By Dan Delgado
By no means will this be a definitive list, but rather a good starting point for a conversation. I think diners are great. Great for breakfast in the morning. Great for coffee and pie late at night. I also think diners are great locations for movie scenes. You learn more about characters as deep conversations go on while coffee is consumed. Well sometimes that happens. Sometimes punks get blown away. Sometimes very unimportant things are discussed. Really, anything can happen in a diner.
There’s plenty of scenes that aren’t listed here. I would have added in the ‘chorizo and eggs’ scene from Midnight Run for sure. There were plenty of others that I thought of from movies like True Romance, Training Day, and Silver Linings Playbook.
Check out this list and let me know what I missed.
Five Easy Pieces
Jack Nicholson broke out as a leading man in 1970’s Five Easy Pieces. The one scene people talk about from that movie to this day is him trying to order a sandwich in a diner. For a while I would say “I want you to hold it between your knees!” after I saw this. Mainly, because I am an idiot.
I have often thought that if I ran into a younger version of myself I would just be disgusted. Here Bruce Willis does just that and he IS disgusted the younger version of himself, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I was right all along!
Pulp Fiction has a lot of diner action going on. It starts in a diner, it ends in a diner, John Travolta and Uma Thurman eat at a sort of diner. Here I decided to pick the opening scene with Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer talking about robbing a diner.
I don’t think I could in good conscience make a list about movie scenes in diners and not include one from the movie Diner. This scene is most like my own experiences in diners, talking over important pop culture issues.
Robert De Niro slides the matches and Ray Liotta knows he’s doomed. A quick but pivotal scene in one the best movies ever made.
The Hudsucker Proxy
The Coen Brother make this list only once (though The Waffle Hut scene in The Ladykillers is great). I love how this scene of how Jennifer Jason Leigh’s fast talking reporter schemes her way into meeting doofus businessman Tim Robbins is narrated by two characters we really don’t know and never see again. I heart you Hudsucker Proxy!
I don’t know how it plays these days but when I first saw Heat and Al Pacino and Robert De Niro come face to face for the first time it really felt epic. As in, here is something you’ve been waiting for. Pacino’s good guy cop and De Niro’s bad guy crook drink coffee and give each other attitude in a scene that director Michael Mann lifted almost word for word from his TV movie LA Takedown.
Boogie Night’s has a scene of violence and shooting in a doughnut shop, however it doesn’t include a catchphrase so therefore Clint Eastwood gets to make our day while blowing away punks here.
Steve Buscemi’s explanation as to why he doesn’t tip is almost legendary at this point, so how do you not include it?
We finish up with some pathos courtesy of James Caan in Thief. Here he bares his soul in a busted out attempt to woo Tuesday Weld. It may be the best scene he’s ever done.