17 Movie Theater Snacks, Ranked Worst To Best

You might expect the movie theater business to be all about the films, but most theaters actually make their money from selling food. That won't come as a surprise to anyone who's watched most of a paycheck vanish while buying snacks for their family, but it underscores how important food is to the overall movie experience. We all know concessions are much more expensive than what they cost in a store, but we still happily fork over the extra dough so we can munch at the movies.

Snack preferences are deeply personal, and we often stick with the same candies we've been eating since we were little kids. We don't want to yuck anyone else's yum, but some movie snacks are objectively better than others. Which treats are worth spending your hard-earned cash and which should be thrown into the trash? This guide will prevent you from wasting your time on snacks that don't deserve you.

17. Twizzlers

Twizzlers vs. Red Vines is a heated debate among candy fans, with people on both sides of the divide arguing for the superiority of their preferred waxy, red pseudo-licorice. The clash between team Twizzler and team Red Vine obscures the most important fact about these twisty confections: They're both trash. Red licorice combines an unnatural texture more reminiscent of plastic than food with a flavor that tastes more like corn syrup and starch than strawberries or cherries. Even though they're commonly called licorice, most flavors of Twizzlers contain no actual licorice root, subbing it out for more crowd-pleasing fruit flavors (via Hersheyland). 

With so many other options at the movie theater, there's no reason to subject yourself to these flavorless candy noodles. Sure, it's fun to bite the ends off of one and use it as a straw, but then you have the whole rest of the bag to suffer through. Oh, and if you're a time traveler from the 1800s who enjoys the flavor of black licorice, more power to you, but be careful not to eat a ton of it or you'll risk health complications.

16. Cookie Dough Bites

We've all heard that eating raw cookie dough might not be the safest snacking option, but it tastes even better than baked cookies so it's difficult to say no. Cookie Dough Bites promise to give us all the flavor of cookie dough without the potential for salmonella or E. coli poisoning. They should be incredible, which makes their mediocrity profoundly disappointing. By removing eggs and raw flour, Cookie Dough Bites also remove everything worthwhile about the dough-eating experience. 

The cookie dough filling tastes more of chemicals than anything else, and the bites are so small that they can't use real chocolate chips, depriving us of the joy of crunching down on chunks of chocolate. The milk chocolate coating tastes like nothing and does little to redeem the sins of the filling. Food scientists have blessed humanity with many tasty gifts, from Hot Pockets to instant ramen, but they have not figured out how to make a tasty, shelf-stable cookie dough substitute.

15. SweeTarts

The flavor of SweeTarts isn't the issue here. Although every color tastes exactly the same (and nothing like the fruit flavors they're alleged to represent), they have a satisfying level of sourness that doesn't go overboard into stunt territory. No, the real problem with these is their chalky mouthfeel. Although they were invented in 1963 (via OldTimeCandy.com), they feel like spiritual successors to the hard, dusty candies of the 19th and early 20th centuries. SweeTarts are like zestier Necco wafers or conversation hearts with a little more pizzazz. Their second listed ingredient is maltodextrin, a carbohydrate that's known for its ability to absorb whatever liquid it comes in contact with (including the saliva in your mouth). A few pieces are okay, but a whole movie theater-sized box will leave your tongue and esophagus coated in dry, sour dust. The perfect serving size for this candy is the little individual paper packet you get when you go trick-or-treating, and even a handful of SweeTarts makes for a pleasant if unmemorable snack.

14. Pizza

In these trying times, one thing we can all agree on is that we love pizza. When it's prepared from scratch by skilled hands, pizza is one of humanity's all-time greatest food inventions. Unless you're ordering from one of those new-fangled theaters with real restaurants inside, movie theater pizza is neither made fresh nor crafted with proper technique. Instead, you're most likely going to get a frozen pizza that's been reheated in the microwave (or if you're lucky, a convection oven). Some frozen pizza tastes okay, but theater concession stands tend to source the cheapest food possible. That means you're likely to get bargain-basement cafeteria-style pizza at most multiplexes. To add insult to injury, you have to pay exorbitant movie theater prices for something you could eat at home for a couple of bucks. If you're craving pizza, go to a pizzeria before your movie instead of splurging on overpriced DiGiorno.

13. Nachos

Movie theaters are not restaurants. They don't normally have full kitchens, and their food options are limited to whatever bored teenage employees won't screw up. Thus, the nachos at the movies are usually simplified down to a mound of tortilla chips with a cup of fake nacho cheese sauce on the side. We're not here to talk trash about nacho cheese, which is quite tasty despite its unnatural neon color and suspiciously gelatinous texture. We just wish movie theaters would stop being so skimpy with it. Most of the time you run out of the little cup of cheese long before your last chip and you're left with a pile of sad, stale tortilla chips that might as well be packing peanuts. Save your nacho consumption for home, where you can go wild with loads of toppings and customize them to your taste. You can even use real cheese if you want!

