Twister (1996 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jan de Bont
Produced by
Written by
Music by
Cinematography Jack N. Green
Edited by Michael Kahn
Distributed by
Release date
  • May 17, 1996 (1996-05-17)
Running time
114 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $92 million[1]
Box office $494.5 million[1]

Twister is a 1996 American epic disaster adventure film starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as storm chasers researching tornadoes. It was directed by Jan de Bont from a screenplay by Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin, its executive producers were Steven Spielberg, Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Gerald R. Molen. Twister was the second-highest-grossing film of 1996 domestically, with an estimated 54,688,100 tickets sold in the US.[1]

In the film, a team of storm chasers tries to perfect a data-gathering instrument, designed to be released into the funnel of a tornado, while competing with another better-funded team with a similar device during a tornado outbreak across Oklahoma. The plot is a dramatized view of research projects like VORTEX of the NOAA, the device used in the movie, called "Dorothy", is copied from the real-life TOTO, used in the 1980s by NSSL.


In June 1969, a deadly F5 tornado develops in rural Oklahoma and hits the farm of the Thornton family, during the storm, the family rushes to their storm cellar. Although they lock the door, the tornado causes the hinges to loosen, the father (Richard Lineback) pulls on the door tightly to keep it in place, but the tornado's strong and powerful winds rip the door off, sucking him into the funnel to his death. His wife (Rusty Schwimmer), their young daughter, 5-year-old Jo (Alexa Vega), and their dog, Toby survive, but Jo is devastated by the loss of her father.

27 years later, Jo (Helen Hunt) has studied meteorology and leads a team of storm chasers. As the 1996 new storm season begins in March, Jo reunites with her estranged husband, storm chaser Bill "The Extreme" Harding (Bill Paxton) to finalize their divorce. Bill meets with Jo and her team in the field as they await the storms, accompanied by Bill's fiancée, Dr. Melissa Reeves (Jami Gertz). Bill receives a welcome from his former teammates, Rabbit (Alan Ruck), Sanders (Sean Whalen), Joey (Joey Slotnick), Lawrence (Jeremy Davies), Preacher (Scott Thomson), Haynes (Wendle Josepher), Beltzer (Todd Field) and Dusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Leaving Melissa with Dusty, Bill tracks down Jo to ask for the final copy of their divorce papers, which Jo has not signed, she hesitates when she learns Melissa has accompanied Bill into the field, and Jo goes to greet her. Jo also reveals that she and her team have built four tornado measurement devices based on his design in his absence—called "DOROTHY I" through "DOROTHY IV"—which can gather data from within tornadoes and make advanced storm warning systems possible. Shortly after meeting his former team, Bill notices Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes), a storm chaser with a corporate-sponsored team. To fix a flat tire, Bill and his team stop at a diner, at the diner, Bill learns that Jonas built DOT-3, a measurement device very similar to DOROTHY, and confronts him for stealing his idea. Jonas asks Jo what her team is planning on doing, but she does not tip her hand.

Bill and Jo head into the path of an F1 tornado. Abandoning their vehicle, they take shelter under a small, wooden bridge as the twister passes over them, destroying Jo's truck and DOROTHY I. Melissa arrives in Bill's truck as the F1 dissipates, and the wreck of Jo's truck lands in her path, causing her to panic and nearly crash. Bill loads the remaining DOROTHY devices onto his truck and the team continues onward, following an F2 tornado. However, the winds also spawn two waterspouts, which pass over Bill's truck, frightening Melissa, the three escape unharmed.

As the weather calms, the team travels to Wakita, a small town 8 miles south of the Kansas Border to visit Jo's Aunt Meg (Lois Smith), who happily hosts the team.

Jo learns of an F3 tornado nearby; they leave Melissa with Jo's research team while Jo and Bill chase the storm. The storm damages the DOROTHY II unit, spilling its sensor units. Against Bill's pleas, Jo tries to leave the truck to collect them. Bill forces her to abandon the unit and get back into the truck, driving them safely away. Out of danger, Bill confronts Jo about her obsession with tornadoes, and how it stems from her father's death; Melissa hears this over the open radio. During their discussion, Bill comes to a conclusion that the DOROTHY units are too light to remain stationary to properly disperse the sensors in time; they need a heavy pack to weigh the units down.

