- Rebel without a cause - Nicholas Ray

Food in movies: A deep dive into a cool glass of milk

Food is often used symbolically in movies. Here we have some examples on how they do it

6d ago

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While watching a movie, we probably don't remember if a character asked for Whiskey or Gin, or if he even drank anything at all. But if someone asks for a glass of milk, we instantly notice it. It's not considered the same way as any other beverage like water, coffee or soda. Milk is usually related to innocence and purity. It symbolizes maternity, or life itself. However, if it's an adult drinking a glass of milk on screen, it can cause a mix of emotions.

Milk can be used to enhance a character's immaturity or youth:

Catch Me if You Can - Steven Spielberg

Catch Me if You Can - Steven Spielberg

Here we have Leonardo Di Caprio in "Catch Me if You Can". In this scene, Frank Abangale (Di Caprio) is posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot. When the stewardess asks if he wants something to drink, he answers: "Milk?", going out of character for a second showing vulnerability and revealing his true age.

Rebel Without a Cause - Nicholas Ray

Rebel Without a Cause - Nicholas Ray

We can see a similar example of milk highlighting a character's youth in "Rebel Without a Cause". We see James Dean as Jim Stark, a teenager having a hard time figuring out how to become a man.

Clockwork Orange - Stanley Kubrick

Clockwork Orange - Stanley Kubrick

In Stanley Kubrick's "Clockwork Orange" (and also the novel by the same name), the main characters drink milk, (filled with drugs, yes) but it's milk; making clear that even after all the horrific crimes this gang perpetrates, they're still kids. We don't see any adults in the movie choosing this drink. It's only the teenagers who choose to drink something so innocent and comforting as milk, to prepare for the crimes they're about to commit.

Unsettled stomach

There are some films where milk causes an unsettling effect:

Inglorious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino

Inglorious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino

In the opening scene of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds", we see SS Colonel Hans Landa asking a fresh glass of the farmer's milk, and drinking it happily in one chug. Declaring his power, and conquering any bit of purity or innocence remainin, this scene makes us feel uncomfortable and prepares us for what it's clearly going to happen.

Mad Max: Fury Road - George Miller

Mad Max: Fury Road - George Miller

In George Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road", we see Immortan Joe, the main antagonist, drinking milk too. He is the lord of The Citadel and the leader of the War Boys. They all drink breast milk gathered from female humans to preserve their strength and health. Watching all these adults drinking breast milk tells us there are many things wrong with this new post-apocalyptic world.

No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men

In "No Country for Old Men" by The Coen Brothers. Anton Chigurh, a hired murderer, enters a house without permission and grabs a bottle of milk from the fridge before sitting on the sofa staring blankly at his reflection on the TV. This creates tension for the audience, seeing this dangerous man in a peaceful environment where he's not supposed to be. But later on, we see a similar scene, now, with the sheriff drinking the milk. In this case, we feel safe, he has control of the situation. With each scene we get completely different feelings comparing hero and antagonist.

Léon: The Professional

Léon: The Professional

And for one last example, and probably the most memorable character who likes to drink milk, we have Léon , from "Léon: The Professional". He's a deadly assassin, and it's kind of ironic someone this dangerous would go home to drink a glass of milk. This gives us some hints about his true personality, and that there's more beyond the hitman. He takes care of Mathilda, an orphan child, and milk is part of this paternal relationship. Milk also represents a connection between both of the characters: Mathilda, a child that acts and dresses beyond her age, and Léon, who finds joy in the simplest things, and is, in many ways more immature than her.

There are a few more examples where milk is used symbolically in a movie.

Can you remember any of them? Can you think of other food used like this?

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Comments (21)

  • Loved this piece Eugenia! So interesting and a few references I just hadn't thought of before...! Would love to read more of these!!

      6 days ago
    • I'm so happy you liked it!! I enjoyed making it, movies and food are my two favourite things hehe 😊

        6 days ago
  • Interesting. I love milk , especially when ice cold.

      6 days ago
    • I understand the ice cold part, but I can't see why people like to drink plain milk.

        6 days ago
    • Because it tastes wonderful especially skim milk. Now whole fat milk is not my preference but I can drink it.

        6 days ago
  • This is an awesome article and very well done! Milk is movies has been so symbolic and you covered it so great😊 There's an old Hitchcock film called "Suspicion" and there's a scene where Cary Grant (the suspicious husband) brings a glass a milk to his wife, and she thinks it's poisoned.

      4 days ago
    • Yes! We all thoughtbit was poisoned. Seing the husband as a villain makes you think he could do something so evil such as poisoning the most innocent drink.

        4 days ago
  • This article actually made me thinking about food in films and the things they say about characters. I used to just look for colours, musics, paintings, styles and these sort of things when I watched movies. Thank you 🌹👌🏻

      5 days ago
    • Yes!! I love searching for little details too! Mostly when you watch a movie for the second time. And food actually has an important role sometimes. Props are not there randomly, most filmmakers love to pay attention to these subtle details...

      Read more
        5 days ago
    • Yeah exactly! This is the reason that after reading this, I was wondering why I never paid attention to food!

        5 days ago
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