Before you fill up on your dessert of choice this Thanksgiving, Marlow Stern serves up the most outrageous pie-centric cinematic moments, from the payback pastry in The Help to American Pie’s X-rated sugary fiasco.
1. The Help: Taste of Humble Pie
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. The villain in the recent film adaptation of The Help, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard), is an awful person. In the film, set in early 1960s Mississippi, Hilly spearheads what she calls the “Home Help Sanitation Initiative”—a bill to provide separate bathrooms for the black housemaids (who are treated like indentured servants) because she believes that they “carry different diseases” than whites. After Hilly fires her loyal maid—and phenomenal cook—Minny (Octavia Spencer) after accusing her of stealing, Minny gets a little payback. She bakes a chocolate pie and delivers it to Hilly. After watching her scarf down two slices of the delicious pie, she slams her hand down on the table and says, “Eat my shit!” Hilly stops eating, and says, “Have you lost your mind?” “No, but you 'bout to,” Minny replies, “ 'cause you just did.”
2. American Pie: Just Like Mother Used to Make
This outrageous 1999 teen comedy, directed by brothers Paul and Chris Weitz, centers on four horny (and hopeless) high-school-senior boys who make a pact to lose their virginity before graduation. The film served as the launching pad for a handful of actors, including Seann William Scott, Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, and Tara Reid—that is, until this and this happened. However, the most enduring memory of this film is, of course, the pie masturbation scene. In an attempt to seemingly one-up the notorious hair-gel sequence in There’s Something About Mary, the most callow and uninitiated member of the quartet, Jim (Biggs), asks his friends what third base feels like, to which Oz (Klein), replies, “Like warm apple pie.” “McDonald’s or homemade?” asks Jim. The curious virgin comes home from school one day to find his mother’s homemade apple pie sitting on the kitchen counter, and the rest is pastry-humping history.
3. True Romance: Served With a Side of Kung Fu
Comic-book-store clerk Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) celebrates his birthday the way any pop-culture geek would: by indulging in a kung fu triple feature starring acclaimed martial artist Sonny Chiba (1993’s True Romance is a Tarantino film, after all). Clarence’s silver-screen trance is broken by Alabama (Patricia Arquette), a stunning blonde who clumsily covers him in a bucket of popcorn, then apologizes and chats him up. Clarence thinks he’s just hit the lottery: a random encounter with a beautiful, cheery woman who would watch kung fu movies on a weeknight? When the lights go up, Alabama, in her cutesy Southern accent, says, “After I see a movie, I like to go get a piece of pie and talk about it. It’s sort of a little tradition I have … Would you like to go get some pie with me?” The two fall in love and embark on an epic adventure involving a suitcase full of drugs, pimps, stoner Brad Pitt, and one of the most insane guy-on-girl fight scenes in movie history. And it all started with a good ol' slice of pie.
4. Stand by Me: A Taste of Sweet Revenge
Rob Reiner’s 1986 coming-of-age classic is the tale of four young outcasts—Gordie (Wil Wheaton), a storyteller whose dad neglected him; Chris (the late River Phoenix), who comes from a family of crooks; Teddy (Corey Feldman), whose ear was mangled by his father; and Vern (Jerry O’Connell), who gets picked on for being the pudgy one. The four boys decide to embark on an adventure in search of a dead boy’s body that’s believed to be in the woods. Though noteworthy as evidence of Jerry O’Connell’s remarkable body transformation, Stand by Me is also memorable for Gordie’s campfire tale of “Lardass” Hogan. After relentless bullying from his friends and relatives, the plump Hogan enters a local pie-eating contest in an attempt to prove that revenge is a dish best served … lukewarm. Just prior to the contest, he chugs an entire bottle of castor oil and tops it off with an egg. Then, after devouring several pies, Hogan stands up, and proceeds to vomit all over his competition, setting off a chain of regurgitation—or, as Gordie calls, it, “a complete, and total, barf-o-rama.”
5. Waitress: Filled With Strawberry Love
Audiences’ hearts truly went out to Jenna (Keri Russell), a down-on-her-luck Southern waitress who falls victim to an unwanted pregnancy by her abusive husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto), in this 2007 indie hit. While working at Joe’s Pie Diner, Jenna spends most of her days dreaming up creatively named pies inspired by things in her life. She hopes that winning a pie contest in the neighboring town—and the accompanying $25,000 prize—will allow her to escape from Earl’s clutches and start her own pie business. Eventually, Jenna’s dream becomes a reality when she wins the contest, opens her own picturesque pie shop, and sings one of the sweetest, pie-centric lullabies ever to her baby daughter, crooning, “Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle / Gonna be a pie from the heaven above / Gonna be filled with strawberry love.”
6. Blazing Saddles: Warner Bros. Gets Pied in the Face
This 1974 Mel Brooks Old West satire features mischievous state Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman), who chooses a black railroad worker, Bart (Cleavon Little), to be sheriff in an effort to drive all the people out of a town so he can buy up all the land and build a railroad. Bart teams up with the drunken gunslinger the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) and soon wins over the townsfolk, inspiring them to rise up against Lamarr’s gang of thugs. A massive fight between the two parties ensues and eventually becomes so incredibly intense that it manages to break the fourth wall, spilling out into the Warner Bros. Studios film lot. The battle overtakes the set of a musical film that Dom DeLuise is directing. When the chaos reaches the studio commissary, a pie fight erupts, with the entire whipped-cream-covered cast then busting out of the studio complex, and running amok on the streets of Los Angeles.
