My sister visited me this past weekend and post-German Night (in which a few of my best friends here in Chicago and I eat German food and drink too much German beer), as we attempted to recover enough to the point we could go out for morning (read: afternoon) brunch, we happened upon the 2005 film Kicking & Screaming. Mostly this film is terrible but I will cop to finding the side story of Will Ferrell’s mild-mannered soccer coach Phil Weston getting severely addicted to coffee after the prodding of assistant coach Mike Ditka which aids his meteoric tailspin into facist suburban dictator rather funny. And it was made even funnier because while watching I was desperately craving coffee in my dysfunctional Saturday morning state.
And so for the rest of the weekend my sister and I would randomly, oddly, quote Mike Ditka hollering at his protégé: “Drink the coffee! It’ll make you feel better! It picks you up! It calms you down! It’s the lifeblood that drives the dreams of champions!” You said it, Mike. And that, as it must, got me to thinking. Thus, today I present for your reading pleasure 10 of the greatest coffee-related moments in movie history.
Pulp Fiction. The Wolf (Harvey Keitel) arrives at Jimmy’s house to help Vincent and Jules clean up their, uh, mess. As he is briefed on the situation he mentions to Jimmy he smelled coffee and would like a cup. Jimmy goes off, pours it and brings the mug to The Wolf. The Wolf takes a sip and as if he has momentarily landed in a Hills Bros. commercial he smiles, delighted, and raises the cup to Jimmy as if to give a simultaneous “thanks” and “job well done.” The Wolf may be in crisis mode, but good coffee is good coffee.
Kicking & Screaming. The first time I saw the scene in which Will Ferrell finds himself at the back of a coffee line which leads to him claiming to have a frequent coffee drinker card which leads to a throwdown with an SUV driving woman at the head of the line which leads to him being banned from the coffee shop (“You’re name is liar because you’re telling lies!”) made me laugh so hard I literally cried.
Harper. The film opens with Paul Newman’s down-on-his-luck P.I. Lew Harper waking and tragically discovering his can of trusty coffee grounds to be empty. Uh oh. But then he spies yesterday’s coffee grounds still on the filter in the trash, rescues them and brews himself a “fresh” pot. This, boys and girls, is called an addiction.
L.A. Story. A group lunch on Sunset Boulevard concludes as the camera circles the table from the poor server’s POV as he/she fields ceaseless, escalating calls for coffee. “I’ll have a decaf coffee.” “I’ll have a decaf espresso.” “I’ll have a double decaf cappuccino.” “I’ll have a half double decaf half caf with a twist of lemon.”
Ronin. Realizing Sean Bean’s Spence is up to no good when he diagrams an ambush on a dry erase board, Robert DeNiro’s Sam sets down his cup of coffee as the camera forebodingly lingers on it. Sam then confronts Spence and edges him unwittingly toward the coffee which he runs right into, scalding him. “Tell me about an ambush?!” Sam shouts. “I ambushed you with a f***in’ coffee cup!” That he did.
Once Upon A Time In The West. The ultimate showdown between Bronson and Fonda is offset by a tender scene between Claudia Cardinale and Jason Robards in which, calling back to an earlier moment, she serves him coffee. He takes his first sip and says, satisfied: “Good. My mother used to make coffee this way. Hot, strong and good.”
Top Gun. What happens when Maverick buzzes the tower? Why the Air Boss winds up spilling coffee all over himself, of course.
The Big Heat. Unmerciful Lee Marvin throws hot coffee in the face of Gloria Grahame. Yikes. And what makes it twelve times worse is that we never see it – we only hear the scream.
Alien / Batman Begins. At the very beginning of the Ridley Scott’s Alien the seven member crew of the spaceship Nostromo wakes from stasis and sits down to a meal and coffee. Parker says: “Can I finish my coffee? It’s the only good thing on his ship.” At the very end of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) summons Batman (Christian Bale) via the Bat Signal and clues the Caped Crusader into a bank robber by handing him a Joker playing card. But hey! What’s that in Gordon’s hand? It’s a cup of coffee!
In other words, whether you’re on a spaceship in the 22nd century or firing up the Bat Signal in Gotham City, we all need our coffee.
YOUR TURN! WHAT ARE YOU FAVORITE COFFEE-RELATED MOMENTS IN MOVIE HISTORY?!