During the night, the team plans on staying at a motor inn next to a drive-in theater during the showing of the 1980 horror film, The Shining. Still stinging from Bill's lashing out earlier, Jo signs the divorce papers, they decided to get coffee from the snack shack. Soon, an F4 tornado demolishes through the drive-in, forcing the team and the movie-goers to take shelter in a garage, the tornado misses the garage, but throws a great deal of debris, including Rabbit's truck and Preacher's station wagon, through the roof of the garage. Rabbit's truck then goes through an electrical power plant and the drive-in cinema cones down, the storm passes, and as emergency services arrive, Melissa tells Bill that she recognizes he still has feelings for Jo, and amicably ends her engagement, leaving on her own. The team learns, much to Jo's horror, that the tornado has struck Wakita, so they quickly rush to check on Meg. There, they find that the town had no warning, and has been devastated as a result. Dozens of buildings have been destroyed, and they find Aunt Meg's house still standing, but wrenched from its foundation and falling apart. Bill and Jo rescue Meg and her dog Mose from the collapsed house, glad to see she's only suffered minor injuries, as they wait for medical services to take Meg to the hospital, Jo talks with Meg about what had happened. Meg recollects how suddenly the tornado had come, and that the tornado sirens had gone off only seconds before it hit, and how she hadn't even made it downstairs, reminding Jo of the importance to what she seeks to accomplish with the instrument packs. Meanwhile, Dusty receives word from issued weather reports from the NSSL predicting an F5 forming off to the south. Jo notices in Meg's front yard the kinetic sculptures barely damaged and turning in the wind. Jo realizes that they can modify the sensors in DOROTHY with wind flaps to give them buoyancy and easily enter a tornado.

News of a powerful F5 tornado is reported in the nearby area, as they race there, Jo and her team use aluminum from soda cans to add blades to each sensor and reload the DOROTHY units. The two units are mounted on Bill's truck, and he and Jo drive into the storm, they attempt to deploy DOROTHY III, but the peripheral winds from the tornado pushes the unit around, and it's eventually destroyed by debris. They hear that Jonas and his team are also trying to deploy DOT-3, and Bill tries to warn Jonas off, believing the storm will shift course toward them. Jonas ignores his advice, and sure enough, after the tornado makes a sudden shift, Jonas and his driver are killed and DOT-3 is destroyed, leaving Bill furious over Jonas' ignoring his warnings.

With only the DOROTHY IV unit remaining, Bill and Jo decide to try one last time. Keeping the unit strapped into the bed of the truck, they hope the vehicle will provide the weight needed to keep DOROTHY IV in place long enough to deploy into the funnel successfully. Bill drives the truck through a cornfield toward the F5 tornado, as Jo activates the sensors in DOROTHY, at the last possible moment, the two leap from the truck, letting the truck and the unit go into the storm; her team reports success as the sensors gather data across the entire height of the funnel. However, they find the storm has changed course again, and is now bearing directly onto them. Knowing that a nearby barn and farmhouse would not be enough shelter, Bill and Jo use leather straps to anchor themselves to the pipes of a pumping house which are anchored deep underground, the tornado demolishes the pumping house, but the two remain secure to the pipes, and are able to witness the beauty of the eye of the storm as it passes over them. The dangerous tornado then starts to dissipate.

As the storm dissipates, they see the farm house and family survived virtually untouched. They reunite with Jo's team and celebrate their success, and Bill and Jo decide to form a new lab to analyze the new data, giving their marriage a second chance in the process.



Twister was produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, with financial backing from Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures. In return, Warner Bros. was given the North American distribution rights while Universal's joint venture distribution company UIP got the international distribution.[2] The original concept and 10-page tornado-chaser story were presented to Amblin Entertainment in 1992 by screenwriter Jeffrey Hilton. Steven Spielberg then presented the concept to writer Michael Crichton. Crichton and his wife, Anne-Marie Martin, were paid a reported $2.5 million to write the screenplay.