12. Sno-Caps

Nestle Sno-Caps are an old-fashioned type of candy called a nonpareil. According to Merriam-Webster, nonpareil means "having no equal," so the name of these candies suggests that their taste is unmatchable. Maybe if they had a less arrogant name, they would benefit from lower expectations. Unlike many movie candies, Sno-Caps are made with semi-sweet rather than milk chocolate. We love a nice, bittersweet dark chocolate, but the cheap stuff in Sno-Caps doesn't have much flavor. The white sprinkles on top provide a nice crunch, but they also taste like nothing. Sno-Caps have less fat than other popular chocolate brands, but you're not usually thinking about health when you're eating candy at the movies. This snack is definitely coasting on its history as a classic theater option. There's a reason you don't see people munching on Sno-Caps when they're not catching a flick. Modern consumers need something more exciting than crunchy sugar beads to want to spend a bunch of calories on a box of candy.

11. Reese's Pieces

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are one of the few perfect candies: an impeccable balance of sweet, salty, and fatty. Reese's nailed the peanut butter and chocolate combination so well with its original product that any deviation from the formula is doomed to suffer by comparison. Such is the fate of Reese's Pieces, a totally adequate candy that is nevertheless significantly inferior to a Reese's Cup. The main problem with Reese's M&M competitor is that it doesn't have any chocolate in it (via Hersheyland). Instead, the filling is just sweet peanut butter, alone without its partner in crime. The crunchy sugar shell is a poor substitute for the creamy milk chocolate found in other Reese's products. The peanut butter in Reese's pieces also tastes more artificial than the stuff in the classic cups. Reese's pieces may have been good enough for E.T. (via Hershey Community Archives), but they just leave us wishing we were eating peanut butter cups instead.

10. Mike and Ike

According to OldTimeCandy.com, Mike and Ikes have been around since 1940. Unlike many candies from the first half of the 20th century, Mikes and Ikes still taste acceptable to modern palates, although they're not going to knock your socks off. Unlike many multi-colored "fruit" candies (looking at you, SweeTarts), the colors actually signify noticeable differences in flavor. You can even buy single-flavor boxes, although your local cinema probably only stocks the original mixed package. This candy has a unique texture, with a crisp, slightly grainy sugar shell yielding to a soft interior. The fruit flavoring doesn't taste real per se, but it doesn't taste artificial in a way that detracts from the eating experience. They're pleasant, and they don't weigh you down — and it's easy to eat way too many of them without realizing it. Mike and Ikes are a good choice for mindlessly inhaling while you watch the latest blockbuster.

9. Slushies

Slushies are a gas-station favorite, and they make for a decent addition to your movie theater snack rotation. While you won't find 7-11's famous Slurpee at your neighborhood megaplex, many theaters serve ICEES, which use the same technology. The secret to ICEE's light, fluffy texture is the addition of carbon dioxide, which aerates the drink. A sweet, chilly ICEE is the perfect way to cleanse your palate after eating salty popcorn, and a Coca-Cola-flavored slushy can be a fun alternative to a standard fountain drink.

The reason slushies aren't higher on this list is that they're really cold, and movie theaters are usually frigid. Even in the middle of July, you often have to wear a sweater to stay comfortable in ice-cold theater air-conditioning, and adding a slushie to the mix can result in an even more tooth-chattering experience. If you can handle the chill, go for it, but watch out for brain freeze.

8. Pretzel Bites

Pretzel bites vary from theater to theater, but normally they consist of miniature nuggets of pretzel dough that are baked and then served with a nacho cheese dipping sauce. Movie theater nacho cheese shines in this context, adding unctuous creaminess to the fluffy, salty pretzels. Even better, it's not a huge deal if you run out of the cheese because pretzel bites taste much better on their own than stale tortilla chips do. If you're lucky, your local theater might even deep fry their pretzel bites instead of baking them.

The one thing that can ruin pretzel bites is age. If you know that the concession stand at your theater heats up all their food in the morning and lets it mummify under heat lamps all day, you should choose a pre-packaged snack over the pretzels. The heat lamp transforms pretzel bites from crispy and chewy to tough and leathery in record time.

7. Junior Mints

Some people just don't like chocolate and mint together. If that's you, feel free to move on to the next candy. If, on the other hand, you're the type of person with a bag of York Peppermint Patties stashed in your freezer at all times, or if you mark the start of Girl Scout Cookie season on your calendar every year so you can stock up on Thin Mints, then Junior Mints will satisfy your cravings. The dark chocolate shell actually tastes like real chocolate, and the mint filling is pleasantly soft. The mint flavor is present without knocking you over the head with menthol.

To level up your Junior Mint experience, try mixing it with your popcorn (via Reluctant Entertainer). Sweet and salty taste great together, and if you use freshly-popped corn it will soften the candy slightly and make the filling creamier. The result is like a snack food choose-your-own-adventure story.

