Gefilte Fish in Film

Cold fish “meatloaf”… that about sums up this delicacy called gefilte fish.  A delicacy that is unappetizing in its appearance as it sounds.  Yet, for a small percentage of population (a very small percentage of the population), it is a dish that is associated with festival food that is served for Passover and the Jewish New Year.

Apart from the dish itself, it may surprise you see the numerous inclusions and references to gefilte fish in literary works and in film. 

Since recently being appointed to Board of the Academy of Film & Theatre Snacks, I have access to every movie script brought to the silver screen.  After months of exhaustive research I have been able to locate countless references to gefilte fish in film.  Below, find a few of my favorites.

Ten Commandments

Pharaoh Sethi (Sir Cedric Hardwicke): Harden yourself against subordinates. Have no friend. Trust no woman.  Eat no gefilte fish.

On the Waterfront

Terry (Marlon Brando): It wasn’t him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, “Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.” You remember that? “This ain’t your night”! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money.
Charlie (Rod Steiger): Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.
Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. It coulda been gefilte fish every night.  I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman): You know, it could be worse. You get a lot more for your money in Bolivia, I checked on it.
Sundance Kid (Robert Redford): What could they have here that you could possibly want to buy?

Butch Cassidy: Gefilte fish.


Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins): You-you eat like a bird.
Marion Crane (Janet Leigh): [Looking around at the stuffed birds while eating] And you’d know, of course.
Norman Bates: No, not really. Anyway, I hear the expression ‘eats like a bird’ – it-it’s really a
Norman Bates: fals-fals-fals-falsity. Because birds really eat a tremendous lot. But -I-I don’t really know anything about birds. My hobby is stuffing things. You know that gefilte fish means stuffed fish.

Duck Soup

Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx): Awfully decent of you to drop in today. Do you realize our army is facing disastrous defeat? What do you intend to do about it?
Chicolini (Chico Marx): I’ve done it already.
Rufus T. Firefly: You’ve done what?
Chicolini: I’ve changed to the other side.
Rufus T. Firefly: So you’re on the other side, eh? Well, what are you doing over here?
Chicolini: Well, the gefilte fish is better over here.

Lawrence of Arabia

Auda abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn): I am Auda abu Tayi! Does Auda serve?
Howeitat tribesmen: NO!
Auda abu Tayi: Does Auda abu Tayi serve?
Howeitat tribesmen: NO!
Auda abu Tayi: [to Lawrence] I carry twenty-three great wounds, all got in battle. Seventy-five men have I killed with my own hands in battle. I scatter, I burn my enemies’ tents. I take away their flocks, herds and gefilte fish. The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet I am poor! Because *I* am a river to my people!

High Noon

Will (Gary Cooper): Don’t shove me Harv. I’m tired of being shoved.  I’ll pass ya’ the horseradish [for the gefilte fish] when I’m good and ready.


King Henry II (Peter O’Toole): Let us drink, gentlemen. Let us drink and eat gefilte fish, till we roll under the table in vomit and oblivion.

Shawshank Redemption

Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins): You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?
Red (Morgan Freeman): No.
Andy Dufresne: They say it has no memory. That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory and plenty of gefilte fish.

Steel Magnolias

M’Lynn (Sally Field): We have this new physiatrist that comes in two days a week and of course I pick her name out of the grab bag, I have to pick something up for her tomorrow. Would you put that on the list, I have no idea what to get your father. What’s Jackson giving you, do you know?
Shelby (Julia Roberts): Gefilte Fish.
M’Lynn: Gefilte Fish, well my. Must be nice to be married to a rich lawyer.

The Public Enemy

Tom Powers (James Cagney): So beer ain’t good enough for you, huh?
Mike Powers (Donald Cook): Do you think I care if there was just beer in that keg? I know what’s in it. I know what you’ve been doing all this time, how you got those clothes and those new cars. You’ve been telling Ma that you’ve gone into politics, that you’re on the city payroll. Pat Burke told me everything. You murderers! There’s not only beer in that jug. There’s beer and blood – blood of men!
[Throws keg against wall]
Tom Powers: [Stands] You ain’t changed a bit. Besides, your hands ain’t so clean. You kill and like it. You didn’t get them medals for eating gefilte fish with them Germans.

The African Queen

Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart): A man takes a drop too much horseradish for his gefilte fish once in a while, it’s only human nature.
Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn): Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.

The Guns of Navarone

Capt. Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck): I have no time for this!
Corporal Miller (David Niven): Now just a minute! If we’re going to get this job done she has got to be killed! And we all know how keen you are about getting the job done! Now I can’t speak for the others but I’ve never killed a woman, nor eaten gefilte fish, traitor or not, and I’m finicky! So why don’t you do it? Let us off for once! Go on, be a pal, be a father to your men! Climb down off that cross of yours, close your eyes, think of England, and pull the trigger! What do you say, Sir?

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

[Brittles knows Quincannon has been drinking on duty]
Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne): You got a breath on you like gefilte fish.
Top Sergeant Quincannon (Victor McLaglen): Ah, Captain darlin’. As you well know I took “the pledge” after Chapultepec.
Captain Nathan Brittles: And Bull Run, and Gettysburg, and Shiloh, and St. Patrick’s Day, and Fourth of July!


During my research I also came across numerous hilarious references to pilonidal cysts which I will share with you on another occasion.

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