After spending more than half a year of pre-production on Godzilla, director Jan De Bont left the project after a dispute over its budget, and quickly signed on for Twister.[3]

The production was plagued with problems. Joss Whedon was brought in to do rewrites through the early spring of 1995. When he got bronchitis, Steve Zaillian was brought in. Whedon returned and worked on revisions right through the start of shooting in May 1995, then left the project after getting married. Two weeks into production, Jeff Nathanson was flown in to the set and worked on the script until principal photography ended.[3]

Halfway through filming, both Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt were temporarily blinded by bright electronic lamps used to make the sky behind the two actors look dark and stormy. Paxton remembers that "these things literally sunburned our eyeballs. I got back to my room, I couldn't see".[3] To solve the problem, a Plexiglas filter was placed in front of the beams, the actors took eye drops and wore special glasses for a few days to recuperate. After filming in a particularly unsanitary ditch, Hunt and Paxton needed hepatitis shots, during the same sequence, Hunt repeatedly hit her head on a low wooden bridge, so exhausted from the demanding shoot that she forgot not to stand up so quickly.[3] During one stunt in which Hunt opened the door of a vehicle speeding through a cornfield, she momentarily let go of the door and it struck her on the side of the head, some sources claim she received a concussion in the incident. De Bont said, "I love Helen to death, but you know, she can be also a little bit clumsy." She responded, "Clumsy? The guy burned my retinas, but I'm clumsy ... I thought I was a good sport. I don't know ultimately if Jan chalks me up as that or not, but one would hope so".[3]

Some crew members, feeling De Bont was "out of control", left the shoot five weeks into filming,[3] the camera crew led by Don Burgess claimed De Bont "didn't know what he wanted till he saw it. He would shoot one direction, with all the equipment behind the view of the camera, and then he'd want to shoot in the other direction right away and we'd have to move [everything] and he'd get angry that we took too long ... and it was always everybody else's fault, never his".[3] De Bont claims that they had to schedule at least three scenes every day because the weather changed so often, and "Don had trouble adjusting to that".[3] When De Bont knocked over a camera assistant who missed a cue, Burgess and his crew walked off the set, much to the shock of the cast, they remained one more week until Jack N. Green's crew agreed to replace them. Two days before the end of filming, Green was injured when a hydraulic house set, designed to collapse on cue, was mistakenly activated with him inside it. A rigged ceiling hit him in the head and injured his back, requiring him to be hospitalized. De Bont took over as his own director of photography for the remaining shots.[3]

Because overcast skies were not always available, De Bont had to shoot many of the film's tornado-chasing scenes in bright sunlight, requiring Industrial Light & Magic to more than double its original plan for 150 "digital sky-replacement" shots.[3] Principal photography was originally given a deadline to allow Hunt to return to appear in another season of Mad About You, but when shooting ran over schedule, series creator and actor Paul Reiser agreed to delay the show's production for two-and-a-half weeks so Twister could finish. De Bont insisted on using multiple cameras, which led to the exposure of 1.3 million feet of film, compared to the usual maximum of 300,000 feet.[3]

De Bont claims that Twister cost close to $70 million, with $2–3 million going to the director. It was speculated that last-minute re-shoots in March and April 1996 (to clarify a scene about Jo as a child) and overtime requirements in post-production and at ILM, raised the budget to $90 million.[3] Warner Bros. moved up the film's release date from May 17 to 10, to give it two weekends before Mission: Impossible opened.

Twister is known for its successful product placement, featuring a Dodge Ram pickup truck and several other new vehicle models.

Prints of Twister came with a note from De Bont, suggesting that exhibitors play the film at a higher volume than normal for full effect.


Twister featured both a traditional orchestral film score by Mark Mancina and several rock music songs, including an instrumental theme song composed and performed for the film by Van Halen. The film's music was released on compact disc.

Twister: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack[edit]

  1. Van Halen – "Humans Being"
  2. Rusted Root – "Virtual Reality"
  3. Tori Amos – "Talula" (BT's Tornado Mix)
  4. Alison Krauss – "Moments Like This"
  5. Mark Knopfler – "Darling Pretty"
  6. Soul Asylum – "Miss This"
  7. Belly – "Broken"
  8. k.d. lang – "Love Affair"
  9. Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories – "How"
  10. Red Hot Chili Peppers – "Melancholy Mechanics"
  11. Goo Goo Dolls – "Long Way Down" (Remix)
  12. Shania Twain – "No One Needs to Know"
  13. Element Ethan & 666 - "Downward Spiral" (Remix)
  14. Stevie Nicks & Lindsey Buckingham – "Twisted"
  15. Edward & Alex Van Halen – "Respect the Wind"

There is also some other music, such as Deep Purple's "Child in Time" (heard when the team takes the road at the beginning and the assistant maxes the volume in his truck).

The song queued up on a TV in Dusty's van is Eric Clapton's "Motherless Child".

