Film: Twister

Don't breathe. Don't look back. The tornado's vision is based on movement.

An iconic film of 1996, at the height of the Disaster Movie revival. Twister tells the story of a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits who chase tornadoes for a living. The main duo are scientist Dr. Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) and her former husband Bill Harding (Bill Paxton). Among the many others is Dr. Melissa Reeves (Jami Gertz), Harding's current fiancée, providing a Love Triangle of sorts. Also a tale of vengeance against the tornadoes that deprived a little girl of her father. Also a villainous evil team of tornado chasers that seek to beat Our Heroes to the punch at a scientific breakthrough.

Twister was popular not because of its groundbreaking or interesting plot. The love-story is hackneyed and loaded with instant characterization and tornadoes do not work that way. The real draw of Twister was its ground-breaking special effects featuring some of the most realistic and thrilling images of tornadoes ever created for film. This isn't The Wizard of Oz (though the film does feature a "Dorothy" in it...)

The film went on to become the number-two top grossing film of 1996 and its special effects won it numerous awards. While remembered these days with less fondness due to the lack of an interesting plot, it is credited for spawning a whole new generation of tornado chasers. Twister was also the first film ever released on DVD AND the last film put out on HD DVD in the U.S. (though the very last HD DVD worldwide was a German release of Death Proof).

Not to be confused with the party game or the other film from 1989 with the same name, which happens to be a comedy.


