Fried Green Tomatoes

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Fried Green Tomatoes
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJon Avnet
Screenplay by
Based onFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
by Fannie Flagg
Produced by
CinematographyGeoffrey Simpson
Edited byDebra Neil-Fisher
Music byThomas Newman
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 27, 1991 (1991-12-27)
Running time
130 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million[2]
Box office$119.4 million[3]

Fried Green Tomatoes is a 1991 American comedy-drama film directed by Jon Avnet and based on Fannie Flagg's 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Written by Flagg and Carol Sobieski, and starring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker and Cicely Tyson, the film tells the story of a middle-aged housewife who, unhappy with her life, befriends an elderly lady in a nursing home and is enthralled by the tales she tells of people she used to know.

The film was released in theaters in the United States on December 27, 1991, garnered positive reviews from critics and was a box office success, grossing $119.4 million on a $11 million budget.

Fried Green Tomatoes received nominations for two Academy Awards and two BAFTA awards, as well as nominations for three Golden Globe Awards and a Guldbagge Award.


Evelyn Couch is a timid housewife in her 40s in 1980s Birmingham. Her husband Ed has an aunt living at an Alabama nursing home, where Evelyn meets elderly Ninny Threadgoode. Over several encounters, Ninny tells Evelyn about the long-abandoned town of Whistle Stop and its residents.[a]

Ninny's tale begins with tomboy Idgie, the youngest member of the Threadgoode family. She and Ruth Jamison are devastated when Idgie's beloved older brother and Ruth's boyfriend Buddy is killed by a train. Idgie remains socially withdrawn well into her adolescence. At the Threadgoode family's request, the straitlaced Ruth intervenes.

Idgie initially rebuffs Ruth's attempt at friendship, but over the summer they gradually develop a deep attachment. Ruth eventually moves to Valdosta, Georgia, to marry Frank Bennett. When Idgie visits she discovers that Frank habitually abuses the pregnant Ruth.

Against Frank's violent attempts to stop her, Idgie and two men rescue Ruth who returns to Whistle Stop with them, where her baby, Buddy Jr., is born. Papa Threadgoode gives Idgie money to start a business and help care for Ruth and Buddy Jr. She and Ruth open the Whistle Stop Cafe, employing the family cook, Sipsey, and her son, Big George, whose excellent barbecue becomes widely popular.

Frank comes to Whistle Stop to kidnap his infant son, but an unseen assailant thwarts his attempt, and he is soon reported missing. About five years later, Frank's truck surfaces in a nearby river. Idgie becomes a suspect, having publicly threatened Frank for beating Ruth. Sheriff Grady Kilgore detains both her and Big George. He offers to release Idgie and pin Frank's supposed murder solely on Big George, but she refuses.

During the subsequent trial, Reverend Scroggins provides false testimony that supports both Idgie's and Big George's alibis. Taking into account Frank's reputation for drunkenness and his body never being found, the judge rules his probable death as accidental and drops all charges against Idgie and Big George.

Shortly after the trial, Ruth is diagnosed with terminal cancer and soon dies. When trains stop running through Whistle Stop, the café closes, and the townsfolk drift away. Ninny's story concludes, but not before Frank's fate is revealed. When Frank attempted to kidnap Buddy Jr., Sipsey hit him over the head with a cast-iron skillet, killing him. Frank's truck was pushed into the river, and Idgie convinced Big George to butcher and barbecue Frank's body, which they later served to Sheriff Curtis Smoot, who relentlessly investigated Frank's disappearance. Smoot proclaimed the meal as the best barbecue he ever ate.

Evelyn discovers Ninny was discharged from the nursing home. During her stay there, Ninny's house was condemned and demolished unbeknownst to her. Evelyn finds Ninny where the house once stood. She wants her to live with her and Ed, to which Ninny agrees.

They pass by Ruth's grave which is freshly adorned with a jar containing honey and a honeycomb. A card reads, "I'll always love you, the Bee Charmer". The Bee Charmer was Ruth's nickname for Idgie, revealing that Idgie is still alive and is possibly Ninny. As they leave, Ninny recollects how after Ruth died the cafe closed and all the townspeople eventually left.


