Twister (1996)
February 20, 2024 9:34 PM - Subscribe

Bill and Jo Harding, advanced storm chasers on the brink of divorce, must join together to create an advanced weather alert system by putting themselves in the cross-hairs of extremely violent tornadoes.

During the approach of the most powerful storm in decades, university professor Dr. Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) and an underfunded team of students prepare the prototype for Dorothy, a ground-breaking tornado data-gathering device conceived by her estranged husband, Bill (Bill Paxton). When Harding tells Bill that Dorothy is ready for testing -- and that their privately funded rival Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes) has stolen the idea and built his own -- Bill rejoins the team for one last mission.

Danielle Solzman: I don’t know whether the lines were scripted or improvised but I absolutely love the humor in the film. It’s an epic disaster thriller but they still find some moments of comic relief. When a film has audiences on the edge of their seats, it needs to have some humor every now and then. Only Jami Gertz’s Melissa would take calls from a client during a tornado. Anyway, the following is just a shortage of lines in the film that are still memorable all these years later.

Jo: “Cow…another cow.”
Bill: “Actually, I believe that’s the same one.”

Jo: “My G-d, who are these people?”
Bill: I don’t think so!

Twister earned nominations for both visual effects and sound mixing. Trust me when I say that they absolutely deserved it. The visual effects are just astonishing. I mean, they’re selling the idea of Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton risking their lives just to launch a device. There’s no way that any insurance would cover any actor if they were doing this in real life. And yet, the film looks so believable that you really believe they’re driving into the heart of the storm. However, it is a shame that the sound editing team do not get an Oscar nomination. If it were up to me, a lot of the technical craft categories would have received accolades.

Ann Hornaday: Anyone who has been to the movies in the past year has seen one of the various trailers for "Twister," which stars Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as two storm-trackers in Oklahoma. And anyone who has seen the trailer knows pretty much what to expect: The storms are breathtaking, the action pulse-quickening and the two leads smart and likeable.

Still, even with those auspicious elements in place, "Twister" is surprisingly unremarkable for all its grand sweep and digital matting techniques. Instead, it's what it presumably set out to be: a solid man vs. nature action drama studded with smartly hip cultural references, which will provide a tonic couple of hours of air-conditioned diversion within summer's early torpor. In other words, "Twister" is a hit.

Judith Egerton: The movie was shot primarily on location in Oklahoma's notorious Tornado Alley. Film of real tornadoes was used, along with ILM computer-generated tornadoes. Many of the shots involved actual objects that were filmed as they were blown through the air by huge jet engines.

The story line is so thin, it's nearly invisible, but it doesn't matter. The eye-popping action and likable characters - especially Jo Harding, played by Hunt, and Melissa, played by Jami Gertz - are enough to satisfy an audience looking for thrills.

And for an action film, the female characters are unusual for their resemblance to real women. They aren't big-busted mannequins in leather or wimpy scaredy-cats pleading for a male hero to rescue them. They're smart and sensitive and as brave as the men.

posted by Carillon (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I love this movie. It is so fun, the disaster part of the movie actually plays into the human part in way that has always worked for me, and is so often missing from other disaster movies, even ones I like. One thing that always stuck out is Bill Paxton's descent back into being a chaser, he starts off business focused, but he loves this stuff and it shows, he slides into his excitement and undergoes a return to someone who is doing what he truly loves. On top of this I love how the team gets to be fun and dorky, but it isn't ever really made fun of.

Such a fun movie all around, and legitimately exciting.
posted by Carillon at 9:37 PM on February 20 [7 favorites]

"I gotta go Julia, we got cows"

Pretty much sums up this movie. So ridiculous, so fun.
A quintessential drive-in move.
posted by madajb at 9:54 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen this movie since it came out, but it was such a classic.

Good characters, great action sequences, compelling drama, and the cow still makes for a great pop culture hook.

My daughter recently watched an episode of Emily's Wonder Lab about tornadoes, and, yes, there was a flying cow. Because you CANNOT do a twister without a cow.
posted by champers at 3:58 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]

The Twister attraction at Universal Studios was (Is? Dunno if it’s still there) a damned exciting show.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:51 AM on February 21

I have a deep deep love for this movie. I saw it in Charleston, SC the year it was released while I was staying with some friends. I was very very very very very stoned--probably one of the first times in my life I ever was--and it was the greatest movie ever to watch that way. Bill Paxton, you are missed.
posted by Kitteh at 4:56 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]

Never watched it, it always put me off that the poor cow was supposed to be funny.

