The crunchy, cheesy, spicy, and delicious snack that is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos first debuted in 1990. Since then, it has become a staple and a cultural phenomenon, inspiring  sweet and savory dishes and making its way onto fast food menus. But have you ever thought of how Flamin’ Hot Cheetos came to be? A new movie, Flamin’ Hot, which is set for release this summer, depicts the origin story of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and the man who supposedly came up with the idea.

What is the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos movie about? 

Set in the 1990s, Flamin’ Hot tells the story of Richard Montañez, a janitor for Frito Lay who claims to have invented the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto. The movie shows how Richard, the son of a Mexican immigrant, brings home a package of Cheetos from work one day and seasons them with spices such as chili powder. Richard then pitches his concoction to the higher ups at Frito-Lay, inventing one of the most popular snacks and subsequently climbing Frito-Lay’s corporate ladder. 

But is the story really true?

While Richard Montañez's story is an inspirational one, it may not be completely true. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Frito-Lay claimed they have no records that "show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market.” The Times also reported that after interviewing many personnel involved in the testing market for the spicy Cheetos, “all of them indicate that Richard was not involved in any capacity in the test market.”

There is no evidence that Montañez invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, but he did rise through Frito-Lay's corporate rankings. Following the release of the Cheeto, Montañez became a marketing executive for Frito-Lay where he was involved in pitching new products. 

Then who invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos?

According to an article by Sam Dean for the LA Times, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were invented by snack food professionals in Plano, Texas in 1989 “designed to compete with spicy snacks sold in the inner-city mini-marts of the Midwest.”

What are critics saying about the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos movie?

Despite controversy on whether or not the film is entirely true, reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

A review by Pete Hammond for DEADLINE reiterates that the movie is “highly-entertaining,” despite its alleged fabrication. “It is a classic rags-to-riches story, no matter the details of the actual making of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, because this is really about family, the making of the man, and the making of the most of a hard-fought opportunity,” wrote Hammond. The review also makes note of the movie’s tongue-and-cheek narrative style which hints that aspects of the story may not be true.

Where can I watch? 

Flamin’ Hot will be released on June 9, 2023 on Hulu and Disney+.