Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Movies About Winter or Snow

The Roundtable took a break for a couple of weeks over the holidays, but it’s back to kick off 2011. Where I live in Boston, we had a pretty big blizzard just after Christmas. That got me thinking on the subject of movies about winter or snow. Let’s look at some of our favorites.

Dick Ward

  1. Groundhog Day‘ – When I think about winter, the first movie that comes to mind is the Bill Murray classic ‘Groundhog Day’. Winter weather is essential to the plot. No movie captures the desperate longing for an end to the dismal gray and cold winter. It could even be seen as a metaphor for the end of the seemingly unending season of cold, awful weather. It’s also the first thing I think of when I slip, fall, or step into a puddle of frozen water. “Watch out for that first step. It’s a doozy!”

Mike Attebery

  1. Barbershop‘ – I don’t know why, but cold weather always makes me want to watch ‘Barbershop’. I’m not really a fan of any of the film’s stars (although
    I do think it’s the best role Cedric the Entertainer has ever had). There’s just something about the film’s setting that makes me want to curl up on the couch, cocoa in hand, and enjoy the show. The combination of winter weather in the Windy City, combined with the boisterous, good natured ribbing amongst the barbers and the customers in the warmth of the shop, lets me forget my problems and just hang out for an hour and forty minutes. I really can’t explain the draw. I hate getting my hair cut. I hate going to the barbershop. I hate small talk. I have no insights into sports. I’m probably the worst barbershop patron around, but cold weather, that movie, and yours truly somehow go hand in hand. On your next sick day or the next time you’re fed up with the winter weather, check it out.

Josh Zyber

  1. The Shining‘ – Few movies have ever captured the isolation, loneliness and despair of the winter season as well as Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece. That hedge maze scene is of course an iconic moment in cinema history, deservedly so. Stephen King may not have liked the adaptation, but his taste in movies is seriously suspect. The guy endorsed that wretched TV remake starring Steven Weber, ferchrissakes. He also directed ‘Maximum Overdrive’. Whatever Stephen King has to say about a movie, the opposite is probably true.

Mrs. Z

  1. Better Off Dead‘ – Attempted suicide is not usually played for laughs, but this ’80s comedy manages to give hope to all angsty teens. Despite how desperate things may seem, life actually does get better. You just might manage to best your arch nemesis in a ski race and mend your broken heart with the help of a hot French exchange student, all while outrunning an evil paperboy who really wants his two dollars. I suppose I must admit I’m a sucker for all things John Cusack, but I really love his collaborations with writer/director/animator Savage Steve Holland. ‘Better Off Dead’ (and its summer companion ‘One Crazy Summer’) is undeniably quirky, but Cusack sells it. The result is a great deal of fun.

Junie Ray

  1. Fargo‘ – I’m a bit put out. After much contemplation, I had decided to go with ‘Better Off Dead’, only to find out that it had already been selected by Mrs. Z. A better person would say that great minds think alike, but I say she used her insider influence and stole my pick. So I decided to switch genres and go with ‘Fargo’. It’s about as winter as they come. Not just with the snow, bleak landscapes and layers of clothes, but in the crushing weight of humanity that one feels most deeply in the long stretch of a March.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

  1. Dead Snow‘ – Awww…I already exhausted the killer mutant snowman horror-comedy ‘Jack Frost’ a couple weeks ago. There are plenty of other snow-blanketed genre flicks I could poke at in its place: ‘Let the Right One In‘, ‘Misery‘, ‘The Thing‘, ‘30 Days of Night‘, ‘Gremlins‘, ‘Black Christmas‘, and ‘The Abominable Snowman’, just to rattle off a few. Since I’m just picking one and not writing a 5,000 word essay, I’ll go for ‘Dead Snow’. This splatter-comedy import takes the ‘Evil Dead’ spam-in-a-cabin formula and shuttles it out to some snowy Norwegian wasteland. The setup’s about what you’d expect: a bunch of twentysomethings on vacation head out to a remote cabin. They drink! They party! They do oodles of R-rated things to each other! They get munched on by Nazi zombies decked out in full WWII regalia! Piling on hand grenades, Molotov cocktails, the obligatory chainsaw, a snowmobile fitted with a mammoth machine gun, and plenty of gut-munching, ‘Dead Snow’ is one of the most deliriously over-the-top zombie imports to shamble along since Peter Jackson’s legendary ‘Dead Alive’.

Aaron Peck

  1. A Simple Plan‘ – When we were first asked to write about our favorite snow-bound movie, I thought of a few that would have fit the bill right off the bat. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber’ came to mind first, but I wanted a movie constantly set in a snow-covered wilderness. That’s when I thought about Sam Raimi’s great little 1998 thriller starring Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton, ‘A Simple Plan’. Filmed almost exclusively in the frigid outdoors of Minnesota, ‘A Simple Plan’ is a suspenseful thriller about a few men who find $4 million in drug money in the middle of the wilderness. Not only does the money ruin the relationships the men had with each other, it also drives them to murder. The snow and freezing temperatures add a character to the movie like it does in the frozen thriller ‘The Thing’.