(Maybe the cow survives, I don't know, I don't want to know)
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:05 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]

awww. I love disaster movies, and they are few and far between relative to most other genres, so its necessary to have soft standards.

but this movie is so fun!!! its silly but who cares? it has Bill Paxton! it has the Dread Pirate Roberts as a true villain. it has TORNADOES!!!
posted by supermedusa at 8:39 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]

a quintessential drive-in movie

I don't know, the drive-in scene is particularly terrifying!
posted by supermedusa at 8:44 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]

The sequel is imminent. (Seriously.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:58 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]

IMHO, I do not understand the reasoning behind a sequel about 30 years later, but now everyone will be deliberately young and sexy sexy.

Glen Powell is no Bill Paxton, is all I'm saying.
posted by Kitteh at 12:13 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]

Sequel or update? Srsly, why now? The trailer looks not very good, and the CGI is beyond over the top.

Anyhoo, I didn't see Twister at the time of release, but only in the last ten years. Now that I have watched it, it's a comfort movie. PSH? Cary Elwes? Alan Ruck? Bill Paxton? Helen Hunt? Her tank tops? All [chef's kiss].
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 2:15 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]

One of the very worst films I've ever seen. Creatively lazy to the point of insult. It's offensively bad.

Instead, watch the vastly superior Tornado!. It has Bruce Campbell.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 2:49 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

Elwes's crew of BAD tornado chasers who are only in it for the MONEY all that sweet sweet tornader MONEY and not for the science and they drive blacked-out veeee-hickles in case you didn't get it...

*chef's kiss*
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 3:37 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]

Background character played by a young Anthony Rapp!
posted by brainwane at 10:23 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

I saw this film in theaters. And the most memorable moment was that for a few seconds, somewhere in the middle of the movie, a woman runs into the storm-chasers' workroom and yells something, and I sat astonished because she looked like me. I caught a glimpse of an Indian-American woman with short hair and an unusual face and big eyeglasses, someone I had never seen before on the big or the small screen.

Turns out that was not a South Asian actress, it was Wendle Josepher, as I learned after a rewatch a few years ago. But I'm glad I made that mistake when I did.
posted by brainwane at 10:28 PM on February 21 [7 favorites]

Elwes's crew of BAD tornado chasers who are only in it for the MONEY all that sweet sweet tornader MONEY and not for the science and they drive blacked-out veeee-hickles in case you didn't get it...

In the spectrum of villainy, they're on the milder side, and their comeuppance is a little disproprortionate
posted by kurumi at 9:11 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]

That's a cogent and well thought out response, but on the other hand: black vehicles.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:30 AM on February 22 [4 favorites]

Kind of like The Perfect Storm (1990), where the main draw was the giant wave.

Although holy crap, peep this cast: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, and William Fichtner as the boat crew, with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Diane Lane, Bob Gunton, and Karen Allen
posted by kirkaracha at 1:31 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]

I saw this in the theater when I was young and it was very thrilling (but at that point in my life, any theater experience without parents was thrilling). Now, as an adult, I see it as a pure horror film from the point of view of the Jami Gertz character:

You're in love and engaged to Bill Paxton. Life is good! But he has one pesky bit of paperwork to finish before you can get married, so you go with him to meet up with his ex and quickly sign the forms so you can get back to your life. But it's a big weather day and you, not a thrill-seeker, end up along for the ride through multiple traumatizing violent storms. And at the end of it all? Your fiancé leaves you for his frickin ex! (and it's painfully obvious in retrospect that you never had a chance).

It's also a horror film from the point of view of the Helen Hunt character, because that first scene is really rough. I had to leave the room for a moment.
posted by knotty knots at 2:27 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]

I haven't seen Twister, but I was in Texas at the time it came out. I noticed that it was playing on every screen of the local multiplex.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:27 AM on February 24

I remember the teaser trailer when it was shown in theatres. A tornado approaches and a family rushes to take shelter in a storm cellar. They huddle together in dim lighting and watch in fear as the bulkhead door heaves and buckles. The door latch is shaking and starts to come loose… Take my money! And then that scene wasn’t even in the movie.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:54 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]

Oh, I've *gotta* show the kids this one. But a sequel, this far into the climate emergency, feels very much like it should be titled "Twister 2 - I tried to warn you, dude. I told you bro."
posted by MarchHare at 5:22 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]

Surprising fact I learned recently: not only did Twister have a bigger budget than Independence Day, it was significantly bigger ($88-92 million versus ID4's $75 million).
posted by Rhaomi at 3:50 PM on March 20

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