A photograph of Kathy Bates
A photograph of Mary Stuart Masterson
A photograph of Mary-Louise Parker
Kathy Bates (pictured in 2006), Mary Stuart Masterson (2007), and Mary-Louise Parker (1999)



Jon Avnet first read the novel in 1987.[4] He was introduced to it by producer Lisa Lindstrom, with whom he worked on television films Heat Wave and Breaking Point. Although he wanted her to give him a synopsis of the story, she insisted he read the book and like her, he loved it. He decided to turn the story into a film and pitched the idea to Norman Lear's company, Act III Communications, who were interested and gave him a small budget for a screenwriter.[5] He hired Carol Sobieski who had written the screenplay for 1982's Annie. She wrote a draft for it as a musical, which he was unhappy with.[5] Sobieski left the project and he hired Flagg, who had been surprised that anyone would want to turn the novel into a film, to develop the script. Although she had some screenwriting experience, she found the process of turning her own novel into a script a strange one. The job was made somewhat easier by the work done by Sobieski and Avnet in choosing which characters from the book were going to be featured, but she found it difficult and also left the project, after writing 70 pages of the screenplay. With no money left to hire another writer, Avnet took the script over himself and spent the next 2–3 years developing it. Flagg gave her blessing to the final draft.[5]

Avnet wrote the film with Jessica Tandy in mind; she expressed excitement about making the film.[5] He had worked with Kathy Bates and Chris O'Donnell on the 1990 film Men Don't Leave before offering them the roles of Evelyn Couch and Buddy Threadgoode respectively.[4] When Bates read the script she loved the characters and was particularly keen to work with Tandy.[4] Mary-Louise Parker was casting director David Rubin's first choice for the role of Ruth Jamison. She read for the part several times, initially unhappy with her own tests. When she read along with Mary Stuart Masterson, they – and the producers – agreed that they had good chemistry.

Location and filming[edit]

Avnet hired Barbara Ling as production designer. Scouting for a location, she found Juliette, Georgia, a town that was, according to Avnet, nearly deserted.[5][6] The building chosen to be the Whistle Stop Café was formerly an antique and hardware store. It was redesigned as a cafe, with a horseshoe-shaped counter to allow for optimal camera angles.[5]

The scene where Idgie goes to collect honey from a tree stump for Ruth was originally intended to be performed by a stunt double. However, after the latter backed out at the last minute, Masterson volunteered to do it herself. The footage of her covered in a swarm of live bees is seen in the final version of the film.[4]

Flagg based the Whistle Stop restaurant on the real-life Irondale Café in Irondale, Alabama.[6] She was a frequent visitor and it was formerly owned by her great-aunt.[7]

Differences between the film and novel[edit]

Unlike the novel, the film does not make the lesbian romance between the two central characters explicit, instead leaving the relationship between Idgie and Ruth ambiguous.[8][9][10] The DVD contains an audio commentary by Avnet in which he points out that a scene between Idgie and Ruth engaging in a food fight was intended as a "love scene".[11]

At the time of the film's debut, it was criticized by reviewers and activists for what was seen as "glossing over" the lesbian relationship.[8][12] But it won an award in 1992 from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for best feature film with lesbian content.[9][11]

Although in the book Idgie and Ninny are two distinctly separate characters, at the end of the film it is largely hinted that they are one and the same.[8] This runs counter to Ninny's earlier comment that "I was practically adopted by the Threadgoodes; I married her [Idgie's] brother, Cleo". Additionally, the film has Ruth being in love with Buddy Threadgoode, Idgie's brother.[13]


Fried Green Tomatoes was given a limited release in the United States on December 27, 1991, opening in five theaters.[3] It got a wide release four weeks later on January 24, 1992, in 673 theaters. It ran for 19 weeks in total, with its widest release having been 1,331 theaters.[3]

Box office[edit]

Fried Green Tomatoes grossed $82.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $37 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $119.4 million, against a budget of $11 million.[3][2] In its opening weekend it earned $105,317, and at its wide release opening weekend it earned $5,235,940, which was 6.4 percent of its total gross.[3] According to Box Office Mojo, it ranked at no. 11 for all films released in the US in 1991,[14] and no. 5 for PG‑13 rated films released that year.[citation needed]

Home media[edit]

The VHS was released by MCA/Universal Home Video in North America on August 20, 1992.[15][16]

The 137-minute "extended" collector's edition DVD for Region 1 was released by Universal Studios on April 18, 2000. The DVD features a documentary about the making of the film, commentary by Jon Avnet, original theatrical trailer, and the film poster campaign.[17][18][19] The region free Blu-ray was released March 4, 2014.[20]

