The dinner scene. We’re all familiar with an awkward dinner, but some films elevate this mundane practice into pure art. Screenwriting is all about writing what you know, and these writers knew the dinner table was an ideal place for horror, dramatic irony, and comedy. These are the best dinner scenes in movies of all time.
Watch: How to Direct a Dinner Scene
Subscribe for more filmmaking videos like this.
THE BREAK UP DINNER SCENE
25. The Break-Up (2006)
Having a relative try to lead everyone into an acapella rendition of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is awkward enough on its own. Considering what happens next (the titular break-up), the scene plays a crucial part in the story while being hilarious in its own right.
THE INCREDIBLES DINNER SCENE
24. The Incredibles (2004)
Getting in trouble at school. A moody teenager not eating. These are common staples to most people’s dinners growing up. But in The Incredibles, the mundanity represents all Bob Parr has given up after superheroes were outlawed. Now, he’s just glad to hear how fast Dash is that he didn’t show up on the cameras.
HOOK DINNER SCENE
23. Hook (1991)
Peter Pan and Rufio get into an insult contest across the dinner table. One of the best food fights ever put to screen ensues. It’s a perfect showcase of Robin Williams’ talents as his insults grow more verbose and intricate. Plus, the Spielberg's staging expertly shows the audience who’s in control as the scene goes on.
SHREK 2 DINNER SCENE
22. Shrek 2 (2004)
Meeting your partner’s parents can be pretty awkward. It’s even more awkward when you’re… different. Fiona comes from royalty, and Shrek comes from a swamp. And her parents naturally have some skepticism about this whole relationship. This scene is funny but also surprisingly relatable to anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong.
INSIDE OUT DINNER SCENE
21. Inside Out (2015)
Riley’s emotions are all messed up, making for awkward dinner talk. Not only does the scene give insight into Riley’s state of mind, it also does a good deal of world building by showing what’s going on inside the parents’ minds. And it’s pretty hilarious seeing the nuances of the mind interpret every little detail of a conversation.
STEP BROTHERS DINNER SCENE
20. Step Brothers (2008)
For about a minute straight, all anyone talks about in Step Brothers is fancy sauce. And it’s hilarious. Dinner proves to be the perfect location to see just how arrested in development Brennan and Dale are as they refuse to accept the other in their new lives.
WEDDING CRASHERS DINNER SCENE
19. Wedding Crashers (2005)
This scene in Wedding Crashers is hilarious, just one of many likewise uproarious moments. From Grandma's inappropriate comments, to Todd's insecure outburst, the scene highlights one of the advantages of ensemble scenes. In this game of cat and mouse for Claire’s affection, John is about to win an advantage.
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS DINNER SCENE
18. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Dinner proves to be an excellent location to introduce Edward Scissorhands to the rest of the Boggs family. There are many production design tips to glean from this scene. Edward’s gothic appearance is contrasted by the relative mundanity of the suburban household. Even without the scissors, Edward sticks out. He doesn’t belong there.
CREED 2 DINNER SCENE
17. Creed 2 (2018)
Ivan Drago is pretty much a Russian robot in Rocky IV. Creed 2 wisely makes the decision to not make the same mistake. In this scene, Ivan’s son Victor meets his mother. He’s angry because she abandoned her family after Ivan’s loss in the ring. It makes Victor human, which makes him one one of the most compelling antagonists.
TITANIC DINNER SCENE
16. Titanic (1997)
Jack’s out of place in this fancy dining room scene. There are several ways in which this is expressed but none moreso than the lighting techniques utilized. The room is bright. You can see every detail. This contrasts significantly with the lower decks, where the lighting is dingier, more muted. But the people there don’t mind. They’re having the time of their life in the dark.
MEET THE PARENTS DINNER SCENE
15. Meet the Parents (2000)
Greg, who’s Jewish, must say grace at his girlfriend’s Christian family’s dinner table. The scene highlights the disparity between Greg and the family he hopes to be part of. The mix Jewish and Christian ideologies becomes a hilarious thematic motif throughout the film, but this is probably the funniest example.
MRS. DOUBTFIRE DINNER SCENE
14. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
This scene from Mrs. Doubtfire is probably the best example of the classic sitcom gag where a character goes back and forth between two people at the same location. The difference between this and so many sitcoms is that there are real consequences to the scene with Daniel’s true identity becoming revealed.
BOYHOOD DINNER SCENE
13. Boyhood (2014)
As most people can attest, many family dinners aren’t filled with funny one-liners. They’re kind of quiet for the most part. That’s how this scene in Boyhood plays out. No one really says anything for most of the time, but it all leads into an explosive climax. The scene itself has the same 3-act structure as a full movie with a set-up, climax, and resolution.
