We Love Weather Exclusive

Even When Movies Try to Get Weather Right, They Get It Wrong

Back in March of 1993, the weather captured my imagination when one of the most notorious winter storms in history blasted into the D.C. metro area. I remember it seeming like it was never going to stop snowing. When all was said and done, the “Storm of the Century” had blanketed D.C. with more than a foot of snow. As a 12 year old, that’s more than I could ever recall falling. Playing in snow that was knee deep was crazy insane and seeing it all happen is a huge reason I find myself a Meteorologist today. I began to wonder what else the weather could bring. How did it happen and why??? Well, there is one other thing that mesmerized me even before the weather did… Movies!!!

Plain and simple, and like many of you, I love movies. I love going to the theater. I love the smell of popcorn when you enter the building. I love handing that ticket to the “ticket taker” or these days, scanning my mobile ticket. Yes, I even love watching the previews. Although, I will say that the amount of time devoted to previews has gotten a bit out hand. The last movie I went to, the previews were pushing close to 30 minutes! But, I digress. Movies, to me, are the best. And I love all types of movies… Comedy, drama, horror, documentary, animated, foreign, you name it. I’m all about it. I love being taken into whatever world the writers and directors have created. It’s that time where you can just get lost in the story and characters, forget about that thing at work or school that may be stressing you out, and just relax. Easily, one of my favorites things to do.

Now, there are times where two of my favorite things come together… Movies that are weather-themed or weather influenced. Some examples include, The Wizard of Oz, The Perfect Storm, The Fog, The Day After Tomorrow, Sharknado, and, probably most famous, Twister. As a meteorologist, when people find out I’m also a movie buff, I get asked what I think about these types of films. They want to know how believable they are. “Could that stuff really happen???”

The first time I was asked that question, it threw me for a loop. Believe it or not, I didn’t have an answer because I had never really thought about it. As I stated earlier, I love going to the movies to get lost in the world and my last thought is to try and figure out what’s accurate versus what is not. Of course, going back and watching these movies with that question in mind, you see that a tornado composed of sharks is a ridiculous thing. No, you would not have a tornado suck up sharks from the water and ravage an entire city. It’s absurd but that’s exactly what it was supposed to be. The filmmakers accomplished exactly what they set out to do… Make a movie that was totally unbelievable but have people watch it and talk about it. Their goal was to not be real.

Slightly more scientific was The Day After Tomorrow. It made the claim that a super-mega storm would pull down super cold air from the upper-atmosphere and freeze over all of New York City. Sounds plausible until you realize that as air descends, it actually warms. It would have been more accurate to have the city warm up and melt everything.

Twister, on the other hand, was a little more grounded in reality but it could certainly be picked apart on it’s inaccuracies. Take the opening scene, for example, which was set in 1969. A tornado was threatening and one of the characters mentions that the tornado is an F5. Well, that couldn’t be right because the Fujita scale that rates tornados wasn’t developed until 1971. On top of that, a tornado is not rated until after the damage is assessed so there is no way it could have been rated as it was happening. Also, at one point in the movie, the characters seek shelter from a tornado… Under a bridge. The characters are storm chasers and they should know better. That is one of the most dangerous places to seek refuge from a tornado. Meteorologist Dennis Mersereau wrote a great article on what the Twister filmmakers got wrong and right. You can check it out here.

I’m sure I could go back and point out some of the “rights” and “wrongs” of some of the other weather-themed movies but, for me, that defeats the purpose of a movie. Unless it’s a documentary, all facts/reality can get thrown out the window. As long as I’m drawn into a place that captures my imagination for 2 or so hours, I’m good! I’ll take an inaccurate movie that is enjoyable over one that has all the facts right but is a snooze fest…any day of the week. In the film Gladiator, Maximus shouted, “Are you not entertained???” That’s what matters the most to me. Did you enjoy yourself? Was that hard earned money spent to go the theater worth it. Do you wish you could take that time you spent watching the movie back. Those are the important questions. So the next time you sit down to watch a movie, suspend reality and just go with it. It’s so much more enjoyable that way!

By the way, if you were curious, my favorite weather-influenced movie is Groundhog Day. As a 12-year-old, the idea that a day could repeat itself over and over was the coolest concept. Plus, Bill Murray was just genius. I’d love to know what your favorite movie is. Weather related, or not, let me know in the comments below.


