Top Five Awkward Dinner Scenes


What is it about dinner parties that bring out the worst in people? At least, people in historical costume. Something about sitting around a dinner table means it’s time for a blow-up argument, a stunning revelation, and all kinds of drama. Here are a few dinners I’d find rather awkward to be a part of, even if they were rather fun to watch onscreen.


Pride and Prejudice, Dinner With Mr. Collins (1995)

Smarmy, slimy, pompous, and obsequious Mr. Collins makes everyone uncomfortable at the Bennet household. His “compliments” are a thing to behold.


The Borgias, Season 1: Episode 1 (2011)

With a first episode titled, “The Poisoned Chalice,” you should question every meal and glass of wine in this show. One scheming cardinal getting poisoned at the dinner he planned to poison another scheming cardinal is only the beginning!


Poldark, Series 1: Episode 1 (2015)

Hi, folks! Surprise, I survived the war! Yeah, I know, it’s been two years and you all thought I was dead, but I’m back to marry my sweetie Elizabeth. Oh, wait … um … AWKWARD…


Outlander, Season 2: Episode 4 (2016)

Claire and Jamie’s Parisian machinations come to a head in the ‘La Dame Blanche’ episode with an attempted rape delaying dinner and a fight breaking out at the end of the meal. As the Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow) sadly notes, “I was so looking forward to dessert.”


Downton Abbey, Series 6: Episode 5 (2015)

How convenient of the Dowager Countess to invite Minister of Health Neville Chamberlain over for dinner. Because Lord Grantham is ready to burst an ulcer. Talk about a spit-take!



What other awkward dinner scenes can you think of in historical costume movies and TV series?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

26 Responses

  1. Viola

    The dinner scene in Gosford Park when Elsie the maid has an accidental emotional outburst at her mistress and reveals she was more or less the only person to care about the murdered man. Awks.

  2. picasso Manu

    “At least, people in historical costume” Well, you should try my family at Christmas… Or, you know, not. If you value your sanity, that is.

    • karena333

      Same with my family. Attending one of these would be a piece of cake.

    • Kaite

      My family is getting suspicious of how I keep getting picked for Christmas as my work holiday… So, I fully understand.

  3. Frannie Germeshausen

    Sadly, Lord Grantham’s awesome spew ruined a vintage gold lame gown worn by Lady Grantham. He very nearly overshot the tarps that were protecting the carpets in the very real dining room at Highclere!

    • Gosia

      When writing about this scene, I have to say that to me it is voluntary funny, because of the unfitting music and the bad performance of the actress, who plays Lady Grantham. It looks like a parody.

      • Gosia

        Oops, I’ve made a typo: I have meant of course “involuntary” instead of “voluntary”.

  4. Melponeme_k

    The thing that makes Mr. Collins funny is that, at heart, I don’t think he is a bad man. He is just this scared, lost soul who is convinced that higher born people know better and should run his whole life. Elizabeth wouldn’t have had a bad life with him if she had chosen to marry him. It wouldn’t have been romantic, it wouldn’t have been a laugh a minute but it wouldn’t have been torture. And I’m sure Collins would have have run his life on her every word.

      • Roxana

        Charlotte recognizes that Mr. Collins is a fool and he will certainly annoy and embarrass her for the rest of their lives togethe. But she also sees there is no vice or malice in him, he will never be deliberately cruel to her or make life with him intolerable. And it’s not like poor Charlotte doesn’t have plenty of experience suffering fools, we meet her parents and siblings. Mr. Collins might well be considered an improvement! And at least there’s only one of him!

  5. Bea

    If they EVER film the Dinner Party from A Civil Campaign… it will top them all.
    “Mother, Father, I’d like you to meet–she’s getting away!”

    • Roxana

      Not to mention Ekaterin’s steely: “Pym, open the damn door and let me out!”

  6. Susan Pola Staples

    What comes to mind is the formal court dinner in Nicholas and Alexandra. Beautiful clothes, attentive staff but poor Alix is frozen by her shyness. I believe she plasters a smile on her face but isn’t very convincing. And at a ball celebrating her mother-in-law’so birthday. Poor Minnie and Alix.

  7. Jessica

    Gosford Park has a FABULOUSLY awkward dinner scene. Also I would love to see an article on that movie; it’s a wonderful upstairs/downstairs whodunnit with an all star cast.

  8. SarahV

    How did I miss Lord Grantham going all Aliens-chestburster? What season was this?

  9. Sarah

    The dinner party wrapping up the dig in the English Patient. Ralph Fiennes being ‘terribly sorry’, everyone else torn between watching the train wreck and trying to pretend it’s not happening and trying to change the topic.

  10. ladylavinia1932

    The dinner party held by John Thornton and his mother Hannah, in Episode 2 of 2004’s “North & South”. It started out well. It ended differently. Especially for the Margaret Hale character.

  11. Aimee

    In Young Victoria when the King calls out Victoria’s mother for ‘stealing’ rooms at the palace and her mother gets up and storms out. Poor Victoria was mortified.

  12. M.E. Lawrence

    As I recall, there’s more than one good food scene in “Alice Adams,” with poor Katharine Hepburn as Alice trying her best to be socially acceptable/ordinary.

  13. Karen K.

    Mr. Collins is the best! (Or the worst, depending on how you look at it.) David Bamber was brilliant. And I love Lydia’s eyeroll!

  14. Laura G.

    Almost every dinner party at Downton had at least one awkward moment.