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The Top 20 Awkward Dinner Table Moments in the Movies

Updated on June 24, 2015
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Nerd, cinephile, TV-junky, research-loving, left-leaning, science-fiending, atheist from the gutter. Follow me on Twitter @TheGutterMonkey.

Over the lips, past the gums, look out stomach...

From having a roof over our heads, to a turkey on our tables, an ipod in our pockets and a new season of Game of Thrones on our TV sets, there's most certainly a lot for each of us to be thankful for during this upcoming Thanksgiving Day. Yet there's still that one dreaded ritual which the pilgrims never warned us the true horrors of: the annual family dinners. Shudder.

This tradition, friends and neighbors, is the reason that eggnog is made with a pinch of something a little warmer than love. But it may be wise to remember that no matter how bad you think you got it, somebody always has it worse. And with the list compiled below, we have some of the worst, most awkward, uncomfortable and downright frightening dinner table moments ever to be put on film to help you better put your own life in perspective and to remind you that as bad as things may seem, at least you're not these guys. That's one grace we can all be thankful for.

20.) Hannibal (2001)

Food for thought...
Food for thought...

Sure, the movie may have been nothing more than an atrocious butchering of a Thomas Harris novel, done in a feeble attempt to cash in on the success of the Academy Award winning 1991 film, Silence of the Lambs, but it did have its redeeming moments. The most memorable of which is this shocking scene where the titular character, Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins), invites FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) to have a Justice Department official (Ray Liotta) for dinner. Suffice it to say, a lot chianti will be needed to wash this dish down.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube (it's not in English, sorry).

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19.) Home for the Holidays (1995)

Well, that was absurd, let's eat dead bird!
Well, that was absurd, let's eat dead bird!

When the family sits down for Thanksgiving dinner and begins talking about politics, dads past love affairs, your brothers secret homosexual wedding on the beach, and your teenage daughters sexual promiscuity, you know no good is going to come. In this scene from Jodie Foster's Home for the Holidays a little spilt turkey on sis's dress is the least of the worries.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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18.) Goodfellas (1990)

You think I'm hungry? Do I look hungry to you?
You think I'm hungry? Do I look hungry to you?

Ever since Henry could remember, he always wanted to be a gangster. And who could blame him? You get to go out and travel; you get to meet a lot of fun, new and interesting people - and the food? Fuggettaboutit.

In this one movie alone there are a grand total of three instances of delish family dinners; the most memorable of which is from this scene, when gangsters Henry, Jimmy, and Tommy make a quick stop to Tommy's mothers house after brutally killing a man and throwing his body into the trunk of their car. This scene happens to be almost entirely improvised and the woman who plays Tommy's mother is played by director Martin Scorsese's actual mom (who incidentally did all the cooking for the scene).

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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17.) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Source

For anyone who's ever dreaded family dinners with uncouth and embarrassing relatives, this scene from the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre should remain to be the most crystal clear reminder that no matter how bad your family seems, things could always be worse - a lot worse. I mean, hey, at least you don't have to strap your friends down in order to get them to stay... right?

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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16.) Raging Bull (1980)

I GOT NO CHOOOICE!
I GOT NO CHOOOICE!

Robert De Niro gained approximately 60 pounds for his role in Raging Bull; that alone should tell you that a lot of chowing down occurred during the filming of this 1980 masterpiece by director Martin Scorsese. One scene that didn't require much pigging out on the part of Mr. De Niro was this dinner scene gone wrong, where we learn that the self-destructive, ill-tempered boxer, Jake La Motta, does not like his steak well-done.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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15.) American Beauty (1999)

All work and no play makes Lester a dull boy
All work and no play makes Lester a dull boy

Jaded with his measly little mundane suburban life, poor Lester Bernham (Kevin Spacey), who's been kicked around by his family and bosses for years, has decided to make some, uh, lets say, renovations to his life. After quitting his job, telling his boss to perform coitus on himself and blackmailing him for almost 60,000 dollars, Lester comes home for a nice family dinner with his wife and daughter, where the news of his days exploits go a somewhat less than applauded.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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14.) Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom (1984)

Are you not eating?
Are you not eating?

I always said Indian food was gross, but this? This was just ridiculous. I honestly couldn't tell you what Spielberg and Lucas were thinking when they added this nauseating little tidbit into their second installment of the The Adventures of Indiana Jones movies, but it sure wasn't anything having to do with a concern for our appetites. With helpings of bugs, eyeballs, snakes and chilled monkey brains, this was one dinner that could turn the stomachs of even the most adventurous of travelers.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube (sorry, no English version).

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13.) Scent of a Woman (1992)

Whoo-ah. Hah!
Whoo-ah. Hah!