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47 Comments


  1. 1) 2012
    2) Day after tomorrow
    3) Earthquake
    4) Into the Storm
    5) Perfect storm
    6) Geostorm
    I have many others that I enjoy. Part of the fun is guessing at the plausibility of the premise. If I especially like a film I research it after I see it. That way if it misses the general mark, I don’t ruin it for myself.

  2. I have only watched groundhog day. Only part of it. But I have came close to watching twister and the day after tomorrow. my favorite movie is the core.

  3. This probably has nothing to do with what y’all guys are talking about but (if one of you meteorologists are reading this) I thought the weather in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was pretty cool. (Namely, the opening scene on Hoth.) Actually, that scene was filmed in Norway on a glacier. On the 1st day of filming, it was -20 below. That’s pretty crazy!!!

  4. 1 – Being 7 miles from the epic center of the 1971 San Fernando Valley, CA earthquake, I must see every earthquake movie! Favorite is “Earthquake” of the early 70’s.
    2 – “Twister!” Held my interest through the end!
    3 – “The Fog” 80’s version, now that movie was crazy suspenseful!

  5. love Groundhog day. another scene wrong in Twister is at the end they take shelter in a barn ans tie themselves to a pipe. the tornado passes right over them and somehow they are not killed. there are several errors. first, it was an F-5 tornado meaning that it would brake the straps. second there were a whole bunch of tools in the barn. how were they not hit? and how did the pipe not brake?

  6. Sorry, everyone. I am NOT a movie guy. I would watch PBS-related specials about weather and/or climate instead. #ohwell 🙁

    1. Did that groundhog run away with your valentine earlier this month? If so, then I am sorry that your heart is broken. If not, then you are one lucky woman. #stupidgroundhog 🙁

  7. But wasn’t a shark carried far inland by a cyclone in Australia? More to the point, if a tornado were to pass over a school of sharks would their bodies remain intact as they were pulled up 100′-or-so? Forget about the creatures’ ability to detect sudden changes in water pressure initiating flight instincts, just asking if what’s picked up by a tornado gets damaged more during ascent or descent?

    1. I’m not familiar with the Australian incident but that’s crazy. IF a school of sharks was passed over AND they were sucked up they would stay intact until they landed on a hard surface or encountered some other debris. But that is HIGHLY unlikely because they would be able to stay below the influence of the tornado while in the water.

      1. (Australian accent) Would you like to watch an Australian soap opera set during a severe thunderstorm? #aussiesoaps 🙂

  8. Twister was and still is my favorite weather movie. I watch it every year just before the start of the summer season. Getting prepared for tornado outbreaks. Of course, I’ve learned a lot from watching the Weather Channel shows featuring “tornados”.

  9. I served as a meteorological observer in the Army. Weather has always been in my blood any movie about weather i’ll watch. The sharknado movies give me non stop laughs. Like the super bowl, I have sharknado watching party.

  10. I love The Day After Tomorrow. I once asked Dr Greg Forbes on Facebook what he thought of it lol As far as Twister goes, I actually like Tornado! better. It has Bruce Campbell in it 🙂

  11. I was a small child when the Wizard of Oz came out on TV, and it was the most amazing, magical movie I had ever seen. Sure, it’s dated now, but for a small child in the 50s, it was one of the first of its kind. This movie fueled my imagination for years and undoubtedly my interest in weather. Nice article, thanks.

    1. Thanks for reading it! And even though The Wizard of Oz was made in the 1930s, the tornado, in my opinion, still looks better than some of the CG we see today.

  12. Twister is my favorite. Love the line when Jo & Bill are at the drive-in refreshment stand and Bill talks about how the sensors scattered. Jo asks, “What can we do about that?” She respects Bill’s observation and focuses on the two of them finding a solution. Bill says, “I’m not sure.” He does not say – I don’t know.

  13. I love to watch weather related movies as well. But one movie that I love to pick apart is Pompeii. The ending where the two of them are kissing and then suspended forever is so unrealistic because the pyroclastic flow would have wiped them off the face of the earth. I also love the movie St. Helens, because my family lives in the area around the Pacific Northwest and I have some ash from Mount St. Helens.

