There have been movie food fights since the silent days of the art. The pie in the face never ceases to draw guffaws from the audience, and directors have shamelessly used them to get a cheap laugh.
But some food fights have set themselves above common, run-of-the-mill slapstick to reach artistic heights. There is comedy, of course, but good food fights usually feature the good guys versus the bad guys, and when a villain gets literally creamed, there is an emotional satisfaction that you wouldn’t get if the bad guy was simply killed in a gunfight.
What makes a good food fight? Timing, timing, timing. The choreography of a food fight is important, but what sets some fights above others is the talent of the film editor. There is a pace and rhythm to a good food fight, and precise, strategic cuts heighten the absurdity and add to the comedic effect.
This is a completely subjective list, of course, and I’m sure you all have your favorites. My choices are probably more sentimental than artistic, but recalling the first time I saw them always brings a smile to my face.
5. Animal House
Some might rank this one higher, but artistically, it’s more of a free for all than something choreographed for the camera.
Still, always a pleasure to watch Bluto imitate a zit and see Neidermeyer get his comeuppance.
4. Nanny McPhee
Nice editing by Justin Krish and Nick Moore. As the frenzy builds, the cuts get quicker. Note also one other element of a good food fight: colorful food. Pastels are preferred because there’s nothing funnier than bright green cream on someone’s face.
Sue and I watched this late one night on IFC I think. This is a wildly original food fight in that pasta is liberally used and it was kind of accidental. The editing is creative as is the choreography.
Spielberg is good at everything else in film making, so why not a food fight? Perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the Peter Pan children’s book, the Lost Boys are teaching Peter how to be a boy again. What better way to awaken the juvenile in all of us than to start a food fight?
1. The Great Race
No spoilers if you haven’t seen this gem of a film, but suffice it to say it’s hard to top this food riot. Hundreds of pies are tossed by 2 dozen people. The editing by Ralph Winters is brilliant. It’s also one of the longest food fights in cinema history.
As a paean to the cinema food fight, no list would be complete without James Cagney, Mae Clarke, and the grapefruit.