Cafes and films go together like coffee and cake. Maybe it’s because most writer do their best work in cafes or maybe it’s just an easy place to shoot? While comedies and rom-coms tend to use the quirky cafe setting most often, I’ve also include some action movies and crime dramas in here. And, of course, I’m sure I’ve missed out your favourite. If so, just let me know via Twitter on @cafe_review.
10. Children of Men – Opening shot
Not a café scene in the traditional sense but one with more impact than a double espresso. It starts of like any other café – a big queue of people and the news on the in the background. As Clive Owen makes his way through the throng to get his coffee, we are told – in a classic Cuaron single take – about the death of the youngest person alive. Now the story has been set up, we head outside the café into a London that is different from the one we know – huge moving billboards adorn buildings and tuk-tuks weave in and out of traffic. Then, as Owen stops to make his coffee Irish – boom! The café is no more and in a single shot, Cuaron has established the tone, world and story of the film.
Best Line – “He struggled all his life with the celebrity status thrust upon him as the world’s youngest person.”
Alternative – Inception’s world bending Parisian café.
9. Four Weddings and a Funeral – Carrie’s List
Over coffee and cake, the audience manages to get past the bad acting of Andie MacDowell because of the excellent script. Reversing the traditional rom com roles of goody two shoes girl and Alpha Male lead, we hear her sexual history as Hugh Grant shows how every British man would react to lines like ‘Spencer changed my mind, that’s 28 – his father 29.’ But it still manages to end on a sweet note and make you like Andie McDowell’s character.
Best Line – “I don’t know what the fuck I’ve been doing with my time. Work probably.”
Alternative – More MacDowell but with added Murray in Groundhog Day, when Murray finally reveals what we’ve always suspected – he is a God.
8. The Big Lebowski – The Toe
Things start to get very real for the Dude over coffee with Walter. A toe with green nail varnish has turned up and The Dude is freaking out. Of course, Walter has got it all sorted – in fact, he could get you a toe by three o’clock, he’s that sure it’s fake. It’s the point where the Dude realises that him and Walter are seeing this situation from a very different point of view. And like all coffee lovers, Walter stays to finish his coffee.
Best Line – “I got buddies that died face down in the mud so you and I can enjoy this family restaurant.”
Alternative – Mountain Girl turns up to the waffle house in one of the Coen’s rare misfires, The Ladykillers.
7. Coffee and Cigarettes – Delirium
The ultimate café movie – a series of vignettes set over coffee featuring an all-star cast. It’s hard to say which is the best, but for shear craziness it’s that man Bill Murray again. Titled Delirium, this section sees Bill Murray working as a caffeine-addicted waiter, as Bill Murray, serving the member of the Wu-Tang Clan. It runs at just over seven minutes but manages to get so much into that short time it’s a film within itself.
Best Line – “Yeah I’m Bill Murray, but let’s keep that just between us.”
Alternative – Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, coffee, cigarettes – enough said.
6. Swingers – All Growed Up
After finally moving past his recent(ish) break up, Jon Favreau’s Mike is ‘all growed up’. Swingers is essentially a rom-com aimed at men and here we finally see the lead get his life in order. After showing his moves on the dance floor, Mike along with his best friend, Vince Vaughn’s awesomely obnoxious Trent and a Boy named Sue stop for coffee, waffles and more. Despite their honourable attempts to sober up, it’s clear Trent is far from sober as he declares that ‘baby is all growed up’ while standing on the table.
Best line – “You want me to ask her? Fine. Where do the high school girls hang out around here?”
Alternative – Gen X’s finest moment and the perfect antidote to the guys in Swinger is Reality Bites’ ‘Do you ever wish you were a lesbian?’ conversation.
5. Pulp Fiction – Digging on swine
It was a toss-up between the opening scene, Jimmy’s gourmet coffee and this – a simple scene between Sam Jackson’s Jules and John Travolta’s Vincent is actually a pivotal point in the film’s winding plot. It’s where Jules decides to follow a more righteous path after he felt ‘the touch of god’. It also connects the opening scene to the rest of the movie, so scores double of the café front.
Best Line – “I ain’t eating nothing that don’t have sense enough to disregarded its own faeces.”
Alternative – Like a Virgin is pulled apart by the Reservoir Dogs.
4. Amelie – Hearts will melt
With a lot of the film set in and around Amelie’s place of work, it’s hard to pinpoint a key scene. But the scene in which she stands over Matthieu Kassovitz’ Nino watching him drink his espresso is hard to beat. The way she analyses his every move and then panics when she’s almost discovered is priceless. But the cherry on top is her literally melting at the end of the scene – a beautiful, crazy, whimsical touch from the brilliant Jean Pierre Jeunet. And it had some awesome backwards writing from Tautou.
Best Line – “He’s going to put his teaspoon down, dip his finger in the sugar, turn around slowly and speak to me.”
Alternative – Champagne instead of coffee as Audrey Tautou goes shopping in Priceless, where she plays sexy instead of cute on the Cote D’Azure.
3. Heat – Face to face
The meeting of the world’s greatest living actors – in a diner for just under two minutes. Since Godfather Part II, the world had been waiting for De Niro and Pacino to face off, and this scene doesn’t disappoint. Perfectly underplayed, with just a couple of lines each, by two actors who were getting a reputation for hamming it up – the matey atmosphere is undercut by the cops and robbers tension. It’s almost self-referential in its dialogue, with De Niro laying it out that now ‘we’ve been face to face’.
Best Line – “Or maybe we’ll never see each other again.”
Alternative – Go east and replace tea for coffee and you’ve got one of the great shoot outs at the beginning of John Woo’s Hard Boiled.
2. When Harry Met Sally – I’ll have what she’s having
Maybe it should have been number one, but that would be a bit obvious. Is this the moment when Harry actually falls in love with Sally? When he sees past the fussy, everything in its place façade? So far they’ve mainly annoyed the hell out of each other – but when Sally lets it all out, it’s not just Harry who sees her in a different light, it’s the whole audience. Meg Ryan manages to pull off cute and hot in one scene.
Best Line – “All men are sure it hasn’t happened to them and most women at one time or another have done it – you do the math.”
Alternative – Meg Ryan undercutting the whole story of You’ve Got Mail by going to Starbucks instead of her local café.
1. Before Sunrise
I think it was during this movie, as Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walked around Vienna, that I think my love with café culture started. Yes, it’s super idealised in its view of late night European cities, but also close enough to reality that you could imagine you having a similar evening, if only you’d make that leap. The scene sees them play out fake conversations where they tell their ‘friends’ about each other. So sweet and romantic – like two kids playing pretend.
Best Line – “I think that’s when I fell for him – just the idea of this little boy with all these beautiful dreams.”
Alternative – Meeting Annie for lunch at the end of Annie Hall because ‘we need the eggs.’