Slice of Life
Great pizza moments in film
Stoners, mob bosses, school kids, everyone seems to like pizza—because you know what they say: Even when it’s bad, it’s pretty good. So it should come as no surprise that this dish has enjoyed a long and lustrous career in Hollywood. Here’s a retrospective of some of pizza’s many memorable performances on the big screen.
1. Pizza as a Class Divider. The Bicycle Thief (Italy, 1948). After a cash-strapped father and son spend a day searching for a stolen bike, Dad offers to treat the boy to a large pie. But once they’re seated, the waiter at the ristorante says snidely: “This is not a pizzeria.” The two improvise with mozzarella bread instead.
2. Pizza as an Alibi. The Gold of Naples (Italy, 1954). Sophia Loren plays the frisky young wife of a pizza vendor who loses her wedding ring during a tryst, then lies to her husband, saying it slipped off while kneading the dough. A frantic search ensues, and with a little sleight of hand, the ring miraculously appears in the last pie.
3. Pizza as a Media Magnet. Dog Day Afternoon (USA, 1975). During a badly botched bank heist, Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) hole themselves up with hostages. The ordeal drags on, so Sonny negotiates with the FBI to have pizza delivered. As TV cameras roll, the delivery guy is paid with a wad of bills from the bank’s coffers. He waves his arms and jumps up in the air: “I’m a fucking star!”
4. Pizza as Something to Go with Polyester. Saturday Night Fever (USA, 1977). “Hiya Tony. Two or three?” “Two, two, gimme two, that’s good.” The opening scene of this ’70s disco drama features a classic pizza move: Tony (John Travolta) slaps two slices together double-decker style, taking big bites through both layers as he struts down the street.
5. Pizza as an Avoidance Tactic. Manhattan (USA, 1979). When 40-ish Isaac (Woody Allen) takes his teenage girlfriend, Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), out for pizza in New York City, she tells him she has a chance to study abroad but doesn’t want to leave without him. Commitment-phobe Isaac skirts the issue until he’s saved by the dinner bell. “So you must be anchovies, sausage, mushrooms, garlic, and green peppers,” announces the server. “You forgot the coconut,” Isaac quips.
6. Pizza as a Punch Line. The Jerk (USA, 1979). Back when Lipton Cup-a-Soup was still a novelty … Naive carnival worker Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin) invites cosmetician Marie (Bernadette Peters) over for dinner in his trailer and explains that he got all his furniture cheap when the Cup o’Pizza restaurant shut down. Joke’s not finished yet: The couple starts eating something from plastic containers with red lettering. “Oh, this is the best Pizza in a Cup ever!” Navin raves. “This guy is unbelievable! He ran the old Cup o’Pizza guy out of business.”
7. Pizza as a Way to Cut School. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (USA, 1982). All through Mr. Hand’s American history lecture on Cuba, stoner Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) has a certain knowing look on his face. Then, there’s a knock at the classroom door. “Who ordered the double cheese and sausage?” “Here, dude,” Spicoli drawls.
8. Pizza as Foreplay. Do the Right Thing (USA, 1989). After a trying day, Mookie (Spike Lee) double-checks with his boss, Sal (Danny Aiello), that this last pizza’s going to the right address. But once Mookie gets there, he sees that it is. Pizza box on the bed, he and girlfriend Tina (Rosie Perez) memorably cool off with some ice.
9. Pizza as a Way to Get Whacked. GoodFellas (USA, 1990). Young Henry Hill (Christopher Serrone) makes his parents proud when he gets an entry-level job with the mob—that is, until the truancy notices from school start piling up. When Henry tells his boss, Tuddy Cicero (Frank DiLeo), he has to quit, Tuddy shanghais the mailman to the local pizza parlor. From now on, all letters from the school go directly to the pizzeria, or the mailman’s going in the oven with the pies—headfirst.
10. Pizza as a Goof on Product Placement. Wayne’s World (USA, 1992). Totally excellent product placement! Public-access TV star Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) hits the big time when his talk show moves up from his parents’ basement to a slick Chicago studio. But when a sleazy producer (Rob Lowe) suggests that the show’s sponsor get prime camera time, Wayne says he refuses to sell out. “That’s where I see things a little differently,” Wayne explains, as he raises the lid of a Pizza Hut box so its logo sits centered on-screen. “Contract or no, I will not bow to any sponsor,” he continues, posing with a slice.