When blind, old, disagreeable Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino) makes an unexpected Thanksgiving visit to his brother's house, it turns out to be a somewhat less than a pleasant surprise for the family. After Slade continuously goads his Nephew, Randy, Randy retaliates by giving a brief history explaining how Slade originally lost his eyesight. What follows is an emotionally fueled outburst which encompasses both the badassness of a ranger chokehold and a poignant moment which won Pacino the Best Actor Academy Award in 1993.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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12.) Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

This MEANS something
This MEANS something

After Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) has a close encounter with a UFO on a dark country road in Indiana, he finds himself plagued by subliminal, mental images of a strange mountain-like shape which he can't quite figure out the meaning of. Not being able to place what these images are, where they're from or why they're so familiar to him, Roy begins to draw and construct this mountain-like image everywhere. While having dinner one night with his family, we see the most memorable instance of this when Roy begins to go a little heavy on the mashed potatoes.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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11.) Citizen Kane (1941)

Technically a breakfast table, but exceptions can be made...
Technically a breakfast table, but exceptions can be made...

Inarguably one of the greatest films in the history of cinema, Orson Wells' Citizen Kane is overflowing with iconic scenes and imagery that continue to influence and inspire filmmakers to this day. One of the most famous of these scenes is the one in which we slowly watch as Kane and his first wife's marriage disintegrates over a montage of loving, to argumentative, to cold and lifeless meals that span through the course of years.

With Wells' use of dialogue, facial expressions, wardrobe, and an ever-expanding breakfast table, this is a scene which both critics and fans alike will continue to analyze and revere for years to come.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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10.) Beetlejuice (1988)

Hide dee deadly black tarantula!
Hide dee deadly black tarantula!

This dinner from 1988's Beetlejuice hardly needs an introduction. If you've seen it then you know, love, and remember it. I mean, seriously, who could forget a scene where a discombobulated group of dinner guests are suddenly possessed into doing a Jamaican dance number by ghosts? No one, that's who. The baffled looks on their faces alone is enough to delight; not to mentioned forever scare you away from the potential horrors of seafood.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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9.) The Ice Storm (1997)

Wendy, why don't you say grace?
Wendy, why don't you say grace?

In this overlooked modern classic, we get an early 1970s Thanksgiving dinner scene featuring a young Christina Ricci who gives thanks for "all the material possessions that we have and enjoy. And for letting us white people kill all the Indians and steal their tribal lands, and stuff ourselves like pigs, even though children in Asia are being napalmed."

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

Incidentally, this is actually the second such speech we've seen Christian Ricci give on the less than admirable history of Thanksgiving. Click here for here for another interesting history lesson. Gobble, gobble!

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8.) The Gold Rush (1925)

It ain't easy bein' a tramp
It ain't easy bein' a tramp

I still haven't forgiven Georgia for what she did to the poor ol' Tramp in this Charlie Chaplin classic. After her and her mischievous group of girlfriends trick the Tramp into believing that they'd be joining him in his little cabin on New Years Eve, the Tramp goes all out in preparation for the upcoming festivities. Yet, as the clock nears midnight he finds he's still alone. His only glimpse of what could have been is this fleeting dream sequence he has after falling asleep at his table where he entertains his would-be guests with an improvised dance number. This particular scene remains not only one of those most memorable dinner scenes in history, but one of the most unforgettable moments in film.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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7.) Annie Hall (1977)

 It's like grammy Hall always said...
It's like grammy Hall always said...

Woody Allen has always had a knack for pointing out the follies and idiosyncrasies present within our everyday lives; which would be depressing, if it weren't so damn hilarious. And in Annie Hall when Alvy (Allen) is invited to have an Easter dinner with his girlfriends all-American, upper-class family, he makes some rather humorous comparisons to the Jewish dinners he grew up having with his own clan.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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6.) Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Don't stare!
Don't stare!

In this scene from Tim Burtons 1990 fairytale classic, Edward Scissorhands, we watch as the knife-wielding Johnny Depp does his very best to fit in with his new surrogate family as they sit down for a nice homemade meal. And we see that while scissor hands may be great for many things, from cutting hair to trimming bushes, they're most certainly not ideal for family dinners and snagging peas.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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5.) Eraserhead (1977)

 In heaven, everything is fine...
In heaven, everything is fine...

Dinner with the future in-laws is almost always a painstaking affair, but in David Lynch's surreal film Eraserhead it's quite literally a nightmare. It's impossible to explain this scene (or this film in general, for that matter) to anyone - including myself - so I think it best that you just watch the clip to see for yourself the awkwardness of this unusual situation; it's so thick you could cut it with a knife... which is more than can be said about the chicken.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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4.) Terms of Endearment (1983)

Does this mean you won't be knitting the baby any booties?
Does this mean you won't be knitting the baby any booties?