Twister: Motion Picture Score[edit]

  1. Oklahoma: Wheatfield
  2. Oklahoma: Where's My Truck?
  3. Oklahoma: Futility
  4. Oklahoma: Downdraft
  5. It's Coming: Drive In
  6. It's Coming: The Big Suck
  7. The Hunt: Going Green (feat. Trevor Rabin on guitar)
  8. The Hunt: Sculptures
  9. The Hunt: Cow
  10. The Hunt: Ditch
  11. The Damage: Wakita
  12. Hailstorm Hill: Bob's Road
  13. Hailstorm Hill: We're Almost There
  14. F5: Dorothy IV
  15. F5: Mobile Home
  16. F5: God's Finger
  17. Other: William Tell Overture/Oklahoma Medley
  18. Other: End Title/Respect the Wind - written by Edward and Alex Van Halen

There are some orchestrated tracks that were in the movie but were not released on the orchestral score, most notably the orchestrated intro to "Humans Being" from when Jo's team left Wakita to chase the Hailstorm Hill tornado. Other, lesser-known tracks omitted include an extended version of "Going Green" (when we first meet Jonas) and a short track from when the first tornado is initially spotted.

Twister: Expanded Archival Collection[edit]

In January 2017, La-La Land Records released a limited edition remastered and expanded album[4] containing Mark Mancina's entire score plus four additional tracks.

  1. Wheatfield (Film Version)
  2. The Hunt Begins
  3. The Sky
  4. Dorothy IV (Film Version)
  5. The First Twister
  6. In the Ditch / Where's My Truck?
  7. Waterspouts
  8. Cow
  9. Walk in the Woods
  10. Bob's Road
  11. Hail No!
  12. Futility (Film Version)
  13. Drive-in Twister
  14. Wakita (Film Version)
  15. Sculptures (Film Version)
  16. House Visit
  17. The Big Suck (Film Version)
  18. End Title
  19. Wheatfield (Alternate)
  20. Waterspouts (Alternate)
  21. The Big Suck (Alternate)
  22. End Title / Respect the Wind


Critical response[edit]

Although criticized in other aspects, Twister was acclaimed for its impressive special effects, resulting in Oscar nominations for both its sound and visuals.

The film holds a 57% score at Rotten Tomatoes based on 54 reviews, the critical consensus states "A high-concept blockbuster that emphasizes special effects over three-dimensional characters, Twister's visceral thrills are often offset by the film's generic plot."[5] As of March 2013, it held a score of 68 at Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6]

Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "You want loud, dumb, skillful, escapist entertainment? Twister works. You want to think? Think twice about seeing it".[7] In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Somehow Twister stays as uptempo and exuberant as a roller-coaster ride, neatly avoiding the idea of real danger".[8] Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" rating and Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote, "Yet the images that linger longest in my memory are those of windswept livestock. And that, in a teacup, sums up everything that's right, and wrong, about this appealingly noisy but ultimately flyaway first blockbuster of summer";[9] in his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, "But the ringmaster of this circus, the man without whom nothing would be possible, is director De Bont, who now must be considered Hollywood's top action specialist. An expert in making audiences squirm and twist, at making us feel the rush of experience right along with the actors, De Bont choreographs action and suspense so beautifully he makes it seem like a snap."[10] Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "when action is never shown to have deadly or pitiable consequences, it tends toward abstraction. Pretty soon you're not tornado watching, you're special-effects watching";[11] in his review for the Washington Post Desson Howe wrote, "it's a triumph of technology over storytelling and the actors' craft. Characters exist merely to tell a couple of jokes, cower in fear of downdrafts and otherwise kill time between tornadoes".[12]

Box office[edit]

The film opened on May 10, 1996 and earned $41,059,405 from 2,414 total theaters, making it the number-one movie at the North American box office, it went on to earn a total of $241,721,524 at the North American box office. As of November 2012, it has earned a worldwide total of $494,471,524, it currently sits at number 76 on the all-time North American box office charts. Worldwide it sits at number 105 on the all-time earners list, not adjusted for inflation,[1] it was the second-highest-grossing film of 1996 after Independence Day.