Drew Taylor

  1. The Dead Zone‘ – Not that it’s particularly ABOUT winter or snow, but there seems to be an uncommon frigidity to David Cronenberg’s ‘The Dead Zone’. (A similar chilliness can be felt in ‘The Brood’, but for the purposes of this discussion, that’s neither here nor there.) For any of you unlucky enough to have missed ‘The Dead Zone’, it’s about a man (played by Christopher Walken, lending a kind of elegance to eeriness) who suffers a head injury, wakes up many years later, and has the ability to tell the future. The accident he gets into at the beginning of the movie (he hits a milk truck) seems to have been cased by icy roads, and the rest of the movie just feels like winter – damp, depressive, and so damn cold you feel like you can see your breath in front of the television screen. David Cronenberg is a Canadian director, so he has a preternatural connection with wintry weather. (See also: Atom Egoyan, specifically ‘The Sweet Hereafter’.) The movie is based on a story by Stephen King, who knows a thing or two about the madness of isolation and bad weather. But there’s something about ‘The Dead Zone’ that feels even colder than his other concoctions. If you haven’t seen it, do it now. I’ll give you a couple of seconds to turn the heat up beforehand.

Feeling cold enough yet? Give us your picks in the comments.


    • Shayne Blakeley

      Oops, I missed that Adam gave that an honorable mention already.

      So I’ll throw in “Alive.”

  1. BostonMA

    nice pick on The Shining Josh. my friends recently saw it after i recommended it and we were talking about exactly what you have stated last night. The Shining’s way up there for me, as is another winter horror film; Let the Right One In), as well as Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence and Junie Ray’s mentioned Fargo, but i think my pick would have to be the same one i chose for my favorite Christmas movie…yes, It’s a Wonderful Life

    • EM

      Evidently, that’s what Aaron Peck thought of too, but he preferred to pick a more consistently snowy movie, which certainly is a fair approach. I hesitated in my answer for the same reason, but I had to go with “Empire” nonetheless. For one thing, it lies within the innermost circle of my favorite movies. And while “Empire”’s snow-covered setting is left behind after only about 36 minutes of a 124-minute movie (pre-“Special Editions”), it’s a well packed 36 minutes. Despite the sci-fi-fantasy orientation of the movie, the winter weather and its dangers are handled a lot more realistically than in a lot of Hollywood fare. And the wintriness is utterly pervasive—most of the indoor settings are essentially icy caves.

      Second choice: John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, in which the Antarctic weather becomes a threefold threat to the human protagonists: 1) the usual physical dangers, 2) a means of isolation that bars outside help while fueling the men’s fears, and 3) a physiological advantage to the alien invader in the long term.

      Third choice: the original “Thing From Another World”.

      Oddly, I have trouble focusing on Christmasy movies for this topic, even though I strongly associate winter and snow with Christmas (I grew up not far from where “Christmas Story” raconteur Jean Shepherd did).

    • Totally agree – it was the first thing to pop into my mind, but this may be because I just watched Something Something Something DarkSide last night.

      My second thought was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I use the opening scenes of this movie to show off my sound system, so I have seen at least the first 20 minutes of this movie a LOT in the past couple of years.

      Totally agree with Jane’s “The Snowman”. Totally underappreciated, and I would argue that it is probably one of the greatest animated shows EVER!

      I watched Battle of the Bulge today. Big Snow Movie.

      The Golden Compass. I think sometimes I am the only person in the world who liked this movie (although not nearly as good as the books).

  2. Jane Morgan

    (1) Raymond Briggs’ “The Snowman,” which should have won for best animated short film.

    (2) “The Edge,” written by Mamet, starring Anthony Hopkins, who can kill a bear with a stick and make a fur coat in less than ten minutes.

    • Yeah, I love The Edge but isn’t David Mamet smart enough to know that you have to tan a hide before it is wearable?

      Anyway, my pick is also The Thing.

  3. Ian Whitcombe

    Well, The Sweet Hereafter is my favourite movie, though maybe the sense of snow was more potent in both Fargo and Snow Falling on Cedars.

    I love the feel of winter at the end of Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451.

    Dr. Zhivago is the best capture of the glossy Hollywood romanticised feel of winter.

    For animation, I’ll go with Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers.

    All that being said, having lived in Winnipeg for a few years and being born in neighbouring Kenora, Guy Maddin’s “My Winnipeg” certainly captures the wintery feel the best.

  4. besch64

    I love the outdoor scenes in The Wrestler. The winter sky and the dead trees and the abandoned boardwalk are all so perfect for the tone of the movie.

  5. Josh, I gotta disagree with you on Stephen King. While yes, he did direct Maximum Overdrive, he, by his own admission was coked up for the entirety of the production and made a terrible piece of film. Although not all of his movies are gems there are some great ones (the Shining, Cujo, the Dead Zone, Stand By Me, Shawshank Redemption, the Green Mile, Dreamcatcher (ok, thats debatable) and the Mist) along with a couple of good TV Miniseries (Of which the Stand and It are probably the best). His endorsement of the miniseries, from what I’ve read, was more because it held more faithfully to his own novel along with some of the themes that Kubrick had stripped from his treatment (i.e. the supernatural, religious elements). Last but not least, his column in Entertainment Weekly (I’m not sure if its still going as I haven’t picked up a copy in a while) was always filled with apt and fresh reflections on movies, TV, literature and occasionally video games (check out his column defending GTA: San Andreas and I think you’ll understand). As for me, if I had to pick one movie that I love to watch in the depths of winter its gotta be Batman Returns, nothing like a dark Christmas in Gotham to reflect the bleakness of my winters in Wisconsin. If only Batman had to put up with a batmobile stuck in the snow instead of just a faulty “batpod transformation” button. Now that would have been hilarious.