Nostalgia can be a weird and finicky beast. There’s no telling what random elements of our lives will get mixed into that frothing concoction of soothing delight we constantly attempt to recapture. Such is the case with fast food pizza and movies. Before I dive headfirst into the topic, I feel it necessary to first define what I mean by “fast food pizza.”
I grew up in Brooklyn, surround by amazing pizza joints. I don’t consider myself a food snob, but I do know the difference between a quality pie and, well, everything else. Fast food pizza falls squarely within the obscure “everything else” category. It’s not bad exactly; it’s just not pizza. A bold statement, I know, but fast food pizza is in a category all its own. Despite being made up of the same core components (dough, red sauce, and cheese), those elements are somehow transposed into something altogether different.
Don’t believe me? Try this easy experiment. Set up a blind taste test with a slice from your local mom and pop pizza place and a slice from a fast food pizza place. I guarantee you’ll immediately be able to tell which is which.
So, what are these fast food pizza places? Pizza Hut, Domino's, Little Caesars, and Papa John’s are some of the heavy hitters.
There’s something special about fast food pizza. Something about it that is specific to my childhood. It is the junk food equivalent of something that is already a junk food. It’s like if you could somehow make candy even more addictive and unhealthy. Though, now that I think about it, I suppose the same could be said about all fast food.
The idea for this topic came up naturally a few days ago. I was in the last days of my winter vacation before having to return to work, and I happened to have a Domino’s gift card. I don’t know why exactly—maybe it was the potent combination of winter vacation and fast food—but as I placed my order, a tsunami of nostalgia washed over me, wave after wave hitting me square in the chest. The sudden sensation took me by surprise because this was not the first time I’ve ordered Domino’s pizza since the ‘80s. Even still, I found myself thinking about the unique experience of going out for pizza, stopping at the local video rental store, perusing the aisles a little too long as the pizza cooled in the car, and finally rushing home with a perfect homework-free evening planned. Maybe there’d be a little NES interlude, and probably some stove top Jiffy Pop (which you can totally still buy), but at its core the night was about the movie and the pizza.
Back here in 2023, I racked my brain for the perfect “fast food pizza” movie to watch once I got home with my food. I’ll be honest, the first flicks that came to mind were all made in the ‘90s (Jurassic Park, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Con Air, T2), which sort of makes sense for me given I was born in 1980, putting me at that perfect “pizza and movie” age in the early 1990s. I’m well aware of course that this is the ‘80s Exchange, so let’s pick a few era-appropriate movies too.
One other thing about this list. The movies don’t specifically have to be tied to fast food pizza via a promotion or commercial. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for instance feels like a perfect pick because of the famous Pizza Hut tie-in, but that’s not a prerequisite for this list, making the choices incredibly subjective. Movies that I feel are perfect “fast food pizza” movies are probably tied to memories from my childhood. Your list may be completely different. But that’s the thing about nostalgia; we all have our own particular triggers.
The most obvious pick for me (after my initial list) is The Terminator. I tend to think mostly of action/adventure movies pairing well with my greasy, cheesy slice. Stealing movies from a previous article I wrote, Explorers and The Goonies are excellent choices as well. The Gate is another movie I’d be happy to watch with my pie. Let’s go ahead and add Back to the Future, E.T., Willow, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to the list as well.
What further movie choices would you add to this highly subjective list?
I realized I’ve neglected a question just as important as “what movie will we watch with our pizza,” and that is, “What toppings are we getting?” I’ll go out on a limb and assume most of us think of pepperoni as the official choice, but I do like to mix it up now and then. Some atypical choices I love (some not possible at fast food pizza joints, but I’ll list them anyway) are meatball, eggplant, jalapeños, and pepperoncini (not necessarily all together).
What are your go-to toppings?
Once you’ve answer the previous two questions, you should absolutely order a pizza with the toppings you specified and watch the movies you chose. And hey, if you want to grab a Jiffy Pop stove top popcorn while you’re out and play a little Zelda after the movie, I think that’d be just fine too.