The following list includes some of the best chef movies ever made. Many of them are based on real-life chefs and restaurants, adding another layer of interest for fans of cooking shows.
They also offer insight into the lives of professional chefs as they deal with pressures in their kitchens and lives, such as demanding customers to ex-spouses.
Some have been selected for their role in exploring food history or highlighting specific types of cuisine. Others have been chosen because they are considered among the most entertaining chef movies ever made.
Read Also: Rappers Who Own Restaurants
Table of Contents
Why You Should Watch Restaurant Movies
If you love food, you’ll love these restaurant movies. Restaurant movies are the best, and they’re not just for people who work in foodservice industry.
Restaurant movies are a great way to spend an evening — especially if it’s Friday night and you don’t have anywhere to be.
The best movies feature main characters that must overcome incredible odds. That is, by definition, every great chef movie.
If you’re unsure where to start, here are some of our favorite restaurant movies.
Julie & Julia (2009)
Julie & Julia is a 2009 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Nora Ephron, based on Julie Powell’s bestselling 2003 memoir of the same name. The film stars Meryl Streep as Powell and Amy Adams as her fictional counterpart, Julia Child. It was released in North America in 2009 to positive reviews and commercial success.
The film begins in the late 1990s, with a struggling New York writer named Julie Powell (Amy Adams) discovering that she has been assigned to write a cookbook for a famous French chef, Julia Child (Meryl Streep).
Taking inspiration from Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published in 1961, Powell decides that she will recreate all 524 recipes over 12 months. She then begins blogging about her experiences, which attracts national attention.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 78%. IMDB rated the movie 7/10, with a fan reviewing, “This is a delightful movie about present-day bloggers following the recipes of legendary chef Julia Child.”
Chef is a 2014 American comedy-drama film directed by Jon Favreau, written by Jon Favreau, and starring Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, and Scarlett Johansson. It was released on March 7, 2014. The film received positive reviews from critics. The film grossed $46 million worldwide against an $11 million budget.
In the film Chef, a chef loses his job at a celebrated Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner.
He starts up a food truck to reclaim his creative promise but finds himself indigent and unable to provide for his young son. He then teams up with his ex-wife and friends from his past life to launch a new venture.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 87%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 7.3/10 with a fan reviewing, “I’m no foodie, but I enjoyed this road-trip / father-son / buddy movie, written directed by and starring Jon Favreau, based on the recent life and times of a perfectionist chef who struggles to suppress his innovation to the demands of his conservative paymaster boss.”
Before Ratatouille, food and film were rarely connected. The Pixar film changed that with its story about a rat who aspires to be a chef. It was also one of the first animated movies to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
Ratatouille is about a rat named Remy who lives in France’s countryside with his family. Remy has a passion for cooking, but rats are not allowed in the kitchen of Gusteau’s restaurant because of their reputation as vermin.
But when Remy discovers that Linguini, a garbage boy at the restaurant, can cook, he takes over Linguini’s position so he can work alongside him.
The film follows Remy as he struggles to maintain his identity while working in the kitchen with humans, who are less than welcoming at first.
He eventually finds acceptance with Linguini and Colette (a waitress at Gusteau’s Restaurant), who help him become the most fantastic chef in all of Paris.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 96%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 8.1/10 with a fan reviewing, “The combination of Disney and Pixar never ceases to amaze, but with Ratatouille, their newest effort, animated features are brought to new heights with the best one to date. Ratatouille is stunning, surreal while at the same time realistic, and a joy to watch.”
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
In this documentary, a sushi master takes you through his life and shares his passion for making the world’s best sushi. The film features Jiro Ono, who owns a 10-seat restaurant in Tokyo and has been making sushi for almost 80 years. He is considered by many to be the most incredible sushi chef in the world.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an incredible film that shows how hard it is to make good food, especially when it comes to sushi.
If you’re interested in learning more about Japanese cuisine, this film is a great place to start. It’s also a must-see for aspiring chefs or cooks looking for inspiration.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 99%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 7.8/10 with a fan reviewing: “When I got the invitation to go to this film, I was extremely hesitant and worried about what I would be viewing. I was sorely mistaken about getting a nap. From the beginning, the story and life lessons presented were gripping.”
Always Be My Maybe (2019)
Always Be My Maybe is a romantic comedy film. It’s about a young couple who haven’t been together for years. They meet again when Sasha returns to San Francisco and runs into Marcus in Chinatown. Will they rekindle their romance?
Sasha is a star chef, with a budding restaurant empire. The movie focuses on her identity evolution but skips over many of the highs and lows of restaurant life.
The movie stars Ali Wong and Randall Park as the main characters, Sasha Tran and Marcus Kim, who are high school sweethearts who broke up ten years ago before going their separate ways.
The story takes place in San Francisco, where Sasha has moved back after living in Los Angelos for many years. The movie also stars Keanu Reeves, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang, Daniel Dae Kim, and Van Jones as supporting characters.
The movie has received mixed reviews from critics.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 90%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 6.8/10 with a fan reviewing, “Always Be My Maybe is lighthearted, funny, and genuine. Everyone has genuine chemistry that is noticeable beyond the film.”
