Twister (1996 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byJan de Bont
Produced by
Written by
Music byMark Mancina
CinematographyJack N. Green
Edited byMichael Kahn
Distributed by
Release date
  • May 10, 1996 (1996-05-10)
Running time
113 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$92 million[1]
Box office$494.5 million[1]

Twister is a 1996 American epic action thriller disaster film 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. The film stars Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz and Cary Elwes, and depicts a group of storm chasers researching tornadoes during a severe outbreak in Oklahoma.

Twister was the second-highest-grossing film of 1996 in the US; an estimated 54.7 million tickets were sold in the US.[1] The film was met with a mixed critical reception, receiving criticism for its screenplay and praise for its visual effects and sound design. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Mixing.


In June 1969 Oklahoma, young Jo Thornton and her family are awoken by an approaching F5 tornado. The family seeks refuge in their storm cellar, but the tornado rips the cellar door off, sucking Jo's father to his death while her mother holds Jo back. The next morning, they find their farmhouse is completely destroyed.

27 years later in 1996, the National Severe Storms Laboratory is predicting a record outbreak of tornadoes in Oklahoma over a 24 hour period. An adult Jo, now a meteorologist, is reunited with her estranged husband, Bill Harding, a former weather researcher and storm chaser, who has since become a popular television weather reporter. He has a brand new Dodge Ram pickup truck and is planning to marry reproductive therapist Melissa Reeves, but cannot do so until Jo fully signs her long overdue divorce papers. Jo has built four identical tornado research devices called DOROTHY that were designed by Bill, which contain hundreds of sensors that, if picked up by a tornado, will create revolutionary breakthroughs in meteorology research. Before Jo can finish the paperwork, her team rushes to intercept a nearby forming F1 tornado, forcing Bill and Melissa to chase after her. However, Bill encounters Dr. Jonas Miller, a corporate-funded meteorologist and long-time rival storm chaser. When Bill learns that Jonas has created a device called DOT-3, a blatant copy of DOROTHY, he vows to help Jo deploy DOROTHY before Jonas can deploy DOT-3 and claim credit for the idea.

In an attempt to deploy DOROTHY and get back to his regular life as soon as possible, Bill maneuvers Jo's Jeep Gladiator off-road into a muddy ditch towards the rapidly growing tornado. The tornado quickly approaches and they are unable to drive out of the ditch. They collide with a small wooden bridge and are directly in front of the incoming tornado. As they take cover under the bridge, Jo's truck and DOROTHY I are both picked up and destroyed by the tornado.

Soon after, a second tornado is spotted in another part of Oklahoma, and they continue on in Bill's Dodge with Melissa, who is forced to tag along in the backseat. However, Jonas and his team are also intercepting the storm cell, which has grown into an F2 tornado. Bill guesses that the tornado will shift towards another direction and chances going in what seems to be the wrong way, but his guess is correct, which enrages Jonas. The team is led off-road, eventually hanging back as the storm cell worsens, and Bill, Jo, and Melissa have a dangerous encounter with two waterspouts that leaves Melissa traumatized. The rest of the team, however, is ecstatic about the encounter and convince Jo to let them go visit Jo's Aunt Meg in the nearby town of Wakita for food and rest.

The team arrives in Wakita, where Aunt Meg has prepared a big meal for the storm chasers. While there, the team discusses Bill’s past as an alcoholic and they also inform Melissa about Jo's backstory, explaining that Jo has since become obsessed with ensuring nobody else suffers the same fate. Jo, realizing she is falling in love with Bill again, isolates herself from the rest of the group and is later confronted by Aunt Meg, who tells her that no matter what happens, they will always end up together. They learn an F3 tornado is quickly forming in a neighboring county, forcing them to end dinner prematurely and hit the road once again.