In the United Kingdom, the VHS was released as Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Columbia Tristar Home Video on October 2, 1992.[21] The DVD for Region 2 was released by Carlton Visual Entertainment on September 9, 2002.[22]

Critical reception[edit]

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 76% based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 6.70/10. The critical consensus reads, "Fried Green Tomatoes' tearjerking drama is undeniably manipulative, but in the hands of a skilled cast that includes Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates, it's also powerfully effective."[23] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[24] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[25]

Critics enjoyed the narrative, but found it conventional and predictable.[12][26] The adaptation of the separate narrative of book to the screen was criticized by Time Out as "clumsy", Roger Ebert praised the performances, Janet Maslin praised the costume and production design and Emanuel Levy praised the cinematography and score.[12][27] The cast drew praise for their performances, particularly Masterson and Tandy.[12][27]

In 2005, Fried Green Tomatoes was nominated by the American Film Institute for its "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" list of most inspiring movies.[28]


Award Date Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Jessica Tandy Nominated [29]
Best Adapted Screenplay Fannie Flagg, Carol Sobieski Nominated
BMI Awards May 19, 1993 Motion Picture Composer Award Thomas Newman Won [30]
British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Jessica Tandy Nominated [31][32]
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Kathy Bates Nominated
GLAAD Media Award April 11, 1992 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Wide Release Fried Green Tomatoes Won [33][9]
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Fried Green Tomatoes Nominated [34]
Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical Kathy Bates Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Jessica Tandy Nominated
Guldbagge Awards Best Foreign Film Fried Green Tomatoes Nominated [35]
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski Nominated [36]


Fried Green Tomatoes
Studio album by
Various Artists
ReleasedDecember 31, 1991

The Fried Green Tomatoes: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was supervised by Arthur Baker,[37] who also produced several of the songs. Baker and American singer-songwriter Grayson Hugh co-arranged and recorded Bob Dylan's song "I'll Remember You" for the end-title song. British singer-songwriter Paul Young appears with the song "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," which peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1992.[38] The soundtrack featured Patti LaBelle performing Bessie Jackson's 1933 blues song, "Barbecue Bess".[39][40]

The original score, composed by Thomas Newman, was released as Fried Green Tomatoes in June 1992.[41]


Inside the Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette, Georgia.

After the release of Fried Green Tomatoes, the town of Juliette saw an influx of tourists and, with Jon Avnet's encouragement, locals opened the Whistle Stop Café, recreated to mirror the film set.[42] Although "Whistle Stop Café" is a registered trademark, other establishments have appeared using that name.[43]

The film caused the fried green tomatoes food dish to be known as a delicacy of the Southern United States, when it previously did not have such a status.[44]


  1. ^ The film's subplot concerns Evelyn's dissatisfaction with her marriage, her life, her growing confidence, and the developing friendship between her and Ninny. The timeline switches between the present and flashback story set between World War I and World War II.


