Top 10 Movie Dinner Scenes, Ranked

Pam Byrnes (played by Teri Polo) watches her fiancé, Greg Focker (played by Ben Stiller), mimic the act of milking a cat at the dinner table in her parents' house in Meet the Parents (2000)

It’s that special time of the year again when families come together, gather around the dinner table, and eat way more food than you previously thought humanly possible. There’s no question that when the whole family gets together, there’s going to be some . . . interesting interactions. And this concept is not lost in movies. If anything, they are amplified greatly. Sometimes there are laughs, sometimes there’s blood, and you can almost guarantee that there’s going to be some shouting matches with the people you care about the most.

In honor of the Thanksgiving season, we have gone back and ranked the top 10 most memorable movie moments that fall around the dinner table! 


10. STEP BROTHERS (2008)

Step Brothers-dinner table
(left to right) Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell), Dr. Robert Doback (Richard Jenkins), and Dale Doback (John C. Reilly) in Step Brothers (2008)

In a classic comedy from the early 00’s, we learned a very important lesson: never invite Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly to dinner. With a series of hilariously awkward dinner scenes, we found that some of the movie’s funniest moments were shot around the table. From singing competitions to hurling childish insults, we were served up a big bowl of Fancy Sauce during this pivotal Christmas dinner scene.


9. PULP FICTION (1994)

Pulp Fiction-Travolta and Thurman
Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) in Pulp Fiction (1994)

What does a five-dollar milkshake look like? We certainly find out in the Tarantino classic, Pulp Fiction. When Vincent Vega, the reluctant bodyguard/babysitter to the wife of a crime lord, takes Mia Wallace to the 50’s novelty restaurant Jack Rabbit Slims, we get served up some iconic Tarantino dialogue. The characters talk about everything and nothing at the same time, drawing the audience into the shared beauty and rigidity of their conversations.

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8. ALIEN (1979) 

Alien-chestburster scene
(left to right) Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Parker (Yaphet Kotto), Kane (John Hurt), Dallas (Tom Skerritt), and Ash (Ian Holm) in Alien (1979)

Though this may not be the most traditional dinner table, we are chalking this one up on the board. We won’t give too much detail in case some of you are eating, but does the word “chestburster” mean anything to you? In this iconic sci-fi/horror from Ridley Scott, we find out one of the worst ways to die—while eating, no less.

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John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) in Wedding Crashers (2005)

When John and Jeremy find themselves at the dinner table with the family of the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, the family dysfunction goes into full effect. With a dinner consisting of some drug-laced drinks, an overtly homophobic grandmother, and some under-the-table hanky panky, we find perhaps the most awkward dinner table encounter in movie history. 



Close Encounters of the Third Kind-Richard Dreyfuss
Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

When blue-collar worker Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss) has a close encounter with a UFO, he is left with an unearthly obsession with aliens and a mysterious mountain-shaped vision he keeps experiencing. His fixation disrupts his family life, which is brilliantly illustrated in this emotionally-charged dinner scene that involves a mashed potato sculpture of Wyoming’s Devils Tower.



Bettlejuice-dining table
(left to right) Beryl (Adelle Lutz), Otho (Glenn Shadix), and Delia (Catherine O'Hara) in Beetlejuice (1988)

When it comes to dinner parties, you can expect good food, bad jokes, and maybe some games, but being possessed and forced to sing a Jamaican folk song might be out of the ordinary to some guests. But when you invite Beetlejuice to your party, you can expect some things to take a sharp turn. In this very Tim Burton-esque scene, we find one of the most delightfully haunting and hilariously unexpected dinner table movie scenes.



National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation-dinner table
(left to right) Clark, Sr. (John Randolph), Nora (Diane Ladd), Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), Art (E.G. Marshall), and Francis (Doris Roberts) in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

It’s almost guaranteed that things will go from bad to worse in any situation for the Griswolds, and this was just the case for the classic, Christmas dinner scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Not only does Aunt Bethany (Mae Questel) lead the family in a senile-driven Pledge of Allegiance, but when it’s time to cut the turkey, Clark’s proud family speech is overshadowed by the billows of smoke that pour out of their Christmas dinner. 

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Lady and the Tramp-spaghetti scene
Tramp (voiced by Larry Roberts) and Darling (voiced by Peggy Lee) in Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Maybe a better love story than Casablanca, Jerry McGuire, and Twilight put together, Lady and the Tramp melted our hearts in this classic Disney musical. Walt Disney had actually planned to scrap this iconic scene altogether because he thought it wouldn’t be all that romantic, and boy are we glad he didn’t. Reused in countless movie scenes (and admittedly in our personal lives), this spaghetti-soaked kiss may be one of the greatest dinner moments in history. 



American Beauty-Kevin Spacey
Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) in American Beauty (1999)

Asparagus has never seemed so threatening—not until this iconic scene from American Beauty. What should’ve been just another, typical family dinner in suburbia turns into a violently sarcastic shouting match between husband and wife (with daughter tragically caught in the middle) after Lester (played by Kevin Spacey) quits his job. With the famously improvised scene from Spacey, the seemingly quiet, ordinary family dinner is violently interrupted by domestic outbursts—and a flying plate of asparagus. 



Meet the Parents-Ben Stiller
Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) in Meet the Parents (2000)

Finally, at the top of our list comes quite possibly the most uncomfortable dinner table scene in movie history. Just based on the cringe factor alone, this sequence of events has earned its place at the top of the list. Greg’s (played by Ben Stiller) desperation to impress his soon-to-be wife’s parents raises the bar of awkwardness at the dinner table to a whole new level, bringing him to do everything (and we mean everything) wrong. In the span of a 10 minutes, Greg attempts to pass off the lyrics of a Godspell song as a thoughtful prayer, makes casual conversation about milking cats, and destroys the remains of a beloved family member. So we have Meet the Parents to thank for easily the most memorable dinner table scene in movie history.


Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!