As the team attempt to intercept the F3, the tornado is invisible to them as they begin to drive blindly through thick hail. They go up a hill, dubbed "Twister Hill”, and try to deploy DOROTHY II, but the tornado suddenly forms on top of them and damages their truck, destroying DOROTHY II in the process. Jo has an emotional breakdown over the situation, admitting she feels guilt for her father's death. While trying to motivate her, Bill accidentally tells her that he's still in love with her, not realizing that Melissa has been listening to their entire conversation over their CB radio.

That night, the team stays in a hotel next to a drive-in cinema. Jo decides to finally fill out the remaining divorce papers but is soon interrupted when an F4 tornado forms, forcing everybody present to take shelter. The theater, a repair shop, and much of the team’s equipment is destroyed. Traumatized by the near-death experiences and recognizing the re-blossoming love between Bill and Jo, Melissa quietly ends her relationship with Bill and makes her own way home. The tornado continues on to Wakita, devastating the town and injuring Aunt Meg while flattening her house. Aunt Meg's injuries are not serious, but she is taken to the hospital and inspires Jo to never give up. The team then hears that an F5 is forming close by. Inspecting Aunt Meg's windchimes, Jo suddenly has an idea of how to successfully deploy DOROTHY.

The next morning, the team sets out to intercept the F5 tornado, which has grown to be over a mile wide. Bill and Jo lay the newly-altered DOROTHY III directly in the F5's path, but it is destroyed by an uprooted tree, which also briefly traps them in the tornado's path. Meanwhile, Jonas attempts to deploy DOT-3 in a similar fashion, ignoring Bill's repeated warnings that his team is too close and that the tornado is shifting directly towards them. A metal tower suddenly impales Jonas' driver, Eddie, and their vehicle is swept into the tornado and thrown to the ground, killing both men and destroying DOT-3 in the resulting explosion. Bill and Jo press on, realizing that the only way to successfully deploy DOROTHY IV is by driving directly into the tornado and jumping out before Bill's truck is swept away. The plan works and the rest of the team is jubilant over the successful deployment of DOROTHY IV. However, Bill and Jo's celebration is short-lived when the F5 suddenly shifts direction towards them, forcing them to flee into the nearby cornfields. They find shelter in a water pump facility, fasten themselves to deeply rooted pipes, and are able to see the interior of the tornado as it passes over them. After the F5 dissipates, the team celebrates their achievement while Jo and Bill decide to run their own lab and rekindle their marriage.


Gary England, Jeff Lazalier, and Rick Mitchell appear as themselves on local television news reports.[2]


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.[3] 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.[4]

The production was plagued with problems. Joss Whedon was brought in to do rewrites through the early spring of 1995. When he got bronchitis, Steven 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 to the set and worked on the script until principal photography ended.[4]

Filming was to originally take place in California, but Bont insisted the film be shot on location in Oklahoma. Shooting commenced all over the state; several scenes, including the opening scene where the characters meet each other, as well as the first tornado chase in the Jeep pickup, were filmed in Fairfax, Oklahoma and Ralston, Oklahoma[5]. The scene at the automotive repair shop was filmed in Maysville, Oklahoma and Norman, Oklahoma. The waterspouts were filmed on Kaw Lake near Kaw City, Oklahoma. The drive-in scene was filmed at a real drive-in theater in Guthrie, Oklahoma, though some of the scene, such as Melissa's hotel room, was filmed in Stillwater, Oklahoma near Oklahoma State University's campus. The real town of Wakita, Oklahoma was used during filming, and a section of the older part of town was demolished for the film. Additional scenes and B-roll were filmed near Ponca City and Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, among several other smaller farm towns across the state.[6] However, due to changing seasons that massively transformed the look of Oklahoma's topography, filming was moved to Iowa. The climactic scene with the F5 tornado was almost entirely shot around Eldora, Iowa, with the cornfield the characters run through being located near Ames, Iowa.[7][8] The "twister hill" scene was shot on 130th Street near the small town of Pilot Mound, Iowa.[citation needed] After primary filming had wrapped, additional pick-up shots and reshoots, which included the opening scene and additional footage of the drive-in tornado, took place in Bolton, Ontario.

