10 Worst Snowstorms in a Movie, Ranked

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For many, snowstorms are the perfect excuse to snuggle up by the fire, put on a wintery film, or conversely, head outside for snowball fights and snowman-making. Oftentimes, snow in films is used as scenic backdrops for romantic holiday movies with its sparkling surface. But in other films, snowstorms can be a character’s worst enemy.

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Coupled with the snow are freezing temperatures, isolated scenarios, and never enough clothing to stave off frostbite. The challenges this type of extreme weather brings naturally infuse tension and conflict from the setting alone. Science fiction, horror, animated children’s films — so many genres utilize blizzards to push their characters to the brink. Here are the 10 worst snowstorms in films, ranked.

10 Ashes in the Snow (2018)

Bel Powley as Lina in Ashes in the Snow
Vertical Entertainment

Ashes in the Snow is a World War II drama based on the young adult novel by Ruta Sepetys Between Shades of Gray. 16-year-old Lina Vilkas is a Lithuanian girl who is trying to live her life as normally as possible in 1941. Her father is part of the resistance against the Soviets and assists people wanting to flee Lithuania. After their house is raided, she and her family are sent to a labor camp in Siberia, where the snowy conditions add extra challenges to her quest for survival.

What the Snowstorm Was Like

Lina’s circumstances are dismal on their own, but the weather conditions make it worse. She relies on the help of a boy named Andrius, who helps bring her and her family supplies. The cold conditions not only introduce another obstacle to any plan of escape, but can risk illness that could be fatal. Viewers will be able to feel the frigidness through the screen and will sympathize even more with the Vilkas family. Stream on Peacock

9 Ice Age (2002)

ice age
ice age

Release Date
March 10, 2002

Rating
PG

Ice Age is the first in a film franchise about a group of different species of animals trying to survive the ice age. Though more characters are introduced in later films, the 2002 movie follows: Manny, a wooly mammoth; Sid, a sloth; and Diego, a saber-toothed tiger. Many animals are heading south to avoid the approaching ice age. Manny reluctantly rescues Sid and fails to shake off the overeager sloth. Diego, having failed the leader of his pack, is tasked with retrieving a human baby to be killed.

What the Snowstorm Was Like

As this is such a monumental change in the global climate, the Pleistocene ice age had to be included. There are moments when the snow provides a bit of fun for the lovable characters, like when Sid (or was it the baby?) launches a snowball at Manny. However, the snow and accompanying ice offer a host of more problems than solutions. They have to work against the elements if they want to be rid of the human baby and ward off lurking predators. Stream on Disney+

Related: Ice Age: Sid the Sloth’s Best Moments in the Franchise, Ranked

8 The Shining (1980)

The Shining is a sinister horror film adapted from a Stephen King novel. Nestled in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the Overlook Hotel draws in tons of visitors. However, during the off-season, they need a caretaker to look after the property. That’s where Jack Torrance comes in. The previous caretaker went into a rage and killed his family, and, soon, Jack starts experiencing the torments of his predecessor. And his son Danny’s disturbing visions aren’t quelling fears that Jack’s family will face a similar fate.

What the Snowstorm Was Like

The snow may look beautiful in the picturesque location, but makes it harder to outrun Jack when he loses himself completely. Young Danny has to worry about the footprints he’s leaving behind that’ll lead his father to him. The snow is the reason the family is there, and also the reason nobody else is. Road closures make it difficult for the police to help and add more suspense to an already thrilling movie. Stream on Paramount+

7 Wind River (2017)

wind river
Wind River1

Release Date
August 3, 2017
Cast
Kelsey Chow , Jeremy Renner , Julia Jones , Teo Briones , Apesanahkwat , Graham Greene

Rating
R

Wind River opens on a rather chilling note. A teenage girl, Natalie, is running across a snowy plain, yelling and crying, in the middle of the night. At daybreak, a wildlife agent, Cory Lambert, finds her body in the snow, face down, with blood on her face. The 18-year-old suffered greatly before her death, which was caused by inhaling frigid air. With so many Indigenous girls and women who are assaulted and murdered, Cory may be the key Natalie needs for justice.

What the Snowstorm Was Like

So much of what Natalie experienced is upsetting and her lungs hemorrhaging because of the below-zero temperatures is an image that’s hard to get out of viewers’ heads. In mysteries and thrillers, the climate has a great impact on the bodies involved and potentially on how the killer uses it to his or her advantage. The shots of the leopards and other predators who make snowy locations their home make the investigation more unique for Cory and his colleagues. Stream on Netflix

Related: Best Indigenous Movies From North America, Ranked

6 Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer is a post-apocalyptic thriller based on a French graphic novel. Set in 2031, the world is still handling the consequences of a climate change initiative from 17 years earlier. Scientists tried cooling down the planet, but it went too far, triggering a new ice age that left the remaining humans only able to survive aboard a train that endlessly travels around the world. The train is divided by upper and lower class, with stark differences in living conditions and luxuries. But the lower class passengers have had enough and think now’s the time for a change.

