to their neighbors-in-need. It’s all worth it though, karmically. Florence Pugh gasps with her whole face when they return home to an even larger feast, provided by Mr. Laurence. Or perhaps a Mr. Laurie desperate to prove he’s more than just a good head of hair.

3. Word Salad (Marriage Story)

No matter the petty, painful, entirely thrilling tit-for-tat this divorce negotiation has promised us, lunch must go on. Laura Dern is here to ensure it does.

2. Milk (1917)

Still-smoldering coals, an abandoned bucket of warm milk—beyond the front line, signs of life are dangerous as they are astonishing. How anything survives longer than a minute out where the camera’s taken us, the landscape shelled to a scar, is hard to imagine. And someone was milking a cow? Watching, seeing the milk, it feels as though we’ve stumbled on something rare as a bucket of diamonds. Our protagonist fills his canteen. Cue the profound tenderness of this beautifully wrought later scene: Milk is exactly what is called for—to feed an orphaned infant in the bombed-out village of Ecoust-Saint-Mein.

1. Ram-don (Parasite)

It doesn’t get much better than this. At the climax of parasitic success, our Kim clan is kicking back in “their” mansion while the Host family is away camping for the weekend. Of course, things go horribly wrong. And like a better-than-ever episode of Cutthroat Kitchen, Mrs. Kim is tasked with whipping up a “ram-don” dish she has never heard of, and she has eight minutes to do it (before the Host family arrives, days earlier than expected). Oh and, meanwhile, the rest of the Kims have got a few captives to dispatch of. And a whole drunken mess to hide. High intensity, crossedited with chopping then searing the beef, boiling the noodles, stirring them in sauce. It’s hold-your-breath good.

Honorable Mention: Pizza Story (Marriage Story)

Will watch Adam Driver eat a slice of pizza any film, any time gladly.

Who do you think will snag this year's Academy Award for Best Picture? Let us know in the comments below.
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Max McDonough grew up on the Jersey Shore. His writing has appeared in T Magazine, Best New Poets, Gulf Coast, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. When he's not working, you can find him in the plant section of the Home Depot.


Karen F. February 6, 2020
I found the Ram-Don scene in Parasite to be quite engrossing. Had to watch it twice.
Lydia February 6, 2020
What about the delicious pizza and fanta in "The Two Popes" !
Eric K. February 5, 2020
Marriage-Story Laura Dern can push me off a cliff any day.
Kristen M. February 5, 2020
Since I haven't been able to see many movies the past year, thank you for this excellent primer on the good parts, Max! Fun fact: that Marriage Story pizza scene was filmed at Pino's in Park Slope (they have a laminated photo in the window now).