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".[4] 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.[4] 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".[4]

Some crew members, feeling De Bont was "out of control", left the shoot five weeks into filming.[4] 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".[4] 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".[4] When De Bont knocked over a camera assistant in a fit of rage 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.[4]

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.[4] 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.[4]

De Bont claims that Twister cost close to $70 million, of which $2–3 million went 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.[4] 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. Stevie Nicks & Lindsey Buckingham – "Twisted"
  14. 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 maximises 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[9] 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 and an average rating of 6/10. 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."[10] As of May 2019, it held a score of 68 at Metacritic based on 17 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[11]

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".[12] 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".[13] 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".[14] 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. "[15] 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".[16] 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".[17]

Box office[edit]

The film opened on May 10, 1996, and earned $41 million 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 $241.7 million at the North American box office. It earned a worldwide total of $494.5. It 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 and became Warner Bros.' most successful film at that time.


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 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 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.[18] The facts of this incident were exaggerated into an urban legend that the theater was actually playing Twister during the tornado.[19]

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.[20]

Bill Paxton would later narrate storm chaser Sean Casey's 2011 documentary Tornado Alley. After the death of Paxton in February 2017, hundreds of storm chasers and users of the Spotter Network used their markers to spell out his initials across the states of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma in tribute to the late actor.[21]

A Twister museum located in Wakita, where much of the particularly destructive scenes of the movie were shot, contains various memorabilia and artifacts related to the film.[22]

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 attraction[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.[23]

Book tie-in[edit]

The original screenplay, written by Crichton and then wife Anne Marie Martin, was released as a mass-market paperback in conjunction with the film.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Twister (1996)". Box Office Mojo., Inc.
  2. ^ "Gary England". News 9. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  3. ^ Masters, Kim (June 15, 2016). "Steven Spielberg on DreamWorks' Past, Amblin's Present and His Own Future". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Where was Twister filmed - Discover the Twister film locations with filmaps".
  6. ^ "Bill Paxton remembers Twister filming".
  7. ^ "From the archives: Iowa farmhouse played key role in 'Twister' blockbuster". Des Moines Register.
  8. ^ Schmith, Lucas Casey, Don (May 13, 2016). "LOCAL 5 ARCHIVE: 'Twister' scenes filmed in former WOI studio". WEAREIOWA.
  9. ^ "film music | movie music| film score | TWISTER - Mark Mancina - Limited Edition". Archived from the original on February 6, 2017. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  10. ^ "Twister". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  11. ^ "Twister Reviews". Metacritic. May 10, 1996. Retrieved March 30, 2013.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 10, 1996). "Twister". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 3, 2009.
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (May 10, 1996). "Twister". The New York Times. Retrieved September 3, 2009.
  14. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (May 24, 1996). "Twister". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 3, 2009.
  15. ^ Turan, Kenneth (May 10, 1996). "Twister". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 3, 2009.[dead link]
  16. ^ Schickel, Richard (May 20, 1996). "Twister". Time. Retrieved September 3, 2009.
  17. ^ Howe, Desson (May 10, 1996). "Twister: Special Effects and Hot Air". Washington Post. Retrieved September 3, 2009.
  18. ^ "Tornado Destroys Twister Theater". Associated Press. May 22, 1996.
  19. ^ Steyn, Mark (May 24, 1996). "A Nobody in My Neck of the Woods". Daily Telegraph.Commentary at [1]
  20. ^ "Oklahoma farm used in film Twister devastated by real tornado in last weeks storm".
  21. ^ "Storm Chasers Honor Bill Paxton With 'Twister' Tribute". Variety. February 26, 2017. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  22. ^ "The Twister Movie Museum | Wakita, OK – The Twister Movie Museum | Wakita, OK". Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  23. ^ Surrel, Jason. "Jimmy Fallon to Get His Own Ride at Universal Orlando Resort in 2017". blog. Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  24. ^ results, search; results, search (May 14, 1996). "Twister: The Original Screenplay". Ballantine Books – via Amazon.

External links[edit]