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What better way to start a list of great diner moments than with a film called Diner? Obviously, much of the film’s plot unfurls at the diner, but there is a great little moment when a few of the very young up and coming stars meet and talk girls and sandwiches, with Modell (Paul Reiser) beating around the bush about wanting to eat Edward “Eddie” Simmons’ (Steve Guttenberg) roast beef sandwich, a thing they do every single time. Just say the words! Classic.
The Muppet gang, having graduated from university, are told to take their song and dance show, Manhattan Melodies, to Broadway, so they pack up and head to the Big Apple where they spend just about a third of the time at Pete’s diner. There, his daughter Jenny (Juliana Donald) and the staff of rats all help the crew make their dreams come true. In this moment, poor Kermit has lost his memory after a car accident and disappears, but then one day, stumbles into the diner. While his friends don’t see him at first, they soon recognize him as Kermit as he unknowingly begins playing the opening number of their show with spoons. A happy reunion follows. Admit it. You cried.
Mike Peters (Jon Favreau) is a struggling comedian who has the worst luck with women. His best friend is Trent Walker (Vince Vaughn) an aspiring actor and successful, smooth-talking ladies man. Trent has made it his mission to break the losing streak poor Mike is in and get him to realize he has a lot to offer a good girl. Saying another word would spoil it, but in this moment, the two meet for coffee and Mike shares a bit of growth in confidence while Trent learns a hard lesson about having too much. That baby vibe’s all wrong, Trent.
The role that made Jack Nicholson a star, this moment has made ordering toast never so hard, or fun. One of the funniest (and a little frightening) diner scenes in cinema, this is classic Nicholson from start to finish. Has anyone who has seen this movie and been in a diner NOT wanted to tell the waitress to hold a chicken between her knees? Don’t lie.
In 1985, when young Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels back in time with a specially-designed DeLorean his mad scientist friend Dr. Emmet Brown (Christopher Lloyd) invented, he ends up in 1955 at a diner where he meets his own father, who there, is the same age as he. In this crucial moment, he sees that his father is a nebbish pushover, bullied by local thug, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) and has no chance for winning the heart of his future mother (Lea Thompson). It’s the turning point for Marty and convinces him to set things straight. Hey, that’s Billy Zane (with hair) in Biff’s gang!
This wildly stylish action adventure sees two lovers destined to be together get mixed up in all the wrong things. And while there are a ton of great moments, who could forget Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) and Alabama Whitman’s (Patricia Arquette) first date in a diner? It’s here where these two young lovers get acquitted and begin their epic journey of romance, love and lots and lots and lots and lots of gunfire.
Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) are two lovable dimwits traveling cross country to give a briefcase (which contains ransom money they don’t know about) to a girl Lloyd just met and fallen madly in love with. On the way, they stop at a diner and make a little trouble with the trucker named Sea Bass (Cam Neely) when Harry tosses salt over his shoulder for good luck. The whole salt shaker. One could say Bass was a-salt-ed. But one probably shouldn’t.
In the future, time travel is invented but immediately outlawed, so of course, the bad guys use it kill people they want out of the way. These assassins are called Loopers. One such Looper named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a big surprise when an older version of himself (Bruce Willis) shows up for execution but who naturally knows what he’s in for. Things get complicated and in one of the best scenes in the film, they meet in a diner where a pivotal plan is discussed before a gunfight starts. Nothing like dinner for two, with yourself.
Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), on the case of a deadly heist, plays cat and mouse with the gang’s leader, Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). Both know the other is close, but Hanna hasn’t enough to make an arrest, so he follows Neil one night and pulls him over, inviting him for a coffee and chat, knowing he’s planning a big score. The two meet and discuss their options in a classic moment from this tense thriller. It also marks the first on-screen pairing of these two iconic actors. Check, please.
Hey look. It’s Robert De Niro again. This time he’s James “Jimmy the Gent” Conway and he’s got a problem with associate and former pal Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) who’s got himself mixed up in cocaine and a tail from the FBI. Jimmy invites Henry to a diner, a nice public place, and even though the conversation is polite and all business-like, Henry realizes right then and there that Henry plans to have him swimming with the fishes. These are not good fellas.
The hunt for a mysterious killer in California is compounded by taunting, encrypted letters sent to the San Francisco Chronicle. Political cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes an interest and while there are a few great diner moments, it’s here where he reviews the case with lead detective SFPD Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) that is the most chilling. I guess you could say Robert knows the “signs”. That’s a Zodiac joke.
Okay so there’s a lot of diner scenes in this film, but it’s the very first one with Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) and Pumpkin (Tim Roth) sharing some affection and a plan to rob the place at gunpoint that gets the pick. It’s poignant, it’s funny, it’s thrilling, and it kinda sets the tone for the rest of the film. Plus, robbing the place after eating? Brilliant.
Harry (Billy Crystal) and his friend Sally (Meg Ryan) are a match that don’t quite know it yet, so they spend a lot of time together sharing stories about what the opposite gender thinks. In this now classic moment, Sally tells Harry that women fake orgasms and men don’t know the difference, to which he claims . . . not with him, he’d know. So she demonstrates, much to the bewilderment and joy of the surrounding customers, including one woman who immediately following, has the best line in the movie. Say it with me: “I’ll have what she’s having.”
To start the film, the gang of thieves and criminals meet at a diner and discuss Madonna songs and why Mr. Pink doesn’t tip. The offbeat, irreverent conversation introduces the audience to the seedy characters and established the style of filmmaking that would come to define Quentin Tarantino (who has three films on this list, suggesting he likes diners almost as much as feet). A bold, hilarious way to begin a film and a career. Pay the tip.
TV meteorologist Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is not happy about traveling to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual Groundhog Day festival, but once a snow storm strands he and his lovely producer there, things get crazy when he gets stuck in a time loop that has him repeating the same day over and over and over. Though no one else knows it, he confesses to Rita (Andie MacDowell) that he can do anything he wants, consequence free, displaying a classic bout of apathy (and gluttony) in eating a tremendous amount of food since none of it will ever effect him. So sure, maybe a few diner scenes may have more impact on a story or be more crucial to the plot, but this one diner moment is the best, defining the character of Conners and giving the great Bill Murray a perfect playground in which to make us laugh and care at the same time.
Which diner movie moments are your favorites?