The diner is as American as a slice of cheese on a piece of
apple pie. Be it Greek or Ukrainian, soda shop or truck stop, in
the deep South or New York City, no style of restaurant better
represents the melting pot that is our country than the diner (the
salad bowl analogy is probably more accurate than melting pot, but
diners and salads don't belong together, even metaphorically). If
you're on the road or find yourself in need of that elusive 3 am
plate of eggs, take a look at our list of the Top
10 Diners in America as well as the
Best Diners in our top 50 cities.
The versatility and retro good looks of diners lend themselves
well to film. They're a great gathering place for detectives and
police to review findings. Conversely, they provide coffee and
waffles in the wee hours for amateur thieves laying out the plans
for their next heist. They display small town charm with heavily
accented friendly folk or backwoods danger with burly characters
that don't take kindly to city types. More often than not, there's
a surly waitress waiting with a good one liner. Without further
ado, here are some of the best diner scenes in film.
Anyone familiar with Twin Peaks knows David Lynch has a
thing for diners - much is made of the great coffee and cherry pie
at the Double R Diner. He takes it to another level of creepy in
Mullholland Drive. Winkie's is the kind of establishment
an average Joe or aspiring startlet can escape to feel normal. But
dark forces are at work behind the dumpster out back - the kind
involving a terrifying hobo and his magical time-warp box.
The thrilling conclusion of Quinton Tarrantino's Pulp
Fiction takes place with one final stand off in an LA diner.
Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winfield (Samuel L.
Jackson), in their dorkiest outfits, discuss the finer points of
"digging on swine" and the merits of a pig's personality before two
lesser seasoned criminals hold up the restaurant.
In the Coen Brothers criminally underrated The Hudsucker
Proxy, two cab drivers sit at the counter at a New York diner
and suddenly become the narrators for the following scene. Amy
Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) plays on the naivety of Norville
Barnes (Tim Robbins), whom our narrators correctly assess when they
repeat: "He don't look wise."
I'd be remiss to compile a list of diner scenes and not include
one of the most famous restaurant scenes in film from 5
Easy Pieces. Drifter-savant Jack Nicholson outwits a
stubborn waitress and circumvents a nonsensical substitution
policy. Don't recommend trying this at your local greasy
In Superman II, the roadside diner is a place inhabited
by roughnecks looking to make inapproppriate comments to women and
fight any haughty big city types. Superman takes a rare
beating after giving up his powers (no clip this time,
follow the link). After he regains them later in the movie, he
returns to avenge the beatdown (petty revenge is clearly more
important than saving the world at the moment).
With Goodfellas, we see the diner as a safe, familiar
place. A public place where you're less likely to get whacked.
Though technically a donut shop, Stan Mikita's Donuts in
Wayne's World has all the familiar symptoms of a diner.
It's a late-night hangout for disaffected youth, a gathering spot
for characters to review recent events, and it has a deranged,
sleep-deprived proprietor who waxes psychotic to anyone within
earshot, including the cameraman.
In the 2004 remake of The Ladykillers, our ragtag bunch
of incompetent criminals (a common Coen Brothers theme) led by
professor G.H. Dorr (Tom Hanks) gathers at the Waffle Hut to
fine-tune the schematics of their casino heist. After bringing his
lady friend along to the meeting, the judgment of the tastily named
Garth Pancake (J.K. Simmons) is questioned.
In Groundhog Day, the local diner in Punxsutawney is
particularly diner-y with waitresses named Doris and Alice and
patrons with names like Gus. Cheer up, Bill Murray. There are worse
fates than being doomed to eat at the same diner every
In Mel Brook's Spaceballs, the diner is some sort of
hybrid of 50's diner and truck stop ... but in space. The
special is not recommended.