Movie News & Reviews

‘Twister’ is the best cinematic adventure of our lifetime. Here’s why.

The special effects are a knockout in the movie ``Twister,'' as Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, cling to each other.  (AP Photo)
The special effects are a knockout in the movie ``Twister,'' as Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, cling to each other. (AP Photo)

I’ve always gone through life assuming that everyone thinks the massive 1996 hit movie “Twister” is just that — a massive hit.

And then I’ll tell someone that “Twister” is my favorite movie and I’m usually greeted with a look of confusion, sometimes a scoff, but mostly just, “Why?”

That sends me into a long conversation that my poor friend probably never wanted to dive into. But here you are, reading about why I believe — ahem, know — that “Twister” is the greatest cinematic adventure to ever grace our lifetime.

The first time I watched “Twister” I was a kid living in Florida who was terrified of tornadoes. My aunt popped the VHS in and I was shaking on the inside. But seeing Helen Hunt as the take charge, no fear, bad A woman that she was in the movie changed my life. I was obsessed. I wrote about storm chasers for a school assignment later that year. It quickly became my “comfort” movie.

As I grew older, there were smaller things I noticed about “Twister” that I loved — including the incredible 1990s dialogue with lines like, “The days of sniffing the dirt are over,” followed by the witty retort of, “Better than what you sniff.”

Seriously, does it get better than that?

Yes. Please keep reading.

And after visiting the Twister Museum in Wakita, Oklahoma, I thought writing about why “Twister” is such a great movie would be a good use of my time. Warning: spoilers ahead, but come on, you’ve had 22 years.

  • First off, let’s talk about the “Wizard of Oz” Easter eggs. When the movie opens, Hunt’s character, Jo, is a kid whose family is awoken by an F-5 tornado near their house. As they rush to their outside storm shelter, she screams for her dog Toby — who is the same breed as Toto. Later in the movie, just before Aunt Meg’s house is destroyed when a tornado rips through Wakita, she’s watching a movie starring Judy Garland. Hunt and Bill Paxton (RIP) play scientists who are trying to develop an early detection system for tornado warnings. The device they want to get into the center of a tornado is named Dorothy (basically, a large trash can). In the movie they whip it around pretty easily. In real life, you need Hulk-ish strength to lift it.

  • For 1996, the special effects are wild. Filmmakers used a Boeing 707 to create the winds, they had ice specially made for scenes with hail, and they used the sound of a camel moaning to create the tornado noise. Let that sink in for a moment. A. Moaning. Camel.

  • One of my favorite scenes is when Jo, Bill and their crew are driving through the damage left in Wakita and Jo sees a family that looks eerily similar to hers. When young Jo and her family tries to escape the F-5, her dad is sucked up and dies — you later learn that’s why Jo became a scientist. But flash forward to their drive through Wakita — a family that looks exactly like hers is standing next to their destroyed home. Cue Jo becoming even more motivated to get Dorothy inside a twister #justice.

  • Literally anything Philip Seymour Hoffman (also, RIP) as Dusty says or does in this film is complete gold. He mimics the dance the Scarecrow makes in “Wizard of Oz.” He has fantastic lines, like when he seductively tells Jami Gertz’s character Melissa about the “suck zone,” which is the moment a twister sucks someone up. Very scientific. He calls Aunt Meg’s gravy “basically a food group.” As a Southern-bred girl, that resonated with me.

  • The cast, in general, is phenomenal. Of course you have Hunt and Paxton (who I’ve been in love with since I was a kid), Hoffman and Gertz — but look deeper. Cary Elwes plays Jonas Miller, our fantastic villain. He also plays Westley in “The Princess Bride” and Robin Hood in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” His IMBD page seems never ending. Lois Smith as Aunt Meg is iconic just because it’s Lois Smith. That guy who plays Rabbit? Yeah, that’s Alan Ruck — aka Cameron in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” The whole storm-chasing crew is built from actors you’ve definitely seen before but I can’t drag this point on any longer.

  • Bill is a “human barometer” who can read storms. Who doesn’t want that superpower? His nickname is also “The Extreme.” Be honest, you’re a bit jealous of him.

  • Like any decent movie, there’s a love triangle between Bill, Jo and Melissa. Long story short, Bill is trying to divorce Jo before his wedding to Melissa. And just like any predictable love tale ever told, Jo and Bill eventually fall back in love, but only after almost being killed by an F-5 tornado that goes over them as they’re attached to a water pipe. So romantic. So unbelievable. So perfect. In real life their wrists would have broken off and they would’ve flown into the suck zone.

  • And lastly, even with the rivalry between Jo, Bill and Jonas — Jo and Bill still care about Jonas’ safety and warn him that the twister he’s chasing is about to shift its track (remember, human barometer). Sadly, Jonas is the bigger jerk, doesn’t listen and ultimately gets himself and his driver killed.

So, the science behind storm chasing as portrayed in the film is sometimes very, very wrong — I went storm chasing three times last year and according to Facebook standards, that makes me an expert. But if I can suspend my belief and recognize how incredible “Twister” is, so can you.

Take a tour of Twister (the movie) museum in Wakita, Oklahoma. Many of the scenes in the 1996 movie "Twister" were filmed in the tiny town.

Nichole Manna, 316-269-6752, @NicholeManna
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