THE BUTLER DINNER SCENE
12. The Butler (2013)
The Butler dinner scene crescendos into one profound truth. While Cecil doesn’t seem like much, he helped pave the way for the younger generation of Black people who followed him. The division between two generations comes to a head in this scene, and Forest Whitaker proves he should have been nominated for an Oscar with this scene alone.
SICARIO DINNER SCENE
11. Sicario (2015)
"Every night you have families killed, but yet here you dine. But tonight shouldn't be any different.” The most memorable scene in Sicario starts normally enough for the family… until Alejandro appears. The scene crystallizes the violence the drug trade brings to the world into one last act. And innocent lives end up paying for it.
IT CHAPTER TWO DINNER SCENE
10. It Chapter Two (2019)
Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows something the characters don’t. In this scene in It Chapter Two, the audience knows Stan committed suicide. But his friends are none the wiser. That is until Pennywise torments them in attempting to learn that fact. It’s an excellent tool that revs up the suspense of the scene and makes the revelation heartbreaking.
BORAT DINNER PARTY SCENE
9. Borat (2006)
Unintentionally, the host of this dinner sets up the bit even more wonderfully. She discusses how vast the cultural differences are between her other guests and Borat, and they become even more vast when he comes back into the room holding a bag of his poop.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST DINNER SCENE
8. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
“Be Our Guest” is a classic Disney song. The song as well as the dinner that follows show how hard the Beast has to try to win Belle’s affection. It’s a great example of how to do develop characters because with every step forward Beast takes, he goes two steps backward in the next scene when he yells at Belle for entering the forbidden room.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE DINNER SCENE
7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Tobe Hooper's seminal low-budget nightmare took the horror genre in an exhilariting direction. The dinner scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed over 36 consecutive hours. By then, the heat became unbearable, and the food rotted. No doubt this helped sell the terror in Sally as she’s held captive by cannibalistic murderers.
TALLADEGA NIGHTS DINNER SCENE
Out of all the funny dinner scenes in movies, the one in Talladega Nights takes the cake. But the sequence is more than just funny. It’s also scathing political satire directed toward the values of conservative America. It takes Ricky Bobby several minutes to get through the prayer, praising baby Jesus the entire time, only for him to be perfectly fine later when his kids disrespect their grandfather. The fact that themes of hypocrisy in middle America come shining through in such a funny way make this one of the best dinner scenes in film.
OLDBOY DINNER SCENE
5. Oldboy (2003)
Perhaps the most famous scene in Oldboy is where he eats a live octopus. The scene wonderfully captures Oh Dae-su’s mindset. He’s eaten the same thing every day in prison and just wants something different. The film crew even took the scene to the next level by having the actor consume a real live octopus.
AMERICAN HISTORY X DINNER SCENE
4. American History X (1998)
The conversations that take place over dinner tables in American History X markedly echo those that likely occurred in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd and in the aftermath of Black Lives Matter protests. The above scene, in tandem with a flashback scene we see at dinner where Derek’s father instilled anti-Black sentiments into him, shows how the cycle of white supremacy continues. The scenes show how something as innocuous as dinner conversation can have a profound impact on family dynamics.
LARS AND THE REAL GIRL DINNER SCENE
3. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
The acting sells this scene in Lars and the Real Girl. Lars introduces his silicone girlfriend to his brother and his wife, and their reactions are priceless. While Karin tries to be nice, Gus is clearly over the situation. The scene is a masterclass on writing subtext as they try to make normal conversation with the blank stare of a sex doll looking right at you.
BEETLEJUICE DINNER SCENE
2. Beetlejuice (1988)
Beetlejuice’s production designer must have had a field day with this scene. The gothic, dark clothing and architecture are contrasted wonderfully with the silly rendition of “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).” The juxtaposition instantly made the dinner scene one that’s still fondly remembered all these decades later.
GOODFELLAS DINNER SCENE
1. Goodfellas (1990)
When Tommy DeVito and his friends arrive at his mother’s house, she does what any good Italian mother does: cooks them dinner. She remains blissfully unaware of the violence that preceded the scene.
Not only do we get a moment of levity in a violent film, it also humanizes these men. They aren’t just vicious gangsters. They’re human beings with moms who don’t know what they're up to. There’s so much going on in a single scene, it stands out in what’s already one of the best gangster films of all time.
Best Movie Sex Scenes
Dinner scenes provide intimate glimpses into characters’ lives. But there’s a different kind of scene that also reveals a lot about a character: the sex scene. How does someone behave when they’re completely vulnerable? And how do you make a sex scene stand out so that it’s not just there for titillation? Take a look at how the best sex scenes stand out yet remain distinct from one another.