I do not remember a time before movies and food were inextricably linked in my mind.
As a kid, I ate cereal inspired by E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. When I got a little older, I fixated on collecting cups from fast food restaurants emblazoned with the characters from blockbusters. (I still contend there has never been a more impressive feat of glasswork in the history of Western civilization than McDonald’s Batman Forever cups etched with the likeness of Jim Carrey’s Riddler and a mug handle shaped like his question-mark-tipped cane.)
These days, my job somehow involves visiting multinational pancake houses whenever they invent elaborate menus themed to films about the origins of precocious and possibly homicidal chocolatiers. Covering (and filling my poor stomach with) movie-inspired foods has become an inordinately large portion of my beat here at ScreenCrush — to the point where the number one question I tend to get from readers (after, y’know, “Why would you do this to yourself?!?”) is “Where did all of this movie food come from in the first place?”
For a long time, I honestly didn’t know. I went to school for film studies, not advertising (much less culinary arts). Eventually, I decided to do the one thing I enjoy more than drinking iced tea adjacent beverages inspired by Spider-Man spinoff films: Research.
What I uncovered can be found below. Keep in mind: There hasn’t been that much written about this topic in the past. (I can’t imagine why!). So this is not intended as the definitive account of this topic. It’s more of a primer on the key moments in the bizarre and slightly incestuous relationship between Big Food and Big Movies. I hope future tie-in scholars look to it as the jumping-off point for their own deeper investigations.
Reading this might just make you nostalgic. I doubt it will make you hungry — but hey, if you grew up like me, you never know.
A Brief History of Movie Tie-In Food
How movies fell in love with chain restaurants (and vice versa)…
READ MORE: I Ate Everything on IHOP’s Addams Family Menu
Movie Theater Horror Stories Involving Smelly Food
You’re not supposed to sneak food into the movie theater, but sometimes satisfying your hunger is more important than following the rules. Here are some real-life theater food horror stories from social media. (The names have been removed to protect the guilty.)