  • A Minor Kidroduction: The film opens with Jo as a child, watching in horror with her mother as her father gets sucked away by a tornado.
  • Anachronism Stew: The first scene is set in 1969 and contains numerous errors of the time period. Jo's father mentions the tornado bearing down on his home as possibly an F5, when the Fujita scale wasn't established until 1972.
  • Asshole Victim: Jonas. Doesn't help that he could have avoided his death if he wasn't so damn determined not to listen to Jo's warnings.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Jonas.
  • Butt Monkey: Melissa.
  • Car Meets House:
    • In the final tornado chase sequence, Bill and Jo drive their truck through a house that had been torn off its foundations and rolled onto the road in front of them.
    Bill: [as the house rolls in front of them with no time for them to evade]: I think we're going in!
    Bill: [afterwards]: Maybe we should get off this road.
    • A tornado does this with a station wagon into the side of a service center garage the protagonists are taking cover in.
  • Car Fu: Bill and Jo do this to make sure the last Dorothy probe makes it into the tornado; setting the truck on cruise control and jumping out, looking on as it plows head-on into the F5 tornado.
  • Casual Danger Dialog
    Jo: Can I drive?
    Bill: No!
    Jo: Then will you?
    Bill [noticing truck has drifted off the road and is about to run into a parked combine harvester]: Whoa!
    • Followed soon after by the perennial classic,
      Jo: Where's my truck?
      (truck, which had been hoisted aloft by the tornado, plops onto the road right in front of the truck being driven by Bill's fiancé, who understandably is quite distraught, though she miraculously manages to avoid crashing)
      Jo: (in a weirdly nonchalant tone) Oh, there it is.
    • And of course, "We've got cows!"
  • Chekhov's Truck: Jo's truck in the first tornado chase sequence, that gets picked up and dropped onto the road, is a foreshadowing of how they'll eventually need to get their project "off the ground".
    Dusty: [laughing] Well, there's some good news... I mean, it did fly...
  • City Mouse: Melissa is very out of place among the rest of the cast primarily for this reason.
  • Comedy of Remarriage: The main drama of the film is about how long it will take before Bill and Jo get back together - Bill arrives at the start of the film to collect the signed divorce papers from Jo and brings his fiance with him.
  • Cool Old Lady: Jo's Aunt Meg. Artist, inspiration to Jo, awesome cook, beef farmer, and has just enough Bad Ass in her that she insists she'll drive herself to the hospital after a twister completely devastates her house. She only consents to being put in an ambulance after she's told that her car also ended up in a tree.
  • Dan Browned: Tornadoes do not work that way!
  • Developing Doomed Characters: While the film opens with a tornado destroying a farm, much of the film is filler with the "kooky" team and the relationship drama instead of tornadoes destroying things. Hey, they only have so much money to spend on the effects. (Though actually none of the heroes die, just the "villains.")
  • Disposable Fiancé: Melissa bows out when she realizes Jo and Bill have started rekindling their feelings for each other.
  • Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: One of the most notorious offenders.
    • Though there are descriptions of the inflow jets, using layman's terms. The depictions, however, are still lacking.
    • Jonas' truck does get picked up, circles, and then gets hurled without ever actually touching the funnel cloud itself.
    • An aversion: It is explained that the tornado that struck the gang at night actually passed them, but the accompanying rear-flank downdrafts didn't.
  • Drive-In Theater: One of the twisters attacks one.
  • Everything's Better with Cows: The iconic scene was so popular that the real-world NOAA named their cafeteria the Flying Cow Cafe after the film.
  • Evil Twin: Used as a joke when Bill's buddies are telling embarrassing stories to his fiance. He blames the stories on Evil Bill, whom he killed.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The movie takes place over about 24 hours.
  • Face Plant: Bill slams face-first into the back window of the truck when Jo slams on the brakes while he's in the back prepping the Dorothy probe during the third chase.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Bill Harding is only there in tornado-alley at the time because he came there to badger his wife Jo into finally signing the divorce papers. Subverted in that they wind up back together and never do get the papers signed. (She did sign them, but then Bill's new fiancee leaves him.)
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • After one of the team points out to Jo they're near her Aunt Meg's house.
      The team: We crave sustenance. Food. Food. Fooood! [chanting]
      Jo: No. We are absolutely not going.
      [next shot has them pulling up in front of Aunt Meg's house]
    • After Jo's truck ends up totaled on its roof after the first chase.
      Jo: It's a very pretty truck [about Bill's brand-spanking-new Dodge Ram]
      Melissa: [oblivious] Thank you!
      Bill: Don't even think about it. [nods] No way.
      [cut to Bill's truck with Dorothy installed in the back]
  • Hate Sink: You can't really boo a series of tornadoes, so that's what Jonas is there for, the smug idea-stealing corporate-funded bastard. Jo tries to hate the tornadoes, though. She feels that she's seen that first tornado "miss this house, and miss that house, and come after [me]!"
  • Karmic Death: Jonas.
  • Large Ham:
  • Literal Metaphor: Melissa tells Bill, "When you told me you used to chase tornadoes, I thought it was just a metaphor!" It wasn't.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: Melissa breaks up with Bill before he goes chasing after the final tornado because, in her words, "I can't compete with this."
  • Made of Explodium: Jonas' chase car, already impaled with a cell-phone tower and picked up by the tornado, explodes spectacularly when it hits the ground. Not only do cars in tornadoes not explode that way but the Special Effects Failure is as blatant as it gets.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Even though she and her dog have just been rescued from a house so badly damaged by an F4 tornado that the structure collapses shortly thereafter, and she herself has suffered numerous injuries related to same, Jo's aunt continues to insist that she can drive herself to the hospital right up until Rabbit informs her that her car is in a tree around the corner. While this seems silly, it's also plausible that she's suffering from shock or a concussion from the experience and thus isn't thinking logically.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • The movie does imply at points the tornadoes are almost alive, but it's never confirmed if that's the case or if it's simply coincidence.