  14. I grew up in West Texas during Great Drought of the 1950s when Lubbock got a trace of rain over over a two year period. The sand storms in Odessa where I lived would cause the street lights to go on in the afternoon. The drought broke in 1957 with heavy rain and tornadoes (Waco, Dallas, Silverton) throughout the state. I moved to Vernon 1957 recall seeing 3 tornadoes hanging from the same thunder storm. In 1969 I started teaching in Silverton, Texas while my family lived in Lubbock. In 1970 Lubbock was hit and 26 were killed. I was in Silverton the night Lubbock was hit. About 2 weeks later Silverton was hit and I was in Lubbock. One of my 8th students in Silverton was killed that night.

    Twister remains one my favorite movies despite my experiences with tornadoes. When I went to college, the only Meteorological degree was at Texas A&M but my stepfather said I had no choice but to go to Texas Tech. The road not taken.

  15. My mom & I used to use the Wizard of Oz as the backdrop for our severe wx preparedness time! It was fun to watch it, then gather up our “kit” (flashlights, books, water, snacks, blankets, pillows, & games) and put them in our “safe place” for the season. Of course my mom didn’t know much better back then that our trailer that we lived in at the time wasn’t a good place for us to be, but she tried her best! Great memories.

  16. The Day After is my favorite weather movie. My biggest concern of Twister, I guess we all have our own, is why when the Dodge pickup go stuck on the log the truck was not shifted into 4wheel drive? They would have gotten off the log. Sorry, car guy and fourwheeler.

  17. Day After Tomorrow don’t look real because never gets that cold in summer time and frash water as less salt isn’t going to change the weather but get hotter by climate change knowing Earth is getting moving closer to sun before means we can’t change global warming.

  18. As a child, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz was my favorite and I would still rate it as one of the best movies featuring “weather”.

    Loonlover

  19. My earliest memory is of the 1966 Candlestick Park tornado. As it came through Jackson, MS it was within 2 miles of so of our house. I still remember as a 3 year old looking out the sliding glass doors and seeing the sky go green and the pine trees in our backyard whipping around. My father worked downtown and they had all seen the tornado from the top floor of his office building; he and several of his coworkers were among those helping rescue and recover that afternoon. Needless to say, tornadoes have had a big influence on my life so it’s no surprise that Twister and the Wizard of Oz are my top two weather-related movies!

  20. Well I liked Twister, loved Groundhog Day, the tornado in The Wizard of Oz should have gotten a supporting actor Oscar and I know I’m dating myself here, but the impending hurricane in Key Largo sure adds to the “heat” in that movie. And although we weather lovers know the barometer is falling, it is obvious that the pressure is building! If you haven’t seen this classic,check it out.

  21. Your article was such a great read! The part I always got hung up on in Twister was when they drove out into the muddy field. That’s just something knowledgeable and experienced chasers wouldn’t risk. There will always be another storm. Why risk your life and others for that one? (There was also another cow. No wait that was the same one! ☺)

  22. When I was a child, living in N. GA, we had a tornado come through our neighborhood. It flattened the trees across the street, skipped our house and destroyed the chicken house of our neighbor not 100 yards behind us! I still remember the sound and how the house shook! It knocked my swing set into the next yard, but my bicycle, which was sitting under it, was untouched! The complete randomness of it left me in awe. I was only 6 at the time. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by tornadoes. So when Twister came out, I was thrilled. You’re right, the science is pretty minimal; but I still love it! 🙂

  23. Twister is my favorite movie. The inaccuracies in it doesn’t spoil the movie at all. I love the fast pace.

  24. I don’t now that I could choose just one. “2012” and “Day After Tomorrow” are probably tops though, with “Twister” following in a very close 3rd. I also don’t go to movies to analyze it to death (though I do have family members that do that) I go to be entertained…only. If I get some subtle nuance that’s ok, it’s a perk but it’s not why I’m there.

    1. My all time favorite movie ever is Independence Day, followed a very close 2nd by Twister. I wanted to BE Jo in that movie. One of my favorite scenes was when the team rushed to Aunt Meg. 😊 Still have the soundtrack too! 😊 I can’t watch 2012 again. Sooo scary & depressing!

  25. Twister was what got me interested in weather in the first place. Still is one of my most favorite weather movies ever. The Day After Tomorrow is in second place

  26. My favorite movie is Under the Tuscan Sun. No hectic weather there just beautiful sunshine in even more beautiful Italy!! Thanks for the info!