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If You See Someone Drinking Milk in a Movie, the Director Is Giving You a Hint

Things are never without purpose or accidental in movies. Every small detail has a meaning. This specifically applies to drinks that appear in movie scenes. They’re kind of like markers for movie makers that help highlight the additional features of their characters. For example, in order to enhance a character’s brutality, the character is often given a strong drink like whiskey, for example. Some movie characters may also be seen drinking milk. There’s a special term for this in the world of cinematography, it’s known as “the milk effect.” That’s how they define the psychological trick directors use to keep the audience intrigued or to give a clue about a character or a hero.

We at Bright Side have learned why the heroes of our favorite movies prefer to drink milk and what this fact may be hiding.

1. An adult person drinking milk hints they have an innocent soul.

Perhaps the most memorable cinematic hero who likes to drink milk is the killer, Léon, from the movie with the same name, directed by Luc Besson. There’s a kind of dissonance in it — a professional killer that drinks milk, all because this drink is associated with purity and childhood. But that’s actually where the director’s hint is hidden: his character is still a child inside and he has a pure and bright soul that is hiding behind his stern, outer shell.

2. If it’s a negative character who drinks milk, it means the director intends to demonstrate their power.

Another movie killer who liked to drink milk is the cruel Anton Chigurh from the movie, No Country for Old Men. In this case, the character didn’t evoke any nice feelings in the audience — he breaks into the dwelling of a potential victim, grabs a bottle of milk from the fridge without permission, and drinks it while sitting on the sofa. This scene is designed to create a frightening atmosphere, because milk is a symbol of coziness, comfort, and home, in general, but the character is breaking the sanctity of the home and destroys the comfort in it by making himself the ruler of someone else’s life.

Another example of this can be seen with a character from the movie There Will Be Blood, the cruel dealer, Plainview. At the end of the movie, right before killing Eli, he shouts out the phrase, “I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!” Of course, this not only refers to the drink, but also to the power Plainview has over his victim.

3. Milk in a scene can be a symbol of the breakdown of generally accepted moral values.

In Quentin Tarantino’s movie, Inglourious Basterds there is a scene where a French farmer offers a glass of wine to the German colonel (Christoph Waltz). But the colonel kindly asks the farmer to bring him a glass of milk instead of wine and drinks it in one gulp. This is how the director demonstrates the strength and the destruction of some foundations, with the help of cinema language. Thus, the villain exhibits and manifests his power by drinking milk — showing how he dominates over goodness and purity.

Another example of this can be seen in the movie, Mad Max: Fury Road. The movie has a scene with a collection of women’s breast milk. The warriors drink it to preserve their strength and health. This technique is rather provocative, taking into account that it’s taboo for an adult to drink breast milk in the modern world. With this, the director emphasized that the post-apocalyptic world he’s showing to the audience is very far from ours, with the help of this scene.

4. The director wants to fool the viewer by presenting the hero as pure and innocent.

Several directors have used milk to force a feeling of healthiness, purity, and security in their movies. That’s why the main villain in the movie Get Out the wears a white sweater and drinks something “innocent” like milk.

Additionally, the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock who made the movie Suspicion, convinced audiences to believe that the main character poisoned milk for his wife in order to get an inheritance. It was an ingenious move since only an inveterate villain would put poison in such a healthy drink. It turned into a sort of “intimidation with milk” idea though because, in fact, there was no poison in the drink at all.

5. Milk enhances the character’s age.

Enhancing a character’s youthfulness and immaturity with the help of milk is the most obvious trick. If filmmakers want to depict a character who is too young and literally “has milk on his lips,” it’s not difficult to understand which drink they will choose.

In the movie, Rebel Without a Cause, the teenager played by James Dean gets drunk at first, but the next morning drinks a bottle of milk, thus demonstrating that there are both adult and childhood feelings fighting inside him.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s young character in the movie Catch Me If You Can pretends to be an adult pilot using his charm. But when the stewardess asks him what drink he would like to have, he answers, “Milk,” thus, revealing his true age.

Finally, in the cult movie by Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange, the main characters, who are teenagers, drink milk. That’s how the director hints that the entire horror and chaos is, in fact, initiated by the kids.

Do you ever pay attention to what movie characters eat or drink? Have you ever thought about the meaning those things were hiding? We’d be glad to hear from you in the comments!

Preview photo credit Léon / Gaumont