    • Bill's "human barometer" ability to sense what the storm will do.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: The tractor tire flying at a windshield, done as part of the initial special effects tests.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Bill's current fiance, Dr. Melissa Reeves, acts in part as an excuse for explanations of general tornado knowledge.
  • The Navigator: Rabbit.
  • Power of the God Hand: In-universe, an F5 tornado is known as "The Finger of God".
  • Product Placement:
    • At times, the movie feels like a two hour Chrysler commercial.
    • Dodge Ram — when you absolutely, positively have to drive into a tornado. Paid off when sales of the Ram pickup increased drastically after the film's release.
    • Plus, when they give the Dorothy probes wings by using every aluminum can they can find, all of the cans are Pepsi. Which may not be that big of a stretch when it comes to soda brand loyalty, but it's unlikely that every house in the general vicinity of an area that uses "Coke" as a generic term would be Pepsi drinkers.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Jonas' villainy is largely an Informed Trait. He does nothing legally wrong (unlike the heroes), and is only guilty of being a tremendous douche. Keep in mind though, this was a mid-90's film, and selling out to "The Man" was a mortal sin in 90's pop culture. No wonder he took a cell tower to the chest.
  • Punch Clock Villain: While Jonas is just a Jerkass, his team seems to actually have some sort of respect for Jo's team, and their skill at storm chasing. Jonas' driver notes just before his death that Jo and Bill would never lead them into harm's way.
  • Ragtag Band of Misfits: The team run by Jonas are corporate sponsored, and all drive matching black vans, wear uniforms and act professional. The team run by Jo, on the other hand, drive their own cars, dress in street clothes and act insane.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The film received some flack from film critics for the number of tornadoes to appear in a short time frame. While this is unusual, the current record for tornadoes in a single 24 hour period is 206. This was in 2011. Before that, the record was 148 in 1974, which the movie, made in 1994, likely used for their reference point. While a large number of tornadoes at once is unusual, storms that spawn multiple tornadoes aren't uncommon either.
  • Real Person Cameo: The movie has several appearances by well-known Oklahoma news meteorologists, most notably Gary England from KWTV during the opening scene and Rick Mitchell from KOCO later on.
  • Real Place Background: Jo's aunt Meg lives in Wakita, an actual town in northern Oklahoma. Shooting took place in the actual town and several buildings were demolished to give the look of the community getting decimated by a tornado.
  • Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: Chasing storms brings Bill and Jo back together.
  • Running Gag: The device that the group came up with getting knocked over and its sensor bulbs getting spilled everywhere whenever they try to use it near a tornado.
  • Scenery Porn: The beautiful landscape of Oklahoman countryside.
  • Serious Business: Storm chasing, apparently.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Smug Snake: Jonas.
  • Super Cell Reception: Melissa had a cell phone which was immune to atmospheric conditions, such as giant tornadoes.
  • Tagline: Originally it was going to be "It Sucks", but the potential for critical snark off the line made them change it to the less-catchy "The Dark Side Of Nature". The potential for Review Ironic Echo wasn't entirely avoided, though, since they left in some lines describing "the Suck Zone," which several reviewers had fun with.
  • Theres No Kill Like Overkill: When Jonas' van gets picked up by the tornado, only his driver seems to have been impaled by the cell tower, leaving a Hope Spot open that he's still alive... then the vehicle is shown flying to the ground and exploding in a mushroom cloud, leaving no doubt that, yep, he's a goner.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Jonas, who pointedly ignores Jo and Bill's warning about his vehicle and the placement of the oncoming Twister just because they don't like each other. He even ignores his own driver who expresses the same concern and has even less motivation to see them both die a windy death.
    • Jo's father at the start of the movie. You're safe in the storm shelter, but you look at the door and see it rattling. What do you do? If you answered with stay the frell away, congratulations! You're smarter than he was. His wife and daughter do exactly this and live.
  • Trailer Park Tornado Magnet: Notably averted here, of all movies. Although tornadoes devastate several farmhouses, two towns, a drive-in theater and a whole bunch of empty fields, they never once whack a trailer park.
  • True Companions: If the lunch scene at Aunt Meg's house doesn't show that the stormchasers are this, nothing does.
  • Van in Black: The corporate storm-chasers drive a fleet of black vehicles, presumably to show they're the bad guys and that their crew is rich enough to afford a fleet of matching, brand-new vehicles. A lot good it did them.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Jonas, for daring to accept funding for his experiments and "copying" the design of a tracking device he probably helped develop in the first place. Really, the only thing that makes him a villain is his rudeness. It becomes doubly silly when you realize that most storm chasers out there would kill to receive actual funding, and that there's a corporation out there wealthy and interested enough in storm chasing to fully outfit a team of 20 people with state-of-the-art equipment!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never see Jo's mom after her father's death. Her mom evidently was not killed by the tornado, but it can perhaps be assumed that she passed away at some point afterward.
  • You Can Turn Back: Bill to Jo:
    Jo. Things go wrong. You can't explain it, you can't predict it. Killing yourself won't bring your dad back. I'm sorry that he died, but that was a long time ago. You gotta move on. Stop living in the past, and look what you got right in front of you.