Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Delicatessen Movie Poster Image
Dark comedy-fantasy about cannibalism isn't for kids.
  • R
  • 1991
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Dark view of human nature and how far people will go to preserve accustomed lifestyles (meat consumption, commerce, etc.) even in end-of-the-world mode.

Positive Role Models & Representations

If unemployed clown Louison and the butcher's musician-daughter Julie are any indication, folks in the performing arts are much nicer and more innocent-hearted than the rest of society (no surprise that a filmmaker would say that). Other apartment-dwellers tend to be grotesque, buffoonish types, who rationalize their flesh-eating instead of looking for other solutions (and they treat an anti-cannibal underground resistance movement more or less like terrorists).


One character fatally shot, another lethally impaled in the forehead. No bloody gore, but it is stated repeatedly that people are eating other people in this grim future world, and the butcher forebodingly fingers cleavers and knives. There is hand-to-hand scuffling and attempted strangulation. A suicide-prone character attempts to rig up nooses, guns, electrocution devices, and explosives (usually with no success).


The butcher has an ongoing sexual relationship with a curvy tenant (occasionally she is seen in skimpy clothing/lingerie); we hear and see their rhythmically squeaky bedsprings in a sight-and-sound gag that is a metaphor for sex and orgasm.


"BS," the f-word, the s-word (which in French is actually an "m"-word, ask any French teacher).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking, including by a boy -- made to look fun when Louison blows smoke soap-bubbles.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this dark comedy-fantasy is not always easy to follow -- maybe a good thing, as it uses hints and innuendo rather than in-your-face gore to show a starving society where cannibalism reigns. Meat cleavers and knives are fondled menacingly, but onscreen violence is limited to one gunshot, hand-to-hand fighting, and a blade in a forehead, all pretty bloodless. One character is obsessed with committing suicide, and attempts (usually failing) in numerous comical ways. The villain's sexual intercourse is signified via montage of squeaky bedsprings and rhythmic chores. There are a few swear words (including the f-word). In bad-dream sequences viewers see a chimpanzee (not a very cute one, but a "pet" nonetheless) whom, we are told, was killed and eaten. A few characters (including children) smoke.

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What's the story?

In a dusty, autumnal landscape -- maybe the aftermath of nuclear war or other global environmental disaster -- on the outskirts of a city, a semi-ruined apartment tenement stands with a delicatessen on the first floor run by the butcher-landlord Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus). With livestock and crops apparently extinct, people in this struggling society subsist on either hoarded grains or by eating other people. Clapet's solution: He continually lures job-seekers to work as handymen, whom he soon murders to turn into the meat served to the building's weird mini-community of tenants. The latest applicant to Clapet's want-ad is Louison (Dominique Pinon), an impish ex-circus clown, unemployed since his chimp partner was killed and eaten after their act. Louison's good nature and talents endear him to the tenants, especially Clapet's estranged, adult daughter Julie. She contacts an anti-cannibalism underground resistance to rescue the innocent clown before he becomes a morsel.

Is it any good?

A sardonic satire on what happens when the dog-eat-dog world becomes a human-eat-human world instead, DELICATESSEN is a film best left to older teens and adults. The movie comes across like a Tim Burton fantasy aimed squarely at grownups. There's a playfulness and whimsy to all the grotesqueries, but it seems geared more to adult attention spans and intellects, as the loose-jointed plot often turns to people doing (or being) puzzling things, like a weird old man in the building's flooded basement reigning over colonies of frogs and snails, or a last-minute revelation that a motiveless murder plot had been afoot all along amidst two minor characters. There are few easy answers -- and the ending leaves things a bit up in the air, in more ways than one. But the film casts a weird spell that is not soon forgotten.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the message of the film. Does it say anything about the way the world is now?

  • Are the butcher Clapet and his clients "evil," or just victims of circumstances and desperation, as Louison suggests (before he finds out that he's on the menu)?

  • Talk to young people about vegetarianism. Does this movie make a strong anti-meat, animal-rights statement? Does it make viewers feel differently about what they are eating?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love quirky characters

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