Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The gold standard of movies about candy, Mel Stuart's memorable and occasionally trippy musical based loosely on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl is usually the first sweets movie any of us ever see. Gene Wilder stars as the titular factory owner, a fantastical figure who has adopted his own bizarre (if moralistic) mindset in a world of his own making, sort of like if Timothy Leary had adopted a love for sucrose rather than LSD. With surreal images, infectious music and more diminutive orange people than it's safe to say will ever appear in any movie again, Willy Wonka is a candy movie unlike any other, which is strange considering...
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Tim Burton decided to stick closer to Dahl's book when he updated it for the 2005 hit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Johnny Depp stepped into the role of Willy Wonka and the movie ironically became more about that character than Charlie. Whereas the 1971 version uses candy as a symbol of the morality of restraint, the 2005 update makes candy a metaphor for childhood itself. It's the alluring, indulgent but ultimately unfulfilling substance of a mind and body still in development. But hey, it's a comedy aimed at children, so Charlie ultimately doesn't have to leave behind candy in his bid for adulthood. Instead, he finds a way to take an enlightened approach to indulgence and ends up embracing responsibility rather than rebellion. In a word, the ending is sweet.
Roald Dahl doesn't have a monopoly on candy as a symbol for something more substantial. Joanna Harris used her upbringing in a family of European confectioners to find the inspiration for her 1999 novel Chocolat, to be adapted for the screen the next year by Robert Nelson Jacobs and directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Also starring Johnny Depp, this time as a free-spirited Irish Traveler opposite Juliette Binoche's wandering chocolate shop owner, Chocolat uses its titular sweet as an allegory for all sensual indulgence. The people of the village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes respond to the sudden introduction of earthly pleasures with a mix of excitement and fear, especially the mayor Reynaud as played by Alfred Molina. Chocolat has a sort of reigned-in libertine sensibility, saying that the things of the flesh are okay as long as there's genuine love behind them.
Not all candy movies are sweet, though. Darren Stein's much-maligned black comedy Jawbreaker uses candy to symbolize the rampant immaturity that becomes downright dangerous in adolescence. A coterie of popular high school girls get tangled up in an increasingly macabre story when a prank involving the oversized Gobstopper of the title results in the death of a classmate. A flop at theaters and hated by critics, Jawbreaker makes a pretty strong case for keeping candy movies on the pleasant side of cinema.