We may be down to the dregs in this, our third list of the best coffee moments in movies. But there’s still lots of laughs, lots of emotion, and lots of java to be found in the annals of filmmaking. We took suggestions from readers and managed to come up with eight more movies (one with two scenes that make the cut) with memorable roles for a good cup of joe.
In the fourth Dirty Harry movie, Clint Eastwood’s iconic character utters one of his most iconic lines — and he does it over a cup of coffee. He foils an attempted robbery at his regular coffee shop, because he knows there’s no way his favorite waitress would put sugar in his drink. As the last thief tries to hold a customer hostage, Eastwood points his Smith & Wesson at him and calmly says, “Go ahead — make my day.”
Arguably any segment from this Jim Jarmusch collection of shorts could qualify for this list, but the one most people seem to remember features RZA and GZA from Wu-Tang Clan chatting about the effects of caffeine with an incognito Bill Murray.
“Crisp and clean, no caffeine,” declares herbal tea enthusiast RZA.
GZA tells Murray he quit drinking coffee because it made him “dream faster,” and the frame rate of the film speeds up and jitters.
“Don’t you know caffeine can cause serious delirium?” concludes RZA.
“Well NOW you tell me,” responds Murray as he chugs directly from the coffeepot.
This Robert DeNiro movie has not one but two classic coffee-related scenes. In the first, DeNiro’s character surreptitiously spills his own coffee so that he can knock over another cup and test the reflexes of one of his new partners in crime, played by Stellan Skarsgård. “Good reflexes,” DeNiro says as Skarsgård snatches the cup in midair, adding that information to his mental Rolodex. “They die hard,” responds Skarsgård.
In the second, DeNiro attempts to intimidate another fellow criminal who he believes is a fraud, played by Sean Bean, and pushes him backward into a strategically placed cup of coffee. When the coffee spills on Bean, it distracts him long enough for DeNiro to disarm him. “I just ambushed you with a cup of coffee,” taunts DeNiro, chastising Bean for attempting to contribute to their strategic planning.
Police union treasurer Bob gets abused even more than the hapless cop Will Ferrell plays in this Adam McKay comedy. “What do you do around here other than interrupt people?” asks Mark Wahlberg’s benched detective.
“I make a wicked pot of decaf,” Bob responds.
“Exactly, you’re a worthless piece of shit,” Wahlberg concludes. What good is decaf coffee in a police station?
It’s just a fleeting moment in the film, Tom Hanks taking a breath after storming the beach at Normandy. But as he watches fellow soldiers pour coffee, eat sandwiches, and shave their faces, he stands stunned, unable to reconcile the horrors he just experienced with the seeming normalcy of all these banal activities.
The “meet cute” might be a slightly tired movie trope, but this one at least has coffee to recommend it. A nameless young man, played by an exceedingly blond Brad Pitt, chats up Claire Forlani while she’s on break from her residency at the nearby hospital. He’s charming as can be, and a blushing Forlani shyly accepts his offer to buy her a cup of coffee. Sure, he dies in the next scene, but at least it’s sweet for a second.
This ensemble rom-com showcases the chemistry between Luke Wilson and Sarah Jessica Parker early on, despite the fact that Parker’s character is dating Wilson’s brother, played by Dermot Mulroney. After Parker is treated cruelly by the rest of the family at their Christmas gathering, Wilson offers her a cup of coffee in an effort at reconciliation. However, Parker is sitting in a car and can’t help but be flustered by Wilson standing with his groin at eye-level through the window. Always a good sign for a relationship when you can’t stop staring at your boyfriend’s brother’s package.
The second Jim Jarmusch film on this list is not as coffee-centric as the first one, but it does have a solid coffee scene — complete with an Iggy Pop cameo. Two zombies gruesomely devour the waitresses at a local coffee shop, but the siren song of two pots of coffee distracts them from their buffet of blood and guts. Little-known fact: The filmmakers did not actually have to apply any zombie makeup to Iggy Pop for this film. That’s just how he looks now.
Maggie BenZvi is a contributing editor for Coffee or Die. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University, and has worked for the ACLU as well as the International Rescue Committee. She has also completed a summer journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In addition to her work at Coffee or Die, she’s a stay-at-home mom and, notably, does not drink coffee. Got a tip? Get in touch!
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