Waiting… is a 2005 comedy film written and directed by Rob McKittrick, who also wrote and directed the 2001 film Friday After Next. The film stars Justin Long as a waiter who works at the local restaurant Chez Pierre. The film also stars Anna Faris, Ryan Reynolds, Luiz Guzman, and Dane Cook.
The film focuses on the lives of several waiters who work at a chain restaurant in Los Angeles called Chez Pierre.
The waiters deal with rude customers while trying to live their own lives. Many parts of the movie can be considered crass, though it’s definitely relatable to those who have worked in the restaurant business.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 30%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 6.7/10 with a fan reviewing, “What also makes this comedy stand out is the great casting and colorful characters. The always funny Ryan Reynolds leads the crew of misfits including Anna Faris, Justin Long, and the incredibly hilarious Luiz Guzman.”
No Reservations (2007)
The film stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, and Abigail Breslin as the chefs who travel across America looking for work and finding romance along the way. It was nominated for two Oscars in 2008 — Best Original Score and Best Original Song (“The Way We Were”).
A chef and his sous chef are forced to take a road trip across the U.S. after the owner of their New York restaurant dies, leaving them with no money and no restaurant.
Along the way, they meet various characters who help them along the way. At one point, they even drive through a tornado in Kansas, which destroys their car but gives them a new one with better gas mileage.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 42%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 6.3/10, with a fan reviewing that “No Reservations” is not a great film, nor does it pretend to be. It is very predictable and follows the formula used in countless other movies. Despite that, it gives you everything you want from this type of film and is better than many of the sequels that have come out this year.”
Chocolat tells the story of Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche), a free-spirited chocolatier who moves to an uptight small town in France and manages to stir up some trouble.
It tells the story of a young mother who moves from Paris to a small French village with her daughter and opens an inn that serves chocolate — which was banned in France at the time — and wine and spirits.
The locals are scandalized by this new indulgence and want to drive them away from their simple life. But eventually, Chocolat (Juliette Binoche) wins them with her sweet personality and delicious treats.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 62%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 7.3/10, with a fan reviewing, “The photography is beautiful. The sets are very immersive and realistic, with a fitting wardrobe. The story is interesting and lighthearted, with some hints of drama and laughter. The characters are well built and very well played.”
The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a 2014 American drama film directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, and Charlotte Le Bon.
This movie is about a French family who runs a Michelin-starred restaurant in the south of France. When their son goes off to study cooking in Mumbai, India, he returns with his new bride and opens an Indian restaurant next door to his parent’s place.
The two families become rivals but then have to come together when they both get new neighbors in the form of a wealthy American couple.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 68%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 7.3/10 with a fan reviewing, “This movie is filled with the joys and sorrows that accompany a full life. The acting is excellent. I could not fault a single actor. Even those delivering one-liners seemed divested in the story. The photography and music are spectacular. A. R. Rahman showed even more depth and diversity than usual.”
Like Water for Chocolate (1992)
This Mexican film, directed by Alfonso Arau, is about a young woman who falls in love with a childhood friend and shares her feelings through her food.
The classic Mexican movie Like Water for Chocolate is based on a novel of the same name, which tells the story of a young woman who feels like she can’t marry the man she loves because of a family curse.
The movie follows her as she falls in love with another man and struggles with her feelings for him. The film was directed by Alfonso Arau and won several awards, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 87%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 7.1/10; a fan reviewed, “This was the first movie that I read the book after seeing the movie; Como Agua Para Chocolate is THAT good a movie! And the book is WONDERFUL! The fairy tale aspect of this movie is told subtly, but with a strong Hispanic sense of mysticism.”
Big Night (1996)
Directed by Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott, the film follows two brothers who open a restaurant and attempt to cook their food.
The story is of two brothers trying to save their family restaurant from going under. The brothers decide to put on a large Italian feast for the restaurant’s patrons, which sparks an idea to bring back the art of traditional Italian cooking.
The film is set in New Jersey, where these two brothers try to make ends meet by running a family-owned Italian restaurant. This movie showcases how hard it is to run a restaurant, especially when you don’t have enough money and the food has become dull and uninspiring.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 96%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 7.3/10 with a fan reviewing, “Big Night is a peaceful joy to watch because its themes and the overall feeling of the film is so normal. The characters, so beautifully rich, are realistic, and so are their problems. The characters are mainly wonderfully, infectiously bombastic Italians, and entire scenes are sometimes constructed of the process of making Italian food from scratch.”
Soul Food (1997)
Soul Food is a 1997 American drama film directed by George Tillman Jr. and written by Robert Adetuyi. The film stars Vanessa Williams as the mother of a family who must cope with her husband’s death while trying to keep her family together. Upon release, it received mixed reviews from critics but has since been considered a cult classic.
The movie starts with the funeral of Vivica’s character’s father, who died from cancer. Then it shows how his wife Vivica is dealing with his death and how she copes with it by going out with other men to forget what happened.
