If dark comedy is the blood coursing through the Coen brothers’ veins, Fargo is their beating heart. Goof and gore were the sideshow to a main event of snappy Minnesotan dialogue and Oscar-worthy acting. Was the claim that it was a true story fictitious? Oh, you betcha, yah.
Ice Age (2002)
This CGI Pleistocene adventure had Pixar-level animation and a mismatched cast that made Woody and Buzz look like they’d been born in the same extrusion die. Despite a well-formed plot, the show is stolen by Scrat, the hapless squirrel whose continuous endeavour to find a glacial hiding place for his acorn repeatedly ends in comical disaster.
Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)
Not the jolliest film on this list, this remake of John Carpenter’s prison thriller retained the original's influence of zombie horror and westerns, but added some atmospheric snow. And who wouldn’t want to watch that?
The Shining (1980)
It’s snowing. And that means you should turn down any offers of a janitorship at an isolated hotel. Why? Watch Kubrick’s horror masterpiece and wonder no more. It should also answer the question: “Where’s Johnny?”
The Thing (1982)
Deep and crisp and even, it may have been, but the Antarctic snow of this cult horror classic was far from pure. The eponymous parasitic extraterrestrial was able to assume human form. If your boss starts acting weirdly after going out in the snow, it might be best to clock off for the day.
Aspen Extreme (1993)
This high-altitude buddy movie had it all: gnarly off-piste skiing, women, rivalry and drugs. That’s one up on most, and the secret ingredient sportsmanship was done by professional radicaliser Doug Coombs.
This true story survival flick turned stomachs the world over. When the Uruguayan rugby team’s plane crashes in the Andes, the survivors are forced to rethink their survival tactics after hearing news that the search has been called off on the radio. The in-flight meal options soon extend from chicken and fish to the contents of seat 26F.
March of the Penguins (2005)
Snow might be fun if you’re a human with a warm house to go back to, but as Morgan Freeman told us in March of the Penguins it’s not that easy when you have to give birth to an egg, give it to your husband and go on an icy two month journey on an empty stomach to get back with dinner for the hatchling. The French original, La Marche de l’Empereur, was narrated by the penguin mum and dad themselves. Supposedly.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Cinemagoers in Britain stood and cheered for the intro of The Spy Who Loved Me. Was it Roger Moore’s banana yellow ski suit that did it? More likely it was the Union Jack parachute heroically unfurling as he evaded the commie agents by skiing off a cliff. But banana yellow all-in-ones are making a comeback. You mark our words.
The Grey (2011)
Liam Neeson and a ragtag group of oil workers find themselves stranded in the icy Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash. Yes, this would be pretty bad in itself – but the fact they're being hunted by a pack of bloodthirsty wolves at the same time doesn't help much…
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Partially set on the ice planet of Hoth, the second Star Wars film once again saw epic battle scenes, but this time played out in the snowy wilderness. The AT-AT Walkers stole the show – and yet we still rely on road and rail to get around when the white stuff comes.
Touching the Void (2003)
Two mountaineers. One slips. Unable to hold his dangling mate and fearing his own death, the other cuts the rope, leaving his climbing partner at the bottom of a crevasse with a broken leg, and no food or water. The story of Joe Simpson’s miraculous escape is thrilling. And the photography of the reconstruction is chilling enough to make you reach for your winter jacket.
More after the break...
Cool Runnings (1993)
(Very) loosely based on the antics of Jamaica’s national bobsleigh team, and its bid to take part in the Canadian Winter Olympics, Cool Runnings was long on comedy and short on truth. But it was good romp and had lots of snow – the two criteria for appearing in this list.
Dumb & Dumber (1994)
Where do you set your film about two of the most idiotic characters you can dream up? Elite American ski town Aspen was the location picked for Dumb & Dumber, memorable for many things, but mostly bathroom rumblings and the reason you should never lick a chairlift.
When Sylvester Stallone goes climbing, he doesn’t worry about icy precipices or losing his footing. Instead, he worries about being coerced into helping retreive some hostage cash that’s gone missing on the mountain. And fear not, closure fans, the action is fully resolved long before the credits roll.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
OK, OK, so it wasn’t really snow – just the shavings from one of Johnny Depp’s scissor-handed ice sculptures, but this recurring motif from Tim Burton’s strange suburban tale is also the most memorable.
Joseph Vilsmaier’s retelling of the Battle of Stalingrad is bleak and tense. A million men died on and off screen, many freezing in the inclement Russian weather. So not exactly the celluloid equivalent of a cup of hot chocolate, then.
Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
Want to know what it’s really like to live in a winter wonderland? Like Antarctica? Werner Herzog’s documentary about the people who do live at the South Pole should answer all your questions.
Dead Snow (2009)
Norwegian Nazi zombies. That’s all you really need to know. That and the usual gubbins about how much more effective blood looks on snow.
Die Hard 2 (1990)
Although 1988’s Die Hard had also been set during a wintry Christmas and was arguably the better film, it had neither a snowmobile chase, nor a massive explosion on an icy runway. Later films in the franchise did away with the snowy theme.
Before Christopher Nolan got his teeth into the Dark Knight trilogy he remade this Norwegian drama thriller, in which Al Pacino's sleep-deprived detective flies into a small Alaska town to solve the murder of a local schoolgirl. A thought-provoking movie with Robin Williams playing against type as the villain.
Groundhog Day (1993)
If you’re going to get stuck in a recurring day, it’s probably best to pick one with good weather, unlike Bill Murray’s weatherman who gets to relive a snowy Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, until he learns to become a better person.
30 Days of Night (2007)
Barrow, Alaska: the northernmost city in the world, in which the sun disappears for a month once every year. Cue the arrival of a coterie of vampire, taking advantage of the 30 days of darkness to feed on the snowbound townsfolk uninterrupted. Violent, scary and with Danny Huston's head vampire bearing an uncanny resemblance to Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys, it's a fine horror film.
A skiing trip goes terribly awry when three people are stranded high in the air on a chairlift and left with a grim choice: jump or stay where they are and risk freezing to death. Shame they didn't bring a mobile phone. A tight, suspenseful survival horror story.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
David Fincher's adaptation of the insanely popular Stieg Larsson novel really makes you feel the Swedish winter, as Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara attempt to solve a decades-old disappearance in the snowbound north of the country.