Vending Machines in Pop Culture

If you work long hours, or if you simply can’t get through the day without your afternoon coffee and midmorning snacks, then vending machines play an important role in your life – whether you realise it or not. 

Vending machines have always been the quiet, unassuming, unsung heroes in our lives, which perhaps explains why they’ve often played such a curious role in our favourite films and TV shows.  They never drive the action – they only ever appear when characters decide to use them.  At this point, though, they usually cease to be so passive, and instead become something much more important, and much harder to ignore.

Here are some of our favourite moments involving vending machines in pop culture:

Homer Gets Trapped Between Two Vending Machines in The Simpsons 

The Simpsons is full of memorable vending machine moments, and they almost always involve Homer.  Remember his disgust at his workplace’s healthy vending machines? We actually think they’re a great idea! However, by far the best vending machine moment in Simpsons history occurs in the season 5 episode, Marge on the Lam

Homer misses a night at the ballet – which he imagines will be a bear in a fez driving a miniature car – after getting himself trapped between two vending machines.  It’s his own fault – he was trying to steal a soft drink, and the only reason he remained stuck for so long was through his refusal to let go of the can.  However, he’s quick to realise the benefits of a life spent trapped between a couple of vending machines: Picturing his daughter’s wedding, he’s able to dispense free snacks to the congregation.

Rimmer Has a Battle of Wits with a Vending Machine in Red Dwarf 

BBC sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf features a character who, as well as being the last human left alive, also has an illustrious past as a vending machine technician.  Vending machine maintenance is a very serious issue, and we applaud the BBC for highlighting and celebrating the vital role played by those who service vending machines in the field.

But the best vending machine moment in Red Dwarf appears in the finale of season eight.  In order to prove his cunning and guile, Rimmer attempts to steal a “choccy nut bar” from a vending machine.  The machine – voiced by a hilariously indignant Tony Slattery – doesn’t take kindly to this attempted theft.  If only real vending machines were so vigilant!

Jim Puts Dwight’s Stuff in a Vending Machine in The Office 

The US version of The Office was defined by the pranks Jim played on Dwight.  By far the most irritating for Dwight – and hilarious for us – was the time Jim somehow managed to hide all of Dwight’s office supplies in a vending machine, including his wallet.

But Jim’s good enough to give Dwight a bag of nickels – each of which is worth five cents – so Dwight is forced to spend his entire day feeding coin after coin into a vending machine.  At least Dwight will never take the office vending machine for granted again!


What are your favourite moments involving vending machines in pop culture?