For as long as I can remember, there’s been snow.
As a lifelong resident of the Upper Midwest, I’ve shoveled it, packed it, driven in it, trudged through it, slipped on it (on purpose and by accident), snow-angeled with it, made forts out of it, feared it, dreaded it, cursed it, and above all lived with it for about five months out of every year. I’m 41 now, so that means I’ve been stuck in snow for about 17 years of my life. In another few years, my snowbound self will be an adult. I wonder if he’ll want to finally move to California.
I can’t say I actually like snow — I don’t ski or ice-skate or play hockey or haul my ass on a toboggan. I do not romanticize frigid precipitation. Snow sucks. But I’ve never made an attempt to leave for a place where snow isn’t such a constant presence. My only explanation is that living with snow has shaped how I view the world to an intractable degree. Snow, to me, means balance. If you live in Los Angeles, where the sun shines almost every day, what is the yang to your meteorological yin? How can you appreciate living without snow and all that it entails — the blankness, the overwhelming physical and psychic stasis, the wet socks — if you’ve never actually lived with it?
For us snowbound folk, viewing winter as an annual test of your body and spirit is the only way to justify not moving away. If you can survive this, then you will have earned the right to bask in the sun starting (hopefully!) in May or so.
OK, maybe that makes zero sense. Perhaps it would help for you to watch some snowy movies, in order to understand my utterly incomprehensible pro-snow/anti-snow circular logic.
I love snowy movies; they offer a realer alternative to the fantasies of holiday movies. While holiday movies are about convincing a protagonist that the world is a much better place than he or she believes, therefore making life worth living — this is the basic plot of A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, and all their variants — snowy movies are about putting a protagonist through the very worst the world has to offer, BECAUSE LIFE IS WORTH LIVING ANYWAY, YOU PATHETIC WARM WEATHER WIMPS.
Here are the 18 best snowy movies of all-time.
18. The Empire Strikes Back
17. Inside Llewyn Davis
16. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
These movies are as good or better than anything I have ranked higher. However, this is not a list ranking great movies. It’s a list ranking great snowy movies. While these films all feature outstanding scenes in which characters traverse in the wintry elements, they do not on balance offer a pure snowy movie experience. If the Rebels had spent another half-hour on Hoth, or Llewyn Davis hung out longer in Chicago, or [SPOILER ALERT] John McCabe’s corpse had rested in that snowbank for the entire film, it would be a different story.
15. Jack Frost
I admit it: I really wanted to do a movie list in which Jack Frost is ranked higher than McCabe & Mrs. Miller. But this 1998 sorta comedy/kinda family drama about a blues musician (Michael Keaton) who dies and comes back as a snowman in order to have snowball fights with his son truly is a one-of-a-kind film. It seemed to have been made without an audience in mind. I can’t imagine any responsible parent showing his or her kids Jack Frost, unless you want that kid to have life-long fears about anthropomorphic snow. Jack Frost is best appreciated by guilty parents who also live in a cold-weather climate and like Stevie Ray Vaughan — check, check, and check!
14. Die Hard 2
Die Hard is a Christmas movie because it’s about a disillusioned man who comes to appreciate how good his life is (i.e. he stops pouting about his wife having a presumably high-paying corporate job in California) by besting a significant personal challenge during the holiday season (by murdering terrorists). Die Hard 2, then, is a quintessential snowy movie, because it shows that same disillusioned man experiencing the true awfulness of the world (by forcing him to spend time at the airport during Christmas) and yet wanting to live anyway (by murdering terrorists).