10 Of The Coldest Films To Brace For The Winter With

Well, we did it. We made it to that part of winter where snow infests everything, and heat is removed from everywhere. We are in the subzero time of the year (unless you are fortunate enough to be reading this in a place that does not get so cold). With everything icing over, we are doomed to relive the frigid and darkest days. These days always feel the longest, too. Have no fear, because cinema is here. Why not embrace this awful weather with ten films that can share your icy pain? Let's look at ten of the coldest films that are worth your accompaniment during this long trek ahead.


10. Planes, Trains and Automobiles 
Imagine having to venture through the cold in order to get to a destination. Here, it’s a Thanksgiving dinner just waiting to be devoured. Imagine having to do this with someone that gets on your nerves, Yes, this is Neal’s life for the next three days, as he does whatever it takes to get home. The overly joyful salesman, Del, means well and is a riot for us, but he is just the last thing Neal thinks he needs right now. We get to enjoy not having to take this challenge, and we get to laugh at the misadventures that come with it.


9. The Grand Budapest Hotel
We forget that much of Wes Anderson's opus takes place in Zubrowka (a fictitious country in Europe), and the titular building is a ski resort of sorts (we don't see that side of things too often). We see the snow like it is a prop used for a stage production. It looks so elegant (but don't be deceived, as this is the wretched stuff you are cursing right now). Toss in mountaintop check points, a ski chase debacle, and a hotel that has frozen over (metaphorically) due to war, and you have Anderson's coldest film to date.


8. Force Majeure
What can trump tragedy in a film like Force Majeure? Maybe the darkness of human selfishness being twisted into bits of humour. A father finds an avalanche to not be the worst event of his life, but instead an escape from his family. Can you imagine the absolute nerve? Rather than bringing him and his family together, the avalanche causes Tomas to view the accident as a means to tear it apart. It’s rare for a character to be colder than their environment, especially within the chilling mountains.


7. The Revenant
Thanks to the natural lighting by Emmanuel Lubezki, we never thought The Revenant wasn't cold. The smokey breath of all cast members involved is a part of the atmosphere here. Between sentences, you hear deep breaths interrupted by shivering. All parties involved appear to be seconds away from freezing over. Yes, it was no secret that this one looked diabolical to make, especially when the action moves into bodies of water. The only warmth here (outside of camp fires and fur suits) is the blood that soaks into the mounds of snow.


6. Groundhog Day
Yes, Harold Ramis' comedy is more about the repetition of an existentialist crisis, and the monotony of everyday life. It takes place during the depths of winter, though, and its foundation is that the groundhog foresees six more weeks (or eternities, in Phil's case) every single time. That "big blizzard thing" happens, and we are back to square one waiting for it to happen again. Somehow, Phil comes to embrace his hell frozen over, by becoming an ice sculptor (amongst other things). This is joining the party, because we sure aren't beating this cold anytime soon.


5. The Shining 
Do I need to explain more than the iconic ending shots? Well, if so, we can start off with the empty lodge that the Torrance family is overlooking (because it is the Overlook Hotel, subtly). Nothing says cold like isolation, because there isn't a human in sight to bring their warmth here. A family is falling apart. Minds are deteriorating. Sanity is no longer with us. To top it all off, everyone is trapped inside because of a major blizzard. Matching Stanley Kubrick's glacial pacing, The Shining's obsession with winter makes for a slow descent into insanity.


4. The Thing
First off, this takes place in Antarctica. Scientists are taken aback after discovering a charred being amongst other frozen bodies. Of course, this ends up being a dangerous situation, and the burned state is a harbinger of things to come. With a quarantine in full effect, any contaminated being (as the uncovered body was a host of a possessive parasite) is to be burned to death. Flamethrowers have never looked hotter, and the fight to stay alive has never looked colder. Hell seemed like a place that was dominated by flames, but John Carpenter made you realize that was far from the case. Here, flames are a saving grace from either being taken over or freezing to death


3. Winter Light
This film might feature much less snowfall than the rest on this list, but damn is Winter Light frigid. Featuring a priest that is experiencing a crisis (he doubts his faith, his life, and his very existence), the film traps you within a small space to shiver to yourself. There is very little heat here, outside of the kind that is self inflicted out of anguish. The paster usually gave his guests answers during sermons, but now that he has questions, nothing seems to fit for him. Yes, you might not be traversing through lots of snow here, but the barren atmosphere and the empty void of life here is chilling enough.


2. The Gold Rush
The Tramp sure had many memorable adventures, including the unfortunate timing known as The Gold Rush. A blizzard strikes and interrupts the search for gold that the Tramp (known in the film as The Lone Prospector) is after; it gets in the way of other searchers, too. The race comes to a halt as storms continue, stop, then restart all over again. Hey, it’s fine by us. If we had to be stuck in a shed with anyone, it may as well be the always delightful Charlie Chaplin. The Gold Rush proved to be one of his great early feature length pictures.


1. Fargo
This is it. Possibly the coldest film ever created. Even the interiors look freezing, because either the walls are made of thin wood, or there is a slight blue haze to every scene. The outside is without question a frozen barren. If the horizon is not bordered  by frost covered evergreens, there isn't a sign of life in sight. Snow is everywhere at every time. To make things colder, we have the story of absolute betrayal, from a car salesman who cannot gain respect yet never deserves it (within the context of the film anyways). The only ray of light is Marge: a glowing police officer full of life (even literally, as she is long into her pregnancy). The cold world around her tries to swallow her whole. She learns not to substitute her enthusiasm for blind trust, and her fight to not take everything at face value is the beacon of the film. Yes, Fargo is possibly the coldest film out there, but is it worth the trek? You betcha!

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Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.