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How Coffee Has Evolved Over The Years In Cinema?

Updated: Apr 16

How Coffee Has Evolved Over The Years In


Coffee has become an integral part of our daily lives, and the caffeine it contains is a psychoactive substance that has gained worldwide acceptance, despite some initial resistance. Our culinary habits and preferences can be reflected in the way we brew coffee, how we consume it, and even the type of beans we choose. As one might expect, coffee has a significant presence in the media- including advertising, novels, poetry, songs, and culinary writings. And, of course, coffee also appears prominently in movies. From being just a prop on a table to having entire movies dedicated to it, coffee is represented in films in a way that no other commodity is. Why Coffee Is An Important Part Of Cinema?

Coffee, after oil, is the second-most traded commodity. Coffee has been integrated into many cultures throughout the world over the last hundreds of years. So, it’s not surprising that it has become an important story element in cinema. Coffee was already a daily commodity in western societies by the early 20th century. So, just about every scriptwriter's desk or every movie set was likely to be littered with Styrofoam cups filled with undrunk coffee, which was a common scene in and of itself. Coffee is like cigarettes, cars, hats, and telephones. You can’t make a movie realistic without them.

Evolution Of Coffee Over The Years In Cinema

Coffee has been a mainstay of movies, just not as pronounced as you’ve thought. From the very early days of Hollywood, coffee has had its own presence. It’s a beverage that makes a movie scene totally relatable to our eyes and emotions. That’s why when you see an 18th-century cowboy drinking a mug of coffee in front of his campfire, it always makes us feel like we’re there, also relaxing after a crazy hard day out in the wild west. The early days of Hollywood movies were centered on Wild West cowboys, grueling working-class men, and struggling middle-class families. Coffee was portrayed as exactly what it was back in those times–a drink that energizes the common folks or a mug to contemplate their hardships.

Movies from the post-World War II era have shown coffee as a booming beverage. There was more swagger about it. A bustling city and its busy citizens going to diners and having a mug of Americano with their breakfast was a common scene from that era. Suddenly, coffee is not a mug of melancholy in movies but a prop that adds vibrancy to a scene. In the 60s, 80s, and 90s movies, coffee was placed on a different pedestal. These decades produced the greatest sets of movies in Hollywood, and coffee was part of it as well. From suspenseful conversations from mafia movies to a relaxing romantic breakfast at a restaurant, a mug of coffee was there, placed beautifully as a prop. The 2000s have seen the emergence of big coffee chains. As these large coffee chains became the norm of cosmopolitan lifestyle and the beacon of the capitalistic echelon, they were used to define culture, city, nation, status, or even a character in and of itself. Coffee is not just a prop now, it’s a whole scene of itself in a movie. Depending on the type of coffee and which brand it’s from, it can tell a whole lot about a particular scene without uttering a single word!

The Different Ways Coffee Has Been Portrayed In Movies In the movie Mississippi Mermaid (1969), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve, the most sinister clue about Catherine’s evil intention was portrayed. She takes coffee for breakfast, but her letters to Jean-Paul state that she was a tea-drinker. Fritz Lang's classic film noir, The Big Heat (1953), portrayed coffee as a weapon of violence. Antagonist Vince (Lee Marvin), a cowardly mobster, becomes suspicious of his girlfriend, Debbie (Gloria Grahame). As a result, he threw a pot of scalding coffee in her face. It left Debbie so horribly scarred that one-half of her face had to be covered with bandages. It set her on a path of vengeance as she helped Glenn Ford destroy the underworld crime rings and gave Vince his very own coffee treatment at the end. In many westerns, a lonesome cowboy can still make a pot of coffee over a campfire. The cowboy savors every sip of his coffee as if it were close to liberty, life, and solitude. The coffee here was used as a social expression on the frontier before all the civilization and fancy city folks were a thing. Nora Ephron’s You have Got Mail (1998), starred by Tom Hanks, portrayed the social conundrums of modern city life. Coffee places like Starbucks

in the big cities aren’t for just coffee. It’s constantly visited by people with zero decision-making ability who can absolutely define themselves when they order their favorite coffee of the day. In the movie Woman of the Year (1942), Katharine Hepburn’s superwoman status was neatly and amusingly offset when the audience discovered that she couldn’t even make a decent cup of coffee for her lover, Spencer Tracy. Thus, her feminist values are undermined. Michael Mann’s blockbuster movie Heat (1995), showed a different use of coffee. Pacino and De Niro argue over a cup of coffee about their ethics, jobs, prospects, honor, and manliness as if coffee were the grim, unsweetened philosophy of law and disorder at the time. It's an iconic, high-toned artistic performance from two of the all-time greats. 10 Coffee-Related Scenes In Movies

1. Fritz Lang’s 1953 film noir, The Big Heat. Lee Marvin’s horrific act of throwing a boiling coffee pot onto Gloria Grahame’s face. 2. ‍Bryan Singer’s 1995 classic, The Usual Suspects. Agent Dave Kujan, played by Chazz Palminteri, thought he had cracked the case of Kyser Soze until he saw the coffee mug made by Kobayashi Porcelain. 3. Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 masterpiece, Pulp Fiction. One of the most memorable scenes in the world of filmmaking. Vince (John Travolta), Jules (Samuel L. Jackson), and Jimmie had one hell of an awkward yet hysterical conversation over the quality of coffee they were having. 4. ‍Rob Reiner’s 2007 comedy-drama, The Bucket List. Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) and his buddy Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) have a right laugh-off when they come to know that this luxurious coffee processing involves the stools of Sumatran tree cats. 5. Jesse Dylan’s 2005 family comedy, Kicking and Screaming. The only comedic relief from that movie is Phil's (played by Will Ferrell) caffeinated tailspin into lunacy, which gets him banned from his local café. 6. ‍Krzysztof Kieślowski’s 1994 romantic drama film, Three Colors: Blue. Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche held a sugar lump over her cup of espresso as it absorbed the coffee from her cup reflecting how her character had begun to disappear to escape her terrible grief.

7. Sergio Leone’s 1984 crime film, Once Upon A Time In America. No one can forget the cult scene in the film when Robert de Niro stirs his cup of coffee for a whole minute. 8. Michael Mann’s 1995 crime drama, Heat. The two protagonists, Al Pacino and Robert de Niro have a face-off in a typical American diner with two cups of coffee. 9. David Wain’s 2008 comedy film, Role Models. Paul Rudd and the waiter’s interaction, whether venti is large or not, has become one of the most liked internet memes. 10. Blake Edward’s 1961 romantic comedy film, Breakfast At Tiffany’s. The movie created one of the most iconic scenes ever in the world of the big screen. Audrey Hepburn stopped to look at the window of the famous Tiffany’s store in New York while holding an American pastry and a cup of coffee. Please note that there are lots of other coffee scenes but we’ve chosen only our favorite ones.


Coffee is a daily commodity around the world. So, it’s only poetically fitting that we, humans, make something our own in every aspect of our lives. Coffee in movies is a prime example of this. Coffee is there just like any other prop, and filmmakers and artists have found ways to build iconic moments using a cup of coffee in films. Because, in reality, coffee plays the exact same role in our lives.

Author Bio: This is a guest post by Saleheen from Coffee AtoZ. CoffeeAtoZ shares coffee-related information like – brewing methods, recipes, comparisons, reviews, etc.

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