  1. ^ "Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)". The New York Times. June 4, 2012. Archived from the original on June 4, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Fox, David J. (February 10, 1992). "'Green Tomatoes': Why a Little Film Bloomed: Movies: Film starts slowly at the box office but word of mouth, themes, strong cast ignite interest in the $11-million work". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 17, 2015. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Fried Green Tomatoes". Box Office Mojo. 1991. Retrieved April 5, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d Avnet, Jon (director) (1998). Director's Commentary (Fried Green Tomatoes) (DVD). United States: Universal Studios Home Video. OCLC 861743569.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Kenny, J.M. (director) (1998). 'Fried Green Tomatoes': The Moments of Discovery (DVD). United States: Universal Studios Home Video. OCLC 861743569. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Park, Irby (May 7, 2003). "Fannie Flagg Captivates Audience at City Book Event". The Chattanoogan. Archived from the original on May 9, 2003. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
  7. ^ Nolan, Michael (October 20, 2002). "Fried Green Tomatoes At The Irondale Cafe". American Profile. Archived from the original on June 12, 2010. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
  8. ^ a b c Rockler, Naomi R. (2001). "A Wall on the Lesbian Continuum: Polysemy and Fried Green Tomatoes". Women's Studies in Communication. 24 (1): 90–106. doi:10.1080/07491409.2001.10162428. ISSN 0749-1409. S2CID 143987600.
  9. ^ a b c Isaak, Sharon; Pryor, Kelli (February 28, 1992). "Women in love". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  10. ^ Vickers, Lu (June 1994). "Fried Green Tomatoes Excuse me, did we see the same movie?". Jump Cut. 39: 25–30. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  11. ^ a b Colussi, Mary (May 8, 2021). "14 Queer Characters Who Got "Straightwashed" Into Heteronormativity By Hollywood: 3. Idgie and Ruth — Fried Green Tomatoes". BuzzFeed. Retrieved May 17, 2023.
  12. ^ a b c d Levy, Emanuel (January 6, 2006). "Fried Green Tomatoes". Archived from the original on March 7, 2012. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  13. ^ Hollinger, Karen (1998). "5: The Erotic Female Friendship Film: Lesbianism in the Mainstream". In The Company Of Women: Contemporary Female Friendship Films (1st ed.). Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 158–168, 177. ISBN 978-0816631773.
  14. ^ "Domestic Box Office For 1991". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  15. ^ Nichols, Peter M. (July 16, 1992). "Home Video". The New York Times. p. Section C, 24. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  16. ^ McCullaugh, Jim (October 17, 1992). "MCA To Duplicate Long-Running 'Far & Away' On Thicker Tape". Billboard. p. 83. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  17. ^ "Fried Green Tomatoes DVD". 2000. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  18. ^ Koemmlich, Herr (March 10, 2010). "Fried Green Tomatoes". Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  19. ^ Levy, Emanuel (June 26, 2020). "Fried Green Tomatoes: Anniversary Edition of Cult Movie". Retrieved May 17, 2023.
  20. ^ "Fried Green Tomatoes Blu-ray". 2014. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  21. ^ "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe". BBFC. 2002. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  22. ^ Foster, Dave (August 2, 2002). "Carlton DVD Announcements". The Digital Fix. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  23. ^ "Fried Green Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. 1991. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
  24. ^ "Fried Green Tomatoes". Metacritic. 1992. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  25. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Fried Green Tomatoes" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  26. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 10, 1992). "Fried Green Tomatoes". Archived from the original on September 13, 2005. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
  27. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (December 27, 1991). "Review/Film; Women Finding Strength In Women". The New York Times. p. C, 3. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
  28. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers: America's Most Inspiring Movies (Official Ballot)" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 13, 2011. Retrieved January 23, 2024.
  29. ^ "The 64th Academy Awards | 1992". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  30. ^ Haring, Bruce (May 20, 1993). "Kamen nabs Kirk award at BMI fete". Variety. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  31. ^ "Film | Actress in a Leading Role in 1993". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  32. ^ "Film | Actress in a Supporting Role in 1993". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  33. ^ Heiman, Andrea (April 13, 1992). "Gay, Lesbian Alliance Honors Image Makers : Awards: TV's 'Roseanne,' 'L.A. Law' and 'Roc' and film's 'Frankie and Johnny' and 'Fried Green Tomatoes' are recipients for presenting positive portrayals of homosexuals". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  34. ^ "Winners & Nominees - Fried Green Tomatoes". Golden Globes. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  35. ^ "Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)". Swedish Film Database. Swedish Film Institute. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  36. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (February 13, 1992). "Writers Short List Of Prize Films". The New York Times. p. C, 21. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  37. ^ Buskin, Richard (June 1997). "Arthur Baker: From Planet Rock To Star Maker". Sound on Sound. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
  38. ^ "Top 100 Songs - Billboard Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. January 2, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  39. ^ Griffin, Gil (April 3, 1992). "Crop of Soundtracks With Plenty of Picks". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
  40. ^ "Fried Green Tomatoes". Soundtrack.Net. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
  41. ^ "Fried Green Tomatoes – Original Score". Soundtrack.Net. 2007. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  42. ^ "Little Town Where Movie Was Made Finally Gets Café, Fried Tomatoes". Rome News-Tribune. April 13, 1992. p. 5. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
  43. ^ Zganjar, Leslie (November 3, 2002). "The Whistle Stop name is just too popular". Birmingham Business Journal. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
  44. ^ Gunter, Kara (January 16, 2013). "A New Southern "Classic": Fried Green Tomatoes". The Post and Courier. Archived from the original on August 19, 2023. Retrieved August 19, 2023.

External links[edit]