Association Category Recipient Results
20/20 Awards Best Sound Design Steve Maslow
Gregg Landaker
Kevin O'Connell
Geoffrey Patterson
Best Visual Effects Stefen Fangmeier
John Frazier
Henry LaBounta
Habib Zargarpour
Academy Awards Best Sound Mixing Steve Maslow
Gregg Landaker
Kevin O'Connell
Geoffrey Patterson
Best Visual Effects Stefen Fangmeier
John Frazier
Henry LaBounta
Habib Zargarpour
Award Circuit Community Awards Best Sound Steve Maslow
Gregg Landaker
Kevin O'Connell
Geoffrey Patterson
Best Visual Effects Stefen Fangmeier
John Frazier
Henry LaBounta
Habib Zargarpour
BAFTA Awards Best Special Visual Effects Won
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actress - Action/Adventure Helen Hunt Won
BMI Film & TV Awards BMI Film Music Award Mark Mancina Won
Cinema Audio Society Award Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Feature Films Steve Maslow
Gregg Landaker
Kevin O'Connell
Geoffrey Patterson
Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100-Million Michael Crichton & Anne-Marie Martin Won
Worst Supporting Actress Jami Gertz Nominated
Golden Screen Awards[disambiguation needed] N/A N/A Won
MTV Movie + TV Awards Best Female Performance Helen Hunt Nominated
Best Action Sequence For the truck driving through farm equipment Won
Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards Favorite Movie N/A Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Sound Mixing Steve Maslow
Gregg Landaker
Kevin O'Connell
Geoffrey Patterson
Best Sound Effects Editing Stephen Hunter Flick Won
Best Visual Effects Stefen Fangmeier
John Frazier
Henry LaBounta
Habib Zargarpour
Best Film Editing Michael Kahn Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Visual Effects Stefen Fangmeier Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film N/A Nominated
Best Actress Helen Hunt Nominated
Best Actor Bill Paxton Nominated
Best Special Effects Stefen Fangmeier
John Frazier
Henry LaBounta
Habib Zargarpour
The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Picture N/A Nominated
Worst Supporting Actress Jami Gertz Won


On May 24, 1996, a tornado destroyed Screen No. 3 at the Can-View Drive-In, a drive-in theater in Thorold, Ontario, which was scheduled to show the movie Twister later that evening, in a real-life parallel to a scene in the film in which a tornado destroys a drive-in during a showing of the film The Shining.[13] The facts of this incident were exaggerated into an urban legend that the theater was actually playing Twister during the tornado.[14]

On May 10, 2010, a tornado struck Fairfax, Oklahoma, destroying the farmhouse where numerous scenes in Twister were shot. J. Berry Harrison, the owner of the home and a former Oklahoma state senator, commented that the tornado appeared eerily similar to the fictitious one in the film, he had lived in the home since 1978.[15]

In other media[edit]


On April 3, 1996, Sega Pinball released Twister, a pinball machine themed to the same name of the film, it features modes including Canister Multiball, Chase Multiball and more.

Theme park[edit]

The film was used as the basis for the attraction Twister...Ride It Out at Universal Studios Florida, which features filmed introductions by Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. The attraction opened on May 4, 1998 and closed on November 2, 2015 to make way for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Twister (1996)". Box Office Mojo., Inc. 
  2. ^ Masters, Kim (June 15, 2016). "Steven Spielberg on DreamWorks' Past, Amblin's Present and His Own Future". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 8, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Daly, Steve (May 10, 1996). "The War of the Winds". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 14, 2009. 
  4. ^ "film music | movie music| film score | TWISTER - Mark Mancina - Limited Edition". Retrieved 2017-03-01. 
  5. ^ "Twister". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 11, 2018. 
  6. ^ "Twister Reviews". Metacritic. May 10, 1996. Retrieved March 30, 2013. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 10, 1996). "Twister". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 3, 2009. 
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (May 10, 1996). "Twister". The New York Times. Retrieved September 3, 2009. 
  9. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (May 24, 1996). "Twister". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 3, 2009. 
  10. ^ Turan, Kenneth (May 10, 1996). "Twister". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 3, 2009. [dead link]
  11. ^ Schickel, Richard (May 20, 1996). "Twister". Time. Retrieved September 3, 2009. 
  12. ^ Howe, Desson (May 10, 1996). "Twister: Special Effects and Hot Air". Washington Post. Retrieved September 3, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Tornado Destroys Twister Theater". Associated Press. May 22, 1996. 
  14. ^ Steyn, Mark (May 24, 1996). "A Nobody in My Neck of the Woods". Daily Telegraph. Commentary at [1]
  15. ^ "Oklahoma farm used in film Twister devastated by real tornado in last weeks storm". 
  16. ^ Surrel, Jason. "Jimmy Fallon to Get His Own Ride at Universal Orlando Resort in 2017". Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved October 28, 2015. 

External links[edit]