We had triple-digit temperatures over the weekend here in Germany, the most advanced country in world that hasn’t heard of central air conditioning. Without it, there was no relief except from a rickety plastic fan whose speeds are “light whisper” and “falls apart,” so we suffered through Independence Day with a living room converted into a sauna. It was so hot that most of my brain power went to thinking cool thoughts, and it dawned on me that movies – like warm soup on a brisk winter day – could put me in a chilly mindset quickly and effectively.
If you’re experiencing the same sweaty summer, here are some movies that should inject some ice into your life.
Snow. It’s right there in the title. Most of Bong Joon-ho’s glorious dystopian action flick takes place inside a train circling the frozen globe, but everyone’s wearing heavy fur coats so you know it’s nice and cold. So cold, in fact, that it’ll freeze an arm to its shattering point within a few short minutes.
Plus, the movie offers some helpful recipes, so if you’re in the mood for innovative cuisine, Snowpiercer can tell you what tastes best.
“Do you want to build a snowman? It doesn’t have to be a snowman,” is the most existentially complicated song lyric of all time. If you say yes to it, does it mean you want to build a snowman? Or that you recognize the potential for it not to be a snowman, and thus, are agreeing to build something regardless of what that is? Does what you build even have to be made out of snow technically? Probably not. Let’s not even get started on the philosophical conundrum of a sentient snow-being.
Regardless, the power to shoot ice from my hands sounds really good right now.
The trio in Adam Green’s ski lift abandonment story have to spend an entire night in freezing temperatures thanks to a resort employee who shuts off all the equipment before checking to see whether anyone was still on the mountain. Lucky.
It’s like Home Alone with more frostbite. It’s also nothing like the Disney movie that shares its name, so be careful what you download to your kids’ tablet when you want them to stop bugging you.
Out Cold (2001)
Speaking of ski resorts, this underloved comedy about a ragtag bunch of snowboarders trying to save the rec center features comedy icons like David Koechner, Thomas Lennon, a relatively unknown Zach Galifianakis and Jason London playing the same role Jeremy London had in Mallrats.
It also teaches some important lessons about not passing out drunk in the snow when there are bears around. Or do. You might like it.
As a Texan, I assume North Dakota and Minnesota never get above 32 degrees. I also assumed everyone there rode reindeer to work, but the Coen Brothers disabused me of that notion by showing all sorts of vehicles that somehow run in arctic conditions.
There’s nothing quite like gazing at the white nothingness of the fence line treasure-burying scene to drop your core temperature. Watching Peter Stormare stuffing a body into a wood chipper has a similar effect.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014)
Cold movies seem to feed into each other well, and this is one of the best examples. Kumiko becomes obsessed with a VHS copy of Fargo – the aforementioned treasure-burying scene in particular – and, deciding it’s a documentary, sets out to leave her emotionally chilly life in Japan for the literally chilly life of Minnesota. She wants the briefcase that Carl buries in Fargo (which irresponsibly opens with “THIS IS A TRUE STORY”), and she finds adventure along the way. Fortunately, she never runs into Peter Stormare.
The Thing (1982)
You have to wonder if the shape-shifting alien in the movie purposefully chose a remote, Antarctic location, or if it randomly landed there, saw some Norwegian scientists and decided to make the most of a limited selection. Imagine how fast it could have taken down humanity if it had landed in, say, Manhattan. Or anywhere with more than a dozen people.
Not only am I envious of Kurt Russell’s brisk environs in the film, I naturally also want his sunglasses and flame thrower.
The Grey (2011)
We seem to have a complex relationship with the cold. It’s almost always portrayed in cinema as something to be endured or something to play sports on. It’s an alien landscape that we can explore and survive, but never quite live in.
Or, in the case of Liam Neeson’s John Ottway, a place that can save you from yourself – only to put you in the path of mortal harm shortly after.
The Shining (1980)
Seriously. Not only is the winter threatening, even being inside during the winter is threatening. Which is interesting considering that extreme heat has also done its fair share of keeping people trapped indoors and driving them slightly mad.
For some reason, isolation and snow storms feel like a natural pair. Maybe because we think of winter as a time to hibernate, shun the elements and chase our loved ones with an ax.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Do you want to build a snowman? It doesn’t have to be a snowman. We could also do it tomorrow, if that’s better for you.
As opposed to most of the other movies on this list, the cold here isn’t extreme, isn’t something to be battled, isn’t something to dread. The “winter” that Phil is longing to escape from is his empty life, and the real wintry elements of the movie (snowball fights and snowmen and ice sculptures) are benign aids in his romantic pursuit of Rita – a woman he met yesterday, a thousand years ago.
Like some of the other movies on this list, though, it involves madness, isolation, suicidal thoughts and small town charm. Thanks, winter.
In Order of Disappearance (2014)
Plowing snow through the Norwegian mountains should have a calming effect, but Stellan Skarsgard’s Nils ends up having to take revenge on the thugs who killed his son, which raises his blood pressure a bit.
This crime thriller feels like an even more absurd, even comically darker version of Fargo, and the surface level parallels are obvious except the plot swings in the opposite direction. Like most great revenge flicks, it’s about a good man pushed to his lethal limit. It’s also laugh out loud funny, features one of the most absurd death scenes in recent memory and boasts plenty of blissful forays into the pure expanse of snowbound beauty.
Does anyone know if sitting in an ice cream truck would help acclimate you to the cold of the Winter Olympics? It doesn’t seem scientifically sound. Then again, Sanka doesn’t die immediately after landing in Calgary, so they might have been on to something.
Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, come on now, I’m ready for the summer heat to chill out.
What movies do you watch to cool down?