Restaurants of all shapes and sizes have been familiar territory for Jack Nicholson during his four-decade film career.
It was 40 years ago when Nicholson made his first big foray into screen dining scenes with his masterful, memorable menu-ordering scene in “Five Easy Pieces,” in the process earning his second Oscar nomination.
(Note: Even if you’re not a big Nicholson fan — you’re not? — stick around because we’ve got a bunch of other memorable movie and TV restaurant/diner scenes that may jog your memory. As always, additional nominees are welcome in the Comment section below.)
The most memorable may be the Meg Ryan-Billy Crystal scene in “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) ending with the deadpan line from director Rob Reiner’s mom during the deli scene: “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Casual dining — not Albert Finney’s 1700s style but 20th century Americana — figures prominently in two memorable, nostalgic, coming-of-age movies:
• “American Graffiti,” George Lucas’ 1973 study of growing up. From its opening image of the illuminated “Mel’s drive-in,” the film makes it clear how important the diner is as a community gathering spot for working out many of life’s big and small decisions.
Gangsters gotta eat, too
Gangsters, too, like to frequent restaurants and diners for pivotal scenes:
Serving up laughs
But many classic TV scenes play dinner time for low-brow laughs. The still-beloved “I Love Lucy” series (1951-57) offers two classic Lucille Ball over-the-top “dining” scenes:
• First, Lucy’s Hollywood encounter with actor William Holden at the legendary — and laugh-filled — Brown Derby.
• Then, the Ricardos and the Mertzes square off in a diner “death match.”
An encore for Jack
And then I have to end with one more order of Jack Nicholson restaurant scenes, this one a two-fer showing him at his charming best from the 2003 romantic (and touching) comedy “Something’s Gotta Give.” The movie features two great restaurant scenes thousands of miles apart — Paris, shown here, and a wrap-up scene in New York.