7. Reindeer Games: Pre-Robbery Pecan F--kin’ Pie
In this 2000 labyrinthine-plotted heist thriller, Ben Affleck stars as Rudy, a prisoner whose cellmate has a beautiful pen pal on the outside, Ashley (Charlize Theron). When his cellmate is killed during a prison uprising, Rudy assumes his friend’s identity and meets up with Ashley. Soon—after double-, triple-, and quadruple-crosses—he finds himself embroiled in a plot to rob the casino where he used to work. But before Rudy helps anyone, he needs “some hot chocolate, and some pecan f--kin’ pie,” which he’s been craving ever since he entered prison. Rudy eventually gets his slice … and eats it, too.
8. Sweeney Todd: Sliced, Diced, and Freshly Baked
Tim Burton’s 2007 film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award–winning 1979 musical doesn’t pull any punches. Sweeney Todd is a Victorian tale of the title character and “Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (Johnny Depp), a vengeful English barber who lives above a dreary pie shop owned by Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter). When Sweeney first meets the baker, her business is in the dumps and her pies are less than appetizing. Soon, however, her fortunes change. Sweeney opens up a barber shop in his quarters and subsequently begins exacting his revenge on the city’s aristocrats, hacking at his customers with a straight razor and then dispatching them into the building’s basement where his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, turns the corpses into meat pies that the townspeople devour with rapacious license. The cannibalism is, in typical Sondheim fashion, a cheeky metaphor for the dog-eat-dog capitalism of the day. So … mincemeat pies, anyone?
9. The Great Race: Legendary Whipped-Cream Rivalries
It is, without question, the largest pie fight ever staged in the history of cinema. Directed by comedy legend Blake Edward (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), 1965’s The Great Race follows an early 20th-century car race spanning three continents, pitting rival wealthy daredevils the Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) and Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) against one another in a winner-take-all showdown. After a long leg through Asia, the racers reach the European kingdom of Carpania, where they get in the pie fight to end all pie fights. According to legend, the baked-good battle was filmed over three days and used about 2,500 real pies containing fruit, custard, whipped cream, and other ingredients. It’s also rumored that actress Natalie Wood (West Side Story), known to be an on-set diva, had a rift with Edwards while filming. As the story goes, when the pie fight came around, Edwards hurled the first pastry at Wood in order to ensure a solid hit, he supposedly said. The opening credits explain that The Great Race is dedicated to silent-film-era legends “Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy,” and the record-breaking pie fight pays homage to them.
10. Life: Adding a Pinch of Racism
Late filmmaker Ted Demme’s 1999 life-spanning film, told in flashback, concerns two New Yorkers—Ray (Eddie Murphy) and Claude (Martin Lawrence)—who, in 1932, take a trip down South where they are wrongly convicted of murder. All Claude wants is some homemade apple pie, so when the duo escape from prison, they immediately make a beeline for the nearest bakery. However, when Claude and Ray arrive at their destination, they’re given a rude awakening: they’re denied service because they’re black. Knowing that the next diner is more than 30 miles away, Ray says, “Look, my name’s Ray Gibson. I’m from New York. Let’s talk turkey. How much will it cost for you [sic] turn two of those whites-only pies into two n----- pies?” The racist waitress replies, “How ‘bout I turn y’all into n----- pie?” aiming a shotgun at them. The two hightail it out of there, but they ultimately get their pie and their happy ending, too.
11. Dr. Strangelove: Doesn’t Cut the Custard
It’s the greatest pie scene that never was. The elegiac ending of Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War era satirical masterpiece was almost supplanted by a pie fight. The 1964 film concerns paranoid, über-patriotic U.S. Air Force Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), who orders a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, not knowing that the Soviets have installed a doomsday device that will destroy the planet if there is a nuclear attack on the U.S.S.R. The president of the United States (Peter Sellers)—accompanied by grouchy Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott), RAF exchange officer Lionel Mandrake (Sellers, again), former Nazi-cum-nuclear-expert Dr. Strangelove (Sellers, yet again), and the Joint Chiefs of Staff—tries to recall the payload and prevent the nuclear apocalypse. The original ending that was filmed, however, had everyone in the War Room engaged in a huge pie fight. In Joseph Gelmis’s The Film Director as Superstar, Kubrick explained why he changed the ending. “After a screening of Dr. Strangelove, I cut out a final scene in which the Russians and Americans in the War Room engage in a free-for-all fight with custard pies,” Kubrick explained. “I decided it was farce and not consistent with the satiric tone of the rest of the film.”
12. Wendi Deng, Rupert Murdoch, and Jonnie Marbles: Crouching Tiger, Flying Murdoch
Rupert and James Murdoch’s testimony before Parliament was halted in July 2011 after a man in the audience assaulted Rupert with a foam pie. Murdoch’s wife, Wendi, who was sitting behind him in the front row, then stood up and clocked the assailant. The man has not been officially identified, although an activist going by Jonnie Marbles has claimed responsibility on Twitter. He has since been arrested.