6. Raisinets

Raisins get a lot of hate online. Cosmopolitan summarizes many of the common complaints about these innocuous dried grapes. Apparently, lots of folks think that raisins are nasty and that they sabotage otherwise tasty foods like oatmeal cookies and pastries. We are independent-minded snackers, and we needn't let the internet's raisin slander ruin something we know is good. If you look past all the snide comments and look at Raisinets with fresh eyes, you will realize that they are one of the best movie candies.

On their own, raisins taste kind of healthy, but Raisinets solve this problem by coating them in milk chocolate. The raisins lend a satisfyingly chewy texture and a complex flavor to the chocolate. While Nestle points out that "Raisinets have 30% less fat than leading chocolate brands," keep in mind that they pack in 28 grams of sugar in each serving, not exactly healthy.  

5. M&M's

When M&M's were first invented, you couldn't buy them in any store (via History). Instead, they were all shipped overseas to feed American troops fighting in World War II. Later, NASA packed M&M's in the Space Shuttle to give astronauts a little taste of home. A movie theater is a very different environment from a battlefield or a shuttle cockpit, but M&Ms hit the spot no matter where you are. The melt-proof sugar shell on these chocolate candies makes them convenient, portable, and easy to eat. They taste pretty great too, especially the peanut ones.

M&M's are so small that you can easily snack on them throughout your whole movie without running out if you pace yourself. The simple combination of chocolate and candy coating is timeless, proving that sometimes the simple things are the best. M&M's don't try to accomplish anything fancy, but they dependably deliver the same delicious flavor every time you buy them.

4. Skittles

Skittles' weird advertising campaigns and colorful looks have enticed generations of kids to "taste the rainbow." The bite-sized candies blend tangy and sweet flavors with great success, and they're intense enough not to bore you but mild enough that you can eat a whole bag easily. Their texture is a big component of their appeal too, balancing crispy and chewy sensations to maximize addictiveness.

Each color of Skittles is supposed to represent a different fruit, but some people think that the different flavors are a scam and all Skittles actually taste the same. Researcher Don Katz told "Today" that test subjects were unable to distinguish between different Skittles flavors when their noses were plugged. Before you run to sue Skittles for fraud, you should know that the flavors do taste different when you're able to smell. Flavor is created by a combination of aroma and signals from the tongue, and each color of Skittle has its own unique aroma. Quite frankly, who cares if they taste different from each other when you're shoveling them in by the handful?  Whether they taste the same to you or not, Skittles are a first-rate movie snack. 

3. Sour Patch Kids

These mischievous little munchkins are close to the top of the movie snack hierarchy. Although the candy doesn't actually look much like the sugary kids cavorting across its wrapper, it more than makes up for the lack of visual consistency by bringing the best sour flavor on the market. Unlike other sour candies that amp up the acidity to create yucky stunt food, Sour Patch Kids have just enough pucker to keep you interested. Their trademark "sour, then sweet" flavor is made by dusting them in sour sugar, a mixture of citric acid and sugar (via Leaf.tv). The candies themselves aren't sour, so once all the citric acid is dissolved you're left with fruity sweetness.

Sour Patch Kids are also the perfect level of gummy, resistant enough to keep you interested but not so hard you feel like you're pulling out your teeth. Just don't eat too much, or you might hurt your mouth.

2. Milk Duds

Milk Duds are the greatest of all movie candies. They pull off junk food sorcery by combining low-quality components into a product that's greater than the sum of its parts. The milk chocolate coating on them is insipid and would be unacceptable if eaten on its own. The caramel is aggressively chewy and might pull a filling out if you're not careful. Somehow, the magicians at Hershey created an addictive confection with those two uninspiring ingredients. The mild chocolate blends with the buttery, toasty notes of the caramel to produce a unique and enjoyable eating experience. Even if the movie is boring, Milk Duds give you something to do because you'll get a full jaw workout from how chewy they are. They take a long time to eat — especially if they've been sitting on the shelf for a while — which is great if you're trying to make your snack money last.

1. Popcorn

Yes, the popcorn at movie theaters is wildly overpriced. It might be shipped in rather than popped in-house, and the "butter" you add to it is more Flavacol than dairy. Somehow, none of that matters, because when you step into a theater and that fake butter smell permeates the air, you know you need to buy the biggest bucket in the house. Popcorn is synonymous with the movies, and it feels wrong to sit down to a feature without some bright yellow corn in front of you. You may get candy or a slushy too, but your palate needs the bracing saltiness of popcorn to cut through all that sugar. Popcorn lulls you into a trance, alternating handfuls with sips of soda until you realize when the credits roll that you've eaten a full gallon tub and your stomach hurts. If that happens to you frequently, don't worry, because popcorn isn't super terrible for your health

Popcorn is always there for you, and it never treats you wrong. That's why it's sitting at the top of this list.