What the Snowstorm Was Like

The shots outside the “safe” space of the Snowpiercer train seem beautiful, until viewers remember the entire world is that way. No color — nothing but ice and snow for miles. Even the train is put to the test against the rock-hard ice, causing damage to the facade and putting everyone at risk. With the outside elements and growing resentment among passengers, it’s a toss-up which side of the train will lead to everyone’s demise. Stream on Hulu

5 Everest (2015)

everest
Everest

Release Date
September 10, 2015
Cast
Jason Clarke , Ang Phula Sherpa , Thomas M. Wright , Martin Henderson , Tom Goodman-Hill , Charlotte Bøving

Rating
PG-13

Everest is based on a real-life event that occurred in 1996, when a blizzard trapped eight climbers on Mount Everest. Rob Hall and Scott Fischer are two lead guides for rival climbing groups. Each of the participants they’re guiding have varying levels of mountaineering experience. One thing they all have in common is seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which they got in all the wrong ways. With many participants suffering from illness and injury, the incoming blizzard is the last thing they need.

What the Snowstorm Was Like

Reaching the summit would be a feat even without a blizzard, with temperatures sometimes dropping to -40 and the high altitude putting great stress on the body. The trekkers are never far from danger and in such a high-stress situation, a moment of reprieve would come in handy. The ice and strong winds make it hard for them to see, move, and are incredibly painful. All the weather shots will cause even viewers to inhale a breath and wonder how the individuals withstood even an hour in those conditions. Rent on Apple TV

Related: The Best Movies With a ‘Character Against Nature’ Type of Conflict

4 Eight Below (2006)

Eight Below is another survival film, but with a much lighter tone. Jerry works as a guide at a research base in Antarctica. His latest assignment is to escort Dr. Davis McClaren to find a meteorite. Due to icy conditions, the best mode of transportation is via dog sled. But with an approaching storm and Davis injured, Jerry makes the tough decision to leave the dogs behind when the rescue helicopter comes. He promises he’ll return to them, no matter the weather.

What the Snowstorm Was Like

Even before the storm hits, the snowy slopes of Antarctica prove how dangerous they are. Davis slipped and almost drowned in freezing water had the lead dog not saved him. The two men navigate frostbite and hypothermia. It makes Jerry all the more heroic when he plows through setback after setback to put himself back in those conditions to reunite with his dogs. This snowstorm was one of the worst, but the bond between Jerry and his pack makes it a heartwarming story. Stream on Disney+

3 101 Dalmatians (1996)

Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians
Walt Disney Pictures

101 Dalmatians is a fun family film about Roger and Anita who fall in love, get married, and start a family in tandem with their Dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita. Anita works for an eccentric fashion designer named Cruella who has a thing for fur. When Cruella discovers Anita’s dog is pregnant, she views it as the perfect opportunity to make an authentic spotted coat. Anita’s refusal incenses Cruella, and she sends two henchmen, Horace and Jasper, to kidnap the pups.

What the Snowstorm Was Like

The actual snow in the film is mild compared to the treacherous storms present in the other films. However, that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing for the characters. Luckily, the snow doesn’t harm the adorable puppies as they try to escape, except for the occasional slip on their already-wobbly legs. However, the snowstorm does hinder Horace and Jasper. It causes car troubles, eventually leading to the truck bursting into flames and nearly killing Horace with hypothermia. Stream on Disney+

2 The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The Day After Tomorrow is an epic survivalist disaster film based on a book titled The Coming Global Superstorm. When the ocean circulation is compromised, it leads to a plethora of severe weather events from tsunamis, tornadoes, snowstorms, and an ice age. Though a large part of the movie is set in New York City, the effects are felt around the world. Sam and others find refuge at the New York Public Library, but even the indoors aren’t fully safe, as resources and heat are scarce to come by.

What the Snowstorm Was Like

All the weather events are terrible. A violent tornado tears down the famous Hollywood sign letter by letter and hurls cars at other vehicles on the highway. A tsunami gushes torrents of water that swallow even Manhattan’s tallest buildings. But the snowstorm is among the worst depicted in the movie. A helicopter freezes while in the air, and the pilot follows suit within seconds of opening the door. By using iconic locations like the NYPL, it makes the characters’ experiences all the more harrowing. Stream on Prime Video

1 Frozen (2013)

frozen
Frozen

Release Date
November 20, 2013

Rating
PG

Princesses Elsa and Anna in Frozen grew up close, but when Elsa’s powers to wield ice and snow harm Anna, a rift begins to form. Elsa keeps her distance from her sister, even after the tragic death of their parents. Anna is desperate for connection, which is perhaps why she falls in love with Prince Hans after knowing him for mere minutes. Anna asks for the now Queen Elsa’s approval, which she doesn’t get. A conflict ensues and results in Elsa exposing her magic to the kingdom of Arendelle and sending the town into an eternal winter.

What the Snowstorm Was Like

While the ability to turn an entire kingdom from summer to winter is impressive, it’s also quite intense. The lush green backdrop of Arendelle quickly became a tundra, and the fugitive queen is the only one who can reverse it. The ice tower Elsa creates during her famous “Let It Go” number is beautiful, but the people of Arendelle are suffering. The cold nearly takes Anna’s life at the end, so its force cannot be diminished. Stream on Disney+

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