However, she still feels guilty about doing this because she still loves her husband even though he was cheating on her with her sister (who happens to be played by Vanessa Williams). It also shows how Vivica tries hard to keep her family together because she doesn’t want them to fall apart like hers did when her mother left them.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 96%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 7.3/10 with a fan reviewing, “I enjoyed this movie. It had me full of emotion and rubbing my belly all at the same time. It’s hard to understand why all families cannot sit down and enjoy times like the Joseph family.”
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Willy Wonka is a fictional character created by Roald Dahl, first appearing in his 1964 book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was adapted into a film of the same name in 1971.
The film was directed by Mel Stuart and starred Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, Jack Albertson as Grandpa Joe, Denise Nickerson as Violet Beauregarde, and Peter Ostrum.
The storyline follows Charlie, who wins a contest by finding a Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar. He is joined on his factory tour by his grandparents and other children, who are winners of Golden Tickets. Charlie witnesses the Wonka factory moving from the industrial age into a technocracy run by robots who eventually rebel against their human masters.
The film was released to critical acclaim and was nominated for several Oscars (but did not win), including Best Picture. It is considered to be one of the greatest family films ever made.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 96%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 7.3/10 with a fan reviewing, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a truly magnificent piece of filmmaking and remains one of the most fascinating and wonderful adventure films ever made. One of the things that makes this film so intriguing is that it could have been made at any time.”
Burnt is a 2015 American comedy-drama film directed by John Wells. The film stars Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl, Matthew Rhys, Uma Thurman, and Emma Thompson. The story centers on Adam Jones, a talented chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior.
After a stint in rehab, he attempts to resurrect his culinary career with a new restaurant.
Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a chef who once had the best kitchen in Paris. He was the youngest chef to receive three Michelin stars, but he threw it all away because of his bad temper and ego. After being banned from every restaurant in France, he has been reduced to working as a sous chef in London.
His new boss (Daniel Bruhl) gives him one last chance to redeem himself by allowing him to cook at his new restaurant. Adam must create a menu that will impress the critics at a food critic’s dinner on the same night as his wedding anniversary celebration with his wife (Sienna Miller).
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 28%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 6.6/10 with a fan reviewing, “The only good thing about this movie is the theme. I love cooking, and I’m a foodie, so the theme appealed to me. Unfortunately, this movie is predictable and shallow. Shame.”
Dinner Rush (2000)
Dinner Rush is a 2000 American comedy food film written and directed by Bob Giraldi. It stars Danny Aiello, John Corbett, and Mike McGlone.
The film focuses on a restaurant owner who cannot keep his chefs due to constantly firing them. After one of them quits, he decides to hire an ex-convict as a replacement chef.
He soon finds that the felon has more than just cooking skills, but also charisma and charm that makes him popular with the customers and helps bring business to the struggling restaurant.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 91%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 7.3/10 with a fan reviewing, “This film crackles with authenticity. Danny Aiello is great in the lead role as the owner of this eatery, which rushed off its feet in the evening rush after the day leading to it. He plays ironically opposite to his oft gangster roles.”
Spinning Plates (2012)
Joseph Levy directed the film. This documentary follows three New York City restaurants, each with a different story but facing the same challenges.
Customers come and go, but the daily grind goes on. The film shows the struggle of keeping your head above water in a constantly changing industry.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 86%. IMDB gave the movie a rating of 7.1/10 with a fan reviewing, “One of the best documentaries I have ever seen. This genre is unique because it does not try to push anything on the audience or expose a hidden truth.”
Bonus: Best Chef Shows and Series
Julia is an American comedy-drama television series starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Julia Child.
Julia Child was a pioneer of the food world, and this show is a fantastic depiction of her life. She was a brilliant chef with a larger-than-life personality whose enthusiasm and passion for cooking inspired people worldwide. This show will make you hungry, but it also shows how fun cooking can be.
But it doesn’t stop there, this show brings Julia Child into a whole new light, focusing on the intricacies of being a woman during the time, her background, and personal challenges.
IMDB gave the movie a rating of 8.4/10 with a fan reviewing, “I did not think I would like this series; for one, Meryl Streep owned the character in “Julie & Julia,” along with Stanley Tucci as Paul, but halfway into the first episode, I was absorbed into the story and the characters. Just superbly cast, well-acted, the sets and the locations bring back many memories.”
Chefs Table (Netflix)
The latest chef series from Netflix, Chefs Table, is a documentary series that takes viewers inside the lives and kitchens of the best chefs in the world.
Each episode focuses on a different chef, exploring their unique culinary philosophy and the ingredients and techniques that define their approach to food.
The first season featured nine episodes, with each episode profiling one chef.
What’s unique about this docuseries is that it dives deep into the world of each chef, their background, their inspiration, and their life challenges. Every episode keeps you on the edge of your seat and pushes you to find your passion.
IMDB gave the movie a rating of 8.5/10 with a fan reviewing, “The stories of the origins of these restaurants, and especially the chefs who created them, are moving and inspiring. The series successfully puts a human face on these places, which most would otherwise be regarded as extravagant and out of reach.”
Takeaways From the Best Chef Movies
You must see these movies if you love food and movies. There’s quite a bit to choose from, from documentaries to biopics to fictional stories. Given their diverse subject matter, you can learn about cooking and restaurants in each movie.