There's a whole mix of awkward, heartwarming, and downright depressing moments in this 1983 picture, but my personal favorite is during this dinner scene when Aurora (Shirley MacLaine) finds out that her daughter Emma (Debra Winger) is pregnant. And let's just say that she's less than pleased about the idea of being a grandmother.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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3.) The Birdcage (1996)

Oh, what interesting china...
Oh, what interesting china...

When homosexual couple Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane) are set to have dinner with their sons future wife and her ultraconservative parents, a not-so-well-made plan is devised to trick the soon-to-be in-laws into believing that Armand is straight and Albert (in drag) is his wife. And with that, the hilarity begins.

The Birdcage is probably one of the most underrated comedies to come around in a long, long time, and the most hilariously awkward scenes from it primarily revolve around the dinner table, when Armand and Albert struggle to hide all signs of their homosexuality from their dinner guests.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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2.) American History X (1998)

I had a point.
I had a point.

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: neo-Nazi's and Jews just don't mix. Yet, in American History X, the inevitable happens when the mother of neo-Nazi, Derek (Edward Norton), brings her new boyfriend home for dinner. Things begin well enough - albeit a little tense - when the meal commences, but once Rodney King and topics of race and anti-Semitism are brought up, all hell breaks loose.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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Holiday Products from Amazon

1.) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

... and justice for all
... and justice for all

Seeing that National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is probably the greatest holiday movie ever to be made about quirky and unusual families, it should come as no surprise that it tops the list in awkward moments - dinner table or no dinner table.

From fires to kidnappings, nothing ever seems to go right for poor, well-meaning Clark Giswold, when he tries to put together the perfect, old-fashioned Christmas for his family. And in this classic dinner table moment we get a nice crispy taste of just how harrowing holidays with the family can be.

Click here to watch the scene on Youtube.

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    • Kelsey Farrell profile image

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 2 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Yes! I'm so glad that Beetlejuice made it! I do think Hannibal should've made the top five..that one still creeps me out. Great read!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Your lens is very interesting, thanks for sharing

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 4 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      What an interesting lens topic! I love the list, especially seeing the scenes from The Ice Storm and American History X getting a mention.

    • profile image

      christineallen 4 years ago

      Yes, I agree with #1 on your list. That's a must-watch every Christmas, makes us fall about laughing every time

    • JaShinYa LM profile image

      JaShinYa LM 4 years ago

      I LOVE this list! Reminds me of the articles from Cracked!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I am afraid I missed a lot of these, so thank you for sharing. Some great descriptions of why these should be included. Great lens

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      What a fun lens to read and watch! Well done.

    • profile image

      ResortMembersAssociation 4 years ago

      These are some great dinner movies. I think spending time with your family is extremely important and this is another way to do so! Great lens!

      Resort Members Association

    • kburns421 lm profile image

      kburns421 lm 4 years ago

      The scene from "American Beauty" is always the first thing to pop into my head when I think of dinner movie scenes. So glad you included it! A great list.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      OMG! You have featured the very one at the top of my list! When Hannibal removes the top of Ray Liotta's head at the dinner table. Yikes!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Very interesting accumulation of dinner movies.

    • jballs6 profile image

      jballs6 5 years ago

      As a family we always try to have our meals together at the table, often filled with laughter, thankfully! I really should start watching more films!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      I wish I could have given this two angel blessings! You worked really hard to come up with this great lens- pinned to my Movies I love Board and social bookmarked to a few sites so that others can enjoy the suggestions.

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 5 years ago

      I'll think about this tonight if (when?) I get annoyed with the kids at dinner. My family doesn't even come close to any of these!

    • Timewarp profile image

      Paul 5 years ago from Montreal

      Excellent selection of movies...blessed!

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 5 years ago from Havre de Grace

      Great collection of movies! Love the Close Encounters scene!

    • gatornic15 profile image

      gatornic15 5 years ago

      Great lens! The Christmas Vacation dinner scene is classic. Another awkward one is in Meet the Parents when Greg breaks the urn with Jack's mom's ashes in it.

    • Lauriej1 profile image

      Lauriej1 5 years ago

      Great lens!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      I loved Home For The Holidays - full of awkward moments!

    • Mim Art profile image

      Mim Art 5 years ago

      Brilliant compilation! Have I used the word 'brilliant' enough with you yet?

    • smithlights profile image

      smithlights 5 years ago

      My sister and I love the dinner scene during While You Were Sleeping. "These mashed potatoes are so creamy!"

    • NicoleLynn711 profile image

      Nicole 5 years ago from Bethel, CT

      Great lens!

    • oxfordian profile image

      oxfordian 5 years ago

      You have the best lens titles ... ever.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Awesome list! Very well done!

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 5 years ago

      There's also that one scene in Rocky Horror....

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 5 years ago

      The Beetlejuice dinner wins in my book. You rock.

    • Rhidawn profile image

      Rhidawn 5 years ago

      Great lens! I've seen most of these movies. Some are old favorites!

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