Five Excellent Uses of Fast Food in Movies

‘All restaurants are Taco Bell’
Five Excellent Uses of Fast Food in Movies

Fast food is the backbone of American culture. There’s no other place in the world where you can find people buzzing with excitement over new culinary abominations, or constantly arguing about which burger chain has superior French fries. Even if you remove food from the equation, the jingles, the slogans and mascots still take up precious real estate in our brains. 

With so much social capital, it was a natural progression for fast food to speed out of the drive-thru and take center stage in the entertainment industry. Stoners adventuring to White Castle birthed a franchise (a film franchise, not a fast food one), and although only a single film is named after the slider chain, it’s arguably the most iconic of the trilogy. 

That said, White Castle is hardly the only fast-food joint that’s had its cinematic moment in the sun. Here are five uses of fast food in movies that don’t involve a late-night, cross-state trek for a sack of tiny burgers… 

5Party Girl

Mall food courts and drive-thrus aren’t the only place to get your fast-food fix — big cities throughout the country have trucks and carts lining the streets so you can grab a quick bite. In Party Girl, Mary’s signature on-the-go meal is a falafel with hot sauce, a side order of baba ghanoush and a seltzer. Granted, the party girl played by Parker Posey is much more interested in the man selling the food than the food itself, but her order still plays a central role in the film.

Demolition Man

We’re just nine years away from living in a world where the only restaurant in existence is Taco Bell — at least in a world according to Demolition Man. Interestingly, Daniel Waters wrote the script with Burger King in mind, but the Whopper restaurant passed on their product being used in an R-rated movie, as did McDonald’s. Taco Bell, on the other hand, jumped at the opportunity, and have so much reverence for their inclusion that they honored the cult classic’s 25th anniversary with a recreation of the film’s version of the restaurant in San Diego (or San Angeles, if you want to really stay true to Demolition Man lore). 

If this detail sounds off to some international readers, you’re not losing your minds. Fearing that viewers abroad wouldn’t be familiar with the Mexican-inspired chain, the studio swapped Taco Bell with Pizza Hut for the film’s European release. 

Coming to America

Demolition Man isn’t the only R-rated film that missed out on McDonald’s product placement, but in the case of Coming to America, it comedically worked out in their favor. When Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) travel to New York in an effort to find Akeem a down-to-earth queen, they do everything in their power to appear “of the people.” Part of this plan includes embarking on the humbling rite of passage of working a fast-food job. The duo find work at McDowell’s, a fast-food chain that sounds mighty close to McDonald’s, but as owner Cleo McDowell explains, they are very different: McDowell’s has Golden Arcs, the Big Mic and the buns don’t have sesame seeds on them. Thanks to John Amos’ passionate delivery, there’s clearly no sign of trademark infringement here.

Mac and Me

McDonald’s might have opted out of working with adult-oriented films, but they had no problems collaborating on an E.T. knockoff. The 1988 sci-fi film about a boy and his “Mysterious Alien Creature” is filled with McDonald’s product placement, thanks to one of the producers having a working relationship with the fast-food chain. The unavoidable promotion comes to a head in the most unhinged way imaginable when a dance party breaks out in the middle of a McDonald’s, complete with Ronald McDonald and an alien in a teddy bear suit.

Pulp Fiction

One iconic filmmaker (Quentin Tarantino) understands the intrinsic link between Americans and fast food so well that he created his own chain (Big Kahuna Burger) that appears in a number of his films. While its included in Reservoir Dogs, the fictional Hawaiian-themed chain is the star of the show in Pulp Fiction. What pairs best with intimidation? A tasty burger, of course. 

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